Review: Outlander S2E12

The Hail Mary

Contributed by Julie Chaston

Damn you Tobias Menzies: you actually made me feel some sort of compassion for Black Jack Randall in this episode!

Caught me by surprise, as I didn’t feel it when reading the book. Somehow Menzies’ performance humanises the character, at least enough to see something...someone there behind the depravity. (And no, I wasn’t confusing him with Frank.) I even felt it during Black Jack’s most loathsome moments: the perverse pleasure he took in telling Claire about what he did to Jamie; and that final terrible reaction to his brother’s death.

The penultimate episode of season two had a lot going on, including fabulous performances from every single person on the screen. Many of the actors could easily submit just this episode as their Emmy reel and know that they’d given their absolute best. Even the actors without ‘big’ dramatic moments were quietly brilliant, raising the level of each scene just that little bit more.

These performances were all connected to desperation and loss: Dougal lost Colum and his chance to inherit leadership of the Clan; Jack was desperate to save Alex, even betraying the British - but in the end lost his brother and probably his tenuous hold on any real humanity; Jamie was desperately trying to steer events along ANY other path than the one history recorded, almost becoming maniacal about it; and half the war council - including the Prince - lost their minds.

Even faced with the truth of what a stupid place Culloden Moor would be to fight the British and ignoring the sorry state of the Jacobite army, they still want to push on. At least the General is coming around to Jamie’s line of thinking, and they convince the others to try crashing the birthday party first. You’d think the Prince was going to an actual party, as he gleefully envisions having wine with the enemy. Or something like that.

In the end, the jerk who had the nerve to call Jamie a coward, ruins everything by getting lost and bailing. Jamie tries a last ditch effort to mount an attack, but to no avail. Besides, although a battle that night would have prevented Culloden, it by no means would guarantee anyone’s Claire reminds Jamie when they're talking about BJR’s eventual demise - one way or the other.

But war and battles were the backstory, as this episode was primarily about brothers: two men breathed their last, and two men were left behind. The two couldn’t be any more different: Dougal is the character you love to hate, while Jack is...well...just the character you hate. And yet, Jack was the more honest of the two. Although Dougal cared deeply for his brother and was obviously devastated by his passing; somehow Dougal managed to make Colum’s death all about him.
I think when Colum understood what Jamie had been doing with Dougal (keeping him busy but at arm’s length), he made his final decision, choosing Jamie over Dougal to guide Clan MacKenzie and act as guardian to “his” son. Obviously, Dougal feels betrayed. Colum also knows that Jamie - even if he did decide to bring the MacKenzies into battle - would not cross that line if it meant needless sacrifice.

Dougal cannot promise the same.

To add insult to injury, Colum tells Dougal exactly what's what, pointing out that he's nowhere near as popular as he thinks he is. So when Dougal later returns alone to his big brother’s deathbed, he’s feeling extremely sorry for himself. He starts to bare his soul - and it is heartbreaking - but Colum won’t even stay alive long enough to hear Dougal’s entire confession. To Dougal, this is his brother having the last laugh.

None of this bodes well for Dougal’s state of mind going into the last episode.

Contrast that with Jack and Alex. While Dougal has spent years working behind Colum’s back for his own benefit; Jack’s relationship with Alex is probably the only honest, real one that he’s had for most of his life. From the moment we hear Alex call him “Johnny” he becomes a person, not just an “evil bastard”. Jack clearly loves his brother, and pushes aside his animosity towards Claire in the hope that she may be able to help Alex. When all she can do is ease the pain, he accepts it, staying by his brother’s side and promising to always look after Mary and the baby. It’s only Alex’s request that he marry Mary that pushes him away - not because he doesn’t want to help - because he doesn’t dare. To his credit, Jack knows what a reprehensible creature he is, and owns it.

Claire basically has to bully Jack into the marriage (and based on the looks on their faces she probably should have given both he and Mary some of that laudanum to get through the ceremony). Whether he did it solely for love of his brother or whether he believes Claire’s ‘prophecy’ about the day of his death, doesn’t matter. He still came through for Alex, letting him die with some dignity.

Of course, that dignity doesn’t last long: at the end we are reminded - again - what a monster Black Jack Randall really is. He’s vile and depraved - and he is tortured. The grief he felt when Alex died was too much, and - like many people - he couldn’t express it (especially in front of Claire). So he lashed out in the most awful way. Knowing the faith that Alex had had in Jack’s “inner man” it was as sad for both characters, as it was shocking.

Colum said about Dougal: “I have lived my life crippled in body, and he has lived his crippled in mind.“ Seeing the obvious affection between “Johnny” and Alex, I wondered what might have crippled Jack’s mind. Was he ever ‘normal’? Was he ever happy? I imagine if he was, it was with Alex when they were young...and now that’s gone. Only the monster is left.

And we only have one episode left in season two...I’ve already got the tissues and whisky ready.

Random thoughts:

Remember what Colum said about Geillis and Dougal’s son, as it might prove important somewhere down the line.

Good parallel using silence - in different ways - indicating that both Colum and Alex have died.

Great scenes between Claire and Murtagh, and a great line: “Frank is neither a myth nor a prick”.

I’d marry Murtagh!

Julie is a British-Canadian, currently living in Toronto. She enjoys walking, reading, wishes she had a TARDIS & believes aliens are probably already here. When it comes to TV "It's all about the characters!" You can follow her on Twitter @JulieChaston
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