Episode 210: "Prestonpans" (SPOILERS)
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
I like the opening bit with the bagpipes and drums very much.
The sight of the dead Highland soldier was a very sobering way to start the episode, a reminder of the terrible human cost of war. I liked the fact that Claire took the dead man's weapon.
The next scene, with Charles Stuart and his generals, is only hinted at in the book (because DRAGONFLY IN AMBER is told almost entirely from Claire's point of view, and she wasn't there), but I liked it. Good to hear directly from some of the key players, like O'Sullivan and Lord George Murray, and the dialogue in this scene is very good.
"Since when did a Scotsman shy away from a bit o' mud?" Good line.
I giggled when Charles Stuart said, "Mark me!" This is the first of at least four or five times that he utters that trademark phrase over the course of this episode.
I like Charles Stuart's costume, which seems to be based on this famous portrait, but I wish we'd seen him wearing either a white cockade or white rose, symbol of the Jacobites.
"Why must the Scots be such intractable people?" Charles asks, with his nose haughtily up in the air, totally disregarding the fact that he himself is supposed to be a Scot. I loved the irony in that.
"The British are my father's subjects also."
"I'm afraid the British have never been a friend to the Scots."
Throughout this episode, as with all of Ira Steven Behr's previous scripts, the characters make no distinction between "English" and "British". I found that somewhat jarring, as well as historically inaccurate. Most of the men fighting on both sides of this conflict were British citizens, after all, including Jamie and all of his men.
"But surely Lady Broch Tuarach would prove obedient to an edict from her lord and master?" I love Jamie's reaction to that. LOL!
Sitting around the campfire, Angus acts like a mischievous little boy, in stark contrast to the grim demeanor of the rest of the men. I liked the way Ross and Kincaid reacted.
"We're here for gore and glory." That seems an odd way to put it.
"Put that blade down! Or I'll ram it up your arse until ye taste it." Good line from Murtagh.
Just as we saw in Episode 105 ("Rent"), Jamie seems to be the only one who can make Angus back down from a fight.
I liked the discussion between Jamie and Dougal very much. Jamie handles his uncle very skillfully here, I thought. The tactical situation is clear enough, even to those of us who are not military experts <g>, and Jamie is obviously inviting Dougal to volunteer for the job, though he never asks him directly if he'd be willing to do it.
The scene that follows, with Dougal crossing the boggy ground on horseback, is well done, visually interesting, with a fair amount of dramatic tension. I liked the way they showed the English soldiers reacting to the sight of this lone Highlander advancing on them.
I liked the contrast in Angus and Rupert's reactions to meeting Charles Stuart:
"Are ye really? Did you hear that? I'm talkin' to the Prince!"
"An honor to make your acquaintance, Your Royal Highness."
What a sight! Dougal out there in the middle of that boggy moor with the enemy soldiers firing at him, and yet he plays it very cool, confident, hardly even reacting when he realizes a musket ball has grazed his head. And then he returns to a hero's welcome from the other Highlanders, and a hearty embrace from the Prince.
"Mark me, if I had a hundred men like you, this war would be over tomorrow." What a boost to Dougal's ego that must have been!
But the best line of the scene goes to Dougal: "And now I'm off to change my breeks, because the hero of the hour has shat his pants." LOL!
And finally, some twenty minutes into the episode, we get to see Claire! I thought the only thing missing from her instructions to the other women regarding nursing was some mention of germs, or at least the importance of washing their hands and boiling instruments between uses.
I liked Fergus's muttered, "Women's work", when Claire says he will be responsible for keeping the kettle fires burning. Obviously he thinks he's missing all the excitement!
The scene where Claire meets Richard Anderson is very close to the way it's described in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 36, "Prestonpans". The next scene, with the generals, is not in the book, but I thought it was a good addition.
"Fortune drops out of the sky and onto our doorstep. Convenient, is it not?" Good line. This is indeed one of those "truth is stranger than fiction" moments, but it actually happened! From Wikipedia:
Although there was much argument among the senior Jacobite officers, Lord George Murray was convinced that only an attack against the open left flank of Cope's army stood any chance of success. However, Jacobite Lieutenant Anderson was a local farmer's son who knew the area well and convinced Murray that he knew an excellent route through the marshlands. Following his advice, Murray began to move the entire Jacobite force at 4 am walking three abreast along the Riggonhead Defile far to the east of Cope's position.Meanwhile, the Highland soldiers wait, and make their own preparations. I liked the little scene between Ross and Kincaid, and I imagine that this sort of conversation has taken place among soldiers on the eve of battle for thousands of years. Notice Angus listening intently. For those who've seen this episode more than once, it's impossible to see the discussion between Angus and Rupert as anything other than foreshadowing, or possibly Angus having a premonition of his own death. But we're accustomed not to take Angus very seriously, so first-time viewers might tend to dismiss his comments.
"Now shut your gab, before ye bring the Devil's own eye upon us." Good line from Rupert.
I liked the scene between Jamie and Murtagh, especially for Murtagh's thoughts on the difference between traditional Highland raids and a full-scale battle like this.
"Five hundred, a thousand would have to be slain before our deaths take on any meaning." I can't hear this line from Murtagh without thinking of Culloden, and the more than 2,000 Highlanders who died there.
"In Paris, I almost lost my marriage, trying to stop all of this from happening. I failed."
"We. We failed."
Gotta love Murtagh, who refuses to let Jamie bear that burden of guilt alone.
Fergus is just terrific in the next scene! "I will steal [General Cope's] sword. A general cannot fight without his sword." And I liked the way Claire hugged him, almost as if Fergus were her own son.
Angus saying goodbye to Claire is almost unbearably sad, especially after the first viewing, when you know what's about to happen!
"The promise of history" -- so Claire has already told Murtagh that the Scots will win this battle. Good!
Watching Jamie and Claire say their farewells, I was struck by the fact that this is the first of many times she'll send him off to battle alone.
"On your way, soldier." This is clearly a reference to Claire's line, "On your feet, soldier," in Episodes 101 and 108. Nice touch.
I liked the conversation between Jamie and Charles Stuart just before the battle. "Mark me, I don't believe my father is all that fond of me." LOL!
Claire's little pep talk to her "nursing staff" wasn't terribly inspiring, judging from the women's expressions. The younger woman, in particular, looks terrified.
On the battlefield, as the men wait, notice the drums in the background, heightening the tension.
I really liked the way they caught the English soldiers by surprise, coming out of the fog like that. Including the lone sentry who was evidently asleep on his feet, leaning on his musket, and taken completely unawares by the Highland charge.
The battle scene must have been immensely complicated to film!
In the makeshift hospital, Claire is clearly in her element, totally focused on the job in front of her. Even when she sees that Kincaid has died, she doesn't pause to grieve, only closes the dead man's eyes and goes back to her work.
And meanwhile, there's young Fergus, all alone in the middle of the raging battle, armed with nothing but a knife that looks extremely small and ineffective compared to the swords, dirks, and muskets carried by the men all around him.
Angus, coming into the infirmary with the badly injured Rupert, really startled me when he bellowed, "NOW!!" at Claire. And at that point, just from the tone of Angus's voice, I became convinced that Rupert was going to die from his wounds.
"Just a cannon blast. It's nothing." But it wasn't nothing, at all.
And finally we see where the brief glimpse of Claire stitching a wound in the opening credit sequence comes from.
The flashback to the battle scene with Rupert and Angus was interesting, but I had to watch it several times to understand exactly what happened to them.
Jamie returns at last, bone-weary but exultant, and Claire is so relieved to see him alive and (more or less) unhurt that she has no words at first.
The scene with Fergus and Claire is really well done, almost exactly as I had imagined from the book, except for the fact that Fergus is sitting beside the cannon, not riding atop it. Romann Berrux is wonderful in this scene!
Dougal killing the wounded English soldiers -- I really didn't like this! It made me sick to my stomach to watch, in fact, thinking of "Butcher Billy" and the English soldiers slaughtering the Highland wounded on the battlefield at Culloden. It seems to me that Dougal's actions here are every bit as morally repugnant as what Cumberland's troops would do a few months later, and I don't really care why he did it.
I wasn't at all expecting to see Lt. Jeremy Foster again! (For those of you who don't remember, Lt. Foster was the young English officer who asked Claire at the end of Episode 105, "Are you here by your own choice?", and then escorted Claire and Dougal to Brockton in Episode 106. Very appropriate to bring him back for this episode!
"You've won a battle, but you will never win this war." And Dougal, who doesn't like being told things he doesn't want to hear, promptly stabs him in the belly, "honorable man" or not.
The next scene begins with Jamie and Angus and the others standing over Rupert's unconscious body, making small jokes. Jamie starts to refer to Rupert in the past tense -- "Aye, the man could eat" -- and then catches and corrects himself.
The sight of Angus drinking from that flask made me wonder, is that what killed him? If he had internal injuries, a perforated intestine or something, then taking anything to drink would be incredibly dangerous, wouldn't it? I don't have a medical background, but it seems very likely that this is what happened to him.
But first, we get a scene that comes straight from the book. I thought it was well done, though they cut some of the funniest bits. I think that's understandable, with a badly wounded Rupert lying only a few feet away.
Charles Stuart's entry, and his speech to the men, is very much consistent with the way it's done in the book, but I was startled to see Dougal blundering into the room, shouting, "Victory!" and interrupting the Prince in mid-sentence.
"My God, sir, where is your Christian charity?" Good question!
I liked Jamie's solution for getting Dougal out of the way, without losing his services to the Jacobite army. It's pretty clever, and it also ensures that Dougal won't be too far away, because as book-readers know well, we will see him again before this season ends.
"But I know what you're up to. You champion me and you exile me, both at the same time. That's a plan worthy of my brother Colum." Good line.
And then, finally, we go back to Angus, and it hits me like a gut-punch: he's not going to make it! I totally did NOT see this coming the first time. The look Claire exchanges with Jamie, in which she acknowledges silently that there's nothing she can do to save him, is just heartbreaking.
Wonderful performance by Stephen Walters as Angus!
It's strange how things work out. Angus as he appears in the OUTLANDER TV series did not exist at all in the books, but it's impossible to imagine Season 1 without him. There are so many wonderful scenes and humorous bits of business where his presence helped to lighten the mood, and he and Rupert had such wonderful chemistry together. I'm really going to miss him!
Rupert taking possession of Angus's sword was a very moving gesture. As he sits back down, he cradles the sword to his chest, almost as though it's a living thing, all he has left of his friend.
In the wake of this tragedy, the Frasers are in no mood to celebrate the victory in battle. As Claire points out (and the look on her face breaks my heart), the fact that she was right about the victory at Prestonpans means that she's also right about "the disaster awaiting us at Culloden". What a sobering thought, and neither Jamie nor Murtagh have any answer to that.
The drinking song the men sing at the end, "Down Among the Dead Men," was actually referenced in Diana Gabaldon's novel, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
Tom had been humming under his breath as he went about the business of supper and now escalated to whistling. Absorbed in his own thoughts, Grey hadn’t noticed what he was whistling but suddenly caught a phrase that echoed in his head with its words: Down among the dead men, let him lie!And the last thing we see in this episode is Rupert's grief-stricken face.
He jerked, with a quick, reflexive glance at Fraser. “Down Among the Dead Men” was a popular song, originally from Queen Anne’s time, but, in the way of popular songs, with words often adapted to current feeling. The patrons of this afternoon’s pub had been singing a blatantly anti-Catholic version, and while Fraser had given little outward sign of offense, Grey was well enough accustomed to his facial expressions--or lack of them--as to have detected the attention to his ale cup that hid the smolder of his eyes.
(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "Fireside Tales". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 211. That's the episode Diana Gabaldon wrote, and I'm looking forward to it very much!
Here are my recaps of the previous Season 2 episodes:
Episode 201: Through a Glass, Darkly
Episode 202: Not in Scotland Anymore
Episode 203: Useful Occupations and Deceptions
Episode 204: La Dame Blanche
Episode 205: Untimely Resurrection
Episode 206: Best Laid Plans...
Episode 207: Faith
Episode 208: The Fox's Lair
Episode 209: Je Suis Prest
Look here for my recaps of all of the Season 1 episodes.