Episode 212: "The Hail Mary" (SPOILERS)
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
The opening shot, with the opposing armies advancing across the map toward Culloden Moor, is chilling, if you know what's about to happen.
Rupert does look a little piratical with that eye patch. But he also looks exhausted, as do they all.
"You look as if you need to sleep." As usual, Fergus is very perceptive, and his comment was a rare moment of humor in this episode.
I liked the way the camera panned over the army camp as they rode in. The amount of detail in this shot -- the costumes, the props -- is just amazing.
Five months of retreat? Are they saying that it has been five months since the last episode, when Jamie was arguing in favor of the push toward London? I can understand that they need to sync up the timeline of the story with the historical timeline, but this transition seemed awkward to me.
Watching Rupert and Ross, I can't help wondering what's going to happen to them. Will either of these men survive what's coming?
"The men's strength is dwindling on a bannock a day." Good line, and the fact that the Jacobite army was running out of food at this point is historically accurate, but I have to say that the soldiers we saw in the previous scene didn't look ill-fed.
I like the fact that Murtagh knows about Culloden, and he's aware that time is running out. Claire is justifiably depressed, but Jamie hasn't given up.
The scene with Claire and Mary Hawkins is very good. Mary seems to have aged about five years since we saw her at the end of last week's episode, and Rosie Day does a terrific job in this scene! (I like the little hat she's wearing.) She's no longer the terrified, stammering young girl we met in Paris, but a self-assured young woman who's not afraid to tell Claire exactly what she thinks.
Like many viewers, I thought Claire's attempt in Episode 205 ("Untimely Resurrection") to break up the relationship between Alex Randall and Mary Hawkins was wildly out of character, and a huge mistake. It's good to see it addressed here, as a reminder that her actions have consequences. Mary's hostility toward Claire is entirely justified under the circumstances. I was glad to see that Claire apologized.
In the next scene, with Charles Stuart and his advisers, notice that Charles sits in the background, drinking. I imagine even he can see at this point that the cause is all but lost, even if he doesn't want to admit it.
"Aye, that is a perfect spot. For the British....Without sufficient cavalry and artillery, our lines will be smashed to pieces before our troops can even engage the enemy."
Unfortunately, Jamie's quite right about that.
"There is still the matter of the French gold. A large shipment, you may recall, supposedly sailed from the Continent." Good to see the reference to the "Frenchman's gold" here! Book-readers will recall that this becomes an important plot point many years later, starting in THE FIERY CROSS.
As Jamie kneels down before the Prince, saying, "...and defeat our enemy once and for all," I was struck by how young he looks. Young and earnest and full of self-confidence, unwilling to give up despite the odds.
I liked Jamie's reaction as Charles says, "The men will rest, and then we shall march to Culloden." He bows his head for a moment, but the expression on his face as the scene ends indicates, at least to me, that he hasn't given up yet.
The reference to Alex being treated with arsenic is not in the book, but apparently people did use it that way in the 18th century. From Wikipedia:
In subtoxic doses, soluble arsenic compounds act as stimulants, and were once popular in small doses as medicine by people in the mid-18th to 19th centuries.As we get our first glimpse of Black Jack Randall, I kept muttering, "Go away. Go away! Go AWAY!" under my breath. But I have to admit he looks good in those civilian clothes. <g>
"He can't be cured. I'm sorry."
In the book, it's clear that Alex is suffering from consumption (tuberculosis). I wonder why Claire didn't mention it here?
The scene in the street between BJR and Claire is well-acted, but it's changed significantly from the book!
"If I am to attend your brother, then I want something in exchange. You will tell me where Cumberland's army is."
"My. You would barter over an innocent man's suffering. Madame Fraser, you impress me."
They've turned this situation around completely from the way it is in the book, and I really didn't like that. In the book, Jack Randall comes to Claire and offers to give her information about British troop movements in return for her medical help for his brother.
"Why would you come to me?” I asked at last, turning from the plaque.So BJR's motivation in the book for for seeking Claire's help is a combination of love for his brother and an almost superstitious fear of Claire's powers as a witch. And the fact that he's willing to commit treason (revealing British troop movements to Claire, a known Jacobite) in order to get help for Alex reinforces the idea that BJR has some small bit of humanity inside him, that he's not 100% pure evil.
He looked faintly surprised
"Because of who you are.” His lips curved in a slight, self-mocking smile. "If one seeks to sell one’s soul, is it not proper to go to the powers of darkness?”
“You really think that I’m a power of darkness, do you?” Plainly he did; he was more than capable of mockery, but there had been none in his original proposal.
“Aside from the stories about you in Paris, you told me so yourself,” he pointed out. “When I let you go from Wentworth."
(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "A Bargain With the Devil". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
In the scene as portrayed here, Claire essentially blackmails BJR, not vice versa. I think that makes BJR look weaker, less intelligent, and less dangerous than he is in the book, and I didn't like it.
The brief scene showing Jamie's reaction to the news starts off very abruptly, as though something was cut from the beginning of it. I found that disconcerting. Before I could even begin to adjust to the change of scene, Jamie's brief outburst of rage was over.
"But perhaps this time his presence in our lives will be good for us." I didn't like this, at all. It's as though Claire is saying, never mind what happened at Wentworth, as long as he'll give us information that might help avert disaster at Culloden, suddenly his presence is a good thing? No. Just NO. A necessary evil, perhaps, but not by any means "good".
The reference to a celebration at Nairn for Cumberland's birthday (April 15, 1746) is historically accurate, by the way.
I love the way Jamie rolls his r's when he says, "...that evil bastard brrrrother of his." <g>
And speaking of brothers.... I had no idea who the mysterious visitor would be, until we saw Colum's misshapen legs descending from the carriage. Nice bit of camera work there! Colum is obviously in a very weakened condition, and watching his slow and painful progress into the house, I couldn't help thining that it's amazing he survived the journey from Leoch.
But Colum's mind is obviously as sharp as ever. I liked this exchange between Colum and Rupert:
"I always thought when that wee bastard [Angus] fell, that you would fall with him."
"So did I."
Colum is just wonderful throughout this episode. Gary Lewis did a terrific job with the role and I'm going to miss him.
"Give my brother enough authority to keep him content, but not enough to allow him to grab for more." Good line.
And I also liked this: "I was wrong. That's one of the pleasures of dying. I can finally admit my mistakes."
The discussion between Claire and Colum about ways to end his life is based on a scene in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 37, "Holyrood".
"Geillis's bairn lives."
I like this very much! Colum's explanation to Claire actually clears up something that I have wondered about for a long time. There is a line in DRAGONFLY chapter 47, "Loose Ends", where Claire tells Roger, "Colum told me where they placed him." But we didn't get to see that conversation, in the book.
This is a rare example of a scene from the TV show that I wish had been included in the book, because I can easily believe that it happened just this way.
"Geillis wasn't burned until after the bairn was born." I like the alliteration there.
"The boy is but one more mistake my brother has to live with." Another good line, but book-readers know it won't be Dougal who has to deal with the consequences of William Buccleigh MacKenzie's birth!
I had never heard of yellow jasmine (or jessamine), scientific name Gelsemium sempervirens, before, but according to this site:
All parts of this plant contain the toxic strychnine-related alkaloids gelsemine and gelseminine, which is even fatal to honeybees when they make the mistake of gathering its nectar.This plant is native to the southeastern US -- it's the state flower of South Carolina, in fact -- so it seems a little odd that Claire would have found some in Scotland in 1746, but I suppose it's possible.
And then we move from one dying brother's bedside to another. I liked the scene where Claire treats Alex Randall. You may recall the scene near the beginning of Episode 105 ("Rent") where she treated Ned Gowan for a cough by having him smoke a pipe filled with thornapple, similar to what she's giving Alex here.
Claire's actions here also remind me vividly of the way she dealt with Hal's severe asthma attack in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.
I liked the makeshift paper tube. Just as in the books, Claire uses whatever materials are handy, even if they're very low-tech. <g>
"Trust me. I know what I'm doing." I liked that very much!
BJR holding Alex's head and smoothing his hair off his forehead reminds me all too clearly of the way he did the same to Jamie, in Wentworth. <shudder> There may be a small part of BJR that is capable of tenderness, but I can't look at him without seeing the 99.99999% of him that is unspeakably sadistic and cruel.
"You're OK," Mary says. Oops! Yet another instance of modern slang creeping into the show by accident.
I liked the way Murtagh stepped in between BJR and Claire. "If you need to vent your frustration, then I'll happily oblige ye." Good line!
"I commend the well-being of those most precious to me to the one I have loved the longest." And after Alex gives this impassioned speech, BJR says, "I'm sorry," and leaves without another word.
Wow. I really wasn't expecting that!
Meanwhile, back at the Jacobite army encampment, Dougal returns at last. I liked this exchange with Jamie:
"The British are camped at Nairn."
"So I've been told."
"Oh, have ye? I wish ye could have been told before I did all that hard riding."
And once again they make a point of emphasizing that the Jacobite army has very little food left.
"Hasn't enough suffering been had in the name of saving that mythical prick?"
"Frank is neither a myth nor a prick."
This is just priceless! Murtagh's line is easily the best one of the whole episode. I love it.
Murtagh's offer to marry Mary Hawkins himself took me completely by surprise, but if you think about it from his point of view, it's no more than any honorable man would do. And Murtagh, of course, is a very honorable man.
"I've never been a father, but Jamie's parents, they chose me to be his godfather. I've watched over him, and he didn't turn out too badly." Good line, and I certainly agree!
"You could end up dead tomorrow, or the next day." Serious foreshadowing here!
When Claire finds BJR, he's obviously been drinking for some time. When she came in the door, for an instant I saw Frank's face looking up at her, not BJR's. Purely a subjective impression, but it was creepy!
To be honest, I didn't care much for this scene. I don't have the patience to listen to BJR ramble on about God or indulge in Deep Thoughts, and this episode is slow-paced enough without spending precious minutes on a scene that's mostly talk (and a very leisurely conversation at that!)
I did like the part where they talked about Claire cursing him at Wentworth with the date of his death. And I appreciated the way Claire cut right through his verbal meanderings with a very direct question: "Have you ever harmed your brother?"
"Did he never tell you the things I did to him in that room?" <shudder> This line comes from the book, but in this context it's not nearly as dramatic (or effective, IMHO) as it was in the original scene.
On the other hand, I think it's good to remind the audience exactly what it is that drives Jack Randall: inflicting pain and fear ("I revel in it") on another human being. He's right that it would be unspeakable to force Mary Hawkins to go through that, and it's an interesting moral dilemma, to be sure. But I still don't see why they're spending so much time on this. If Jack Randall truly believes Claire's "curse", he knows he'll die very soon. The solution seems obvious: all he has to do is marry the girl, then stay away from her for the couple of days he has left.
And now we go back to Colum's bedside, where Dougal has finally come to see his dying brother. Colum and Dougal are both excellent in this scene, it's well-written and well-acted, but I wish they hadn't chosen to put these two very slow-paced, talk-heavy scenes back to back. The pace of this episode has slowed down dramatically, to the point where I started to watch the clock (something I rarely do when watching this show), wishing the action would pick up again.
As for the MacKenzie succession: the idea of Jamie as Hamish's guardian might make sense (in theory), but to make Jamie de facto head of Clan MacKenzie doesn't make any more sense to me now than it did back in Episode 104 ("The Gathering"), when it was clear that making Jamie Colum's successor would cause all sorts of problems, not to mention endanger Jamie's life.
As Jamie said in OUTLANDER:
"Even if I felt myself entitled to it--which I don’t--it would split the clan, Dougal’s men against those that might follow me. I havena the taste for power at the cost of other men’s blood."On the other hand, Colum is right to doubt Dougal's leadership skills. ("Brother, if you were half as popular as you believe yourself to be, then there would be more men here today in this army of yours.")
(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "One Fine Day". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It seems clear that Colum doesn't have any good options at this point, and in the end his decision is based on Jamie's compassion and concern for the welfare of his men.
"If the cause is lost, then you will put the lives of your men above all else." More foreshadowing!
The wedding scene is a very sad affair, just as in the book. Two major differences here:
1) Alex called for a minister, rather than performing the marriage ceremony himself, as he did in the book. I think this change makes sense, because there's been no reference in the TV series to Alex being a clergyman himself.
2) Jamie isn't there to witness the marriage, or to see BJR grieving for his brother and thus begin to feel the first stirrings of forgiveness, beginning to see him as "a man, not a monster". And because Jamie isn't there, we don't get that very explosive "Damn all Randalls!" scene afterward, between Jamie and Claire. (Too bad. I would have liked to see that.)
I know a lot of readers have a hard time with the scene in the book where Jamie just stands there beside BJR during the wedding without saying a word, and walks out with him afterward. I certainly did, when I first read DRAGONFLY. It took me a long time, and multiple re-reads, to be able to put aside my own feelings and see that scene from Jamie's point of view, and even now it's not an easy thing for me to do. So I think they made the right decision by not attempting to include that here. It would have caused a huge uproar among the viewers, and would probably have required a lot more explanation and discussion in the show than they had time for.
Meanwhile, Jamie has come up with the idea of leading the army on a 12-mile overnight march to Nairn to take Cumberland's troops by surprise. This is a real historical event, but in the book, it wasn't Jamie's idea; in fact, he and Claire didn't arrive until after it had already happened. Still, I like the way they did it here. It's dramatic (finally, the prospect of action, after All That Talk), and it shows that Jamie has still not given up trying to find a way to win, even now, when he knows time is running out.
"Mark me" -- again? <groan> This is really getting old.
And just when it seemed the pace of this episode might finally pick up a little, we get another scene with talking, talking, talking. <sigh>
"What about all the pain you've put me through in this bitch of a life we've shared?" That's an incredibly selfish thing to say to a brother on his deathbed, and I found it shocking. Can Dougal not muster any compassion or gentleness for Colum even when it's obvious he's going to die soon?
And talk about self-centered: Dougal gets so lost in his reminiscences of their youth that he doesn't even notice that Colum has died (!) I didn't feel much sympathy for him at the end, despite his show of grief.
Back to Alex's deathbed: BJR's assault on his brother's dead body was shocking, to say the least, but I think it's easier to understand if you keep in mind what a sociopath BJR is. He doesn't see most people as people, with their own needs and desires, but more as objects, or tools to be used (and discarded) as he sees fit. My take on it is this: While Alex was alive, BJR could see him as a fellow human being, and even love him. When Alex died, his body became just a lifeless sack of bones and flesh. It wasn't "Alex" anymore, and so BJR could take out his rage on it as though it was an inanimate object like a punching bag.
Frightening to watch, though, no question about it! And how hideously awful for Mary to be there, unable either to stop him or to protect Alex's body.
This bit from the scene between Jamie and Claire confused me at first:
"Then I am prepared to keep my promise that I made to you in Paris."
"To help me bleed him."
It took me a while to remember what they were referring to. It's the scene in Episode 205, "Untimely Resurrection", where Claire makes Jamie promise to spare BJR's life for one year: "After that I swear, I swear I will help you bleed him myself."
Watching Jamie waiting in the woods at night with the rest of his men, I couldn't get the thought out of my head. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. It's really happening. It's the night before the battle of Culloden, and Jamie is (by his own choice) miles away from Claire, making one last, futile attempt to change history. Jamie is so determined to fight to the end (and probably die trying) that he appears to have lost sight of the one thing that should be far more important to him than this one battle, or even the Jacobite cause itself: his duty to protect Claire and see her safe.
To say I don't like this is a vast understatement! The Jamie I know from the books would have put Claire's welfare first. I can only hope that Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia, the co-writers of the season finale, who are both big fans of the books, understand just how critically important the next part of the story is, and stay closer to the book for those final scenes.
IMPORTANT NOTE: There will NOT be a new episode of OUTLANDER on Saturday, July 2, due to the Independence Day holiday in the US. STARZ will be showing a marathon of Season 2 episodes from 12 pm - midnight on July 2 instead. The season finale (Episode 213, titled "Dragonfly in Amber") will be 90 minutes long, and it will air on STARZ on Saturday, July 9.
I hope you've enjoyed this recap. 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
Episode 210: Prestonpans
Episode 211: Vengeance is Mine
Look here for my recaps of all of the Season 1 episodes.