To the life to death
The duos in Outlander
I will focus in this post on the three duos of secondary characters in the series, Angus and Rupert, Ross and Kincaid, Gavin Hayes and Lesley, focusing on the first tandem. Why these choices? For two reasons. First of all because these duets are sometimes reminiscent of the famous Laurel and Hardy of black and white cinema from the 1920s, so different and yet so complementary, so funny and at the same time so touching. Then, because these secondary characters develop over the intrigue, expand beyond appearances, and turn out to be strong and sensitive souls. I could have taken the title of a sitcom from the 80s and titled this post 'The two are a pair', but I prefer the fun side suggested here, the more solemn title 'To life, to death'.
First of all, I want to clarify that these characters are very different in the series and the books, as much physically as in their development and their destiny. Never mind, Diana Gabaldon herself said in an interview that of all the elements added to her novels for the series, it is the Laurel and Hardy duo that Angus and Rupert form that she prefers!
All the analyzes you will find here will therefore be a reference to the series.
Angus and Rupert are physically ill-assorted from the start, one as skinny as the other is plump, one as scowl as the other is easygoing, one as brawler as the other is nonchalant. From the start, these two appear as an improbable duo with comic allures.
A member of the MacKenzie clan, Angus Mhor is a hard drinker - a nod to the change in reputation of the Scots that he does not deny! Rarely seen without a bottle in hand, his mood quickly changes. He can behave like a kid, make jokes in bad taste and tell salacious stories, be grimacing with comic facial expressions and childish laughter, as he can be quick to fight, provocative, intimidating, almost violent. It is very often in her relationships with Claire that these character traits are expressed. For example, in season 1 episode 4, while Claire who was playing with the children of Castle Leoch falls backwards on the back, Angus comes to laugh, planting her legs spread over her, the expression of Claire giving us by the way little doubt about the answer to the mystery of what we wear under a kilt !! Also, because of his aversion to the English, he is hostile to Claire and thinks that she may well return to where she came from, dead or alive. In season 1 episode 5, when she refuses to eat the chicken stolen by the Guard and calls her fellow travelers thieves, Angus is intimidating, getting mad at her by grabbing her arm, threatening her with a weapon and insulting. At first very suspicious of him, he gradually became less hostile, trusted him and taught him to use a knife to defend himself. Angus likes to make childish jokes - and Rupert is good public - often by provocation as when he spits water on Kincaid in the camp before Prestonpans (episode 10 season 2), thus seeking the fight which, in this context of fatigue and nervous tension, does not take long to burst.
Rupert MacKenzie, cousin of Dougal and Colum, since their fathers were brothers, seems with his looks like big teddy bears to be more posed and to have a more equal and more flexible character. He doesn't drink more than he should, speaks in a tone always cheerful and calm. The scene where he has to watch Claire in episode 2 of season 1 and follow her everywhere she goes, scampering behind her because she is walking fast is almost a joke.
Despite their physical and temperamental differences, Angus and Rupert are inseparable, constantly glued to each other, constantly sharing a good joke, teasing or arguing about who is doing the chore or who will have the favors of such and such a woman. These scenes are
joyful and function as a comic break, a moment of salutary relaxation in the midst of a gripping and often very intense, even dramatic intrigue. Their irruption in the bridal room to check if Claire and Jamie have well 'consume' is funny because unwelcome, but it also breaks the rather slow rhythm of bringing together the newlyweds and allows them to 'move up a gear'!
Beyond their fun complicity, Angus and Rupert share a common sense of values and an unfailing loyalty to their clan. Thus, in episode 5 of season 1, in the tavern they defend Claire's honor when other Scottish people call her a whore. As Murtagh sums it up, 'you are the host of the MacKenzie, we can insult you, but beware of others who allow themselves to do so'.
They also have the full confidence of their clan and are present at important times. Our two friends are entrusted with the task of shaping Claire's alliance at the request of Jamie. This one will also thank Rupert the evening of his wedding, telling him that she is magnificent.
Both accompany Jamie to Fort William to get her out of Black Jack Randall, and later accept Claire's request to help her get Jamie out of Wentworth prison. Rupert and Angus are loyal and devoted, more courageous and less silly than it might seem. For example, in the tavern where Claire, Murtagh and Willie worry about Jamie's fate and wonder how they are going to be able to free him while Rupert and Angus drink and laugh like idiots with men at a nearby table, they tell us surprise:
their a priori casual attitude towards the gravity of the situation was a ruse, they managed to extract precious information to infiltrate the prison. Likewise, they participate in Jamie's rescue and stay with him during his convalescence.
Again, after the grueling episode 13 of season 1, Angus offers us a moment of lightness, a comical note: he can not help but clown at the time of farewell on the beach when Claire, Jamie and Murtagh take a boat for France. He takes the liberty of kissing Claire bluntly on the mouth, then she grimaces and wipes her lips, indignant - a farce scene worthy of certain American silent films!
Rupert, reprimands his friend for his inappropriate gesture and behaves with gallantry and almost chivalrously towards Claire by kissing her hand. Even if we knew that Rupert had a sense of humor - think of his reaction after Claire's comment on his story outside the hostel - while Angus has a very bold humor, this is one of the first scenes where their behaviors diverge to this point and where the hitherto more posed side of Rupert appears to us as the elegance of a dignified and upright attitude no doubt due to his rank. Much later, just before Prestonpans, we find this contrast when both meet Charles Edouard Stuart. Angus has fun and makes ridiculous bows while Rupert seems very impressed and stands imposingly in honor of the prince.
A survivor of the Battle of Culloden, Rupert will save Jamie and even forgive him in a word for killing Dougal. He shows immense wisdom, righteousness and respect for Jamie, both a family member and a valued leader. He proudly assumes his status as a traitor while knowing that this condemns him to be shot by the red tunics. He will have just tried to withdraw two very young boys out of kindness, but he accepts his own execution with courage and dignity, pronouncing his name with pride and defying the enemy to follow the rhythm because he intends to go to his death a good step! The evolution of this character at first rather nonchalant and smooth into a strong, honest and courageous man makes him even more endearing, and his death is as painful for the spectator as it is for Jamie
But what we will especially remember from the Angus-Rupert duo is of course their friendship. This one, made of complicity, sharing and teasing, takes its full extent at the time of the battle of Prestonpans and we understand with emotion all the force in episode 10 of season 2. The day before the battle, Angus overhears a conversation between two friends, Ross and Kincaid. The latter recalls that they have no secrets from each other, that they know where their savings are hidden and that what he owns is also his. So, if one of them ever dies the next day, they promise to look after their wife, children and crops. Impressed, recognizing his relationship with Rupert there, and probably thinking of his own mortality, Angus offers him the same deal: he will leave him his sword, his knife, his sporam and even his whore - even there he can not help but 'be completely serious ...! But Rupert is superstitious and refuses, thinking that it could bring 'the devil's eye' to them. The next day while the battle still rumbles, Angus panic brings to Claire his friend Rupert seriously injured, ordering him to treat him immediately. The joker always gave way to a man plagued with anxiety for his best friend. Claire successfully provides all the necessary care and we are all reassured.
However, so focused on Rupert's survival, Angus forgot himself: he succumbs to the general surprise of an internal hemorrhage due to a cannon shot, he chokes his mouth full of blood, emitting a faint and pathetic 'save me mistress' to Claire (not translated thus, it's a shame, in the French version), but it's too late. And there, despite his painful wound, Rupert gets up, takes his friend's sword and hugs it against his heart. This scene is heartbreaking with sorrow, loneliness and despair. Later, in episode 12 of season 2, just before Culloden, Colum on seeing Rupert, says he is sorry for the death of Angus, especially since he would never have imagined them dying one without the 'other. Indeed, Rupert who must experience the guilt of the survivor, no longer feels whole, he is like an amputee, he misses Angus and he has lost his zest for life.
A few minutes earlier Ross had just lost Kincaid. Alexander Kincaid Fraser, the first of Lallybroch's men to die on September 21, 1745 at Prestonpans. Now sharing the same grief, Rupert and Ross get drunk and sing, each crying for the loss of their best friend, 'come let us drink while we have breath / for there’s no drinking after death'. As Ross seems to be trying to get closer to Rupert, he keeps his distance, constantly making allusions to his missing friend. Reunited by the chance of life and death, these two duos become solos alone symbolize the atrocities of combat that mutilate the bodies and tear hearts.
In season 3 we meet a new duo, Gavin Hayes and Lesley. They are friends and cell mates of Jamie in Ardsmuir. They have admiration, confidence and total respect for him. This is also reciprocal since Jamie used them in his Edinburgh printing house from where they distributed his pamphlets.
Driven by the same need to be by his side and to serve him, they will follow him to America, where they will both unfortunately soon experience a tragic fate. The strong bond that united them to Jamie motivates them even to death. Indeed, Lesley will be brutally slaughtered while he was trying to protect Claire, and Gavin Hayes, condemned to be hanged despite all of Jamie's efforts to save him, will ask as a last wish the presence of Jamie in front of the gallows, 'the face of a friend who smiles at me '(episode 1 season 4). He keeps his word and painfully manages to hold back his tears to give her that last smile. Jamie's emotion bursts the heart and is reminiscent of that experienced when Rupert died under the fire of red tunics. Reunited in the Wilmington tavern, the Fraser family and Lesley celebrate their late friend by singing a Scottish lament called coronach. First sung in capella by Lesley, it is taken up in chorus by all, even the other customers present. This scene is thus doubly overwhelming since it also recalls the presence of all those uprooted from the Old Continent who built America and all the sacrifices already endured and to come.
Cruelly, it is at the time of burying their friend Gavin Hayes that the Fraser and their friend Lesley will fall in spite of themselves into the sinister trap of Stephen Bonnet.
These two characters with good faces and big hearts, sympathetic, devoted, touching and endearing will unfortunately not know the 'American dream'.
Among these three duets of the series, Angus and Rupert obviously occupy a privileged place in history and in our hearts. But all of them amused or moved us, made them laugh or cry, we loved, admired, criticized or complained about them. They were joyful accomplices who hid strong and sensitive souls. So, even if at the start of season 4, each of these duos completely disappeared from the screen, they did not disappear from our mind so much they marked it by their humor, their complicity, but also their destiny tragic, and we remember them fondly.
I will close with a quick nod to the actors who have developed their great bond outside the camera: