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The Balad of Roger Mac

The opening of the episode offers us a moment of tender intimacy between Brianna and Roger who must leave to fight. The scene looks like the one where Jamie and Claire were saying goodbye before the Battle of Prestonpans. Yet, unlike Jamie, Roger is not a warrior, but an intellectual and we tremble for him, although in truth, he has already traveled so many obstacles since his arrival in this tormented century, that we finally feel quite fit to fight alongside others. 

 

 

Bree remains alone, fear in her stomach. She leaves her husband, but also her father and mother. What could be more painful than standing back, helpless? How many couples around the world have experienced this heartbreak? A man goes to war and his wife has to stay with the children.

But inevitably, one must leave the arms of the beloved and run in a row at the head of the militia in order to honor his oath to the crown.  

It's disturbing to see them face the red tunics, not to confront them, but to fight alongside them. Again, it's hard not to make the connection with the Battle of Culloden where the proud Highlanders were slaughtered!  

Jamie tries to intervene to remind Tryon that the Regulators are only farmers armed with their pitchforks for the most part, and that the use of cannons may not be necessary. But it's a waste of time, we've known that for a long time. Tryon and his lieutenants do not care about the lives of those who do not bow before the crown, no matter how legitimate their revolt is.  

As a result, Jamie distributes to his men roundels to hang on their hats or jackets. The message is clear: this is the only thing that will differentiate them from regulators. It is on their compatriots that we will ask them to shoot and who will fight back. A small yellow flower with trees as a sign of rallying to the crown... that is all that will set them apart. A roundel is not as visible as a red jacket of course, and it is highly likely that there will be terrible mistakes during the clashes.  

 

If the arrival of Isaiah Norton - who has abandoned his beloved wife to fight alongside Jamie - makes us think about the motivation of these men who make up the militia, the presence of the Browns is more disturbing and we feel more than ever the fragility of this lame, even dangerous alliance.  

Season 5, Episode 7

Valérie Gay-Corajoud 

By Valérie Gay-Corajoud

In one quick scene, the script tackles a whole part of the great story long told by Diana in her novel.

The resistance of the regulators upstream, to begin with, because of course, aware of their undernumber, they would like to limit the clashes. They destroyed a bridge in order to prevent supplies to the English army. Murtagh is quoted, we know he will be at the heart of the battle. And then, the presence in the camp of the Reverend Caldwel - the same one who married Bree and Roger - and who comes, on behalf of the regulators, to propose a conditional agreement, which Tryon, assured of victory, will refuse.

We feel the shift in the governor's posture vis-à-vis the conflict between him and the insurgents. It is no longer for the crown that he wishes to fight, but for his ego. He makes it a personal matter as evidenced by this reply: "Their path is mapped out, just like mine".

In a way, he is doing Jamie a favor, even if he still doesn't know it. For Colonel Fraser swore allegiance to the king, not to a megalomaniac and careerist governor. It will be easier to free oneself from it.

As the confrontation begins, Jamie stands in front of his men.

"We don't come to kill our brothers," he told them, "but to put an end to this. There is no need to turn this battle into a massacre. Make prisoners, save souls.

 

From the first moments, it is obvious that the Regulators are not in a position to resist the British army. Everything could have stopped in just a few minutes! But Tryon wants to make an example, to exterminate this vermin that opposes its omnipotence. So he gives the order to shoot. Cannons spit out their destructive balls, again and again. Rather than let the insurgents flee, he catches up with them, finishes them off.

The battle will eventually take place in the woods, where, perhaps, the regulators will have a little more luck, which makes the use of mortars more problematic.

We also witness a scene where two enemies fighting, are both put on the ground by the breath of the cannon. It is easy to imagine that many soldiers perished under the arms of their own camp. The lives of men were not worth much, on either side.

In Hillsborough, it's a different kind of intimacy that we're seeing.

Claire and Jamie hang out in bed in their tent and argue lightly. It must be said that they are, alas, accustomed to the battlefields. In the meantime, they can still curl up against each other and celebrate Colonel Fraser's fifty years with dignity. Small song in tribute to Marylin Monroe and her famous: Happy Birthday Mister President... They have learned to enjoy the present time, as a gift that is priceless.

As Jamie begs the late Dougal McKenzie to stand by his side during the fight, Bree, who has taken refuge with the Sherstons, friends of Jocasta Cameron, learns that the confrontation will take place in Alamance. As the daughter of a historian and former student, this name is not unknown to her and very quickly she makes the link with the famous battle that saw the victory of the British against the Regulators movement and which was, according to all, the trigger of the war of independence.

Like her mother two decades ago, here she is the holder of an inescapable truth about a coming defeat, and just like her mother too, she cannot fight against the desire to intervene and goes at a triple gallop to warn her family. Therefore, Murtagh and his troops must be warned that they will be the big losers in history, even if it means taking the risk of making this crucial conflict disappear. All agree that the trigger will probably happen anyway and that, for now, the most important thing is to keep family and friends safe.

And what a terrible moment for Bree to realize that the only one who is able to convince Murtagh is Roger! It is she and her prophecy, which sends the man she loves behind enemy lines. It is no longer time to back down.

The most tragic thing is that it will have been useless. Even if Murtagh is convinced, he will not succeed in silencing the rage of his companions. It is too late to ease tensions and Captain Roger Mac must join his family to announce his failure.

This failure, however, he may have the opportunity to diminish it, by persuading his ancestor, Morag Mc Kenzie, whom he meets by chance on the way back, to flee before the terrible battle. Like Claire who tried to convince Ned Gowan not to encourage the Jacobite revolt, Roger must find arguments capable of replacing his unspeakable knowledge of an inevitable defeat. And if he embraces her one last time before leaving, it is not to disrespect her, but because family ties and the desire to give meaning to his presence in these places, literally grab him.

But in the 18th century, men did not practice this kind of show of affection and Morag's husband was entitled to be offended.

So we finally meet the famous William McKenzie, illegitimate son of Geillis and Dougal! Moreover, it will not have escaped the fans, it is Graham Mc Tavish who takes over the role of this embittered man and very quickly detestable. (Which is not necessarily a good idea, if you want my opinion, because William is only supposed to be 27 years old while the actor is 60.)

Maybe in other circumstances, Roger would not have tried to stand up to him, but the previous events, the sadness, the disenchantment, all these emotions that overwhelmed him push him to rebel when William, says Buccleigh, threatens to hit his wife. Then, my faith, three to one, he had no chance.

Meanwhile, a scene full of bitterness unfolds in the British encampment.

Governor Tryon encouraged Jamie to put on the red tunic, and, in front of the Scotsman's defeated mine, was pleased to say: "You are one of my best officers. I wouldn't want you to be mistaken for an insurgent."

It is difficult to know if Tryon is so naïve as to believe that Jamie is entirely devoted to the British cause or if he wields irony by reminding us with this symbolic gesture that it is no longer time to choose sides, but to keep his word. I am leaning towards the second option. Tryon is anything but silly.

Jamie resists softly, but ultimately cannot evade a direct order. Here he is now dressed in red, in front of his pitiful men. What would Dougal say if he saw it that way? What would his father say?!

He returns, sheepishly, to Claire, as if he had to support himself with his understanding to hold on. Especially since they are all worried about not seeing Roger return.

Once again they separate without knowing if they will see each other again. Can we get used to this?

"Wish me good luck," Jamie asks his wife.

"I wouldn't have the heart to let you go without saying a word," she replied. I guess "Good luck" will do. I love you soldier," she adds before kissing him tenderly.

We are projected back decades when she called it that in the midst of the Scottish turmoil.

-"Good luck" does the trick, Jamie replies, but "I love you" is much better.

 

He walks away and she watches him leave.

Meanwhile, another drama occurs. Jamie finally meets Murtagh in the forest, but almost immediately, the latter is killed by a gun shot by one of the Finley sons to whom Jamie had advised a few hours earlier, to fire as soon as he had the opportunity. This son that Mrs. Finley entrusted to Roger on condition that he bring him back alive.

Murtagh dies quickly and serenely in the arms of his godson and we are devastated.

In a way, the series finally leaves the hand to the original work of Diana Gabaldon that had not allowed Murtagh to survive the Battle of Culloden.

I thought to myself at that moment, that at least Jamie could have been by his side, while he had suffered so much for not having been present at the death of his father.

 

But this death is the pain of too much and in front of the morgue of Tryon who rejoices in his victory, he lets his anger erupt. He is fed up with the role he played. Of this responsibility that weighs on his heart.

In a powerful symbolic gesture, he removes this red jacket that he hates and throws it on the ground at the foot of the governor.

"I paid my debt," he said, "and we know how much that debt cost him.

 

And yet, it is not yet time to mourn the dead, because Roger has still not reappeared. They go to search for each other in the woods littered with wounded and prisoners.

We end up finding him hanging from a tree between two other insurgents. Like Jesus on his cross between two thieves. To make an example.