Outlander: The Hail Mary

"All that work. All that plotting. How the bloody hell did we end up here?"

With the Battle of Culloden looming, the war briefly took a back seat as Claire helped two of her patients out of this world.

Is it fate that keeps bringing Claire and Mary Hawkins together? It felt like it to me. When they met once again at the local apothecary's, it was obvious that Mary's experiences have forced her to grow up and take charge of her own life. In a bold move that she would never have made in the past, Mary chose to "live in sin" with the critically ill Alex Randall, and she was furious at Claire for keeping the two of them apart in Paris. With Frank's future existence once again the subtext, Claire gave Mary a sincere and well-deserved apology and offered to treat Alex, making a confrontation with Black Jack Randall inevitable.

Every scene at that boardinghouse was tense and charged with emotion; these well-established characters have complicated, violent relationships. Jack Randall didn't hesitate to demand that Claire cure his brother. When she told him Alex was dying, that she could not, he then demanded that she ease his pain. Claire's body language around Jack reflected all of their previous encounters; she stared at him, lifting her chin and curling her lip in disgust when forced to converse with him, backing away as if he were about to explode. All the while, Jack kept grabbing her arm and giving her orders as if he still had power over her.



Later, Claire tracked Jack down to a pub, where they lashed at each other with words. This was an exceptionally emotional and powerful scene that carried the entire weight of their previous relationship behind it – the pain Jamie had suffered at Jack's hands, Claire's anguish on Jamie's behalf, Jack's desperation at the thought of losing his brother. And selfishness, because even loving Alex as he did, Jack still refused to redeem himself and marry the pregnant Mary. He taunted Claire with his abuse of Jamie and actually implied he would do the same to Mary. Back at Wentworth, Claire told Jack Randall that he would die on April 16th, 1746, three days from now. If this is true, Jack won't have the time or opportunity to abuse Mary. At least one hopes.

It was truly bizarre that Claire stood as witness to this marriage that finally assured the future of her first husband, not to mention confirming the welcome knowledge that Frank wasn't the monstrous Black Jack's direct descendant. Maybe that was why we were again reminded of Jack's true nature as he exploded with fury and repeatedly struck his brother's dead body, muddying the only redeeming quality he ever had – his love for his brother.

Dark and light, bad and good, selfish and selfless. As Jack lost his brother Alex, Dougal lost his brother Colum. Each time, it was the better brother that died.

This episode was a worthy swan song for Colum MacKenzie, a strong and fascinating character. Colum never stopped putting the MacKenzie clan first, still refusing to join Prince Charles and lead them "over a cliff." In his final act as laird, Colum chose Jamie to lead the MacKenzies until Hamish became an adult. It was so satisfying to finally see Colum acknowledge Jamie's worth and praise his choice of Claire as his wife. Unafraid of burning in hell, Colum asked Claire for a dram of poison to ease his pain – and reluctantly, she gave it to him.



As Colum fell asleep for the last time, Dougal selfishly nattered on about his own grievances, how Colum's life had destroyed his own. Their struggle for power was still all Dougal could think about. It's strange to acknowledge that Black Jack Randall showed more love for his brother in the end than Dougal did for his.

Always thinking, Claire had offered to provide palliative care for Alex in return for intelligence from Black Jack: the location of Cumberland's army. She brought the information back to Jamie, who was understandably freaked by its source and disturbed by the possibility of Mary Hawkins at Black Jack's mercy. Claire promised Jamie that if Jack didn't die the next day at Culloden, she would help Jamie bleed him herself. (And Jamie responded wryly, "Remind me not to get on your bad side, Sassenach." Indeed.)

We knew at the beginning of the second season that nothing they did would stop the Battle of Culloden and its aftermath. But of course, Jamie being Jamie, he had to try one final time. Using Black Jack's intelligence, Jamie talked Prince Charles into attacking the British earlier than history dictated. It didn't work. Sadly, all Jamie managed to do was further weaken the starving, exhausted Scots army.

I'm dreading the next episode, the second season finale.

Bits:

— The title card showed a map of Culloden Moor with representations of the British and Scots on either side.

— Murtagh, who guarded Claire when she was in Jack's presence, offered to marry Mary Hawkins and save her from having to marry Jack Randall. How incredibly noble. Murtagh has already killed for Mary. They already have such an unusual relationship.

— Prince Charles planned to give Cumberland a bottle of wine after taking him prisoner, but we know he won't. Dougal brought Colum a bottle of wine that was already empty.

— Rupert and Ross are still connected over the simultaneous loss of their best friends at Prestonpans.

— There was yet another discussion of Geillis, who was executed after her baby was born. It was a boy, and Colum placed him with a childless couple named William and Sarah MacKenzie. That felt important.

— Yet another exceptional performance by Tobias Menzies in a series full of his exceptional performances. Gold acting stars also for Caitriona Balfe, and Gary Lewis, who was only in seven episodes. Colum's presence in this series felt more massive than that.

Quotes:

Colum: "I've been dying for years. It's a wearisome process. I welcome its conclusion."

Colum: "I commend ye on such an admirable marriage, Claire."
Claire: "I remember a time when you found our union less agreeable."
Colum: "I was wrong. That's one of the pleasures of dying. I can finally admit my mistakes."

Claire: "Suicide's a sin."
Colum: "What's one more sin to a sinner?"

Murtagh: "I canna believe you're encouraging this madness, all to save goddamned Frank Randall. Hasn't enough suffering been had in the name of saving that mythical prick?"
Claire: "Frank is neither a myth nor a prick."

Jack: "Did he never tell you the things I did to him in that room?"
Claire: "Yes."
Jack: "I know the sound he makes at the last, when he has lost himself. And I regret none of it. The pain, fear, I revel in it. Do you really want Mary in my bed? Help me. Persuade my brother to give this up."

Colum: "My poor brother. I have lived my life crippled in body, and he has lived his crippled in mind."

Three out of four empty bottles of wine,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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