'Outlander' Season 5 Episode 7: 'The Ballad of Roger Mac' is a devastating blow to the show's young couples
The war acts as a cover for the senseless revenge plans of Isaiah's father-in-law and Roger's great grandfather. Both Brianna and Alicia lose their husbands because of familial hate rather than the actual war
After a slow start, Season 5 has come into its own, raising the stakes with Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) being shot dead and Roger Mackenzie (Richard Rankin) being hanged.
Earlier in the episode, we also have Claire Fraser's (Caitriona Balfe) altercation with the Brown brothers about saving the life of Isaiah Morton (Jon Tarcy), the bigamist. Claire rightly guesses that the Brown patriarch was the one who shot Isaiah as an act of revenge.
This is when one of the Brown brothers destroys Claire's penicillin vial and storms out of the medic tent, refusing to acknowledge her accusations of "friendly fire". The fate of Isaiah is unknown because a few scenes later, we also have Murtagh's dead body stretched out in the medic tent.
Ironically, Murtagh is shot by one of the young boys recruited into Jamie's militia, who Jamie had advised "not to hesitate" when faced with the enemy if they didn't want to die. Right after taking the killing shot, the boy crows, "I dinna hesitate", making Jamie feel even more guilty about his godfather's death.
The episode is a perfect reflection of the toll that war exacts. It brings into focus Governor Tryon's cruelty in making the decision to "bring back order" to the Carolina county, without pausing to think how desperate these farmers must be, burdened by heavy taxes and corrupt Crown officials, to take up arms.
Despite having twice the number of men than Tryon, the Regulators are decimated and hauled off to be hanged as traitors or killed outright on the battlefield. Among those hanged is Roger Mackenzie.
Let us take a moment to appreciate how well the episode set up this final shocking moment.
At the start of the episode, we have Roger singing that familiar, sorrowful song 'O My Darling, Clementine' — one of baby Jemmy's favorite. He tells his son that he will be back to sing for him again. His words come back to haunt the viewer at the end when we see his body strung up on a tree.
Roger has often found himself at a loss in "ye olden times" of the 1700s that often has brutality and harsh realities. As a professor and singer, he is a '60s man through and through and found it hard to emulate his father-in-law, Jamie Frazer, or find a job on the Ridge suited to his more peaceful temperament.
He has also often begged Brianna that they have to go back to their own time as soon as Jemmy can cross over with them. Threats like Stephen Bonnet and diseases that have no cure make him worry about his family's safety.
Despite being made a "captain" in the Fraser militia, he has struggled with the responsibility of the title. It was only in the last episode, after saving the Ridge from a "biblical plague" that he was finally able to make a mark. The men finally started respecting him and he had come into his own.
In this episode too, he fearlessly volunteers to go behind the enemy lines. As he puts it, he is the only one Murtagh will listen to because Murtagh knows about Roger being from the future. Jamie also trusts him and, despite the worry in Brianna's eyes, accedes to his request.
Roger delivers his message and on his way back when he encounters Morag Mackenzie, his "great grandmother", who he had also helped on Stephen Bonnet's ship. He realizes that Morag is now pregnant with "Jeremiah", his own grandfather whom he named his own son "Jemmy" after.
It is a fatal encounter because when Roger hugs Morag in a fit of sentimentality (again forgetting the times he is in), he incurs the wrath of William, Morag's husband. As a jealous man, he immediately thinks Roger is making a move on his wife.
When Morag tells him how Roger helped her on the ship, he becomes even angrier believing that Roger fancies his wife. Even when Roger tells him he has a wife and child of his own and that he only hugged Morag because she is a "Mackenzie", like him, William refuses to believe him.
Roger tries to escape and in the scuffle drops the rosette of Tryon's militia. William, who is a Regulator, hatches the perfect plan to get rid of his "love rival". He hands him over to Tryon's men to be hanged as a traitor.
With that, both Brianna and Alicia (Isaiah's second wife) will have to reckon with the toll vendetta takes on wives. The war acts as a cover for senseless revenge plans of Isaiah's father-in-law and Roger's great grandfather. So both these young wives lose their husbands because of familial hate rather than the actual war.
As the 'Ballad of Roger Mac' comes to an end, we grieve that Roger's son Jemmy will never hear him sing again.
'Outlander' aired on Sunday, March 29 at 8 pm ET/PT, and is available on STARZ, the STARZ app, and STARZ On Demand.