‘Outlander’ Season 5 Episode 8 sees traumatized men Roger and Young Ian help each other onto paths of healing
Both Roger and Ian are grieving in different ways and both seek death. While Ian thinks of poisoning himself, Roger thinks of jumping off a cliff before a memory of Brianna's face makes him stop
One of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking moments of the show came when Roger Mackenzie (Richard Rankin), still silent and disconnected from everyone else, steps forward and grasps Young Ian (John Bell) in a hug of solidarity and profound gratitude.
In season 4, it was Young Ian's sacrifice that let the wounded and close-to-death Roger leave the Mohawk tribe and return to Brianna (Sophie Skelton). When Ian returns, Roger's eyes fill with gratitude as he remembers that it was Ian who rescued him from his encounter with death before him hanging.
Poor Roger! Since he walked through the stones to follow Brianna, he has nearly been chucked out of a ship by Stephen Bonnet and almost beaten to death by Jamie because of a misunderstanding. He also nearly lost his life as the Mohawk tribe's prisoner and then, of course, in season 5's seventh episode, he was hanged.
Through it all, he has always been the slightly out-of-it history professor who likes doing the right thing and singing a merry tune when he can. But the hanging was the straw that broke the camel's back. He finally realizes that teaching history is one thing. Living it is another.
Young Ian too was bursting with life when he first came to the New World, with a strong case of hero-worship for Jamie. In fact, his decision to live with the Mohawks had more to do with stopping Jamie from exchanging himself for Roger. When he returns, he is reserved and he looks uncomfortable around the people who he called family once and is even uncomfortable sleeping indoors.
When Marsali talks about finding a home at Fraser's Ridge and feeling guilty about her family back in Scotland, Ian says it is okay to find a new home. It is obvious that he too had found his place among the Mohawk and some deeper tragedy lies behind him leaving them forever or why he thinks his "love is lost" to him, even though she is not dead.
Whatever it may be, Ian had no intention of returning to the tribe or even to Fraser's Ridge. His grief over losing his love was enough to make him steal the poisonous water hemlock roots from Claire's medical supplies to kill himself when Roger and he are out surveying the new parcel of land Roger now owns. Both Roger and Ian are wounded in different ways and both seek death on their walk around the land. While Ian thinks of poisoning himself, Roger thinks very seriously of jumping off a cliff before a memory of Brianna's face makes him move back from the edge.
Before they leave to survey the land, no one at Fraser's Ridge has been able to get through to them. When Jamie tries to talk to Ian, he says he is allowed to keep secrets just like Claire and Jamie do. Roger too is shown to be mainly ignoring Brianna or looking at her with a pained expression on his face when she tries to engage with him. Even though it was the memory of Brianna that helped him keep fighting when the noose was around his neck, he is alone in his depression. Even when Brianna says she understands what he is going through having faced "a piece of her dying" as well when she was raped by Stephen Bonnet, Roger is unable to break out his trauma and "fight" to come back mentally and be a husband to Brianna and a father to baby Jemmy.
When Roger and Ian set off together, they are both reserved and taciturn. Yet, there is a bond between them -- not just of recent grief but also of Roger owing Ian his life. Roger repays the favor when he kicks the poisonous draught Ian is brewing to kill himself. Ian rails at him saying that "of all people" Roger should understand why he wanted to kill himself. Earlier, Ian had watched Roger struggle at the cliff's edge and knew that Roger was feeling suicidal too. "And you have everything! A wife, a bairn!", he screams, before revealing his love was lost to him and this was the reason he wanted to die.
Having the suicidal Ian remind him how much he had to live for, makes Roger take his first steps toward embracing his "Hanged Man" identity. He will never be the same happy-go-lucky Roger again, but he will move on and keep living. Similarly, he tells Ian he can stay on his land as long as he likes away from both Fraser's Ridge as well as the Mohawk tribe. This will give Ian the space he needs to heal before he can reconnect with society. Thus, two suicidal wounded men save each other and start on their paths to healing.
'Outlander' airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz. Episodes are available on STARZ, the STARZ app, and STARZ On Demand.