We are fast approaching the end of the season and the creators of Outlander just won’t let us rest! Another heart pounding, fast paced, and traumatic episode met us in Prestonpans. I spent the first half of the episode wondering who would survive. Somehow, amidst all of this, the episode was able to make me laugh out loud more than once too. I think that is the main appeal of this story for me. The ability to laugh with war looming feels true. We can all relate to the need for escape. I can’t imagine summing up this episode in five topics, but here we go!
- After opening with a reflection by Claire on the human cost of war, the episode moves to a scene familiar to any war movie. A bunch of men stand around a map and yell at each other for a while. One general says to attack now, one says to hold their ground, and the ever useful Bonny Prince says maybe they can just negotiate surrender. That would be the surrender of the British to the Scots. He thinks they are such a fearsome force maybe they can just call it a day. The look on Jamie’s face during this suggestion is priceless. To me it says, “You really are a new kind of crazy!” Mark my words, Prince Charlie is a douche.
- This is a big episode for Dougal. Much of the war planning centers around a marsh that lies between the two armies. Knowing how eager Dougal is to advance the cause, Jamie informs him that the job needs done. Of course Dougal volunteers to check it out. He promises to keep 105 yards away since the muskets can only reach 100. Jamie suggests 125 and their bickering on the matter gave me first of those laughs I mentioned in the intro. Dougal saunters into the bog atop a majestic white horse. Just as the mud gets too deep, the British open fire. We viewers quickly realize he may have ventured too close. And the horse was stuck in the mud and not turning around and before I know it I am Atreyu screaming at Artax to get a move on and escape the swamp! Both Dougal and the horse get away with only a scratch. And Dougal is celebrated by Charlie for his bravery. My second laugh comes near the end of this scene when our favorite uncle need to go change because, “the hero of the hour has shat his pants.” Near the end he is discharged from the army due to lack of compassion and Jamie saves him by getting him assigned away from the front lines. As Dougal points out, his plot of championing him and exiling him all at once is a plan worthy of Colum.
- We see many of the preparations for the coming battle. We see Claire preparing the women to tend to the injured men in the aftermath. I appreciate that the women have a healthy dose of skepticism and that Claire has such a good bedside manner even with them that they pretty much agree to do whatever the crazy bossy lady says. We also see men on the eve of war coping in their own ways. Some promise to take care of families and possessions left behind, some refuse to consider the possibility that they won’t return. These scenes raised my anxiety exponentially. Soon after this, a source gives the generals the info they need to bypass the marsh, and the war is on. Claire gives tearful goodbyes to the men, along with a kiss on the cheek to Angus, a hug to Rupert, kisses and kisses to Jamie, and a “peace out” look at Dougal.
- The battle itself is pretty much as gruesome as I could imagine when you put several men with pitchforks up against guns and cannons. I watched most of the battle through my fingers so I won’t go into all the details. Fergus has run off to join the soldiers and I held my breath the entire time. As the injuries roll in we find that one bromance has hit the end of the road when Ross carries in the body of Kincaid. We are pulled from his remorse by Angus, who arrives with a wounded Rupert on his arm. The last thing Rupert asks before passing out is whether Angus survived the cannon. Cannon?! Through a flashback we see that after a well-timed shot to save his bff, a cannonball hit near Angus and that was the last image Rupert can remember. After a quick assessment and many assurances he is fine, Claire turns her focus to Rupert and we wait. In that time we discover that Fergus is in shock, having killed a man. Claire is every mother in the world when she croaks, “Don’t tell me that!” and wraps him in her arms. I honestly feel even more connection between these two in the show than I did in the book. In the season premiere we knew she was mourning the loss of Jamie, but this moment made me realize she left a child behind too.
- In a shocking final twist, our favorite bawdy, smiling, Scottish hooligan Angus falls over choking on his own blood. He has been bleeding internally this entire time. As he spatters blood and slips away, his brother-from-another-mother, Rupert, wakes up. He stumbles over, lifts his friend’s sword and hugs it. And there is much ugly crying. This death was completely unexpected and added gravity and humanity to the war.
And just like that the episode is over. The battle of Prestonpans is over. None of our favorite characters will ever be the same. In the post-show segment Ron Moore confirms we will not actually see the battle at Culloden this season. He says, “This is our big battle for the season.” I am assuming that, much like the book, we will not know who lives and who dies until next season. See you next week for an episode titled, Vengeance Is Mine. If you don’t already know who will be avenged, feel free to drop by the comments section with your theories!
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