‘Outlander' season 2, episode 12: Brothers grim
The last few episodes have probably left fellow book readers a bit confused. Actually, we feel a little like Claire. We know the outcome, but the plot points have been rearranged and added. But we're still captivated, and moved by this story and these characters. That hasn't changed. So let's get down to recapping the solemn penultimate episode, "The Hail Mary."
In Inverness, things are grim. The Highlander army has weakened. Claire feels helpless in the face of an unchanged history. Jamie's last hope to stop Culloden doesn't seem to work. (At least the shouty men are not as shouty.)
Claire runs into Mary Hawkins, who is shacking up with Alex Randall. Yep, Jonathan Randall's brother. Earlier, Claire meddled in that relationship to stop it from happening, unsure how that would change Frank's future. She knows Mary and Jonathan wed and have a child, securing the Randall line all the way up to Frank. But after building a relationship with Mary, Claire wants a better life for this stammering little girl.
His condition worsening (consumption leading to congestive heart failure), Alex has a plan for his star-crossed lover. He wants Mary to wed Jonathan, and give their unborn child the Randall name, and the life that comes with it. Turns out Jonathan has been helping his brother, probably the most meaningful, and healthy relationship he's ever had. But it does seem Alex is privy to Black Jack's true nature.
Jonathan demands Claire's help, but she knows there's nothing that can be done. This is a departure from the books. It's Jonathan's idea to give intel to the Jacobite army so that Claire will help his brother. Here, it's Claire's idea. And this all happens over a longer period of time. In the book, Claire and Black Jack discuss the deal only, not the marriage.
From Dragonfly in Amber: We are linked, you and I, through the body of one man ... Yes, but not through Jamie. Not through him! I insisted, to him, to myself. Yes, you took him, you bastard! But I took him back, I freed him from you. You have no part of him! But the sweat that trickled down my ribs and the sound of my own sobbing breath belied my conviction.
Was this the price I must pay for the loss of Frank? A thousand lives that might be saved, perhaps, in compensation for that one loss?
Later in the show when Claire and Jonathan sit down — similar to a great scene from last season — Black Jack utters a hard line to swallow: "Do you really want Mary in my bed?" I really love the chemistry between Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies. Chemistry between lovers and enemies is equally crucial to a story. This relationship is a much a delight to watch as the Fraser's. Anyway, Claire, knowing that Jonathan will die soon enough, is willing to risk Mary's life, so to speak. All to guarantee Frank's existence.
And in a very tense and solemn ceremony, the Mary and Jonathan wed. Alex dies shortly after. But it's Black Jack's reaction to his death that's shocking. Instead of weeping by his bed, Jonathan attacks his brother's body in anger. Claire's face is all of our faces ... WTF, dude? I wish we could have learned more about this brotherly bond to understand this reaction. But it's expected that Jonathan doesn't feel things the way others normally do. Menzies hasn't been around this season as much, but steals every scene when he is.
The other death that Claire deals with this episode is Colum MacKenzie's. His condition has also worsened — did I say things were grim? — and he wants Claire's help with a suicide. "What's one more sin?" he exhales.
The show also reminds us of another delightful character from last season: Geillis Duncan. Remember, she was pregnant with Dougal's child when she was tried and sentenced to death for witchcraft. Anyway, Colum says that baby boy is alive and living with a MacKenzie family.
As Colum prepares for his departure, he meets with Jamie and Dougal about the Mackenzie MacKenzie clan leadership. He wants Jamie to take over, and become guardian of his son (well, Dougal's son), Hamish, until he can lead. Dougal and Colum's relationship is complex, full of years of resentment. Dougal comes to his big brother's bedside to explain all the things he was never able to do. It's a heartbreaking moment that was cut short, as Colum has ingested Claire's deadly concoction. "Brother, so you turn your back on me one final time," Dougal says. "You leave me alone in the darkness of the world, and all I hoped to say to you remains trapped right here unsaid. Forever."
Between both deaths, the Stuart rebellion has been trying to figure out what to do next. The plan was to ambush the British from both sides before the planned battle at Culloden Moor. But Bonnie Prince Charles' team is nowhere to be found. So the men retreat, and it seems destiny has led them to the exact same place.
NEXT WEEK: No new episode. The 90-minute finale airs July 9 at 9 p.m. on Starz.