Warning: spoilers ahead for Episode 5 of Outlander Season 4, called “Savages.”
Outlander has seen plenty of tragedy over its four seasons on the air, and one of the most tragic game-changers of the series was the Battle of Culloden that saw the end of Highlander way of life. Culloden led to the deaths and/or departures of a number of key characters from the early seasons. Now, five episodes into Season 4, we finally got the return of a long-absent character, and it provided a reunion plenty of us have been waiting for. Murtagh is back, and he reunited with Jamie!
Yes, Murtagh Fraser made his first Outlander appearance since way back in the third episode of Season 3, when he was one of the Arsmuir prisoners sent off to the American colonies as an indentured servant. Murtagh was already in rough shape, not the youngest man in the world, and facing a dangerous journey and a difficult life if he survived the passage. There was no guarantee we (or his beloved godson) would ever see him again, and book readers especially had reason to doubt.
Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s novels know that Murtagh’s fate after Culloden in the books was very different than it was portrayed on the show, and I for one was relieved to learn that Murtagh at least survived the bloody battlefields to spend some more time with Jamie.
Admittedly, time in the hellhole that was Ardsmuir prison whenever Lord John Grey couldn’t lend a hand wasn’t what I had in mind for Jamie and Murtagh bonding, but I appreciated his survival. If the show is going to change the books, changes that involve Murtagh not being dead are fine by me! Jamie reunited with his godfather by pure happenstance, and it’s only thanks to Young Ian being a terrible negotiator that Murtagh and Jamie even wound up in the same room.
Jamie and Young Ian had left Fraser’s Ridge for a few days to go to town and try and recruit local Scots to settle on the land Jamie had been given by Governor Tryon. None of the Scots — even the farmers — would agree on account of the Brits’ history of overtaxing tenants beyond what they should have owed. Frustrated, Jamie and Young Ian prepared to return to Fraser’s Ridge, only for their horse’s bit to break just as they were on the verge of departing.
Jamie sent his nephew to find a blacksmith and get the bit repaired, telling him not to take no for an answer. Ian did find a blacksmith, and it was none other than everybody’s favorite curmudgeonly Scot working at the forge. Murtagh was just finishing for the day and not inclined to help Young Ian.
Given that Young Ian was born after Murtagh had been sent to the colonies, the two had no reason to recognize each other, and Murtagh wasted no time in driving up the price of his labor to fix the bit. Young Ian ultimately handed over 21 shillings, which even modern viewers not exactly fluent in the particulars of 18th century currency could guess was way too much. In fact, it was 15 shillings more than Jamie was looking to spend, and 21 shillings was all he hand.
Well, it’s a good thing Murtagh did managed to fleece Ian out of 21 shillings for a simple bit fix, because it motivated Jamie to storm into the forge and demand the blacksmith tell what he meant by charging such a huge price. Murtagh turned around, thrilled to see his godson, and Jamie was no less overjoyed when he processed that Murtagh was alive, well, and standing in front of him. Fraser family reunion!
Murtagh wound up returning the money to Young Ian when he and Jamie caught up in the local tavern. Jamie sent Ian away for a bit so that he could confess to Murtagh that Claire had returned, and Murtagh was thrilled at that news as well, which was especially fun to see after his sour reaction to the idea of Jamie having remarried. Who’s going to be the one to tell him about Laoghaire?
Naturally, Jamie asked Murtagh to return to Fraser’s Ridge with him, both because he didn’t want to let go of his godfather and because the prospect of a blacksmith in the area could be useful and enticing to potential tenants. Murtagh, who learned the craft due to his indentured servitude before eventually being freed, first tried to say that he had to stay in town because of his forge, but he eventually came clean that he had important business in town.
He took Jamie and Young Ian to a meeting of angry Scotsman who had lost their properties and belongings due to the unjust taxes by Governor Tryon and his tax collectors, and Murtagh roused them to a state of fury that makes it all too easy to believe a Culloden 2.0 is in the works against the Brits. Oh, Murtagh.
Murtagh admitted that he’s not opposed to the unrest leading to violence if necessary, and he was clear that the Scots would be happy to pay no more or less than fair taxes. Jamie couldn’t agree to sign on with the cause, but he did promise Murtagh that he wouldn’t try to stop them. When they left town, Murtagh stayed behind, and that seemed to be it for good old Murtagh for the time being. But would Murtagh let us down in his first episode back?
No, Murtagh made a surprise appearance at the end of the hour when he tromped up to Fraser’s Ridge while Claire was outdoors and in desperate need of a good hug. She was thrilled to see Murtagh since Jamie said that he wasn’t coming, and the gruff Murtagh all but melted at seeing her again. Can we please keep him?
He would certainly come in handy if the settlers and Native Americans continue to clash. The whole reason why Claire needed all the hugs she could get by the end of the episode was that a local German settler had gone and murdered Adawehi, a Native American healer Claire had befriended. He did so after a clash with some of the Native Americans when they tried to use a stream on his claimed property to water their horses, and he stormed out with his son to threaten them with rifles.
Claire, who was there to deliver a baby, managed to stop anybody from killing each other, and the Native Americans left after learning that Claire and Adawehi were friends. They didn’t depart before one of them sprinkled a substance in the water as a blessing, but the German settler was outraged and believed it was a curse. Why? Well, Claire later learned that the household had been struck by measles, killing the son, the daughter, and her newborn son.
The German settler visited Claire and handed over a parcel that turned out to contain Adawehi’s scalp, which obviously horrified and disgusted Claire. Back at his own home, a group of Native Americans arrived and fired flaming arrow after flaming arrow, setting the house and his wife ablaze as revenge for Adawehi’s death. He returned in time to see his wife’s burning body, then was struck and killed by an arrow himself. The whole arc came to such a heartbreaking end for all parties that I could have used a hug from Murtagh by the time the credits rolled!