Christmas came early for Outlander fans during the Dec. 2 episode, "Savages," when the reappearance of a familiar face undoubtedly left no dry eyes in the house. Find out exactly how this new old character fits into the show from author Diana Gabaldon herself, but be warned of spoilers ahead for the most recent episode.
In "Savages," Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Ian (John Bell) go into town to try to find tenants for their settlement, but they end up stranded when the bit for the horse's bridle breaks. Ian seeks out a blacksmith to help them and in a heart-stopping moment, the blacksmith near Fraser's Ridge turns out to be none other than Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix), Jamie's father figure and protector, whom he thought he'd never see again after the Ardsmuir prisoners were shipped off to the American colonies.
It's a beautiful reunion, with so much emotion showing on the men's faces. However, finding Murtagh quickly puts Jamie in a bit of an awkward position because Murtagh is part of a growing movement of dissidents called the Regulators, something Jamie agreed to help quell when he signed the order from the governor giving him 10,000 acres of land.
While Gabaldon killed Murtagh off in her book series, the show chose to keep him alive — and this interesting wrinkle in Murtagh and Jamie's dynamic came from the mind of Gabaldon herself.
"The circumstances [of Murtagh's return] work out quite well," Gabaldon told us in a preseason interview. "The plot always has to be adjusted and given the particular emphasis that they were using on significant parts of the existing plot, they actually took a couple of my suggestions in how Murtagh could be usefully employed in things that were kept at a distance in the books that were definitely there and historically important. I said, 'Well, you know, he could be involved in [the Regulators] and they did a really good job involving him."
Gabaldon also says she realizes how popular this change from the books is with viewers and she fully supports it, especially because Jamie and Claire still experienced the loss that she wanted to have present in the books.
"[Murtagh] died at Culloden for a reason in the book and part of that was to make Claire realize the immense personal sacrifice, the loss of so many men," said Gabaldon. "Death on a large scale is impersonal. Death of someone that we know and who is an intimate part of our life, that's shattering. In the show, we don't know what happened to Murtagh [after Ardsmuir]. He might have died. For all intents and purposes, Jamie thinks he has. He's not seen him again. So the effect on Jamie is one of isolation — he's lost that father along with his wife, so his emotional arc is not changed by the fact that Murtagh is actually alive."
What will be interesting to watch is if the show chooses to kill off Murtagh at a later time. The Revolutionary War is looming on the horizon for all the characters, and it was quite bloody. Thousands died in battle, with tens of thousands of additional casualties stemming from things like disease, starvation, and the elements. Hopefully Murtagh is going to live a nice, long life in America, but he is currently fighting a dangerous fight as part of the American resistance — with his friend Jamie ostensibly on the other side (for now).