Outlander Homepage Originals by Susie Brown
How would you want to be remembered? What words would you want to leave behind as advice to those who come after you? What words would you regret having said? What words would you like others to say about you? Or, at the final moments, do words really matter at all?
The eighth episode of the season opens on a classroom, with Professor Roger McKenzie returning essays to his Oxford students of 1969. Tasked with writing about famous figures’ last words, the class hasn’t done as well as Roger had hoped. As Brianna sneaks into the back of the room, Roger brands their efforts “forgettable”. He had wanted his students to consider why people say what they say, he tells them, as well as considering what their own final words would be, given the chance. One student, Morgan, suggests that it doesn’t matter - they are studying history after all, not creative writing. But Roger explains that people live and die by their words. Words shape individuals’ thoughts and deeds, in ways that define people. Words are like bullets, Roger says. They have impact - once fired (or spoken) they can’t be taken back. Words have impact, so need to be chosen wisely. “Make them meaningful,” Roger advises the group. “Live a life worthy of them, especially your last words. They outlive us.”
The students ask what Roger’s last words will be. He jokes at first, praying a mock dying wish for his students to write structured arguments, with supportive evidence and legible handwriting, but he is pressed to answer seriously. After a moment’s consideration, he says that history should forget his name, so long as his words and deeds are remembered by the people he loves. This is perhaps an illusion to the title of the previous episode - The Ballad of Roger Mac, which seemed to imply that Roger would indeed be historically remembered, but the comment also links specifically to his 18th century life. Roger’s most recent words and deeds, whilst noble in their intention of trying to protect those he loves, have also seen him left hanging at the end of a rope, with the hood over his head effectively making him nameless and unimportant in history. If Roger is in fact dead, his last words would have been to his ancestor, Buck MacKenzie: “You let me go, Sir, and I’ll not speak against you, for your wife’s sake” - and one wonders whether he would have considered them to be sufficiently meaningful…
The class ends and Brianna explains her early arrival, as her wish to see him in action. Indeed, she has been impressed by his gift for words. Ironically, they are now heading out to a silent movie marathon, an outing that excites Roger far more than Brianna. But before they go, Brianna wants to know if Roger had meant what he had said: would his wish to be forgotten by history as long as his loved ones remembered his words and deeds, really be his last words? The scene ends - and the opening music starts - with Roger unable to answer.
As the movie ends, we see a projection screen set up and a silent movie, entitled, “Famous Last Words” begin. Quickly we realise that this is no movie, but the continuation of the action from the end of the previous episode. The sequence is in black and white, with no sound other than the ticking of the film. As Roger’s body is lowered down to Jamie, we see Jamie’s shocked face and a single line of dialogue appears on the screen: “He’s breathing!” Claire and Brianna rush over, and Claire performs an emergency tracheotomy in order to open Roger’s airway. Brianna is kneeling over Roger, and her own dialogue appears on the screen:” Roger, can you hear me? It’s Brianna.” A close up shows us Roger’s eyes opening, and Jamie’s words “You’re alive. You’re whole. All is well” come straight from Diana Gabaldon’s novel. The movie ends on a tight close up of the group - Brianna, Claire and Jamie all laying their hands on Roger for reassurance. In this, at least, his 20th century wish has been partially granted - those he loves are certainly surrounding him.
But all is most definitely not well. The next scene returns us to colour and a close up of Roger’s face. Three months have passed and Claire has come to Bree and Roger’s cabin to examine his throat. She is encouraged by what she sees, telling Roger that everything looks good. His throat is healing and the scar has faded. When she asks how he feels, Roger replies with a shrug and a raise of the eyebrow. Claire tries to encourage him to speak, reminding him that it will sound croaky at first but that this is perfectly normal. Roger swallows, but stays silent. Brianna suggests whispering, but Roger still refuses to try. Brianna switches to a lighthearted approach, telling Roger that she will teach Jemmy all the American pronunciations of words - jumper will be used instead of sweater and the word “aluminium” will have the American 2nd syllable emphasis instead of the British third. But when this doesn’t work either, Brianna speaks more softly, telling Roger that since 70% of communication is nonverbal, they don’t need words anyway.
“We can pretend we are in one of those silent movies we used to see in Oxford or Kenmore Square,” she says.
As a last ditch effort, Claire and Brianna try to get Roger to accompany them back to the Big House, as Lord John has come to visit with a trunk of books and gifts. But Roger shakes his head and the women leave him alone.
Immediately, Roger tries to clear his throat. He swallows painfully and closes his eyes as “one of those silent movies” begins unbidden. It is a continuation of what had happened to him from the time that he had been knocked unconscious. In black and white once more, complete with dialogue captions, we see Buck and the others dragging Roger’s body over to Governor Tryon and one of his colonels, telling the men that Roger had been found down by the creek. Roger is beginning to regain consciousness as he is dumped down next to a group of regulator prisoners. The Colonel asks Tryon what he wants done with the men and Tryon tells them to pick three men, hang them and leave their bodies there as an example. Before he knows what is happening, Roger is chosen as one of the three. He is hauled to his feet, a gag put in his mouth and a sack placed over his head. We see his eye frantically looking around as a caption appears, “May the Lord have mercy on your souls.” A barrel is kicked away from under his feet and a visibly shaken Roger is jerked back into the present day as the movie ends.
At the Big House, Brianna is talking to Claire. She tells Claire of her old roommate’s boyfriend, who had returned from the Vietnam War a shadow of his former self. He hadn’t been seriously injured, Brianna says, but even after 12 months, seemed like a zombie, complete with a “thousand yard stare.” Claire replies that in her time, the condition was known as war neurosis or “shell shock”. Turning the conversation to Roger, Brianna comments on the fact that it has been months, asking Claire to confirm once again that Roger is physically fine. (This is a change from the book, as in the novel, there are long lasting physical effects for Roger, with his voice permanently damaged.) When Claire nods, Brianna muses that perhaps Roger too has war neurosis. It must be psychological, she says, adding that Roger has the same thousand yard stare in his eyes and seems to be drowning in silence. Brianna is scared that he is lost and Claire replies gently that Brianna has to have faith that however lost Roger is, she will be able to find him.
A tearful female voice is singing a lament and we see Jocasta, accompanied by Ulysses, standing in front of Murtagh’s cairn. Jocasta has come to mourn, with Murtagh’s gift of the silver brooch hanging on its ribbon around her neck. The song is beautifully sung by Maria Doyle Kennedy and perfectly highlights Jocasta’s desolation at his loss. Later, Jocasta stands on the porch of the house, with Jamie by her side. She had thought to make a headstone made, she tells Jamie, but knows that it isn’t her place, as she and Murtagh had not been husband and wife. Jamie comments that neither had he and Murtagh been father and son, but it doesn’t make the pain any less or easier to bear. Jocasta strokes Jamie’s arm, as she tearfully remarks that Murtagh had been as stubborn as Jamie’s father. “If only he had stayed by your side,” she says.
“He did,” Jamie replies. “He kept his vow to me, to my mother.”
The news brings Jocasta some comfort, and she nods. “He was loyal above all,” she says. “We can’t fault him for that.”
Ulysses announces that it is time to go and Jamie bids his aunt farewell. In an echo of Roger’s caution to his students about choosing their final words wisely, Jocasta strokes Jamie’s face and remarks, “How careful we would be if we knew which goodbyes were our last.” Perhaps she is regretting her own final words to Murtagh: “Please go. I have to rest for tomorrow.” The two share share a brief embrace, united in their sorrow. As Jocasta and Ulysses walk to the carriage, Jamie sits down on the front step. He pulls out the piece of Murtagh’s tartan with the twin of Jocasta’s brooch pinned to it and the tears well up, his own grief raw once again.
Lord John has brought a letter from Governor Tryon. In an attempt to apologise for the “regrettable error” that saw Roger’s hanging, Tryon has granted Roger 5000 acres of land in the back country as compensation. The group discuss the offer. Claire muses that perhaps Tryon seeks to buy Brianna’s forgiveness. Lord John adds that while 5000 acres won’t undo what has happened, it is nonetheless a valuable tract of land. But Brianna isn’t interested. “Tryon can keep his land,” she says. “I don’t need land. I need my husband back.”
In their cabin, Roger is trying to distract himself by spreading out the plans for the proposed loft. He reaches down for the sack of tools, but as he runs his fingers over the rough fabric, the sensation triggers another flashback. We see with Roger’s eyes, viewing the redcoats from inside the hessian sack, as a caption speaks of the men’s “treasonous crimes”. Roger manages to slip one hand out of the rope that binds his hands, and the next caption announces that the men will be hanged by the neck until dead. When the support underneath him is kicked away, Roger manages to slide his hand between his neck and the noose, but we see his eye becoming bloodshot and he begins to lose consciousness. Roger is jolted back to the present time, but this time certain parts of the movie continue to replay on a loop. It is clear that Roger is in torment.
Brianna too, is in torment, as she stands on the porch of the Big House. Lord John comes to join her. He tells her that he has brought something, an object that has always make him feel as if he had the wisdom of the heavens in the palm of his hand. It is an astrolabe, which he describes as a model of the universe. It is an instrument that can be used to find one’s position on land or sea, or to tell the time. We see Brianna’s relief at holding something tangible in her hand - something that can actually give her some control. Instead of finding her place in the world, Brianna begins, at
Lord John’s suggestion, with something smaller - telling the time. Using her engineering background to help her, Brianna has an answer swiftly - 5:30. She is close but not completely correct, as Lord John tells her that it is actually 5:35.
“I guess we don’t have all the answers,” Brianna replies.
“No,” John replies, “Sometimes we must have patience.”
Brianna thanks him and the scene ends.
The relationship between these two characters is, as always, lovely to witness. John seems to be able to reach Brianna in a way that others can’t and in this scene, he once again comes to her aid, providing both comfort and understanding. David Berry and Sophie Skelton do a great job, and have developed, in just a handful of scenes since season 4, a strong bond between the two characters.
It is night and Claire sits reading when Jamie comes in. He has been drinking, in an attempt to deal with his emotions. Claire comments that it has been a difficult few months and Jamie asks if there is a cure for grief in Claire’s time, wondering if there are any “invisible beasties” that can gnaw away at it. Claire replies that there will never be a cure for grief, but adds that there is a saying that “time heals all wounds.”
And time is indeed passing at the Ridge. The people are going about their regular business - washing clothes, making candles, tending the livestock. Jamie and Claire have come to Brianna and Roger’s cabin, hearing the sound of hammering as they arrive. Brianna answers the door and explains that Roger is working on the stairs for the loft. We see the result of Jamie’s drinking from the night before - the hammering is not agreeing with his hangover!
Inside the cabin, Jamie is talking to Jemmy, who is swinging a stick. Jamie tells him to be careful, using a Gaelic term that Claire is unfamiliar with. As Jamie explains to Claire the difference between the two phrases for blood, one meaning a wound, one meaning a familial bond, they are distracted by the boiling of the kettle. Brianna announces that the tea is ready and Claire and Jamie turn towards her. Only Roger notices Jemmy, who is approaching the hot kettle, hand outstretched. Roger utters a strangled cry of “Stop!” and lifts a startled Jemmy out of harm’s way. Claire and Jamie quickly take Jemmy outside, leaving Brianna and Roger alone. Brianna is thrilled - Roger has spoken! She asks him to say something else, but Roger shakes his head. She tries again, asking if it hurts, asking if he will try again, for her. For a moment, it looks as if Roger will do as she wishes, but it is too much. He stands and moves away from her and we see the despair on both their faces. Later, Brianna is singing “Clementine" to Jemmy, while Roger works outside. Brianna looks out towards Roger, and when she reaches the line, “You are lost and gone forever”, we see Roger break down, sobbing.
Claire and Jemmy are playing Hide and Seek with Jemmy down by the creek. A delighted Jemmy runs to find “Grandda” and having done so, runs back to Claire’s arms to try again. Jamie runs towards the bushes, but hears noises. His mood abruptly changes, telling Claire to go back to the cabin with Jemmy. A wild boar emerges and Jamie draws his knife, but before he can attack, the boar is killed with an arrow to the head. Looking in the direction of the arrow, Jamie and Claire see a Native American standing above them on the hill. They begin to approach cautiously, when a dog comes running towards them. It is Rollo, meaning of course that the man is none other than Young Ian, now dressed in Mohawk clothes, complete with hair ornaments and facial tattoos. Claire and Jamie are overjoyed to see him. Jamie asks Ian if anyone will be coming after him, and Ian replies, “Not unless he has vengeful kin.” They greet each other with a hug, Jamie saying that they will have a feast of celebration that evening, but it is obvious that there is more to this story than a simple homecoming. Like Roger, Young Ian also has the “thousand yard stare.”
Jamie, Claire, Jemmy and Ian head back to Roger and Bree’s cabin. On seeing Young Ian, Roger walks towards him and the two men embrace. We can see that Roger is trying hard to find the courage to speak, but he is ultimately unable to do so. Finally, he pats Ian on the shoulder and walks away. Brianna too, hugs Ian and she does speak, telling her cousin how good it is to see him.
Ian stands looking at the house and Jamie asks him what he thinks of the place.
“It’s …big,” Ian replies.
Jamie and Claire comment on the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into its creation, with Claire adding that all the settlers helped.
As if wanting to make his own contribution, Ian offers to butcher the boar for them. Saying that he should settle in instead, Jamie comments that he will get one of the men to do it, even suggesting that Marsali’s prowess with a knife would also be up to the task.
But Ian stands stony faced. “I killed him, I’ll do the butchering,” he says. Claire quickly agrees, but asks him to join them inside. Ian hesitates, wanting to stay outside a bit longer. Jamie replies that he should make himself at home, but this is just the problem. Ian does not feel at home. Like Roger, he is being tormented by something that he refuses to speak about.
Inside the cabin, Marsali has a set of tarot cards. Roger sits opposite her, watching as she turns over cards for herself. She has drawn “the lover” and jokingly suggests to an absent Fergus that they already have “too many bairns.” But when turning over cards for Roger, Marsali is horrified to see the hanged man appear. Swiftly, she clears the cards away and redeals, but the result is exactly the same: the hanged man card sits on the table between them. Roger picks it up, as Marsali stammers that it has been her mistake and offering to try again. But Roger sweeps the cards off the table, as a brief loop of the black and white hanging sequence plays again in his mind.
Brianna enters the cabin, immediately wanting to know what is going on. Marsali dismisses it as harmless fun, but Roger will not let go of the Hanged Man card. Uncomfortable, Marsali leaves. Brianna reminds Roger that they are just cards, but Roger is obviously not convinced. Brianna’s patience is quickly slipping. Again, she asks Roger to talk to her. She doesn’t care how he sounds, she tells him. She knows how hard it is for him, that his voice is his gift. Brianna is desperate now. She reminds Roger that he is still the man that she married, and tells him that she wants him back. A silent tear rolls down Roger’s cheek as Brianna begs, her pleas quickly giving way to anger. Brianna wants to know why Roger won’t even engage with her. She reminds him that she too went through something awful, dark and ugly. She too had wanted to crawl into a hole and die, she tells him, adding that sometimes she still does. The fact that she hasn’t done so, she says, is because of Roger and Jemmy, and the fact that they need her. “I fought for us,” she cries, “and now I need you. Jemmy needs you.”
Roger still will not look at Brianna and resignation crosses her face as she stands up from the table and moves away from him. She has been patient, she says, but needs to know that he is not lost and gone forever, like Clementine. “Are you coming back?” she pleads. “Are you going to fight for us?” Still, Roger will not answer, merely crushing the Hanged Man card between his fingers.
This is heartbreaking, beautiful stuff from both Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton. In particular, Rankin’s ability to portray total despair with just his facial expressions is award worthy in itself (and bears comparing to Sam Heughan, who also possesses this skill!)
A formal family dinner, minus Roger, is taking place at the Big House. Ian is clearly the guest of honour, Lizzie even curtseying to him when he thanks her for the special dish she has made in his honour. Jamie prays before they all begin to eat, thanking the Lord for bringing Ian home to them. But the young man sits stiffly at the table, a fact that everyone seems determined to ignore. Fergus and Marsali try to engage him in conversation, commenting on the tale Ian must have to tell. Marsali asks him to start at the beginning and not to leave anything out.
“You know the beginning,” Ian replies , “and we’re eating the ending for supper.”
Marsali presses further, about “the bit in between”, asking if the Mohawk were good to him. Ian replies only that they were good people.
It is clear that Ian is not going to say any more. Looks are exchanged around the table, before Claire finally asks if Ian has plans to return north to the Mohawk.
“No,” Ian replies.
There is obviously much to tell, but now is not the time, so Jamie changes the subject. He asks Bree if she and Roger have made any decision over the land that Tryon has offered them. When Brianna replies that they are thinking about it, Jamie comments that it would be useful to have the land properly surveyed and registered. Brianna remarks that this is probably not a job that Roger is ready for just yet. Jamie laments the fact that Myers is away trading, but thinks he can send one of the men, before suggesting that Ian could go with Roger, seeing as he knows how the job is done. Again Ian is silent. Claire suggests that he needs time to think and offers Ian the bed in the kitchen, given that the guest quarters are not yet ready. Ian thanks her and the meal continues in uncomfortable silence.
Alone in the cabin, Roger is playing Clementine on the guitar, attempting to sing in a croaky whisper, while the silent movie plays yet again in his head. The images repeat over and over, making concentration impossible and Roger puts the guitar down in frustration and despair.
Ian is also alone, looking at the bed. When Jamie walks outside in the early dawn light, he finds Ian lying on the porch. Jamie asks why he is outside and Ian replies that he couldn’t sleep, adding that he is not used to a bed in a grand house. Jamie replies that they are overjoyed at his return, but that Ian seems out of sorts and is not himself. Ian sits silently, as Jamie asks what happened with the Mohawk, reminding his nephew that Ian can talk to him about it if he wants.
“I can’t give you the truth of it now,” Ian replies. “I don’t have the words.” He goes on to say that there are things that Jamie and Claire also keep hidden from others and it is an observation that Jamie cannot deny. He sits down nearby Ian, saying that he is heartsick to see him so troubled. Ian replies that Jamie needn’t worry, but Jamie responds by saying that he will just sit there for a while, if Ian doesn’t mind. A hint of vulnerability creeps across Ian’s face, which immediately makes him look years younger, like a boy wanting to be comforted. “I don’t mind,” he replies.
Later that day, Ian sits on the front steps, whittling a stick with a knife, when Germain approaches him, touching his facial tattoos and asking if they hurt. The young boy has mistaken the tattoos for bruises, like the ones he has on his hand from rough play. But Ian tells Germain that the marks aren’t bruises: he chose them. Marsali appears to chase Germain away, but Ian tells her he doesn’t mind the question.
So Marsali begins her own conversation, observing how busy she already is trying to do all her chores with two children, let alone adding in the third that they are expecting. Ian replies that children are only lent to people for a short time by the creator, if they are lucky. After a long look, Marsali sits down next to him. She draws a comparison between her children being lucky to have siblings and Ian’s own brothers and sisters. She mentions her own younger sister, Joanie, observing that Joanie is not as strong willed as Ian’s sister, Janet. Ian half smiles, agreeing that his sister always had a mind of her own. Commenting that she had always been a bit jealous of Ian, having only had her mother and sister for company, Marsali asks if he misses his family. The mask returns, as Ian barely nods. Marsali says that she misses Joanie, but that at the same time she feels a bit guilty for how happy she now is and how at home she feels as one of the Fraser family. “I feel I belong,” she says, turning to Ian and asks if that is terrible.
“No,” Ian replies. It is a good thing.” But his expression hardens once more. The baby begins to kick Marsali. She comments that it will soon be time for the birth and that she is glad that Ian will be there to welcome him or her.
Roger is preparing to leave for the survey and Brianna is pleased that Ian is going along with him. She has a gift for Roger, she says, as she folds a piece of paper. While she wasn’t able to finish her degree, she tells him, Brianna knows something about aerodynamics. A sheet of paper is not made to fly, but sometimes expectations need to be adjusted, bent and reshaped. There is a reason, Brianna muses, that the first wedding anniversary gift is paper, whereas the 60th is diamond. The pressures of 60 years is represented by the hardest substance on earth and Brianna wants their own marriage to grow into something as strong as a diamond. She tosses the aeroplane towards him, saying “I love you, Roger Mac”, before leaving the cabin. Roger looks after her. He finishes packing his satchel and after a moment’s hesitation, places the paper aeroplane inside.
Roger and Ian are measuring the boundaries of the land. Ian calls out the measurements and Roger writes them down. As Ian passes him, Roger claps the younger man on the shoulder in a gesture of thanks. Ian comments that he doesn’t need thanking. He has chosen to come of his own free will.
That night, Roger is checking the astrolabe, before passing it over to Ian. Ian asks if Brianna had given it to him and Roger nods. “Do you trust me not to break it?” he asks.
Roger indicates a beaded bracelet on Ian’s wrist, the implication being that it was also a gift from someone important, but Ian pulls away. Whether the bracelet’s story, Ian is not prepared to share any information.
At the Ridge, Claire calls out for Marsali. Some water hemlock is missing from the surgery and Claire asks the younger woman if she has prescribed any to treat migraines. But Marsali replies that she wouldn’t touch the dangerous root whilst pregnant. Both women are concerned: only one root remains from the handful that they had.
Roger and Ian sit under a tree, Roger twirling the paper plane between his fingers. Ian asks what he is holding and Roger passes it across to him. Planes are, of course, unknown to Ian, so he describes the object as a paper bird. It is a definition that works just as well, and Roger demonstrates how it flies. Ian makes a poignant observation, saying that while the bird flies, it doesn’t sing. At last, he begins to share a bit of information about himself. Not always able to understand the Mohawk, Ian had talked to the birds instead, so that he didn’t feel so alone. He asks Roger if he ever wonders how birds know which way to go when the winter comes. They always seem to travel together and Ian wishes that it was as easy for people to do the same. He mimics a bird call, as Roger looks up through the branches of the tree at the glinting sunlight.
The tree morphs into the black and white tree of Roger’s nightmare flashbacks and once again, Roger is drawn back into his memories. When he returns to the present, we see that some time has passed as it is now night time and he has woken by the fire. He sits up and sees Ian looking at him. “Were you dreaming?” Ian asks, as Roger clears his throat. “Wherever you thought you were,” Ian continues, looking at the astrolabe, “we’re both still here.”
Jamie and Claire are in bed back at the Ridge and Claire asks Jamie if he thinks that there is a chance that Roger doesn’t want to come home. She explains that poisonous herbs are missing from the surgery and tells Jamie that she has been reminded of the time when, years before, he had been suffering. Jamie understands, finishing her thought for her: “I didn’t want to go on living,” he says.
Roger walks to the edge of a rocky cliff, with Ian watching silently behind him as he peers over. The flashback returns and we see Roger sway as he prepares for the terror once again. But this time, things are different. The flashback is no longer in black and white, but colour. This time, we hear the characters speaking, we hear Roger’s heartbeat slowing and his desperate gasps for air getting weaker. But then we see something else: the smiling face of Brianna. Roger comes back to the present and, taking the plane from within his coat, tosses it over the edge, watching as it disappears. Brianna’s smiling faces appears once more and he turns away from the cliff.
The choice of the silent movie montages to express Roger’s agony has been the topic of much discussion by fans since the episode aired, with opinions fairly evenly divided between loving the technique and hating it. Interestingly though, comments from people who have suffered from PTSD themselves have been fairly universal in their praise. Attacks can come without warning, triggered by an image, a touch or a sound. Certain parts of a traumatic event can spiral on a loop from which there is no escape. Given that the television series does not have the descriptive paragraphs of the novel, a device needed to be found to allow the viewer into Roger’s mind and the silent movie technique did just that.The black and white presentation added to the unreality, with the slow return to colour and regular dialogue signalling Roger’s ability to begin the healing process. For what it’s worth, this reviewer found the whole concept brilliant!
The next time that Roger wakes at the campsite, he hears Rollo whining. The dog has been tied up to a stake and Ian’s belongings have been meticulously folded and left on the camping mat. Ian himself is nowhere to be seen. But we soon see him nearby, burying his ax in soft ground and covering it over with leaves. It is a symbolic gesture, accompanied by words in the Mohawk language. A pot is boiling on the fire behind him and Ian tosses the missing hemlock roots into it. We realise: it is not Roger who was planning on using the poisonous herbs, but Ian. But at the last moment, the pot is kicked away, spilling its contents. Ian looks up to see Roger standing there.
Angrily, Ian knocks Roger to the ground, demanding to know why Roger of all people would try to stop him. Ian knows that Roger had been contemplating something similar, telling Roger that he knew what Roger had been thinking as he looked down from the cliff.
“You have everything,” Ian says, “a wife who loves you and a bairn, and still you don’t want to be with them?” He presses further, wanting to know what Roger saw as death approached him. “What did you see in the darkness?” he demands, his voice increasing in desperation as Roger starts to clear his throat again. “What did you see? Tell me!”
Roger pushes Ian away and sits up. Finally, in a painful, cracked voice, he speaks, telling Ian that he saw his wife’s face.
It is not the answer that Ian had wanted to hear. If that is true, then there is no escape, he says, even in death, as he would still see his wife’s face. At last we know a little of what is tormenting Ian. Roger asks what Ian’s wife’s name was, but Ian, touching the beaded bracelet, says that it doesn’t matter. Roger asks if Ian’s wife is dead and Ian replies that she isn’t, but that she is lost to him. Ian had only wanted the pain to end, he says, brokenly. He wanted to be at peace.
Roger whispers that no-one can say where Ian’s soul might go if he took his own life. “You could be parted for ever,” he muses. “Not only from her, but from all who love you.”
Ian is angry, asking what he is meant to do now. “You’re a fine one to talk,” he says. “You buried your weapon, your voice, and now you dare to use it against me.”
Roger doesn’t argue with him. It is true, he says, but now he has to pick it up again and fight. He asks Ian if he can do the same. Ian replies honestly that he doesn’t know.
“Then pick up your weapon,” Roger says, “and come home with me until you do.”
Richard Rankin and John Bell deserve many accolades for the way in which they have portrayed the suffering of Roger and Ian in this episode. While their circumstances have differed, the pain for both men is raw and all encompassing. While Roger seems the stronger of the two for now, we can see that both characters have a long fight ahead of them.
Roger and Ian return to the Ridge and Roger goes to the cabin where Brianna is waiting, smiling at him as he enters.
“Brianna,” he says softly and she stares at him in shock. He smiles, commenting that he hopes that she isn’t lost for words too.
Brianna confesses that she has been scared and he tells her that he has been too. Even though he had been saved, he says, part of him died on the day he was hanged.
“I know how that feels,” Brianna answers, moving towards him. “Trust me, I do.”
While he knows that this is true, Roger still hesitates, moving away from her, after briefly touching her face. There is more to say and finally Roger is finally able to share what has tormented him throughout his months of silence. He tells her that while everyone wants the old Roger back, he will never be that man again. He studied and taught history, he says, and is now living it, but he had feared that Marsali’s tarot card had represented a new identity for him: that of the hanged man.
Maybe it had been his fate, he tells Brianna. His own ancestor had tried to kill him, so maybe he wasn’t meant to exist.
“That is not true,” says Brianna.
“Perhaps not,” Roger replies, “but I have changed.” He reminds her of their conversation back in
Oxford, where she had asked him about his last words. He had thought he knew what they would be, but what mattered, he discovered, was not what his last words were, but the last face that he saw. “That face was yours,” he says. They embrace and Roger continues. “I will always sing for you,” he says, “No matter what, no matter where, whether you are there to hear or even if my voice isn’t able. I will always sing for you.” They kiss again, and the credits begin, to the strains of Clementine, sung as a duet by none other than Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton.
This scene is a powerful way to end the episode. It ties together the fates of three of the primary characters from the latest section of the storyline, one which has dealt primarily with oaths and obligations. The concept of a man’s word being the manner by which he is defined, has now been challenged by Roger’s experience. It suggests that while oaths and obligations are made and valued by the living above all else, at the point of death, the words no longer have the power that they once did. Instead, it is the final face a person sees that becomes the most important. For Roger, the sight of Brianna’s face gave him the strength to fight. For Murtagh, a man whose oath remained important until his last moments, the sight of Jamie’s face gave him the peace to die. Ian has yet to experience his “final moment”, and is therefore still unsure as to whether he has the strength to face whatever his fate may be. But regardless of his final decision, he has chosen, for now, to be with the people who love him. And now, two thirds of the way through the season, we are left with this thought: whatever words, oaths or obligations are made by the characters in the future, it may well be the power of love that will outlast them all.
This recap was written by Susie Brown, a writer and teacher librarian who lives in Australia. She is full of admiration for Richard Rankin, Sophie Skelton, John Bell and the director’s vision in crafting this episode!