As the story of Outlander continues, Lallybroch sees new dangers in the shape of unwanted visitors, dangerous traitors, and a challenging childbirth.
Last week’s episode of Outlander left viewers with a cliffhanger as Claire found Jamie standing in their great hall with a pistol pointed at his face. In the series’ thirteenth episode, which premiered this Saturday, we were introduced to the man holding said pistol: Taran MacQuarrie (Douglas Henshall), leader of a band of Scottish mercenaries known as The Watch. Less than genial, The Watch accepts payment in exchange for protection from the British and additionally takes advantage of what little the community at Lallybroch has – whether for their own nourishment, or their own amusement.
Episode thirteen, titled The Watch, veers intriguingly away from the path of the novel by creating new characters, bringing some back from the shadows, and reimagining the moments that send Claire and Jamie on a bleak trajectory into some of the story’s most haunting chapters. MacQuarrie makes for a worthy addition to the story and gives a new perspective on The Watch, exploring the lines men will cross and illuminating the complex nature of what makes men good versus bad. This is a particularly interesting time for Jamie, as he witnesses himself at the mercy of British deserter Horrocks (Lochlann O'Mearáin), an Irish man who will gladly bleed every penny from Jamie and the Fraser clan in exchange for a promise – while making clear that his promises may be carelessly broken. In the face of Horrocks’s deception, Jamie sees MacQuarrie not as the leader of a band of miscreants he detests, but as someone rather like himself, an honest man willing to fight for what he wants. But while Jamie may be accepting of MacQuarrie, the other members of The Watch mistreat and disrespect Lallybroch, all but pillaging the estate and selfishly using or otherwise destroying whatever they fancy. When Horrocks’s deception puts Jamie and Ian in a precarious situation, the two must join The Watch in a raid that will ultimately lead to devastating consequences.
This episode also gives us insight into the relationship between Ian and Jamie, whom Jenny reveals became like brothers after Jamie’s own brother died at a young age. Much as it does with Jenny, Ian’s gentleness of temperament and his congenial spirit balance out Jamie’s characteristic brashness; it’s a balm that ultimately saves Jamie’s life when he would otherwise rail against The Watch in brazen defiance of everything they stand for. Scenes in which Jamie and Ian are able to reconnect to the friendship they shared before Jamie’s departure spark particularly well, with Sam Heughan and Steven Cree respectively giving terrific performances. One scene in particular, in which the two must work together to stop Horrocks from revealing what he knows, demonstrates how Jamie is able to give Ian strength through his own iron-clad determination when situations take a disastrous turn.
Meanwhile for Claire and Jenny, the newest addition to the Murray family decides to make its appearance at Lallybroch while The Watch is in the midst of carrying out their disruptive imposition on the estate. Armed once again with her intense medical savvy and her own nerves of steel, Claire helps prepare Jenny for what she is sure will be a dangerous and savagely painful childbirth. Countering the action of the storyline with The Watch, the scenes between Claire and Jenny give viewers a sense of the fight of womanhood in Scotland’s 17th century while creating a bond between the two women, both so different in their cultures and, indeed, their times.
The episode carries a superb balance in pacing, from the slower-moving and heart-warming scenes to the pulse-pounding ending, which catapults the story forward. With only three more episodes left in the season, the final chapters of Outlander are sure to play across the screen in a fantastic climax of drama.