Warning: Spoilers for Season 4 of Outlander below.
In perhaps one of the more notable strays from the original plot of Diana Gabaldon’s book, Drums of Autumn — of which Season 4 of the STARZ series Outlander is based — was the return of a beloved character from the series, Murtagh. Played by Duncan Lacroix in the STARZ hit, he reprised his role in Episode 5, and although fans were somewhat aware of his return, the relationship between Jamie Fraser and his godfather might be taking a devastating turn.
In both the book and the series, Murtagh made a promise to Jamie’s mother Ellen that he would dedicate his life to protecting Jamie and would never leave his side. In the novel, Murtagh succumbed to his injuries after the bloody battle in Culloden, but in the television adaptation, Murtagh was last seen at Ardsmuir Prison. There, Jamie struck a deal with his close friend and confidant Lord John Grey, who he tasked with keeping his godfather alive by giving him the necessary food and supplies he needed.
After the run-down prison closed its doors, Jamie learned that the surviving prisoners were sent to the New World, and he hoped that Murtagh was among those being sent to start a new life in the colonies.
Fans speculated that the plot twist at Ardsmuir was an allusion that Murtagh would live on, and Jamie, Claire, and Murtagh, the only other person they trusted with Claire’s time-travel secret, would reunite in Season 4. In Episode 5, “Savages,” Murtagh makes a reappearance that brought Jamie Fraser to tears. But the joyous reunion would be short-lived. On a trip to Fraser’s Ridge, it’s revealed that Murtagh has ties to a group of rebellious colonists that want to overthrow the British.
“We knew that we wanted to bring him back, but we were all really excited at how it happened. We’re so excited for the fans to see that. I think some of them suspected it but it’s a great story. It’s really emotional for Jamie to have his godfather back and the writing here is fantastic,” Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser in the series, told the Hollywood Reporter.
With Murtagh back, Brianna learning of her parents’ fate, and the gang meeting the Cherokee tribe that they share their land with, the show has laid down the blueprints for what’s to come in the back half of this season’s drama. Though Claire knows what the future holds for the colonists, she can’t foresee what’s to come for the relationships within her own clan.
“Jamie and Claire are always fighting history and always trying to change the future and fate, and this is no exception. Not only is this battle or war a big part of history, they’re going to have to choose a side and we already know they’ve chosen the wrong side so far. History tells,” Heughan added.