'Outlander' Team on the "Tragic Loss" During Battle of Prestonpans

The cast and executive producers of the Starz drama break down the brutal episode.
Starz

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Saturday's Outlander, "Prestonpans."]

Outlander's latest victory was bittersweet.

As Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) geared up for the historical Battle of Prestonpans knowing that they would succeed, the Highlanders still ended up suffering a major loss in spite of their win.

Fan-favorite character Angus (Stephen Walters), injured the battle, ended up dying from internal bleeding that had gone unnoticed while he sat by his best friend Rupert's (Grant O'Rourke) bedside as he healed from his injuries. 

"There's a line in next week's episode, I think Murtagh [Duncan Lacroix] says it or Jamie says it. 'I never realized that victory would taste so bitter,' or something to that effect," Balfe told The Hollywood Reporter at the unveiling of the Paley Center for Media's "The Artistry of Outlander" exhibit. "That's the thing, yes they may have won this battle and yes they can see that it's installed some kind of hope in their men and it's rallied them. But they've lost some friends and Claire knows that it's highly likely that they're doomed."

Armed with the knowledge that she was right about them winning the Battle of Prestonpans, Claire now knows for sure that the Highlanders are going to lose at the disastrous Battle of Culloden. But according to Balfe, Claire won't let herself believe that they're going to lose until it actually comes to pass.

"In the face of that kind of adversity and in the face of fate where you know in your heart of hearts that it's all about to go wrong, you can't believe it," Balfe says. "Because if you did, you would just stop right there. For Jamie and Claire, this is where we see that they are fighters to the end. Even if they know that it's a futile fight, they'll still fight to the end."

So where does this leave Claire and Jamie as they gear up for the Battle of Culloden?

"By the time we get to Culloden by the end of the season, enough of history has swept them along that she's become kind of fatalistic about it, the fact that the odds of them surviving this are getting less and less by the day," executive producer Ron Moore told THR. "But at that point, it's the only hand she has to play, so she has to play it until the final card and see if there's any way they can still pull it off."

Losing Angus, as well as Kincaid (Gregor Firth), was a tough blow for the Highlanders. 

"Honestly, I think their deaths affected us more from production than anyone else. Well, except for Rupert," executive producer Maril Davis told THR with a laugh. "On the road to war, they all know what to expect. With war, you can't come out of that unscathed. It's a tragic loss but I think we felt it more in production because Stephen Walters who plays Angus is such an amazing actor and we love that character. He's been such a big part of our family and we are such a tight knit family."

She continues, "In fact, it was hard when we were in Paris and we didn't have the Highlanders around, so once we got back to Scotland we were so happy to reunite. But it was hard to say goodbye to him. And I think for the characters going forward, it's just the realization that you can't be on this road to war and take up this cause without suffering some losses."

Heughan calls "Prestonpans" his "favorite episode of the whole season" because of how they filmed the battle. 

"It feels like the whole ensemble really brought it in this episode," Heughan told THR. "It's very strong across the board, with all the actors, the sets, the costumes. And as a Scotsman as well, I think it's a very important moment in Scottish history. It was great to see it come to life on camera.

But it turns out that the process of actually filming the Battle of Prestonpans was tricky.

"We shot it in a very large marquis that they filled with smoke. It was like being at a very bad wedding," Heughan says with a laugh. "It was so strange, you could only see a few feet and then you can't see anything. There were hundreds of people in there, not only the people fighting but there were horses and canons and people with swords, plus the crew as well. You could walk four paces and suddenly there was someone there, so you had to be very careful. But it was very inspiring how it all turned out. And there was a big storm, actually, that almost blew down the set on the last day. It was very dramatic."

Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz. "The Artistry of Outlander" is a free exhibit now open to the public at The Paley Center for Media, featuring iconic costumes and set pieces from the STARZ series. The multimedia and interactive exhibit showcasing the work of Outlander's Costume Designer Terry Dresbach and Production Designer John Gary Steele will run all summer.

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