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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Saturday’s episode of Outlander, “The Hail Mary.”]
History is playing out exactly how Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) feared on Outlander.
Despite all their actions in Paris in the first half of the season, they failed to stop the Battle of Culloden from happening in advance. And thanks to Prince Charlie’s (Andrew Gower) troops getting lost in the dark, Jamie’s plans to lead a nighttime surprise attack on the British army the night before the Battle of Culloden were squashed. So now Jamie and Claire know the Highlander army has a very low chance at actually winning the war, but they’re forced to fight it anyway.
And another surprising historic event came to pass: Young Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day) married Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). Claire knew her young friend would end up married to her worst enemy because of her husband, Frank’s (also Menzies), family tree, but she had no idea how to make that happen since Mary was in love with Black Jack’s brother Alex (Laurence Dobiesz). But when Claire ran into Mary in Inverness, she learned Mary was pregnant with Alex’s child, and Alex was dying from the medical issues he’d been plagued with back in Paris. Alex’s dying request was for Black Jack to marry Mary and take care of her and their child, ensuring both of their futures.
Shortly before Alex died, Claire witnessed Mary and Black Jack’s rushed nuptials, and after Alex passed on, Black Jack completely lost it. He jumped on Alex’s body and shook his dead brother, until he calmly got up and walked out of the room while Mary and Claire watched in horror.
“We had a lot of discussion about what we wanted to do with Jack and Jack’s relationship to his brother,” showrunner Ron Moore tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I thought there was something interesting about showing that, for all of his monstrosity and all of Jack’s horror, he really did care about and love his brother. Even though he had trouble expressing it, even when he’s grabbing his body at the end, which was a very violent and angry reaction, it still comes from this place of humanity in Jack.”
According to Moore, that redemptive, loving quality in Black Jack was important to show in those scenes between the brothers.
“That’s the thing that appealed to me the most,” Moore says. “This idea that if Claire was going to help this marriage happen, if she was going to hand over Mary Hawkins to Jack and honor the wishes of Alex and participate in this whole scenario, you had to see some glimmer of humanity in Jack, just to make it play. So that was our primary focus.”
When it came to filming those scenes, Moore says that he gave Menzies free reign in how to portray Black Jack’s moment of rage after losing his brother.
“He knows the character so well that we just talked for a few minutes about it, really,” Moore says. “We just talked about the intention of the scene and then he liked the script and just went for it. He brought all that inner turmoil and angst to the scene when he just throws himself at the body. That was all him.”
Even before filming commenced for season two, Menzies couldn’t wait to finally get to film the Randall brothers together.
“It’s interesting to finally see this brother relationship between Alex and Black Jack, because we’ve only ever heard about it,” Menzies says. “And it adds this new layer to Black Jack, this level of humanity we didn’t know existed in this man. We only really get to see it in one episode, but I always thought that Alex was the one good thing in Black Jack’s life. He brought out the good in his older brother, and so for Black Jack to lose that, it turns his world upside down. And then to add in the Mary Hawkins factor, it’s just too much for him to take in one moment, so he completely loses it. I loved filming that whole storyline because it allowed me to explore another side to Black Jack.”
While Claire didn’t learn the truth about Frank’s ancestry until Alex was dying, Balfe found out about that twist when she read Dragonfly in Amber while prepping to film season two.
“I knew that was coming in the script. But that whole part of the storyline and those scenes are so rich,” Balfe says. “It’s such a difficult thing for Claire to even be in the same room as Black Jack. To have to, in some ways, make an alliance with him was such a difficult thing for her. But at this time, she’s so desperate so the fact that perhaps she can gain some military knowledge that could help the Highlanders, that’s the benefit for her.”
Diana [Gabaldon] gives us so much in the books that you can probably make 10 series and the fans would watch it all,” producer Matt Roberts says of a possible Lord John spinoff. “]
It was also a big moment for Claire when she got to help secure Mary’s future despite failing to prevent the father of her child from dying.
“She has a great love for Mary Hawkins and cares deeply about her,” Balfe says. “She feels a lot of guilt for trying to split her and Alex up. Her being there and trying to help them and realizing the actual truth of it all, it’s a big moment for her, redemptive and otherwise. Those scenes are great. Tobias did such an amazing job, and Rosie did such an amazing job, and Laurence was great. And when Alex dies and Black Jack starts wailing on him, oh my God, it was some crazy stuff.”
While filming, both Balfe and Day had no idea that Menzies was going to play that violent moment to such a high level.
“It was really intense,” Balfe says. “There was a question about whether or not Tobias would do that or if he would just leave or what his reaction would be, and he had a lot of conversations with the director about it. Rosie and I were just standing and waiting to see what would come out of it and when he did what he did, it was just chilling. In many ways, for Claire, she’s just stuck to the spot. She doesn’t even know how to react. Her first instinct is to protect Mary, but she doesn’t know if he’s going to go after them next. But the fact that he just straightens his jacket and walks out, it’s so chilling. It was so amazing to watch Tobias film that. It turned out so well.”
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.
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