[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Saturday’s Outlander, “Vengeance Is Mine.”]
It may have taken longer than everyone had hoped for, but Jamie (Sam Heughan), Claire (Caitriona Balfe), Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) and Mary (Rosie Day) finally got revenge on the evil and slippery Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow) on Outlander. And it came in the form of a blunt ax to the head.
After years of scheming and making Claire and Jamie’s lives a living hell, the Duke met his demise in a gory, violent scene closing out a tense roller coaster ride of an hour. After the Jacobite army decided against invading London and turned back to march for Scotland, Jamie’s men got caught inside a church by the British army. Claire used herself as a fake hostage once more to insure Jamie’s and his men’s safety, and the British, believing her to be a Scottish hostage, brought her to the Duke of Sandringham’s home, ironically for her own safety. Once there, the Duke tried to get Claire to lure Jamie to his home to rescue them both from the British, but it was a trap. The Duke once again betrayed them, and tried to get them arrested.
While Jamie and Murtagh successfully infiltrated the Duke’s heavily guarded home, Claire found Mary inside the house since she’s the Duke’s goddaughter. The two women tried to escape through the kitchen but were caught by the Duke and his men. Claire then recognized the Duke’s right-hand man, Danton (Andrea Dolente), as the man who attacked them and raped Mary in Paris, and the Duke confessed that it was because he owed the Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber) money and he had negotiated for rape instead of murder as payment. Mary, enraged to learn the truth, stabbed and killed Danton herself, while Murtagh decapitated the Duke and laid his bloody head at Claire’s feet, finally fulfilling his promise to her.
“It was time to put an end to this,” showrunner Ron Moore tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh. “Enough with this guy who keeps everybody dancing, where you never can tell which way he’s going to go. Eventually, you’re going to run into Murtagh and he’s going to cut your head off.”
Balfe loved how intense and powerful that finale scene was in the kitchen.
“It was really fantastic filming that,” Balfe says. “I honestly loved working with Simon Callow. He’s such a great person to have around set. But what I loved in particular, I loved how Mary got her justice, finally. And it was by her own hand. That was a wonderful part of that scene. She truly deserved to get that peace of mind.”
Balfe couldn’t believe how real the prosthetic head was that the prop department created. “The effects were just so authentic,” she says with a laugh. “And to see Duncan really go at it was hilarious.”
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. “]
But some major parts of that kitchen scene were left on the cutting room floor.
“It was such a huge scene,” Heughan says. “And there was actually a lot more to that scene. Like every episode, we shoot so much more than they can actually show. Maybe at some point we’ll get to see an extended version of this episode because there’s some very scary stuff by Duncan Lacroix who plays Murtagh. But in the end, the Duke gets his just desserts. He truly gets what he deserves. I mean, we just found out that he’s been instrumental in all the things that have been going wrong for Jamie and Claire.”
Balfe shares Heughan’s sentiment. “Murtagh had this great speech where he delivered it in Gaelic and it was so powerful. But that got cut and I was so sad about that,” she says. “But it was such a great scene regardless. The Duke has always been this slippery fish that you never really know his loyalties. And then as soon as you think you know he’s the most despicable person, he does something that makes you question it; maybe he’s not so bad, but he turns around and does something even worse. So for him to get his comeuppance was really great.”
The writers and showrunners couldn’t wait to bring that moment of revenge to life.
“We knew that the Duke had it coming,” executive producer Maril Davis says. “He’s had his hands in many pies and you can’t try to get Claire raped and killed without some sort of something coming to you in the end. What we tried to do is give the Duke a good sendoff because Simon who plays that character is such an amazing actor and we just loved having him on the show. We really wanted to give him a proper sendoff.
“And also, we just wanted Claire, who had been through this attack, and Mary specifically, who had been through this rape, we thought it was fitting that certainly she was the one who stabbed her rapist at the end. That scene worked out really well,” David continues. “And then Murtagh with the ax, while violent, was also so touching. In all these episodes, Murtagh has made this vow to Jamie, and was finally able to fulfill it and lay his head at their feet. It was a really touching moment, while also being incredibly gory.”
But the entire scene came as a shock to book readers, since it played out quite differently on the page than it did onscreen.
“Some of it was just physical logistics in terms of our sets and choices of where we wanted everybody to be,” Moore says. “In the book, the death of the Duke happened off camera. Murtagh left them and came back with just the head in the bag and presented it to Claire. We just thought that, for TV, that wasn’t going to be dramatically satisfying. You wanted to see it happen. So then it was a question of, how can we put all the characters in the same room together?”
And that wasn’t the only major change Moore and his team decided upon.
“We also decided to work in Mary’s revenge on the man who attacked her in Paris and make that all part of the same sequence,” Moore says. “It’s illustrative of how we design the show. We’re trying to get to a story point that the book has laid out for us, but we changed it because we want to play it on camera instead of off, but it has to occur at a certain moment since it’s the climax, and so we should make that the climax of Mary’s story too. So as we start filling in these requirements, you can see why we start bending the stories in certain ways, even though the intention is still to do the same version that the book does.”
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.