Murtagh’s Slow Burn to Vengeance
Written by: Anne Hawkinson
The Duke of Sandringham started it – and Murtagh finished it. The brutal justice delivered in “Vengeance Is Mine” was a long time coming and the pinnacle of a pressure that had been building ever since the Petition of Complaint (against Jack Randall) was drawn up by Ned Gowan and delivered by Jamie and Murtagh to the Duke of Sandringham at Norwood House way back in season one. Let’s take a look back at the road Murtagh took to get here, and why that long and winding road made vengeance oh so much sweeter. . .
In “The Pricking of My Thumbs”, Murtagh interrupts a very intimate moment between Jamie and Claire to inform Jamie that the Duke of Sandringham is in town. Though Murtagh is understandably skeptical of the Duke’s reliability in being Jamie’s “get out of jail free card,” Jamie’s renewed sense of hope at clearing his name is palpable. Once they met, the Duke promised to deliver the complaint to London on Jamie’s behalf and, in the process, clear Jamie’s name if Jamie would appear to be the Duke’s “second” in a duel with Andrew MacDonald. The rationale for the duel was to resolve some unpleasant gambling debt. Favors must be returned “in kind,” the Duke tells Jamie,“if I scrub your back, I would expect mine to be equally clean.”
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Murtagh was not present at the duel, but you can wager he somehow felt responsible for what happened to Jamie, even though he warned him against this plan. But as Jamie’s keeper, he commits to memory the Duke’s betrayal of him. You can imagine that a man such as Murtagh does not easily forget harm that comes toward his kinsman at the hands (or mouths) of others. Colum has no sympathy for what Jamie has done (at the request of the Duke) and orders him to accompany Dougal to Dougal’s home for an unspecified period of time. Murtagh is left behind, but you can be sure he is brooding over what happened and filing this incident away for future recall when the time is right.
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“I failed you,” he tells Jamie at the warehouse the next morning, referring to the attack in the alley, head sunk to his chest in shame. Even though he was outnumbered and attacked from above, Murtagh cannot forgive himself for putting Claire and the baby in danger, and for what happened to that “wee lassie.” Jamie reassures him as best he can and Murtagh leaves him with a vow, “I will lay just vengeance at your feet, or be damned.” Murtagh doesn’t know who’s behind the attack, but it adds to the heated sense of justice he feels the need to seek. The layer of foreshadowing continues as our path to vengeance winds on.
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With all of the power and pent-up anger he’s been harboring, he grabs an ax and – in one of the more gruesome scenes Outlander has aired – ends it once and for all. Amidst the sprays of blood, he swings three times. Just three times. His conviction for vengeance is so intense that three swings are all it takes. Over his head, with determination and emotion, he severs the head of the Duke in a truly graphic manner. Vengeance delivered, his anger and hatred fade nearly as quickly as they escalated and he calmly carries the Duke’s severed head to Claire and Mary. Kneeling, he holds it out to them and announces, “I kept my promise. I lay vengeance at your feet.” Deed done, vow fulfilled. Thank you, Murtagh.
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