As we barrel towards our epic conclusion to the Jacobite Rising (and to the season), the penultimate episode gives us closure in some respects, and leaves the Jacobites’ fate all but sealed despite our heroes’ best efforts.
“The Hail Mary” felt very much like we were wrapping up everything but the final battle, and lining up the last nail in the coffin of the Jacobite cause. There’s a brief hint that the Jacobites have a last chance for victory, but we’re never led to hope in it too much, nor are our heroes. (Neither are we led to feel the desperation of this last ditch effort, in my opinion, aside from the frequent mention that time is running out.)
We start off three days from Culloden, with the One Less Eye gang finally catching up to Prince Charles near Inverness. Apparently it’s been five months since Charles commanded the retreat last episode. (I guess the Duke’s house was pretty far away. Plus they had to drop Mary off somewhere and kill some time long enough for her to have shacked up with Alex Randall before they arrived. And gotten preggo.) By the looks of things, Jamie wouldn’t have had much luck trying to prepare for the troops’ arrival, had he reached his intended destination last week. The Jacobites are boiling roughage for sustenance and trying to survive on “a bannock a day.” According to Claire’s voiceover they’re looking pretty ragged.
Claire immediately goes out to get supplies in Inverness, and runs into Mary Hawkins buying whole bottles of laudanum for Alex. The repeated serendipitous meetings between Claire and Mary perhaps feel like fate after the events of this episode. Not only does Claire treat (not cure) Alex, the true ancestor of Frank, but she also secures Mary’s (and her child’s) livelihood by persuading Black Jack to wed Mary. Claire is banking on Black Jack dying at Culloden - or if not, by Jamie’s hand shortly thereafter - leaving Mary with an officer’s pension and no sadistic husband to deal with. It’s the perfect plan, apart from Mary’s utter devastation at losing Alex, and Black Jack’s utter disgust at having to marry...well, anyone, I suppose. (Or anyone but Jamie?) So maybe we’ll say, it’s the perfect plan for Frank.
Even Murtagh offers to marry wee Mary, in a brief but sweet moment, trying to convince Claire not to help Alex go through with his cockamamie scheme. But alas, Murtagh has no land, and no money, so Claire still thinks the best deal for Mary is to get herself widowed by an English officer.
So Mary and “Johnny” get married with Claire and Murtagh as witnesses. Alex dies shortly thereafter; Johnny’s reaction is to pummel his brother’s dead body in fury, in true Black Jack form.
But now we know how Frank is still around in 1948, family tree intact (though somewhat deceptive).
(But does this mean Claire was destined to travel back in time, to ensure Frank’s existence? Or would Mary and Black Jack have gotten married without her persuasion? If the former, everything Claire knows will come to pass - including Culloden. If the latter, then Claire is so insignificant against the inertia of history that it doesn’t matter if she’s there or not. Either option is kinda depressing.)
Contrast that with the other deathbed duo, Colum and Dougal. Colum has arrived, much more ill than when last we saw him, to arrange clan matters with Dougal and Jamie. First he asks Claire to assist his suicide, and she gives him something to drink when he decides it’s time. Then he meets with Dougal and Jamie to address the future of the clan. He has declared Hamish his successor as laird but acknowledges that he will need an advisor until he comes of age. Who does he name as his advisor? Jamie! And Jamie agrees. I think. Does he?
(If so, this seems to be a pretty big deviation from the books, to me. I won’t go into a lot of detail, because spoilers, but maybe we can get spoilery in the comments and discuss this. I need to discuss this! What does it meeeeaaan??)
So Colum sticks it to Dougal one last time by refusing to let him take any kind of control over the clan. Dougal in turn gets drunk, and shows up to Colum’s room to pour his heart out in a pretty gut-wrenching scene. When Colum first started getting sick, Dougal hated his big brother for not being invincible, and really never stopped hating him for it. In some ways it feels like Dougal is trying to explain himself. Colum sealed his own fate before Dougal entered the room, though, so by the time Dougal’s speech is over, Colum is dead and hasn’t heard any of it. No, this is where Colum sticks it to Dougal one last time - he wanted, what, to reconnect to his brother? And his brother went where there is no hope for reconnection.
When Claire first arrives to treat Alex, she comes across Black Jack and is like, “NOPE.” But he actually goes after her and asks her to come back and help his brother. She senses an opportunity and demands information in return. Namely, where Cumberland’s army is encamped. He agrees, indicating perhaps that he has some humanity where his brother is concerned. She brings the information to Jamie - not only where the army is encamped, but the fact that they’re going to be drunk off their asses celebrating Cumberland’s birthday, and ripe for attack.
The war council convenes and they decide to pull a Prestonpans-style sneak attack, splitting into two forces to come at the British from front and rear. If two capable Scots had been leading the forces, perhaps the plan would have had a chance; however, Prince Dummy and his Irish friend decide they should lead one of the columns, leaving Jamie with Lord Murray to lead the other. Want to guess which one gets lost in the dark?
So now half of the Jacobite army has had to march 24 miles (12 each way), and the other has gotten split up, turned around, and lost somewhere between Inverness and Nairn. Meanwhile they still don’t have food or the ability to fund more weapons. Sounds like a great warm-up for the big battle, don’t you think?
Next week, a feature-length conclusion to the season, requiring many tissues, I’m sure. Let’s all plan on giving each other internet hugs here next week - we’re gonna need it.
Oh, and we also know that Geillis Duncan’s child is alive and being fostered by some MacKenzies! Bonus tip from Colum.
Rupert: “What good is a rebellion that runs from a fight? I ken what poor Angus would say.”
Ross: “Same as poor Kincaid, I expect. It’s time we turned and showed them our faces.”
Rupert: [Swigs, hands over whiskey]
“I always said you were a smart lad. Give my brother enough authority to keep him content, but not enough to allow him to grab for more.” - Colum
“What’s one more sin to a sinner?” - Colum
“Memories...they remain raw longer than wounds.” - Colum
“I commend the well-being of those most precious to me to the one I have loved the longest. Do you think I am unaware of the density of the dark wall you have built to protect your better self from the world? But I have borne witness to your tenderness. I’ve been a beneficiary of your generous soul. That inner man is the one whom I entrust my love and my child.” - Alex
“What kind of God creates a world where monsters thrive? Beauty and purity is rewarded with poverty and death.” - Black Jack
“Oh, brother. So you turn your back on me one final time, eh? And you leave me alone in the dark...the darkness of the world. And all I hoped to say to you, it remains trapped in here. Right here. Unsaid. Forever.” - Dougal
All images via screencap.