It’s about to get all spoilery up in here, sassenachs. If you haven’t watched the newest episode of Outlander, “Prestonpans,” avert your eyes now and do not travel through the stones.
The Jacobite army has assembled, and when we catch up with them in “Prestonpans,” they’re at a standstill with the British army and entrenched in arguments about strategy. The opening of the episode reinforces how unfit Prince Charles is to rule anything. If you’re a leader, you have to appoint generals and men who can advise you about strategy. I get it. However, you should also maybe have an informed opinion of your own and be able to make decisions? The way Prince Charles is portrayed in Outlander makes me wonder why on Earth anyone would follow him. He doesn’t possess inspiring qualities; he’s a weakling. Are the Scots just desperate for a fight?
As preparations for the Battle of Prestonpans fall into place, Outlander takes a moment to linger on the practicalities of war. We learned the field between the British and the Jacobite armies is too soggy to be trod upon. No, really. They can’t meet each other in battle because of mud. It trips me up to think about how a war can come to a grinding halt because of ground conditions.
Jamie talked to Dougal about the officers bickering over whether the ground could support a man on horseback, and because Dougal is the very definition of an eager beaver, he rode out to test it. The British jumped on the opportunity and fired at Dougal with their muskets, but the Scot conducted his experiment and barely blinked an eye. He confirmed they couldn’t traverse the marshy territory without sinking, and by doing so, he caught the eye of Prince Charles–which went to his head, because he’s Dougal.
When the situation seemed lost, a solution conveniently appeared. The arrival of a local who happened to know a safe and hidden trail around the field seemed like the happiest of coincidences. But hey, that part was grounded in history and actually happened. After a pathetic display of indecision, Charles eventually made the call to trust the farmer and sneak up on the British forces.
The pace of “Prestonpans” had an ebb and flow I would think matches the pace of a battle. I don’t have relevant experience, but it seems like events would happen in a rush and then there would be a waiting game. The pacing and waiting part was emphasized in the makeshift hospital Claire set up. We saw her work through the trauma she’s carrying with her from World War II and throw herself into the job. The lady can focus, and she can lead. I’d follow her over the Bonnie Prince any day, every day.
Claire rounded up the available women, warned them about what to expect, and gave them tasks. All the actresses made the tension in the air so palpable my stomach was clenched throughout any of their scenes. What is it like to wait in a room and hear the sounds of battle and knowing you’ll soon have to dress the wounds that go with the cries you’re listening to? I can’t imagine.
The Jacobite army won the Battle of Prestonpans. Claire knew they would, and therefore so did Jamie and Murtagh. I don’t expect knowing the overall outcome of a fight makes it any easier to get through. The blood sprayed, bones broke, and yells pierced the air. The battle was artistic in a weird way. The lush green of Scotland paired with wispy fog and the red of the British uniforms made for a grotesquely beautiful combination.
The Highlanders claimed the day and did so with relatively few losses, but there were still hard-to-face deaths–including one personal to Jamie and Claire and to the audience. We lost Angus, guys. I wasn’t ready for his departure, partially due to the bait and switch; it seemed Rupert was the more severely injured of the two. Angus’ death was caused by internal bleeding, so Claire couldn’t have done much and Rupert shouldn’t carry any guilt about it.
And then there was Dougal. Oh, Dougal. He continues to be the sharpest, most annoying thorn. We saw him out of control on the battlefield. He appeared like a wild-eyed barbarian affected by bloodlust. The wounded British soldiers should have been taken to Claire’s care, but Dougal didn’t agree with that sentiment and killed anyone still alive on the muddy ground. What the hell. I know he doesn’t like being given orders, but I thought he at least obeyed them.
Dougal made the mistake of taking his enthusiasm about killing the British wounded into the hospital. He behaved in an astonishing manner–even for Dougal–and brandished his weapon at the prisoners of war. Dougal didn’t take a good look around, though, because Prince Charles was among those witnessing his behavior. I didn’t think Dougal was quite this dumb, but what do I know of how war affects people? Charles did the smart thing and tried to remove Dougal from duty, but Jamie stood up for his uncle. He found a way to use Dougal’s mistake to his advantage, but darn it, Jamie. Just let him go.
“Prestonpans” is a small taste of what’s ahead. This was the first significant conflict, and though the Jacobite army won, it’s a single battle. The days ahead are going to be hard. We’re probably going to lose more familiar faces, and I’m not ready for it.
On a scale of one to 10, how crazy do you think Dougal is? Head to the comments and tell me that and share your thoughts on the episode.