SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Savages,” the fifth episode of “Outlander” Season 4.
Ever since viewers saw Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) being led away with the other Ardsmuir prisoners to be shipped off to the American colonies in the third season of Starz’ time-traveling drama “Outlander,” there has been speculation about whether Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) would manage to find him when they finally settled in America. On Sunday (Dec. 2), viewers got their answer.
Murtagh was revealed to be alive and well in the fifth episode of the fourth season, entitled “Savages.” He was found working as a blacksmith in a town near where Jamie and Claire have settled — but figuring out when and where to bring him back into the story was no easy feat for the writers’ room.
“Bringing characters back is a delicate issue — how you do it because you don’t want them to just pop up randomly,” executive producer Matthew B. Roberts tells Variety, adding that it’s not as simple as substituting one character for another. “We certainly don’t go, ‘Well, they’ll just take over this role from the book.’ I see a lot of speculation on social media about how Murtagh might just take over Duncan Innes or whatever — but Murtagh isn’t those people. He has his own backstory, we’ve seen it. So we know who his character is, so [we needed to consider] what would Murtagh be doing?”
Roberts found his answer to that in politics. He and his team made Murtagh part of the American Revolution, working with the Regulators to rebel against the British crown, after being ripped away from Scotland and working as an indentured servant in America.
“It felt like a perfect fit for Murtagh to join [the Regulators’] cause and fight for that cause and give himself a family to fight for,” said Roberts. “His whole life, that’s the one thing he has done — he’s protected Jamie his whole life and now he’s a man, if you think about it, a man without a country in the sense of his home being Jamie. He needed to fight for a new home and that would be the Regulator cause.”
Of course, since Jamie has sworn an oath to the British crown in exchange for his land settlement, that does put him and Murtagh at odds, at least for now, which Sam Heughan says has been a fun dynamic for them to play.
“What they’ve done that I think is really great this season is that he’s coming back, but he’s become slightly politicized. He’s on a different side than Jamie might be and I think this is just the beginning,” he says.
But even if Jamie and his godfather are on opposite sides of the conflict, that doesn’t make the reunion any less emotional for both men. Murtagh is Jamie’s “rock,” according to Heughan, and it means so much to have him back.
“There’s a great wealth of love for each other,” he says, noting that Murtagh has seen Jamie “through some really horrific stuff” and “always been there for him.”
Both Heughan and Balfe say they were really excited about the dynamic that Murtagh would bring to the fourth season, especially because, as Balfe points out, he is “the only other person who knows the truth about who Claire is and where she comes from,” so he is “very much the closest person other than Jamie that she has in the 18th century.”
“It was so sweet, we had a really lovely reunion,” says Balfe. “It was really fun to film that. We adore Duncan and it was really nice to have him back. And he looks so great with a gray wig!”
But this is “Outlander” and there is a war coming, so how comfortable can Murtagh get? The show is writing the entire storyline from scratch, rather than pulling source material from the books. But Roberts says “everybody loves…and “everybody needs a Murtagh,” which makes him integral to Jamie and Claire’s life going forward.
“His arc carries over into the next season, too,” Roberts confirms.
“Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.