SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Providence,” the 12th episode of “Outlander” Season 4.
There were two competing narratives on “Outlander” this week — one that was largely invented for the show but was a very clever way to keep a certain character involved, and another that was also changed a bit from the novel, causing it to feel like a shameless play at the viewers’ emotions. Let’s dig into the clever one first.
In Wilmington, Fergus (Cesar Domboy) informed the Regulators of Murtagh’s (Duncan Lacroix) capture by the Red Coats. They quickly realized that Murtagh won’t be granted a fair trial — he’ll be hanged to send a message to the other Regulators. So it’s scheming time because the men need to break him out of jail before he is executed.
Meanwhile, in a plot that ended up dovetailing nicely with Murtagh’s imprisonment, Lord John (David Berry) informed Brianna (Sophie Skelton) that Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) had been captured and would hang for his crimes in a week’s time. She demanded an audience with him before his death because she needed closure with both him as her rapist and as a possible father to her baby. Jamie (Sam Heughan) had written to her to urge Bree to forgive Bonnet for the sake of her own soul, and he assured her that Bonnet would die violently in one way or another.
Lord John was sympathetic to Bree’s request and pulled a few strings to get them a meeting with Bonnet in the jail, prompting her to tell Lord John, “You are impossible not to like.”
Anyway, as they made the not insubstantial trek to Wilmington, Fergus and Marsali (Lauren Lyle) devised a plot to cause an explosion at the jail and then escape with Murtagh to Fraser’s Ridge. Fergus had been unable to find work in Wilmington, so they were ready to bid city life farewell. It surprised him a bit that Marsali was on board with such a dangerous plan, but he shouldn’t be that surprised — Marsali is kind of a boss on the show.
So just as Brianna and Lord John arrived at the jail, Fergus and the Regulators were setting their explosives, and it all came to a head because Lord John knew both Fergus and Murtagh, and he knew how important they were to Jamie. Putting them all in a scene together provided a lot of dramatic fodder, and Brianna still got to have her moment with Bonnet, which was from the book, even if it happened a little differently there.
Bree managed to forgive her rapist and even told him about the baby, saying that if it made his death easier, he could know that something of him was left on the earth. Apparently, this comment was what pierced Bonnet’s evil heart because he gave Brianna a gemstone for the baby’s “maintenance.” She tried to refuse it but quickly realized it would be invaluable for them to have another gemstone.
While Brianna was getting her closure, Lord John agreed to stay silent about Fergus and Murtagh and kept his word when running into some Red Coats outside right before the explosion provided everyone the diversion that was needed to escape — even, perhaps, Bonnet. He was last seen straining to get the dropped jail keys and then the building exploded, so viewers will have to wait and see if Bonnet survived and escaped.
While all this political intrigue and sneaking about was happening, Roger (Richard Rankin) was busy trying to figure out how to escape the Mohawk and get back to Brianna. In the hut where they kept him, Roger met Father Alexandre Ferigault (Yan Tual), a priest who fell in love with a Mohawk woman (and she him) and who was being kept prisoner because he refused to baptize their child. His reasoning was that he could not perform a baptism while he, as both the priest and the baby’s father, was not in a state of grace; he committed a cardinal sin by breaking his priesthood vows and could not show true repentance for this sin because he was still in love with Johiehon (Sera-Lys McArthur).
Roger could not believe this man would let himself be tortured and still refuse to baptize the baby — he even suggested that Father Alexandre fake the baptism so that he could make it out of this predicament alive — but the priest was insistent. So insistent, in fact, that he got his ear cut off for his troubles and eventually the Mohawk tied him up to burn him at the stake, using a low fire that would take days to kill him. The show drew a parallel between the priest’s situation and Roger being so blinded by love that he moved through time and space to find Brianna. Roger was a bit salty about all he had been through for “love,” arguing that the priest should not be so foolish as he has been — though he still encouraged the priest to be with his love, so kind of a mixed message there. But he told Alexandre not to cling to his principles so hard that he dies a horrible death.
However, we saw just a few scenes later that Roger couldn’t even take his own advice. He is not the kind of man to give up when someone needs help, even if it is to save his own skin.
By the time the Mohawk were burning Father Alexandre, Roger had managed to escape the hut, but he couldn’t run away from the priest’s screams echoing through the forest,l and he ran back to douse the fire with fuel, thereby causing it to erupt in flames and end the priest’s suffering.
But just when he was feeling pretty good about his choice to forego escaping in order to put the priest out of his misery, Roger watched in horror as Johiehon set her baby down and calmly walked into the pyre to die with her lover. It was an emotionally wrought scene to be sure, but it happens “off-screen” in the book, with Roger only hearing about it later. Changing it up was a way of the series being able to show, rather than tell, which is often pivotal in a visual medium. Still, book readers may have preferred to witness Jamie, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Ian (John Bell) storming into the Mohawk camp and the melee that ensued, followed by Jamie being imprisoned with Roger for a time. Instead, the show left the penultimate episode of the season with Roger being led back to the “idiot hut” by the Mohawk.
“Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.