Outlander showrunner on Murtagh, the battle, and THAT surprise cameo
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Outlander's latest episode titled "The Battle of Roger Mac."
Quarantine got a whole lot more tolerable this weekend, thanks to the latest episode of Outlander. In just one hour, fans were treated to a hair-raising battle scene, a tragic death, a shattered hypodermic needle (no!) and a surprise visit from a very beloved actor. Here, Showrunner Matthew B. Roberts took a break from his own isolation to answer a few of our weekly burning questions about the Starz drama.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It's like a switch went off and BOOM: Outlander, season 5, became this exhilarating, action-packed drama full of intrigue. Bree rushing on horseback to tell them about what happens in the future! Murtagh dying! Poor strangled Roger! I'm convinced this episode will go down as one of the all-time favorites for fans. Did it kind of kill you that you had to wait until 507 to get to the super heady stuff?
MATTHEW B. ROBERTS: Anticipation is a significant part of storytelling. We spend quite a bit of time in the writer's room deciding when to reveal story points. We want the audience to emote ... to cry happy and sad tears, to laugh out loud, to nervously wring their hands. But we also want to make them wait. To make them wonder, 'what will happen next? And for the book readers, 'when will that thing I know must happen ... happen?' All of that is deliberate.
Graham McTavish was a massive surprise! How did the idea come about?
In the writer’s room, we talked about how fun it would be to have Graham McTavish, who famously played Dougal, play Buck MacKenzie, who is, of course, Dougal's son. Then, coincidentally, our Starz executive Karen Bailey called Maril Davis and had the exact same idea, so we knew we were on to something! Maril called me and asked if we could make it happen. First, we had to check Graham's availability. He was both available and excited to come back. However, since Buck is in his 20s and Graham, while in great shape, is not ... haha, we had to make sure we could digitally de-age him a bit. So we did. Actually, the biggest challenge was keeping it quiet until the episode aired.
What was the difference in staging this battle in the woods versus the one at Culloden? I actually found this even more exciting – Sam kicked some serious ass.
In Prestonpans and Culloden, the audience only saw one POV – Jamie's. In Alamance, we see both Jamie and Murtagh's POVs, which gives us emotional stakes on both sides of the battle. This is the most personal battle we've ever shown. While toning with the director, Stephen Woolfenden, we spoke about needing a location where we could play these intimate and emotional scenes -- between Jamie and Murtagh and Roger and Murtagh, so they could meet and speak and not feel like the entire world was watching. We chose a wooded area where we could stage these individual conflicts but also make it feel like a battle was raging around them.
It was so bittersweet to see Murtagh saving Jamie before dying. Did you know for a while that you wanted Murtagh to do Jamie one last solid before he died?
Yes, this was planned for a long time -- back in season 3. I spoke with Duncan [LaCroix] well before season five began filming and let him know about Murtagh's arc. We all wanted to give Murtagh a heroic end -- he deserves it -- he's one of Outlander's most beloved characters.
New episodes of Outlander drop at midnight on Saturdays on the Starz app. The drama also airs at 8pm E.T. on Sunday nights on the premium channel.