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Outlander Season 5 Episode 7 Review: The Ballad of Roger Mac

Roger finds Murtagh more resolute than ever in the Regulator cause. He can’t forget all of the harm Tryon’s army has caused. Murtagh is also too honorable to slip away while the men become cannon fodder. The only person who listens to Roger’s warning ballad is his ancestor Morag Mackenzie. 

For viewers who did not read the books, this seems to be the wrong time to pick up a thread from Season 4, but Roger saving Morag on the Gloriana in the novel plays a role in Roger’s eventual 18th century career decision. Buck believes Roger is up to no good—a wife stealer and Regulator traitor. His beating turns Roger’s ballad into one of silence.

Throughout the scenes of the Regulators preparing for battle and the views of Governor Tryon’s camp, Stephen Woolfenden’s direction seamlessly captures the descent from organized military tactics to all-out guerilla warfare. The scene begins with wide shots of the militia formations. As the militia and Redcoats advance, the camera and staging moves to closeups and focus on hand to hand combat. In the chaos, the audience fears for their favorite characters as you see Regulators crushing Redcoat skulls, but not specific faces. Most importantly, the wooded forest in the afternoon light elicits a very different mood from Culloden’s open fields: the Regulators desperation and deprivation of weapons and military education can be seen every time one pops out from under a bush. Woolfenden’s cinematic approach, where the camera alternates between wide lens shots and closeups on one or a small group of actors,  is one of the many reasons this is the best episode of the season. 

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Along with the cinematography, the costume details in this episode deliver historical details about the battle of Alamance Creek. The yellow cockades on the militia members really were used during the Revolution to indicate which side non-professional troops were fighting on. Jamie’s redcoat, which seems sacrilegious, represents how often only the officer class on either side wore official uniforms. Jamie, of course, resents every second of the supposed authority the uniform confers. 

The weakest subplot in the episode is easily forgiven as it eventually reconciles the book and show canon. Isaiah Morton returns to the militia with the Brown family, ready to fight him for “living in sin” with Alicia. Jamie coaches Isaiah on how to be an effective soldier. Of course that promise turns out to be for naught, as someone shoots Morton at close range during the battle. One of the Brown men smash the penicillin needle Claire uses in retaliation for her attempts to heal Morton’s injury. In the books, Claire loses the needles during the trip to Jamaica.  The somewhat sloppy resolution to “The Company We Keep” delivers a heartbreaking twist for the audience, as Isaiah Morton cluelessly fires the shot that hits Murtagh. 


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