Fans of the Outlander books know that the Murtagh character dies in Scotland, and therefore, the show has diverged from the books. When shows do this, it can either be disastrous or very successful. Duncan Lacroix’s portrayal of Murtagh made him such a popular character that the author (who remains highly involved with the show) and the show writers determined to keep him in the series. This required an entirely new story line, involving Murtagh’s relationship with Jocasta (Jamie’s aunt) and the Regulators, a precursor to the American Rebels in the Revolutionary War.
In Between Two Fires, the tension continues between Murtagh and Jamie, who is obliged to continue his “search” for the outlaw on behalf of Governor Tryon. So far, this balance between the book and show seems to be successful, but it does require a certain mental distance from the expectation that the show will be an exact reproduction of the book series. The episode also explores the tension between Roger and Bree regarding their potential choice to return to the present. Spoilers ahead!
Episode 2, “Between Two Fires,” opens with a skirmish between the Regulators and two unfortunate tax collectors. The Regulators tar and feather the two men. Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) declines to show mercy, as he points out the tax collectors showed no mercy when the settlers couldn’t pay their taxes.
Haunted by thoughts of Bonnet, Bree (Sophie Skelton) sketches a picture under a tree, when settler Farrish (Paul Cassidy) is brought into Claire’s office, unable to breathe and suffering severe stomach pains. His wife lists all the ways she tried to help her husband, all of which would currently be considered ineffective, or worse, harmful (like mercury). Unfortunately, he dies, which breaks Claire’s (Catriona Balfe) heart.
Captain Knox (Michael Xavier) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) discuss Knox’s opinion of Jamie, and it’s positive. They like each other, which may prove difficult for their future relationship. But, Jamie opposes Knox’s objective of capturing and hanging Murtagh. They pass settlers, and Knox tries to provide some change to help them; however, they are unappreciative. Jamie works at enlightening Knox on his views of “commoners.” Knox concedes that “there is never a convenient time for death and taxes.” So, both Jamie and Knox can see either side.
Bree interrupts Claire performing an autopsy. Bree worries that Claire will get in trouble by using 1900’s knowledge in 1700, when they would view this as witchcraft. Claire looks out the window and sees Marsali (Lauren Lyle) handily butchering a deer. The gears turn in Claire’s mind.
Knox and Jamie arrive where the Regulators attacked the tax collectors. They meet Mr. Fanning (Samuel Collings) who fills them in on the attack. They met one of the collectors who was burned. The “city” crowd wants retribution for the torture. They want to see them hanged. Jamie and Knox are taken to the prisoners, and it relieves Jamie to see Murtagh is not among them. During the questioning, Jamie tries to prevent the prisoners from revealing Murtagh’s whereabouts, but the Regulators would not have revealed it – and they clearly express their disdain for Jamie, because they see him as a traitor. Jamie explains that he is responsible for his settlement. Ethan McKinnon (Josh Whitelaw) enrages Knox, who runs him through, killing him and shocking all!
Bree and Roger (Richard Rankin) practice using muskets, and Roger’s dreadful shooting embarrasses him (and Bree knows it). Roger still worries about what Jamie thinks about his religion and his skills. They discuss whether they should stay or go. Bree sees positives in staying, like not having to worry about cars.
Jamie talks to a remorseful Knox. Suddenly, instead of remorse, Knox considers that he gave McKinnon an honorable death that he didn’t deserve. Jamie tries to convince Knox that it’s possible the settlers are fighting for an honorable cause.
Back at the settlement, Roger sings at Farrish’s funeral. Claire, having noticed Marsali’s ability to tolerate gore, shows her Farrish’s body that she has autopsied, and explains they buried rocks. She tells Marsali the value of autopsies and asks Marsali to be her apprentice. Surprisingly, Marsali is more open-minded than one might expect.
After people take away McKinnon’s body, Jamie frees the two remaining settlers, even though they were pretty snotty. Jamie explains again that he is bound to the Governor, but he is responsible for the settlers. The settlers tell Jamie that Murtagh was at the tar and feathering. The settlers explain that their movement is large.
Back at the settlement, the women make candles. Claire tries to overcome the bad medical advice she overhears, but the women believe a MALE medical doctor knows more. So, Claire prepares tips for medical care. She borrows “Dr. Rawling” to be able to ensure people will be more willing to accept the medical knowledge.
Knox and Jamie discuss the prisoner’s escape, and Knox wants Jamie to gather his militia to support him. (However, they would be fighting on the “wrong” side.)
Claire tests Roger’s eyesight, but it’s fine – so that is not what is causing his poor aim. He thinks it’s possible his poor shooting is psychological. Roger tells Claire that he knows Bree wants to stay. In fact, Claire encourages Roger to return, even though it would mean missing the family. She discusses how Jemmy could die for lack of a simple antibiotic.
The escaped prisoners and Murtagh meet up and, sadly, they tell Murtagh that Knox killed McKinnon. They ask Murtagh if they can trust Jamie. Murtagh knows that Jamie is “walking between two fires” and he explains that Jamie will do what he must, and so will he.
Claire begins a campaign to make penicillin, over Bree’s objections that it might change history. Roger sings “Joy to the World” to Jemmy, and he truly has a lovely voice. He brings the laundry inside, and accidentally discovers Bree’s drawings of Bonnet. Bree calls for him to see, Jemmy has learned to walk!
And, speaking of Bonnet (Ed Speleers), we see a fight match being bet upon, and after the fight is over, a squabble breaks out – and Bonnet blinds a man who offends him by accusing him of cheating (“Damn your eyes”). It horrifies all those who watch. When asked why he didn’t kill the man outright, Bonnet says he must set a better example, because he is a father now. He clearly knows about Bree and Jemmy. The episode ends with Bonnet striding out of the fight space, on a mission.
Tension built up between Roger’s desire to return to the 1960s, where he feels he can be more useful, and Bree’s desire to have all her loved ones in one spot. Bree feels more at home, and less afraid in the 1700s, even knowing that the Revolutionary War is coming. Ironically, Bree worries more about changing events than Claire does, because Claire recognizes that time seems to be malleable, and has already been changed. Claire is fighting against sexism, and ignorance to try to improve people’s lives. Murtagh and Jamie both are passionate about the people they are trying to protect, and it may come to them fighting each other. The show does an excellent job of demonstrating people seeing the other side of very challenging circumstances. Bonnet is simply a psychopath!
Watch Outlander weekly on Starz (available on cable and through Amazon), Sunday evenings at 9pm E/P.