It is with deep sadness that I write this. If you haven’t guessed it, or seen episode 507 The Ballad of Roger Mac, please turn back. Now.
Like many of you, I started out watching that debut episode of Season 1, Sassenach, and was captured off guard by the odd, filthy, curmudgeon of a character Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser. Over the course of that split first season, he entranced me more. I love a good supporting character, especially one with a sad past, difficulty in showing true feelings, however loyal to a fault. Duncan Lacroix got me hook, line, and sinker. Oh, and those madcap scenes and his scheming with bombs and cattle herd rescues endeared him even more. Who couldn’t love the old gruff cynic, the man who distrusted everyone other than Jamie Fraser and never seemed to know how to smile, unless there was revenge involved? The one who was so unlucky in love. Honestly, all the man wanted was a bit of respect.
Sadly, this character in the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon, was fated to die on Culloden Moor. Everyone it seemed had fallen for this crusty Scotsman. I was not alone in my love for this fabulous character, as thousands of fans began writing to the show, “Save Murtagh!” and turning up at Outlander themed conventions with signs begging the writers not to kill him off. Luckily, the writers room had developed a bit of a crush on Murtagh too. In the second season, as we saw his character flesh out and develop, even more, he became that third wheel in Jamie and Claire’s relationship. Accompanying them to France, being their conscience when they thought to change history the first time with the upcoming battle of Culloden. Wearing fancy attire and having to comb his beard. Getting a bit of it on the side. Assisting in the intrigue as Jamie and Claire set out to sabotage Bonnie Prince Charlie’s dream of uniting Scotland. If they had only listened to him more.
This waking up after watching episode 507, still in shock, I really did not sleep well. So this condition, this loss of a favorite character, it’s very real. You think you are used to it. After all, if you survived to be a fan of a show like Game of Thrones, you should be used to it. Characters are after all fiction. However, for many of us, they are living, sentient beings. Friends we don’t see often enough. For years we have had favorites in series, and somehow we have to live through the grief when they are gone. It’s very real, there have even been academic papers written about it. Yes, you really are grieving. You have that right.
We are all parasocial to some degree. I think since we as humans grew with oral traditions of stories in our cultures, heroes, then moved on to the written characters in the books that replaced them, there will always be a fondness or obsession for a character that you root for. We need to feel that we have a kinship with our most beloved character. With media being so realistic to us, and our being so demanding of a television series to fulfill our every emotional need while we escape, we look for heroes at many levels. With me, It may not be the lead character. It’s the always the underdogs, the murky strange ones you like for being different but true to their beliefs, and they are heroes just the same. Damn you Lacroix, you got me again. I swear the man has it in for me.
I have been in a weird state. I have spent the last 6 years waiting for a chance to see Murtagh again and following Duncan’s antics during Droughtlander. I am not alone in mourning the death of a fictional character that touched me deeply, I know this. It’s become a habit. NOT one I want to break. He sucker-punched us all with that final scene. Love hurts. Of course, we all have been trying to prepare ourselves for it. It was inevitable that it would come. Better it was in battle, and that he and Jamie saw each other at the end.
Keeping back that salty moisture from my eyes, I’ve reworded this several times. If you have seen all the media frenzy since Sunday morning, the #DuncanLacroix Twitter feed is awash with sorrows and epitaphs. This Murtagh Monday has become an unofficial holiday. Since the airing of this episode, Duncan’s Instagram account has been quiet. In interviews, he revealed it had been a really emotional scene that had to be shot over two days. He had not expected he would become so emotional between cuts. Even though he has had months to secretly mourn his own character, I suspect he is feeling a bit of it again now. Will it be 48 or 72 hours before we get an interesting picture on his feed, with his gruff off the cuff commentary. We’re waiting, mate.
The timing of Outlander Season 5 has been interesting, to say the least. We have a current health crisis that is affecting us globally and making us look deep inside. Luckily we have a great performance to make us feel the deep emotions, to distract us from the cares of the world. Perhaps getting some of that pent up emotion out of us. We were so lucky to have an actor portray the character of Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser for 6 years, one that he stepped into and wore with such conviction and emotional depth. One that the writers of the series realize they had a really good thing and allowed it to grow organically, allowing Duncan a chance to grow this very deep and murky character. Duncan Lacroix was a little known actor on this side of the pond, an English actor who took a different path from his fellow actors and took to studying theatre in Ireland. Who mostly had stage roles, but knew he had to find that character to break out and throw his soul into. He had almost given up acting when he got that fateful phone call. He found that character that all actors dream of, the one he could mold and capture hearts with. It’s a part of him now as he works on new roles. Hopefully, the production of Graham McTavish’s This Guest of Summer film will not be bumped back too much further due to productions being shut down. It will be a wonderful experience for Duncan Lacroix to create another intense, engaging character for us to love.
Duncan, thank you for wrenching my heart in this, your last portrayal of Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser. We are crossing our fingers for a surprise time travel back, perhaps Murtagh’s ghost will be at Jamie’s side when he battles the American Revolution in seasons to come. I mean, after all, the spark of the American Revolution was his fault. And please, when we get to have a Wondercon again on the West Coast, I hope you will come! I, of course, wouldn’t know what to say to you, other than thank you infinitely for your intrepid performances.
Search for that perfect Luckenbooth Brooch pin to remind you or your favorite murky man, Murtagh Fitzgibbons Frazer. I am. Support artisans in these trying times.
For a look at Duncan Lacroix’s portrayal of Murtagh over the past 6 seasons and interviews, look here: