“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Closing Time – Semisonic
As I watched episode “The Hail Mary” S2 E12, frenetic thoughts and feelings bounced all askew, not unlike Claire’s hair defying the pins and willfully becoming untamed once more. I have a level of discomfort that feels just right. I am stunned when the hour is up. I would swear only half that time is gone by. Each minute is well spent and never dithered away. As the credits roll, my emotions settle, and I recognize the power of two deftly at play here.
Two is indeed better than one.
Two writers, Ira Steven Behr and Anne Kenney crafted together this episode in a seamless fashion. They demonstrated what a collaborative effort should look like onscreen. As I watched, I tried to figure out who wrote what and I couldn’t tell. This is a win for viewers. I only have words of excellence for how these two interpreted the script outline as a team. I hope they are proud of what they put forth. I expect they will garner accolades from fans and peers alike.
Two war council leaders pushing and pulling the Prince, funneling all options down to the ill-fated battle on Culloden Moor. Once at odds, now the Quartermaster and the Lord General get on the same page, but the men are hungry, tired, and weary. Too long in retreat, they are no longer fit to fight. The Prince himself is tired of retreat and desires to forge ahead at Culloden. The weaving of the background tale leaves a sense of frustration for all involved. The Prince and his trusted advisers are as ill prepared as the men. It’s powerfully difficult to watch it unfold. This has been masterfully shown to the audience to provoke feelings of unease, distrust, and being forsaken to a lost cause.
Two still grieving the loss of their friends. Ross and Rupert are not yet over the loss of their other halves, Kincaid and Angus. Being in this place without them has them hollow and spent. They are struggling to find meaning and purpose in it any longer. This demonstration of low morale is a small insight to what the entirety of the forces are feeling. The continued nod to the fallen two, is sweet and heartbreaking all over again.
Two “Hail Mary’s” in the mix, Jamie’s and Mary Hawkins’. No matter what Jamie does or how he schemes, the path to Culloden outwits him and is set ever more firmly. He even uses information Claire gathers from Black Jack Randall to try to reset what is to come. Nothing changes. Fate is inexorable it seems. One has to give Jamie credit. He is one tenacious beast with a bone. His love of family and country propel him to not give up even on the eve of battle. This is a reason he is so beloved and called “The King of Men”. He’s not always the fastest, smartest, or strongest. He’s the one willing to do whatever it takes, at whatever the cost to himself to do what he believes is right. There’s a penalty to being “that guy”. We’ve seen the hardships he has endured, however, in the season finale, there’s no doubt he must pay the ultimate price for those he loves. Sam Heughan making it real and believable.
Mary Hawkins make a reappearance. She’s with Alex Randall once again. His health has declined further. They plan to marry once he is improved. Sadly, this is not to be. Claire becomes involved in his care and knows quickly he will not live. Poor Mary is faced with being on her own and destitute. Big brother Johnny (Black Jack Randall) has been financially supporting them since Alex has been unable to work. This triangle proves to be her “Hail Mary”. Alex insists upon her marrying his brother so she will have a proper name and title. Mary agrees. Randall takes more convincing. Claire “helps” him to see what he must do. She contrives to have Mary not be his wife, but his widow with all the benefits. Exquisitely acted by all in these scenes, each emotion hits the viewer like a slap across the face. It is terrible, ugly,and disturbing…the lot of it. In the end, they were wed. Now every viewer can be comforted in the fact that Claire prophesied the date of his death, so Mary will only ever be his widow. And never his wife.And I believe two pregnancies are occurring, one known, one not yet acknowledged. Mary Hawkins not only is in need of a husband, her unborn baby, fathered by Alex, is in need of a name and father. Finally Claire knows how and why Black Jack Randall marries Mary. She also must realize that Jamie could’ve killed Randall all along because Frank is not his direct descendant. I imagine a large dose of guilt there. Genealogy charts do not have the back stories. The other pregnancy was foreshadowed last episode in the prayer Jamie was saying over a sleeping Claire. She looks unwell and seems not herself. I believe she is pregnant again but refuses to acknowledge it to be true. Remember the wee daughter we met earlier in the season? The season finale cannot come close enough.
Two sets of brothers are unexpectedly saying goodbye to the one ill. Due to his increasingly poor health, Colum shows up to the encampment to discuss with Dougal and Jamie his vision for Clan MacKenzie after his death. He chooses Jamie over Dougal, as guardian of young Hamish, who is to take his place as Laird. Dougal is angry and lacks an understanding. He somehow makes it all about himself. His loss. His pain. There’s no way for peace to be made here. One who must do for the clan. One who wants to grab at power. When Colum peacefully slips away (after taking the herbs Claire gave him) during Dougal’s woe is me monologue, the final blow to Dougal is struck. Colum wins his battle by leaving his brother with too much unsaid and nothing fixed between them. I shed more than a few tears after this scene. The insight into what makes Dougal tick is fascinating. Colum always knew him better than he knew himself. Again, the acting is superb. Bravo to Gary and Graham.
Finally the other set of brothers in a losing battle of illness. Black Jack Randall is affectionately called Johnny by his dying brother Alex. He is the only thing Black Jack has ever loved unconditionally. He’s the only person who’s experienced tenderness and care taking by Black Jack. He knows his brother is dark, but preys on the small light of goodness to carry out his plan to give Mary and their unborn baby, a name and station. This request is too much for Black Jack to handle. He even goes so far as to try to get Claire to help dissuade Alex of the marriage request. Eventually he and Mary wed to his great disgust. In the end, he cannot bear to say goodbye to his brother, and instead of tears, shockingly beats his body with fists after the last breath is drawn. This horrific act is done in front of Claire and Mary. Tobias Menzies crushes every scene. He is vulnerable, desperate, caring, despondent, and hateful. In addition to the incredible acting, Black Jack looks drawn and thin, in kind to his brother ailing Alex. Brilliant!
I have watched it twice just to make sure that the power of two took full root.
This episode gets a giant YES from me if you could not tell. My full review and discussion will be on my podcast for your listening pleasure.
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