Warning: This Outlander article contains MAJOR spoilers through Season 5, Episode 8.
Outlander may taketh away (R.I.P., Murtagh), but it also giveth. Only a week after killing off one of the series’ most beloved characters, a familiar face returned from the past, Young Ian (John Bell), and just in time, as he helped Roger through some of his trauma recovery.
For those whose memories may be a little fuzzy, Ian James Fitzgibbons Fraser Murray is Claire and Jamie’s nephew. He is the youngest son of Jamie’s sister Jenny Fraser and her husband Ian, and he’s the reason Claire and Jamie first got mixed up in this “New World” business. In Season 3, Young Ian is kidnapped, brought to Jamaica, and sold to Mrs. Abernathy (aka Geillis), who is looking for a stone only found in virgins. Ian survives because he is not a virgin, but is sexually assaulted by Geillis who drugs him and rapes him.
Eventually, Jamie and Claire rescue Young Ian at the end of Season 3, and they all move to Fraser’s Ridge together in Season 4. Ian’s life is pretty stable and peaceful at Fraser’s Ridge, where he seems to fit in well enough. In addition to having Claire, Jamie, and Bree, he cultivates a friendship with “mountain man” John Quincy Myers, who is friendly with the local indigenous population. At the end of Season 4, Ian agrees to stay with the Mohawk Tribe in exchange for Roger’s freedom, a decision he sees as a new adventure.
The Season 4 finale was the last time we saw Ian… until the eighth episode of Season 5. Obviously, Ian has lived some life in his absence from the show, and is not doing so well. In addition to the significant trauma Ian has already suffered from being kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and having to watch Bonnet kill a man in cold blood, something has obviously happened to him during his time with the Mohawk Tribe to make him severely depressed.
While much of “Famous Last Words” is about Roger’s own PTSD and suicidal thoughts and impulses, Ian is also suffering from a similar illness. When Claire’s Water Hemlock goes missing, they assume Roger has taken it, but it is actually Ian. Roger stops Ian before he dies by suicide, and Ian confides in Roger that he had a wife while living with the Mohawk, but does not go into detail about what happened to her.
“Ian Murray has lost the thing most important to him,” Outlander author Diana Gabaldon told Parade about Ian’s character. “His loss isn’t explained in detail, but we (and Roger) gather that the thing he’s lost is his (unknown to us) wife. Ian has all the 18th century skills that Roger lacks, but he hasn’t got his wife any longer. Roger has.”
So what happened to Ian’s wife? Well, we can tell you what happens in the book series, which the TV series has been pretty faithful to so far, so, if you don’t want to be spoiled for possible future TV developments, look away now…
OK, every here who wants to be here? Good.
In A Breath of Snow and Ashes, the sixth book in the Outlander book series, Ian tells Marsali and eventually Brianna about his Mohawk wife, Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa (“Works With Her Hands”), also known as Emily. Apparently, Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa suffered several miscarriages and it irrevocably damaged Ian and Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa’s relationship. They eventually see each other again in An Echo in the Bone, the seventh book in the Outlander series.
Will the Outlander TV series follow this part of the book? Probably, but we’ll have to wait and see. For now, it’s just good to have Young Ian. He can share his story with us in his own time.