This review contains spoilers for Outlander season 6 episode 2.
Outlander Season 6 has the challenge of a condensed timeline to pull together multiple plot elements. Episode 2 had the additional challenge of answering questions previous seasons left blank. Fans who didn’t read the book may still be confused, but it’s clear this episode has to set up the potential for future political clashes.
At the end of last week’s episode, Jamie accepted the assignment from the new governor to become the Indian Agent. While Jamie is well aware of what Claire told him about the coming war, he also knows the other candidate would do the opposite of promoting diplomacy and respectful co-existence and therefore speed up a potential conflict.
Jamie and Ian travel to meet the Cherokee. The chief requests that the Crown give him more guns so they can defend their territory against colonists who want to take over. Jamie is concerned that guns in the wrong hands can once again lead to violence. He tells the chief he will bring the request to the governor but can’t make any guarantees. Later that evening two women remind Jamie that he’s really missing Claire and Ian manages to stop an attempted seduction with a hasty excuse in rusty Cherokee. Jamie is mulling over in his mind what to do about the chief’s request as he wants to do what’s best for both sides.
Back at the Ridge, Roger is called to act as a lay preacher because there’s no one else nearby qualified to oversee Grannie Wilson’s funeral service. The ceremony mixes Roger’s Presbyterian prayers and the old Gaelic tradition of paying the sin eater to symbolically forgive the persons’ transgressions. There is a very strange plot twist to the service: Jemmy notices Grannie Wilson is moving in the middle of the prayer! Claire diagnoses she had an aortic aneurysm but also notes she will end up dying as there is too much damage done. Claire is proven correct and Roger finishes the service. Tom Christie is impressed with Roger’s preaching but now he’s convinced Claire is a witch. Insert an eye roll right here!
While Roger is trying to channel Reverend Wakefield, Bree figures out how to make matches with 18th Century materials. Most of the family is disappointed her discovery announcement isn’t a pregnancy one. Claire on the other hand is very happy that Bree is finally working on being an engineer.
Marsali is very close to her due date. Malva Christie is hanging around Claire trying to learn some medical skills. Her father is not at all happy about her “wicked ways” aka doing something other than his chores all day. Malva’s developing relationship with Claire feels rushed as the story turns to focus on Marsali’s pre-birth complications. She also notices Marsali has some bruises on her arms and asks if Fergus caused them. Marsali says they’ve argued but more often than not he’s tending to the still or drinking.
Speaking of Fergus, his plot trajectory in Season 6 is much different than book readers expected. The women of the Ridge should not have to bear the trauma of last season’s attack by themselves. Fergus is clearly turning to drink to dull the pain of his guilt and what he saw. Some may see this as a needless conflict between Fergus and Marsali, however, the couple has had far fewer emotional struggles compared to Jamie/Claire and Roger/Bree.
The audience is of course rooting for Marsali and Fergus to reconcile and celebrate their latest bundle of joy. Roger finally convincing Fergus to be by Marsali’s side was a perfect coda to Roger’s struggles in earlier seasons. However, their physical intimacy and breastfeeding make the audience feel just as uncomfortable as Jamie and Bree are hearing them. The scene doesn’t feel as romantic as the other previous reconciliation scenes because of the writing.
Marsali gives birth to a baby boy, however, Claire diagnoses the baby with dwarfism. Fergus can’t handle the situation and runs away. The Frasers try to get Fergus to accept little Henri-Christian but it’s an uphill battle against the ableist attitudes of the time. Ian visits Marsali and he gives the baby the traditional Mohawk blessing. This scene becomes the moment when Ian reveals he had a child with a Mohawk woman. Although show-only viewers don’t know the whole story, Ian clearly understands Fergus’ grief and confusion.
Ian’s reveal is not just an emotional outpouring, it is important in informing Jamie’s diplomatic decisions as the Indian Agent. Even though Major McDonald told Jamie the tribe fought with the British during the various battles that made up the Seven Years’ War in the previous decade, there was still the possibility the Cherokee could still change their minds about future support. Jamie tells the chief at first that he won’t send the request along in order to prevent violence, but the Cherokee chief is extremely unhappy about this.
Ian convinces Jamie to change his mind for two reasons. First, he reveals his familial bond with the tribes. Secondly, he shares Bree’s future knowledge that white Americans use their power to rob the tribes of their land and culture. Although Outlander’s rules of time travel dictate that historical events cannot be interfered with, these conversations clearly reflect an effort towards recognizing the wrongs of the past within the context of the fictional story. Jamie realizes that the Cherokee deserves the chance to defend themselves from this fate as much as possible. Jamie then writes the governor a letter containing the request for weapons. Can Jamie undo the anger he caused?
Episode 2 overall continues the momentum established by the Season 6 premiere. Despite the missteps with pacing Malva’s character development and the unsettling Fergus/Marsali pre-birth scene, the episode succeeds in building on the overall theme this season. Folding in Ian’s Mohawk backstory with Jamie’s diplomacy and Henri-Christian is a thematic payoff for how long viewers had to wait for an explanation. Next week’s Outlander episode will hopefully have more favorite moments from “A Breath of Snow and Ashes”.