Will Murtagh appear in Outlander season 4? At this point a month ago, this was a question we never would’ve bothered to ask! Even as a non-reader of the Diana Gabaldon series we’d heard enough through the grapevine that the character died in the midst of the Battle of Culloden. Therefore, we thought that it was going to be a quick in-and-out for Duncan Lacroix, who played the role so wonderfully in the first two seasons of the Starz drama.
Now that we’ve seen Murtagh survive said battle (he was in the prison with Jamie on this past episode), all sorts of additional questions are raised. Is it possible that Murtagh will manage to live all the way to the fourth season of the show? While it’s possible that the man dies at some point off-screen, that would be a terrible way to write him off — you keep him alive only to squash him in a super anticlimactic way. Maybe they keep him around to kill him off down the road in grand fashion, or maybe Murtagh just ends up living a happy life in Scotland and becomes a tangential part of the future. It’s hard to imagine Ronald D. Moore or the producers making him an enormous part of the series given that he’s dead already in the books; while there are changes here and there to the source material, Outlander doesn’t quite go the way of The Walking Dead most of the time when it comes to their adaptations of the source material. It’s meant to capture exactly many of the same scenes popularized in the books.
for the record, Lacroix himself has no idea at the moment whether or not he will be appearing on the show moving forward — his recent post on Twitter confirms that. Meanwhile, series author Diana Gabaldon (who is also consultant on the show) explained her thoughts on the significant story change in a post on Facebook:
“…They shot the footage for 301, and I believe I said, after seeing the first cut—“So you’re keeping Murtagh alive, eh?” Because we didn’t see him die on the field, and good story-telling does not (usually) involve important characters dying off-screen.
“Frankly, I’d thought they probably would keep him alive. Partly because it would be a popular move with the show-fans, partly because Duncan LaCroix does fabulous things with Murtagh and they enjoy working with him, and—partly because they could. Everybody likes to play God now and then. (I get to do it all the time; it’s a great feeling.)
“Did I think keeping Murtagh alive was a good idea, in terms of how it might affect the story? I had no idea, because I didn’t know how or when they meant to stick him back into the story—but when I got the 303 script and saw how he was used, I thought that was OK.”
Ultimately, what’s interesting is that the vast majority of time book fans hate it when something is changed for the sake of a show; yet, in this case we’ve seen plenty of people express joy that Murtagh is still alive. As a fan of Lacroix we appreciate seeing him more, and we’re holding out hope that the writers have a good plan for how this character’s story will play out. We don’t want to see the original story changed too much, but if he can accent that in a way that is effective, we’re all for checking it out in the future.
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