Sometimes, great actors and popular characters have to engage in discourse that is, to be frank, controversial. At times, it may even teeter the character towards being particularly unlikable. There are often challenges that can come with that, especially when you are playing someone on Outlander like Roger MacKenzie.
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Through most of season 2 and 3, the perception of Roger was fairly simple: He was the bookish scholar, the master Scottish historian, and a man known mostly for his kindness and resilience. He helped Claire to undercover the truth about Jamie and was a necessary should for Brianna to lean on after her mother departed back into the past. All of this made Roger an easy character to root for, but may have also blinded us to the fact that he is also his own person, one with thoughts, opinions, and insecurities.
What season 4 episode 3 did so brilliantly is, slowly and surely, break down some of Roger’s walls and also allow us to get almost a visual interpretation of a real relationship. At first, things are fun and romantic, and with that in mind you focus almost entirely on the positive. That’s what Roger and Bree did after their reunion, and that is also what we did as viewers. Things effectively went well for the two characters until … well, they weren’t. This is where the biggest challenge came into play for Richard Rankin, our Top Actor from Outlander for the week. How do you dive deeper into this man and show off different sides?
One of the smartest things Rankin did was show that some of his most likable qualities — that his persistence — can also be a hindrance. When he interrupted his romantic moment with Brianna to commence his proposal, in his mind he was doing the right thing and fully believed it. Yet, he was not empathizing or seeing what her own perception of perfect was. Rankin played that brilliantly, turning this character almost into someone who needed to control the moment — which, in turn, showcased one of his great flaws. When the proposal fell apart, the character quickly through defense, temperamental, and even at one point mean with his accusations. He was stubborn and steadfast with his beliefs as he established rules for his own sexual history that Bree was not privy to before that moment. Richard played this conversation with a firmness and a focus that allowed us to feel every bit as frustrated with him as we should. Good characters and good people sometimes act and do things you don’t agree with, and such is the case here. The argument with a Brianna was a window into the ideological differences between the two and both with his dialogue, his facial reactions, and his body, you saw Rankin grab Roger by the horns and evolve him into someone so much more complex and layered than he was previously. He was a man whose free-spiritedness only went so far, and whose duty and tradition had at times a tendency to drown him.
We were meant to leave the Roger – Brianna storyline feeling somewhere between frustrated and conflicted that nothing between them worked, and thanks in part to Rankin and Sophie Skelton’s performances, the writing was projected perfectly. (There are going to be many more opportunities to especially spotlight Sophie’s work later this season.) While Richard has done a number of different things in his career to date, coming out of 4×03 the range of emotion that he showed as this character may very well be a high point.
Who do you think was the Top Actor within Outlander season 4 episode 3? Be sure to share right now in the comments. (Photo: Starz.)