I can’t defend Murtagh’s actions in Outlander Season 5, but I can explain the slight change to the character we once knew. It is realistic for the show.
When a character acts the way a lot of people don’t expect, I try to find a way to defend them. That’s especially the case when it’s in their personality, such as Roger wanting to go back through the stones to the 20th century. But when it comes to Outlander Season 5, Episode 2, I just can’t defend Murtagh’s actions.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like the storyline. In fact, I understand this change in his character; this willingness to cause damage and fear for a cause that he believes in. It just doesn’t mean I accept that this is something that should be done.
One thing I will say is that I’m not putting my 21st-century views on the characters. I understand that what the Regulators did was something that happened, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Regardless of the time, I never think these types of actions are right, but I’m not one for writing something out of history because I don’t like it.
But this isn’t about the Regulators as a whole. It’s about Murtagh.
The old Murtagh wouldn’t have done it
Let’s be honest. If we head back to Outlander‘s first two seasons, there’s absolutely no way that we would have seen Murtagh act this way. He had a moral code. While he was willing to fake smallpox and he did chop of Sandringham’s head, there was always a bigger thing at play. I mean, the latter was about getting vengeance and restoring his honor.
What he wouldn’t have done was terrorize a town. He wouldn’t have put fear into the hearts of innocent people. And he wouldn’t have used tar and feathers against those in positions of authority.
Even Jamie was shocked to find out that Murtagh was involved in this. It just shows that this wasn’t in the character that we once knew.
A lot has changed on Outlander
Before we start complaining at the writers, it’s important to remember that 20+ years have passed since we knew Murtagh. He was imprisoned in Ardsmuir, where he almost died. Like Jamie, he lost everything, and then he was sent to the Colonies to be an indentured servant.
Jamie had it extremely lucky. Because of his position as a Jacobite officer, he was too dangerous to send to the Colonies. He needed to be imprisoned, but his friendship with Lord John Grey led to him getting a position in a household to serve out his time. Had this not happened, we may have seen a change to Jamie’s character, too.
But within the 20 years of being an indentured servant and then living in the Colonies, Murtagh had seen the state of the world. He’d have seen what “justice” was like and would have experienced the high tax rates. His friends would have been those that lost land because they couldn’t pay their taxes.
The Regulators were people who had been disenfranchised. They didn’t feel like they cared and they wanted to feel listened to again. Naturally, that led to lashing out. It’s a little like a toddler. If they’re only going to get attention for bad behavior, they’re going to continue that bad behavior to continue the attention. The Regulators realize that they’re making waves with their bad behavior, so they continue it and let it grow.
Murtagh sees this as an opportunity to feel listened to. He wants to take some of the power back after years of not having it.
So, Murtagh’s character development is extremely understandable. The problem for us is that we haven’t seen what Murtagh went through as an indentured servant or after that indenture was up. We’ve just seen the aftermath, which can admittedly make it harder to accept this change of character.