Outlander went hard on the heartbreak to go with the weddings and births in Season 5, and possibly the most devastating twist came with the death of Murtagh. As the time-travelers already knew and viewers could certainly guess, Murtagh's role as leader of the Regulators couldn't end in any kind of victory over the English, but even knowing that his odds of survival weren't the best didn't make his death any easier. Fortunately, actor Duncan Lacroix spoke with CinemaBlend about his character's death, working with Sam Heughan in those fateful final scenes, and more.
Duncan Lacroix played Murtagh from the very beginning, even beyond the Battle of Culloden in early Season 3 that resulted in the death of his book counterpart. With Murtagh surviving in the show beyond the books, there was no saying what his final fate would be. Lacroix shared his reaction to his character's death after all those years, saying:
It was weird. I mean, I knew it was coming before we started the season, obviously. The timing was perfect actually. As an actor, I wasn't disappointed to kind of leave the show at that stage, but it was strange when the day actually came to shoot. The death scene, I did get really emotional. It was really weird. It just crept up on me all of a sudden, I suppose just saying goodbye to him. The whole experience, the kind of six years, five, six years I'd spent on the show. I actually started feeling really, really sorry for the character. It was just a kind of strange, split personality type thing going on.
As an actor, Duncan Lacroix knew that Murtagh was going to die in Season 5, so he didn't get an unwelcome surprise when "The Ballad of Roger Mac" rolled around as his final episode playing a living character. After everything Murtagh went through over the years, it's no surprise that Lacroix would get emotional about saying goodbye! Plenty of viewers were emotional about it as well.
Of course, Murtagh's survival in the show kept him alive well beyond Murtagh's death on the pages of Diana Gabaldon's novels, and he was arguably the biggest variable of the whole series to date, so his death was a game-changer in more ways than one. Not only was Jamie losing his beloved godfather and fans finally had to say goodbye to a fan-favorite, but the show could either go back to the book plots or continue with the divergences.
Either way, the aftermath of Murtagh's death has had the potential to take the show into some strange and uncharted territory. Duncan Lacroix shared another way that Murtagh's death was weird, saying:
We had little weird things happening like the fake blood on my chest kind of attracted a swarm of wasps at one point... which was a bit of a challenge. But yeah, it was an emotional day and a kind of fitting end, I think.
Murtagh and Jamie would have had even more reasons to be upset if there were wasps in the mix on top of everything else! Fortunately, Murtagh's on-screen death focused more on the decades-long relationship between Jamie and Murtagh, and none of the emotion was ruined by any behind-the-scenes elements. Including wasps!
Even though Murtagh's death scene happened with only Jamie present, that wasn't Duncan Lacroix's only time playing a mortally wounded Murtagh in Season 5. Poor Jamie was so devastated at what happened to Murtagh that he dragged his godfather's body to Claire, to demand that she heal him.
Sadly, Murtagh was already gone, and there was nothing left for Claire to heal. Duncan Lacroix was tasked with playing a dead body while Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe turned in heartbreaking performances around him. Lacroix shared the experience of playing dead:
I could feel myself getting emotionally drawn in. It's such an emotional scene. I was getting upset myself.... But it's just a question of the technicalities. Just holding your breath and staying still as possible, kind of overrides anything that's going on. But again, just phenomenal work on both their parts in that scene. You know, it's strange when you are are kind of a pivotal member of that scene but you're not actually participating at the same time. It's kind of a weird experience.
There probably weren't a whole lot of dry eyes in the Outlander fandom after watching Murtagh die, and then Jamie and Claire's reactions on top of everything else! There had been many times in the past when Jamie had reason to think Murtagh might be dead, but this was very real for the characters. Considering that there had been speculation that Jamie would have to kill Murtagh himself, Murtagh's death happening the way it did may have been a relief to at least some fans.
Murtagh's death likely wouldn't have packed the same emotional punch without Duncan Lacroix and Sam Heughan playing Murtagh and Jamie's final interactions as they did, and Lacroix shared how their dynamic from years working together impacted the big death scene:
Obviously, I think it helped Sam really tap into the emotion. I mean, I can't honestly speak for him. For my own part, you just go into the kind of mechanics of dying, really. Yeah, I mean that's the last moment we share together. And also the scene we had at the beginning, I think the end of the first episode of Season 5, where we kind of part ways, there's a lot of overlap between ourselves as friends and characters. And it just makes those kinds of things easier and easier as seasons progress. It's a strange one, and Sam's just such a fantastic actor as well. I think Murtagh's death scene is one of the best scenes I've seen him acting, just his reactions. The emotional outpouring he was able to show as Jamie was kind of staggering.
Murtagh's death brought his arc in Season 5 full circle, following his emotional parting with Jamie in the Season 5 premiere all the way through to their all-too-fleeting reunion on the outskirts of battle before he perished. Outlander also guaranteed that Murtagh wasn't forgotten as soon as the episode of his demise was over; Murtagh's grave is on the Fraser's Ridge set, positioned with a tree. Even as the Frasers' stories continue, Murtagh will be with them.
Murtagh was obviously still on Claire's mind as of the Season 5 finale, as he was part of the imaginary world she built for herself to escape what was being done to her by Lionel Brown and his men. It wasn't a happy reason to have Duncan Lacroix back as Murtagh, but it was still great to see him again, and to get a break from what was happening to her.
You can revisit Murtagh's final arc with Outlander Season 5 now available on Blu-ray, with special features including four never-before-seen "Outlander Untold" bonus scenes, a blooper reel, featurettes, and more. Outlander will return to Starz for Season 6, and more than one member of the cast is more than ready to get back to set. If you're in the market for some additional viewing options, be sure to check out our 2020 fall TV premiere schedule.