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Outlander's Richard Rankin on Roger's Harrowing Comeback in the Series' Best Episode Yet

The character will never be the same again

Megan Vick

[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of Outlander, "Famous Last Words. Read at your own risk!]

After the heartbreaking death of Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) on Outlander, it would have been too much for the Frasers to handle if Roger (Richard Rankin) had died in the Battle of Alamance as well. Thanks to some quick reflexes -- and a miracle -- Roger managed to slip two fingers under his noose after the British mistakenly had him hung for treason, saving him from strangulation and keeping him alive until Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) arrived and cut him down from the tree we found him hanging in after the battle.

Sunday's episode of Outlander, "Famous Last Words," focused on how Roger survived the unspeakable trauma of almost dying, and the three month period after he was saved as he tried to find his way back to normal living. Despite his throat and vocal chords healing after he was cut down, Roger spent most of the episode not talking. While he was physically OK, the mental and emotional damage of the situation left him with paralyzing PTSD as Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and the rest of the family tried to coax him back to his old self.

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However, it was only young Ian (John Bell), returning to his family after staying with the Mohawks at the end of Season 4, who was able to pull Roger back to some semblance of self after the two headed out to outline Roger and Brianna's new property together. When Roger found Ian attempting to take his own life, it finally pushed him to open up about his own trauma and admit what was stopping him from talking to Brianna, even months after the fact.

Rankin delivers a powerful performance in the episode in which he's mostly silent. And Outlander got creative, not only with flashbacks to Brianna and Roger back in the 1960s, but framing the episode around old silent movies the couple used to watch in their own time. It was Outlander at its best: emotional and thought-provoking as the show allowed Roger all the space he needed to figure out what this dark chapter means for the rest of his life. TV Guide spoke to Rankin about the game-changing episode, and what this means for Roger and the Frasers going forward.

​Richard Rankin, Outlander

Richard Rankin, Outlander

Aimee Spinks

What was your reaction when you first read the script for this episode?
Richard Rankin:
Fear and dread, I suppose, when I read the script, for a few reasons; I was always aware that this part of the story was coming. I just wasn't sure how it was going to be presented, what I might have to do, how I might have to take that on board and then try and deliver it to an audience. So, obviously there was an anticipation of that particular part of the story. It's something that has often been talked about, but when I read Episode 8, I remember thinking, "How am I going to do this? How am I going to do this? How am I going to tell the story?" Roger is obviously the protagonist. Episode 8 is all about him and his psychological journey through this really, really sort of dark trauma. I have do this without offering a word pretty much, for the entire episode. So, I thought, "I have to tell such a strong story with clearly quite a lot going on with really quite complex emotions to be telling, silently."

Young Ian is the one to finally break Roger out of his depressive shell after everyone else has tried. What is it about him that is able to speak to Roger at this stage?
I think they see in each other a darkness that they don't like. It's a sort of reflection of themselves and I think it's not until you're shown something, shown a quality, shown something in yourself that you go, "Oh wow, is that really how I am right now? Is that really what has to come?" They don't like it, each of them. They see themselves in each other and they don't like it... That's a really, really powerful motivator for them both to pick themselves back up, have that support in each other and carry themselves. I really like that relationship. I really like the way that they tell that story. How they come to that conclusion with that relationship with Ian and Roger is very interesting for me, and I thought it was a very clever way to pull them out of that hole.

Roger was pretty determined to return back through the stones before this happened. Has this experience changed his mind on that front at all or is he more determined than ever to return back to his time?
When you see the end of Episode 8, he seems much more accepting of the situation, doesn't he? And I think one of the sort of main ports for Roger through the episode was that discovery, that realization, that acceptance of the fact that he has changed now. His environment, his experience in the 18th century has changed him and adapted to that time. As much as he might not like that quality of himself, I think that's one of the things that has to accept -- that he's a different man now. In a strange way, he's probably less inclined to go back to his own time because he's been so affected by the 18th century.

Has this experienced made him more prepared to inevitably face Stephen Bonnet?
Most definitely. It has hardened him as a man. I think that's one of the great parts of his story. You see him evolve and adapt from Season 4 even, onward. He has a lot of troubles still to come and I think you really see him change through that journey. I think the Roger of now, post-Episode 8, is going to be much more equipped to deal with anything of that time, especially Stephen Bonnet, than say Roger of Christmas in Boston in Season 3.

How does Roger's evolution change his relationship with Brianna going forward?
[They are] just such a solid team. I like that about them in Season 5. I think you really see why they love each other, and just how united they can be, and just what they can achieve. Obviously Episode 8 is quite [salty] for Roger, but I think the outcome of that is only going to be better for them as a team, as a couple. They're always accepting of each other, and they're always very understanding of each other. And Roger kind of outright says to Brianna, "You're going to have to accept me for the man that I am now. He's not going to be the Roger that you were looking for, or that everyone else was looking for." And she's with him on that. That just brings them closer together, and they'll be stronger for it.

Outlander continues Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.