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Warning: major spoilers ahead for Episode 3 of Outlander Season 3, called "All Debts Paid." If you haven't caught the episode yet, feel free to check out some of our non-spoilery articles.
After all the time travel and the many bloody battles over the years on Outlander, there are some characters who simply disappeared from the narrative and will likely never return. The time skips of Season 3 mean that some characters will simply no longer be relevant to the ongoing action, and we might never get any closure, even on our favorites. Luckily, the latest episode revealed what happened to a fan favorite after the events of the Battle of Culloden. Good old Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser did not die at Culloden, as many of us had feared.
Murtagh was last seen in the Season 3 premiere, fighting the English with the rest of the doomed Highlander army. He was doing well for himself in the middle of the battle, and even had time to trade a few zingers with Jamie, but we never saw him again. Given the carnage of the battle, the body-strewn field in the aftermath, and the fact that Murtagh never showed up in all the years of Jamie's hiding to reunite with his godson despite their close bond, the odds were quite good that Murtagh was gone and the last we'd hear of him was Jamie asking after him while fevered.
Well, "All Debts Paid" revealed that Murtagh did not die on the field of battle at Culloden, and he was not among the hundreds of strewn Highlander bodies. Instead, he had been captured alive by the English and held at Ardsmuir prison with a group of other captured Scots. Murtagh was finally reunited with Jamie when Jamie got himself captured and imprisoned, and the two spent at least three years together at Ardsmuir. Murtagh was in pretty rough shape, and he seemed on the verge of death due to illness until Jamie made a deal with Lord John Grey to guarantee treatment and medicine for his godfather. After some tending by a physician, Murtagh was as good as new. Huzzah!
Unfortunately, Murtagh's survival doesn't mean that we'll get him back on a regular basis. At the end of the episode, orders came down from British high command that Ardsmuir was to be closed and the prisoners shipped off to the colonies. Murtagh and the others were marched out of the prison and quite possibly out of Outlander forever to become indentured servants across the sea. Sadly, Jamie and Murtagh didn't get to say goodbye, as Jamie was kept behind while the others were sent off. According to John Grey, Jamie was an officer who had been convicted by the king of treason, and it was not up to him to send him to a place where he could eventually earn his freedom.
While it's certainly sad that Jamie and Murtagh were separated after everything they've gone through, we can at least be happy that Murtagh is still alive. Readers know that book Murtagh did indeed die at Culloden, and Jamie never saw him again after that fateful day. I know I've spent the last couple of episodes dreading the day when Jamie found out that his godfather died in the battle, and even when Murtagh started speaking off-screen in "All Debts Paid," I was convinced that Jamie was talking to an invisible Murtagh as a way to cope with his miserable situation.
Even after it was revealed that Murtagh was really in Ardsmuir with Jamie and not a figment of his imagination, I spent most of the hour totally positive that Murtagh was going to die of his illness or get himself killed trying to defy his captors and stay with Jamie or be executed by the redcoats to punish Jamie for escaping. It was the best kind of surprise when he was still alive and well at the end of the episode. Of course, there's the chance that he'll die on the passage to the colonies, but he wasn't the Fraser known for seasickness, and he seemed pretty hearty after recovering from his sickness.
The good news is that it's not out of the question for Murtagh to return someday. It's no secret that Jamie and Claire are going to be going on quite a journey in the rest of Season 3. Outlander could very well find a way to reunite Murtagh with the two of them somewhere down the line. All bets are off with Murtagh now that the show has allowed him to live beyond Culloden, and I'm feeling pretty good about his future.