Outlander has introduced us to time travelers from all different backgrounds, but Roger MacKenzie seems to be only one failing to adjust. Let’s talk this one out.
Outlander is no stranger to showcasing different time travelers and exploring their reasons for going through the stones. The people who go through time of their own volition are arguably some of the most interesting on the show. In season five, we’re seeing our first time traveler who’s completely out of sorts: Roger MacKenzie.
In season one, we met Geillis Duncan. She’s very good to Claire, and they both share a knowledge of healing and herbal remedies. When they’re accused of witchcraft, Geillis confesses and shows the crowd her smallpox vaccine scar to prove her deal with the devil. Claire realizes what it is, and we all understand that she’s a time traveller.
It’s not until we meet Geillis again in season three that we understand what her motive was for going through the stones. She wanted to change Scottish history and see them victorious at the Battle of Culloden.
Everything starts to make sense as she was linked to Dougal MacKenzie in season one, the War Chieftain for Clan MacKenzie. He was a big Jacobite, and Geillis’ attraction to him and his passion for the cause are obvious. She’s a murderer and rapist, though, so a lot of her reasons get lost in her actions.
A little less is known about the Native American time traveler that we hear stories of in season four. Otter Tooth came through the stones in the United States, and he went back for the specific purpose of warning his people of the genocide that was to come.
He became a part of the Mohawk tribe and warned them of what would happen to them when the white settlers came. Otter Tooth spoke of war, disease, the way their people would be forgotten. Eventually, he was killed by the Mohawk, who believed he was insane.
After his death, they continued to hear his voice until someone took his head and buried it far away from the tribe. Claire sees his spirit in season four and also finds the gem that he used to go through the stones.
Both of these two instances showcase the desire to change history. Geillis desiring an independent Scotland, and Otter Tooth desperately trying to prevent the genocide of Native Americans in the United States.
The time traveler we’re most familiar with is Claire Fraser. She didn’t mean to go back in time, but we’re all very glad it happened.
Her trip was accidental, but due to her education in medicine and survival skills, she’s able to adjust to life in 1700s Scotland well. We see her become a healer and someone that Colum MacKenzie trusts enough to help him with his health and later, death.
In the cause of Scottish independence, she goes to France and rallies around Bonnie Prince Charlie and her husband, Jamie.
In fact, Claire seems most out of place in her own time. In season three, when she’s been forced to go back through the stones before the Battle of Culloden starts, we see Claire struggle to adjust to life again.
There’s an element of grief, but even after that, Claire doesn’t fit. She and Frank maintain their marriage, but it’s strained. They raise their daughter together, but Frank always seems to know that once Brianna is old enough, Claire will try and find Jamie again.
After his death, Claire takes time, but eventually chooses to go back to find Jamie.
In season four and five, Claire has flourished in the colonies. She’s back with Jamie, and things are right for them again.
Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, also travels back through time to find her parents after learning about their untimely deaths, and she fits right in, too.
For the most part, Bree is happy and thriving in season five. She struggles (understandably so) emotionally with the effects of her sexual assault, and it’s been Jamie who has helped her process a lot of it.
All of these time jumpers have faced awful odds and sometimes death, but each one fit in pretty well, or tried to, with the times. We don’t see that ease with Roger MacKenzie.
He went through the stones to find Brianna after he realized she had gone back. He’s not nearly as prepared as Claire and Bree were. They carried things with them and had familial connections to rely on during a part of their journey.
Roger’s been on a hard road since he arrived in the 1700s. He was indentured to Stephen Bonnet for a time on his ship. He and Bree argued and were split up almost immediately after they were handfast. She wanted to stay, and he was like, “Let’s go home!”. A position that he hasn’t abandoned yet.
In his search to find Bree again at Fraser’s Ridge, Jamie and Ian mistake him for the man who raped Bree and he’s beaten and sold the Mohawk. They practically drag him to Upstate New York where they throw him into an isolation hut.
There he tries to reason with a preacher and fails. Then watches the man burn alive because he won’t marry the Mohawk woman that he has a child with.
Roger is traumatized.
Add in that after he’s rescued, Jamie and Claire drop all the details of Bree’s rape and pregnancy on his lap, and Roger needs some space to breath.
“Brianna wanted you to know so you would have the choice. So I’m asking ye, can ye go back to her, live with her… knowing it might be Bonnet’s child that she bears? Do ye mean to stand by her or not, because if ye canna, then say so now, for I swear…”
“Jamie, for God’s sake. Just give him a moment to think. I know this is a huge decision, Roger, not one you should take lightly.”
“This is all too much.”
“You cost me a lad that I love. And my daughter doesn’t need a coward.”
“I’d rather she hate me for the rest of my life than for you to break her heart again.”
When Roger goes his separate way, this generates a lot of animosity from Jamie. In his mind, Roger shouldn’t have hesitated. He should have gone straight to River Run with them.
Those feelings of dislike continue in season five.
Roger’s an Oxford educated professor. No one taught him survival skills. Hell, he doesn’t even know how to shave properly and Jamie does it for him before his wedding in the season premiere.
Granted, it was a little fan service for Jamie lovers because…competency porn. We’ll get into that another time, though.
In Roger’s mind, he’s still going back to his time. In fact, during the season premiere, he and Bree seem to be on two different pages when it comes to staying or going. Eventually, Claire tells Roger that she wants him, Bree, and Jemmy to go back, but she knows they have to wait until Jemmy is old enough.
For Roger, it’s not just about safety, but how he doesn’t have the skills to survive in this time. He’s smart and has the ability to learn, but how can you ask for help when the person you’re looking to for guidance already thinks you’re incompetent?
Asking Jamie for help would further prove that he’s not capable of providing a life for Breanna and Jemmy.
As we move through the rest of the season, I think Roger’s uneasiness will get worse. When he’s placed beside Jamie so often, viewers can see the distinct difference between the two men, and it makes Roger feel inferior. The more Jamie cuts at Roger’s confidence, the more likely Roger is to do something stupid while trying to make a point that he’s capable.
My sincerest hope is that Roger’s able to be there for Brianna when Stephen Bonnet shows back up. However, I don’t want him to kill Bonnet. I think that should lay in Bree’s hands unless she opts to have him do it for her.
Roger definitely has a place in this time, but when he’s around men of the time, the attributes that he’s lacking stand out more in comparison. We need to remember, though, Roger was able to find his place on a ship across the Atlantic and up the eastern seaboard. After he separated from Jamie and Claire, he was able to navigate his way back to River Run.
In the latest episode, “The Company We Keep”, Roger is able to deescalate a situation until Jamie gets there. It’s not the best way to handle things, and he gets shit from Jamie and five men leave the militia, but he argues that it was better than forcing a conflict and getting more men hurt.
What we see is what we’ve seen before: a 20th mentality in an 18th century setting. It’s not always going to match up, but if we give it time, Roger could adjust, too.
What do you think about Roger Mac? Do you think he’ll adjust or is he the time traveler destined to be misplaced?