'Outlander': Why Lauren Lyle's Marsali Was Season 5's Low-Key MVP
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 5, Episode 12 of Outlander, "Never My Love."]
Outlander may be known for its love story between Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe), but as their family has grown over five seasons on the Starz drama, other characters have taken root in fans' hearts. One such character has to be Marsali Fraser (Lauren Lyle), Jamie's former step-daughter and current daughter-in-law who's married to his and Claire's ward and honorary son Fergus (César Domboy).
Season 5 gave fans more than a few reasons to readjust their view of Marsali as her level of importance was raised exponentially as the episodes carried on. Marsali's role grew so much this past year that I can't help but consider her the low-key MVP of Season 5. Perhaps her role in the books written by Diana Gabaldon are more prominent, but focusing on the Starz series alone, Marsali's proven herself to be a vital component to the Fraser clan more and more each season.
This can particularly be illustrated through the lens of her relationship with Claire, which wasn't great when Marsali arrived in Season 3. Bursting into Claire and Jamie's room at Lallybroch shortly after the couple were reunited after 20 years, she and little Joanie (Layla Burns) essentially reveal Jamie's marriage to Laoghaire (Nell Hudson) that he had yet to inform her of. Sure, that's really on Jamie, but Marsali only exacerbated the situation by inserting herself.
Eventually, when she stows away onboard a ship with Fergus that Claire and Jamie are taking in an effort to find their kidnapped nephew Ian (John Bell), she only makes things difficult for Claire because of her anger over Jamie "cheating" on her ma. We get it, but the behavior is quite petty until she began warming up to Claire and seeing the value in her as a maternal figure.
Before Claire and Jamie's daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) arrives, Marsali's filling this void in Claire's life and we finally saw the shift in Marsali before her wedding to Fergus in Season 3 as she asked the healer for advice. Season 4 didn't see too much interaction between Claire and Marsali in comparison to the latest season, but the winds of change were certainly there as Marsali became a mother herself. Perhaps her new role left her with a stronger respect for her mother figure in America?
It certainly seemed so once Season 5 arrived as Marsali was all but unrecognizable from her antagonistic Season 3 self. A fully-involved and incorporated key player of the Fraser fam at their Ridge in North Carolina, Marsali's growth only progressed as Claire put trust in her as a medical apprentice.
When Claire brought Marsali into her surgery to help with an autopsy, she was wary, but her faith in the healer is what allowed her to take on a set of new skills. By the time we reach Season 5's end, Marsali's using those skills tenfold and in a way we never could have pictured when we first met her.
Throughout the season we saw glimpses of Claire and Marsali's bond grow, both as a student and teacher as well as mother and daughter. While Claire's only ever tried to be there for Marsali, the young woman wasn't always on board. Now she's been calling Claire her "Ma" and Brianna her sister. She's found happiness with her current situation, but even with her contentedness, Marsali's fire remains.
Fiercely loyal and protective, Marsali proved time and again in Season 5 she'd do anything to help her family even if she wasn't always on their side. When Claire's kidnapped by Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy), in Episode 11, "Journeycake," Marsali's also traumatized due to the fact that Brown's men overpowered her to abduct her Ma.
But she channeled that trauma into power when her family returned with a rescued Claire in the finale episode, "Never My Love." Doing what Claire couldn't, she delivered Lionel's lethal fate in the form of injection, but not before revealing the reasoning for her actions, telling the man she'd never let him go anywhere near her family again after he'd repeatedly assaulted Claire after kidnapping her.
Her impassioned speech to Lionel is nearly tear-inducing in its rage and the resulting guilt she feels after killing him maintains her pureness amid Outlander's most grim moments. She did what she must, but that doesn't make her an evil person. Marsali traded in her petty Season 3 behavior for impactful and grounding moments in Season 5. Along with providing some comedic relief in an otherwise dark season, there's no doubt that Marsali is one of this year's Outlander MVPs.
Sure, every character experienced a sort of growth in their own way, but Marsali is so vastly different from when we first met her that we can't help but recognize the importance of her improvement in Season 5. Let's hope there's more of her fiery spirit to be seen in Season 6 because she's definitely a character we need to see more of after her Season 5 turn.
Outlander, Season 6, TBA, Starz