Warning: Spoilers Galore
Give me again all that was there,
Give me the sun that shone!
Give me the eyes, give me the soul,
Give me the lad that’s gone!
1884 lyrics to
“The Skye Boat Song”
If you’ve been watching Starz’s adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling Outlander series of books, you know that some of the first season was divided into two parts over two years (2014-2015), with S1 P2 just recently beginning after a long, almost unbearable hiatus for those of us who have never read the books. If you’ve read any of my related blogs on the show, you know that I’m not comparing the books to the show, but am judging the show by its own merit. All adaptations should be judged that way — despite readers’ complaints about how films or series differ from the books on which they’re based — because the two are completely different art forms.
S1 P1 of Outlander was a bit slow-moving — spending far too much time on extended visual displays of historical information, like women’s clothes, hair, jewelry; men’s clan rituals; etc. that the viewers would have gotten instantly despite the fact that book readers may have needed extended descriptions — then speeding up during the last few episodes. S1 P2, however, has been more plot-driven. Ep 11, “The Devil’s Mark,” was the most powerful show the season has produced thus far: harrowing, moving, and poignant.
If you’ve been reading my blogs on S1 P1, you know that I found Geillis (Lotte Verbeek, above L) to be one of the most interesting and intriguing characters of the series. Not only did she become friends with the time-transported Claire (Caitriona Balfe, above R), but Geillis was a healer herself.
She constantly urged Claire to be happy in her life in 1740s Scotland, as Geillis herself was, but she seemed to have secrets of her own that indicated she might have come through the stones from the future herself. In “The Devil’s Mark,” my predictions about Geillis proved true, as she and Claire were arrested and put on trial for witchcraft, and Geillis, indeed, revealed that she had come from the future.
Of course, neither were “witches” — for spiritual, religious, or any other purposes, though Geillis was shown in S1 P2 Ep 10 performing a ceremony in the woods that she hoped would lead to the death of her lover Dougal’s (Gavin McTavish) wife so that she and their unborn child could be with him; and then Geillis poisoned her own husband so the lovers could be together.
Unfortunately, Claire became involved in the witchcraft trial for numerous reasons:
- because of her own stubborn personality: she ignored Jamie’s warning to stay away from Geillis after her lover Dougal was exiled to his home by his brother Colum (Gary Lewis),
- her own temper: she slapped Laoghaire MacKenzie (Nell Hudson) over their mutual jealousy concerning Jamie (Sam Heughan),
- and her own fruitless attempts to save a dying baby left in the woods by parents hoping it would become a “changeling” and have a better, healthy life with the fairies: the infant’s mother saw Claire and accused her, during the witch-trial, of killing the baby instead of permitting the fairies to “change” it.
Laoghaire was one of the principal witnesses against Claire. The love-lorn Laoghaire not only set up the meeting with Geillis and Claire by forging a note, but she may have been responsible for calling the wardens on Geillis for murdering her husband Arthur.
Clan laird Colum certainly suspected foul-play himself during the public banquet for the Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow, above), so Colum, as Laird, may have alerted the wardens. In any event, though Geillis may have been the original intended accused, for the murder of her husband, Laoghaire ensured that Claire was included in any witchcraft accusations with her bitter testimony about the love-potions which Laoghaire had requested to make Jamie fall in love with her, and which she claimed Claire had drunk herself to “steal” Jamie away.
Despite his best attempts to save the two women, lawyer Ned Gowan (Bill Patterson, above) could not combat religious and sexist prejudices against women during that time period, and both were found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to death by burning. As Claire was being flogged, husband Jamie appeared and attempted to save her from the mob. However, only Geillis’ brave and melodramatic self-sacrifice managed to save Claire from the mob’s fury.
After realizing that her attempts to help return Scotland to independence through the Jacobite cause of returning a Scottish monarch to the throne had been in vain, Geillis whispered “1968” to Claire (which is apparently the year Geillis came through the stones at Craigh na doon).
(The writers of this episode stated in interviews that they did not have Geillis tell Claire that Geillis, too, had come through the stones during the time the two women were imprisoned in the Thieves’ Hole before the trial because they feared such a admission would have taken away from Claire’s later revelation to Jamie. Despite Claire’s reciting, “I only regret that I have but one life to give to my country” — the purported last words of American revolutionary Nathan Hale before being hanged in 1776, with which Geillis would have been familiar only if she had come from the future — and Geillis’ response of “Nice line,” I still wasn’t sure, at that point in the show, whether or not Geillis had, indeed, come through the stones from the future. Even though I’d seen some remarks on forums on Geillis’ smallpox vaccine scar, I’d tried to skip any Spoilers since I haven’t read the books and want to remain excited about the show itself.)
As the mob was flogging Claire as a prelude to burning her for being a witch, Geillis unselfishly helped save Claire. Revealing her small-pox vaccination as “the Devil’s mark” on her body, Geillis screamed to the crowd that she was, indeed, a witch and was, furthermore, carrying the devil’s child after having sexual relations with the Devil himself, ripping open her dress and revealing her rounded abdomen. Hissing at Claire to “run,” Geillis continued her over-the-top performance and melodramatic confession until she was carried out to be burnt.
My congratulations and admiration to Lotte Verbeek for her brilliantly dramatic performance as Geillis trying to save the only friend she had — the friend who did not betray her by saying that Geillis had tricked and misled her, a statement that the lawyer said might have given Claire the chance to save her own life. Realizing that the only way to take the mob’s attention off Claire was to concentrate it totally on herself, Geillis threw herself into her confession with admirable fanaticism. Lotte could have convinced me that she was a witch.
I can only thank Starz for not allowing us to see Geillis’ being burnt at the stake, as it would have been even more gruesome than Jamie’s extended flogging scene from S1 P1 by Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies, in a dual role as BJR and as Claire’s 1945 husband Frank). The trial was harrowing enough as it was, and ended with the (implied) burning of Geillis, and the escape of Claire and Jamie.
After Jamie rescued Claire and they’d gotten a sufficient distance from the mob, he asked Claire to tell him the truth about something, promising to be completely honest with her in return. In an unintentionally humorous (from our perspective) scene for such a profoundly disturbing moment, Jamie asked Claire if she was a witch herself. His question was based on her own smallpox vaccination scar, which he claimed to have seen and wondered about many times without asking her what it was.
This brought about Claire’s complete confession about who she was and why/how she came to be in Scotland in that time period. Jamie patiently listened to it all. The audience actually heard some of it, but the rest was muted: we saw only glimpses of Jamie’s quite calm reaction to the story.
After Claire’s “confession,” Jamie surprised me by not only believing her story of having coming through the stones — without questions, mockery, or grimaces — but by re-evaluating his own behavior in light of her tale. Asking whether she had gone to the stones earlier — endangering the others in the clan, after he’d requested she stay hidden from the British soldiers — for the express purpose of returning to her “husband” in 1945, Claire admitted that she had. Jamie then murmured, “And I beat you for it.”
What a surprise.
Jamie has not only promised, in an earlier episode, never to lay hands on Claire in violence again — though that may have been because she wouldn’t have sex with him after he beat her — but, after hearing Claire’s story, he came very quickly to what must have been a very painful and emotional conclusion for him. That Claire had been going to the stones to return to her husband, and she didn’t mean Jamie by that word.
Because S1 P2 began from Jamie’s perspective, with his Voice-over, we know that he is falling in love with Claire, despite their marriage being one of convenience, so I found it very moving that Jamie did not judge Claire and her story, he believed her “unbelievable” story without question, and he matured emotionally and morally from learning the truth about Claire.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not big on Romances. Don’t read ’em; rarely watch ’em. But the premise of Outlander was so intriguing that I wanted to see what had made the books bestsellers. I don’t know about events in any of the books, and I’ve already said that I found S1 P1 a bit slow until the final episodes, but S1 P2 shocked me last night with the poignancy of Jamie’s love for Claire.
After hearing her story, he took her several days’ journey away from where the trial had been held. Claire thought they were going “home.” Actually, after camping one night, Jamie took Claire over some hills to show her that they were at Craigh na doon. Yes, he’d taken her to the area of the stones after hearing her story. Without even asking her, Jamie took her to Craigh na doon in case she needed to go back to them. So that she could go home. And he meant the home that was away from him and his time.
Jamie has said, in Voice-over, that he is falling in love with Claire. Jamie has changed his behavior from that of the other men in his clan because of his feelings for Claire. Jamie has promised repeatedly to trust her and to believe what she tells him even if he doesn’t understand why (e.g., about the Duke of Sandringham). Yet he took her to the stones — after hearing her story — for the express purpose of helping her leave him in order to return to her husband Frank.
Yes, there was a last-second moment of hesitation: Jamie grabbed Claire’s hands just as she was about to touch the stones, saying he wasn’t ready to say good-bye yet. But then he left her alone there, telling her that he would stand guard at the campsite until she’d safely made it away, i.e., back through the stones to her own time.
Now that’s love — unselfishly caring for another person’s happiness and well-being despite any pain it may cause you — and for the first time in the series, I found myself thinking Jamie a wonderful character with great emotional and moral depth.
Of course, the decision to go back through the stones wasn’t easy for Claire either. She spent the day at Craigh na doon, looking at and fingering her two wedding rings: the gold one from Frank on her left hand, and the silver-key one from Jamie on her right. It was a poignant scene, uncluttered by any unnecessary Voice-over from Claire. In short, it was film adaptation of a book at its finest.
Cut away to a scene at night, with Jamie sleeping beside his campfire. (I did wonder why he was sleeping when he was supposed to be keeping guard, and why he didn’t wake immediately when someone approached the “camp,” but perhaps grief made him sleep more deeply rather than restlessly.) Then we hear Claire’s voice saying, “On your feet, Soldier.”
Yes, she came back.
To the man who was willing to give her up — for love — so she could return to her own time as well as to the husband there whom she loves.
Was Jamie happy?
Did Starz ruin it with a sex scene?
They did not.
(And for that, I applaud the writers, the director, the producers, and Starz itself. Love is not always expressed sexually, and, in that instance, I would have found it inappropriate and vulgar. Of course, their tears were touchingly appropriate, as was their affectionate embrace.)
For the first time in any episode, I found myself moved by Claire’s and Jamie’s growing love for each other. Of course, I believe that Jamie loves Claire far more than she presently loves him: he was willing to give her up so she would be happy.
Claire may love Jamie enough to stay with him for the moment, but I know there will be repercussions to her decision to stay in the past, which may affect her feelings for him. (And to those of you who’ve read the books, please don’t send me any more comments telling me what’s going to happen: that’s why I’m not reading the books: I’m watching the show.)
The episode “The Devil’s Mark” was harrowing, moving, and poignant. It was the best of the series to date. I only hope that the writers doing the adaptation of Outlander from the books will continue the fine writing and storytelling — and that the actors will attain the high quality performances — of this episode.
Now Outlander has become a show that’s really worth watching.