Review: Outlander S2 E4

 "La Dame Blanche"

Contributed by Julie Chaston

I really enjoy how Outlander plays with emotion. With a lot of dramas you tend to get “the sad episode” or “the funny episode”, as if there could only be one tone (or maybe showrunners think viewers can’t handle anything more complex). Yet, more often than not, the most critically acclaimed shows are the ones that allow their viewers to experience diverse feelings within a single hour.

This episode of Outlander was a prime example: everything from laugh-out-loud amusement, to sorrow and brutality - often within the same scene. Much of the credit goes to Diana Gabaldon for writing the story and the characters this way, but just as much credit has to go to the Outlander writing team. They take existing scenarios and adapt them to work in the visual medium, within the story that they need to tell in that moment. Often, they cobble together bits and pieces of dialogue or situations that took place in entirely different times or even different books, in a way that preserves the original meaning and moves the story forward. So much information is presented in each scene, it sometimes takes me several viewings to catch every nuance.

The opening chess scene was a perfect metaphor for the entire episode: everyone is playing games, bluffing as they wait for the next move. Fun on the surface, but with ominous undercurrents. We saw Jamie, surprisingly happy when he found out Black Jack Randall was alive; but as he stood there, gleefully describing how he would kill his nemesis, what started out as a funny scene became rather disturbing. Especially because it was Jamie saying it.

Later, he attempts to explain the bite-marks on his thighs, indignantly digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole. [“I don’t think I’m explaining this properly.” Ya think, Jamie?] Claire - understandably - seethes and lets him have it. But as the conversation turns more serious, we feel another bone-chilling undertone as Jamie talks about lust for Claire and killing Randall in the same thought. The scene then takes yet another left turn, bringing many viewers to tears with Jamie’s long-awaited (for book readers) ‘fortress’ speech.

However, that complicated scene ultimately brought Jamie and Claire back to each other. Their hotly anticipated first sex love scene of the season was beautifully shot in blue tinged moonlight; full of raw emotion with barely a word spoken. [It’s okay, we wouldn’t have been listening anyway…]

But, no rest yet - the couple’s sweet afterglow is ruined by a fabulous segue from the writers: Jamie tells Claire that she’s helping him rebuild his emotional ‘roof’ - as he hears someone tromping about on their real roof. It’s Prince Delusional. [Talk about throwing cold (rain) water on the mood]

The ‘Prince’ makes himself rather comfortable by the fire in Jamie and Claire’s bedroom, demands whisky, medical attention for his monkey-bitten hand, and sympathy for being spurned by his lover [Louise!]. His unwilling hosts can’t help but use this information to their advantage.

It all culminates with the dinner party...scenes that would have been hilarious, had it not been for the awful contrast of Mary’s tragic, brutal rape as Jamie played host to the so-called elite of French society, awkward bows and all.
At the table we see Claire putting on a brave face after having been attacked herself; Jamie and Claire attempting to make the Prince show his true foolishness to the Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow...what a stroke of casting genius); Louise pretending that she and hubby are a happy expectant couple, and the Comte - whose head Jamie wants to cut off - almost certainly plotting his next evil move.

The veil of cordiality falls apart when Mary - both traumatised and high on “poppy syrup” [opium?] runs screaming into the next room. Poor Alex has no clue he's doing more harm than good, and looks like he’s attacking rather than helping her. Bedlam ensues. Jamie and Murtagh beat up several of the guests, and the Comte instructs someone to call the Gendarmes (police) before leaving with his new pal Charles. Mark me, that does not bode well for the Frasers!

A few other thoughts…

Foreshadowing: Claire to Louise “all that matters is that the child is brought up with love” (what Frank will say to her in the future); and Master Raymond saying to Claire (about Frank) “you will see him again”. Actually… Master Raymond made several remarks to Claire that could be construed as knowing she’s from another time. Hmmm…

Although they are nothing alike as people, Alex and Jack Randall look and sound so similar that Alex stroking Mary’s face brought to mind Jack doing the same to Jamie...yes, I did shiver.

It was important enough to be the title of the episode, so who - or what - is “La Dame Blanche”, why did the rapists literally run for their lives after calling Claire that? Someone might want to ask Jamie… Were the attackers paid to sabotage the carriage? The saboteur had the same birthmark on his hand as one of the assailants. Is the Comte involved?

So it seems all the Fraser’s planning has been for naught - perhaps next week will be better  for Jamie, Claire and baby Lambert Dalhousie Sneezy? Probably not...

Julie is a British-Canadian, currently living in Toronto. She enjoys walking, reading, wishes she had a TARDIS & believes aliens are probably already here. When it comes to TV "It's all about the characters!" You can follow her on Twitter @JulieChaston
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  1. I have seen a few episodes of this play and it was very interesting. Especially the thing i like about it they have focused on the family value and togetherness.

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