Episode 111 – The Devil’s Mark

I’m so behind with these. My daughter has been very ill, and I didn’t even watch the episode until this past weekend (when 112 aired). 

Anyway, I really liked this episode, probably because Ned Gowan is the man. I am so, so happy to see him taking charge here. The changes from the book were mostly purposeful and although there was a little bit of clunkiness (why would the examiners allow him to take a recess?) in how the plot progressed, this episode kept most of the spirit of the events in the book.

I’ve only watched once, so I’m not going to do a blow-by-blow, but rather put down my reactions to the changes and what I liked and disliked about them.

First, Ned. Of course. I LOVE Ned Gowan. He is a hero with his filibustering in the book (not exactly the right word, but it has a similar effect), but his gentle logic and the way he can turn an argument on its nose in the show encapsulates the character. Ned is witty, courageous, astute, stubborn, and brilliant. He’s also a prime example of that Scottish mix of pragmatism and idealism. I’d have him as my lawyer any day.

The pistol thing was a little weird, but at that point he’s just trying to do anything to stall for time. It isn’t made clear, but I’m sure he sent Murtagh for Jamie, and knows Jamie is coming. And we know he can handle a pistol after the fight with the Grants.

I look forward to the future, when we get to the settlement over Laoghaire. I imagine the show will also have him taking a role in season two, since he’s such a popular character.

Second, Geillis. I wasn’t a fan of Lotte’s ethereal fairy approach in the beginning, but she’s settled down into the frank, unapologetic Geillis I recognize from the book. I can buy her as the coldly practical but sensual sociopath who has killed at least four husbands (by the time of Voyager) and has managed to ensnare Dougal MacKenzie (even if it’s their shared Jacobite goal and their child that did most of the work). I think the fey creature was a persona she was trying on, maybe only with Claire, and when that didn’t work to make them friends, she switched to the earthier herbwoman. But you can always see her intelligence and cunning, even in those early days. And, unlike Claire, she is smart enough to keep her mouth shut in the face of her accusers.

For the reveal that Geillis is a traveler, I appreciated all of the layering of detail in this episode that an astute viewer will notice as anachronistic. The quote that she recognizes has always struck me as a false note, since Claire probably wouldn’t be very familiar with American Revolutionary history. Uncle Lamb’s archeological interests were quite a bit further back in history than that, and I doubt she ever had any tutors that were going to quote Nathan Hale. Gillian Edgars would have a normal British education in the sixties, which probably spent about a week on the American Revolution, if that. So Geillis would not have recognized the quote, either. Someone online suggested she should have quoted Churchill, and I think that would have been an excellent choice. In any case, the recognition of a future quote, and calling it “The Rising” as though it were the only one- at this point in history, there had been several, but this is the one that “counts” and will be remembered – were red flags for me. Then, of course, her brilliant line about barbecue, which many people assumed was a mistake until they figured out that she was a traveler, too.

The little chat in the side room was absolutely necessary, plot-wise, but that’s one of the convolutions that doesn’t work for me. I can’t believe that these judges would allow Ned to take the ladies off for a recess, when the crowd was shouting for blood. But it provided the impetus for Geillis to sacrifice herself for Claire (a somewhat calculated sacrifice, as she was reasonably certain that they wouldn’t burn a pregnant woman), and for her to reveal the “devil’s mark” that finally (for Claire and non-book-readers) reveals that Geillis came through the Stones, too.

I wonder, since the show has already broken from Claire’s PoV, if we’ll get to see Geillis in Paris? Dougal definitely visits her when he’s there. That might be neat, although I suppose it would undercut Roger’s attempt to save Gillian Edgars, and definitely would ruin the surprise in season three/four when we meet Mrs. Abernathy.

The third change is with Father Bain and Laoghaire. I’m not sure how I feel about Laoghaire being so much more villainous in the show. In the book, we can sort-of whistle past Claire not telling Jamie about what Laoghaire did, because BookClaire argues that BookLaoghaire was young and may not have realized the full repercussions of her actions. That was always BS, but I can see how BookClaire would think it. Here, Laoghaire is in the court, telling Claire she will dance on her ashes. There’s no way Claire doesn’t tell Jamie about that. And, knowing that, he would NEVER IN A MILLION BAZILLION YEARS MARRY LAOGHAIRE. I don’t care how persuasive Jenny is or how starved for touch and affection Jamie is after his years in hiding, prison, and exile. Maybe he would marry Mary MacNab, but he would not EVER marry Laoghaire if he knew she tried to have Claire killed. Would. Not. Happen.

How they are going to make that work in the show, I have no idea. And there’s a whole lot of things that wouldn’t work out the same way if they decide to not have Jamie marry Laoghaire. Maybe she could force him to do it, a la Geneva Dunsany?

Father Bain is another weird change. I honestly think they did that to try and fake out book readers, which annoys me, because I don’t mind changes as long as they are story-driven. This doesn’t feel like anything but extra-textual. There’s no good reason for him to have a change of heart, or even a fake change of heart. All he has to do is say that he witnessed Claire usurping God’s power, and trying to take the credit for what was obviously a miracle of the Lord. This crowd is ready for some burning, and it doesn’t matter what evidence is presented. But he’s really just a blip in the story, so I’ll move past it.

The last thing that I want to talk about is Jamie and Claire’s relationship by the end of the episode.

I haven’t decided yet how I feel that Claire doesn’t admit her love for Jamie in the thief’s hole. I realize that they are waiting for Lallybroch, but this is the “dark moment” for Claire in the first arc of the story. It’s the point in the story where the main character cannot get out and cannot go back without admitting to things she never would have accepted about herself before. The moment is so powerful in the book, and her silence in the show is a little disconcerting. I wonder if non-book readers felt the same way?

Jamie was wonderful in the courtroom, and I adored the delivery of the “I’m no of that opinion myself” line. His struggle with her confession in the forest, and his eventual acceptance of her Truth, are masterful pieces of acting from Sam Heughan. And it was so poignant and beautiful that, although Jamie refused to have intercourse with Claire once he found out she was still married and he decided that he must let her go, he still wanted to give her pleasure, and to be connected to her.

But some of that passion and determination was undercut at the Stones because of the decision not to do a “falling through time” special effect. In the books, when Jamie pulls Claire back, it is because she is starting to move through time, and he is scared and reacts with raw emotion, not cool reason. We lose some of that punch and potency in this version. We also lose some of the time-traveling worldbuilding, but I suppose my fantasy-loving heart has to let that go. Although, her ability to feel both Jamie and Frank while she is in the space between times is part of what gives her the courage to travel back in 1746 while pregnant with Brianna, so that’s another reason to consider the implications of cutting it here. Blake, on the Outlander Cast podcast, suggested that Claire may have traveled during the cut to black after her contemplation at the stones. That might save it for me, if they decide to go that route. We can’t be sure that they’re going to make the passage through the stones quite as terrifying as it is in the books, anyway.

In any case, Sam acts the hell out of the scene, so that carried me through it. And most non-book-reader reactions have been positive, so I suppose I’m just disappointed that it wasn’t quite as good as the book.

One thing I did appreciate was the lack of voiceover while Claire is making her decision. Caitriona Balfe is an amazing actress, and we can see everything on her face. We don’t need her to explain it to us. Although I was a little underwhelmed at the “On your feet, soldier,” callback to Episode 101. They weren’t anything to each other, then. They are everything to each other now. Wasn’t there something else she could say?

Still, a very solid episode, and one I liked extremely. I need to watch it again and maybe I’ll revise my thoughts here when I do.

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One thought on “Episode 111 – The Devil’s Mark

  1. I do hope your daughter is feeling better. My daughter was quite ill when she was little and I know there is nothing worse than that feeling of helplessness.

    I love Ned Gowan and though pulling out a pistol was surprising, it fit with his courtly old time gallantry. If I was in a tight spot I would hope he would be near by. I had to think about Father Bain’s performance. What better way than to stack opinion against Claire than by making it appear she has bewitched him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t coerced the man who shouted out to do so.

    Than there is Laoghaire. I feel like I am the only one who doesn”t see her as this sweet misunderstood teenager. I don’t like the changes they have done regarding her character. RDM is really into her so who knows what is coming down the pike. For right now I’ll content myself with the image of Brianna ripping off the poor me facade and smiling every time Marsala call Claire mother with such love.

    As good as the trial was I do wish they had trim some of it so there would have time to do the reveal of Claire’s secret at the Stones. It is such an important part. I thought Caits portrayal was as good as always and it is lovely to see her character softening, showing a touch of vunerability. Sam’s portrayal of all of Jamie’s emotions was awesome. As much as I love his voice, I could spend hours watching his expressions and gestures. I felt his shock, heartbreak and determination to do the right thing by her.

    I understand that they like to tie things back to early episodes but of all the pieces, the “On Your Feet Soldier” left me cold. In keeping with the mood they had established, I would have loved to see her run down the hill to him. Finding him asleep, she could have snuggled down next to him saying simply: take me home to Lallybroch.

    I saved Lotte’s portrayal for last. Inspite of what she had done you couldn’t help to be touched by her reaching out to save Claire. She was mesmerizing!

    Like

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