Hello, everyone! We’re in week four of Outlander Season Two, which means it’s already time for reviewers to start criticizing portrayals of rape. Don’t you just love critics?
The past few episodes of Outlander have focused on the fraying connection between Jamie and Claire. And though Jamie allows Claire to work at the hospital and Claire acknowledges that Jamie’s days with Charlie aren’t a walk in the park, the dynamic duo is still more emotionally separated than they’ve ever been. This separation is due in part to the lingering shadow Black Jack Randall has left over their marriage. Since the second episode, Claire has been trying to keep Jamie from discovering that Black Jack is still alive. Yet, when she tells him in “La Dame Blanche,” Jamie’s response is a tad anti-climactic. He’s almost joyful.
Though his reaction is initially hard to understand, his motives become clear in the typical Outlander fashion: a hammer and tongs squabble. When Jamie returns from a night out with Charlie with bite-marks on his thighs, Claire is outraged. She accuses Jamie of sleeping with a prostitute even though he hasn’t touched Claire for months. And in attempting to explain himself, Jamie digs an even deeper hole, telling Claire that seeing the prostitute has made him want Claire again because it was the first time he thought of the act of sex without it being ruined by Jack Randall’s shadow. Jamie wants Claire to understand how important this event is to his masculinity, but Claire can only see it through a lens of jealousy and hurt.
And since Jamie and Claire rarely fight about what they say they’re fighting about, the two aren’t angry because Jamie might have cheated on Claire (which she knows he didn’t), but because they’re both trying to overcome the hurt of feeling abandoned. Jamie feels like Jack Randall’s abuses destroyed the special part of himself that no one can ever see. He feels abandoned by his fearlessness. Claire, on the other hand, feels like she has been enduring her pregnancy alone, mentioning how they hadn’t even considered baby names until Duverney brought up the subject. Claire feels abandoned by Jamie. After airing their mutual grievances, the two finally reconnect in the best way they know how: through sex. It’s touching to see them strengthen the bonds that held them so close, and to realize that they are the only people in the world who understand what the other one is going through.
Though they’re united on one front, there is still a disconnect between Jamie and Claire’s motives going forward. Jamie is joyful that Black Jack is alive because he wants to kill him all over again, while Claire is in some way relieved that Jack is alive because it means that Frank still has a chance to exist. As you can see, their joy is mutually exclusive. And while some might criticize Claire’s continuing loyalty to Frank (and her comprehension of the laws of time-travel), I think her qualms about Jamie killing Black Jack add an important depth to her character. Just as Jamie can’t easily escape his abuse, neither can Claire easily forget the life she spent with her past husband, Frank. It would be easier if she could dismiss Frank, but it wouldn’t be true to her overly compassionate nature. And as for the time-travel, well whatever you think the laws should or shouldn’t be, just know that this season does a lot to clear up exactly how Diana Gabaldon treats concurrent timelines.
“La Dame Blanche” isn’t just an episode of reconciliation, it’s also a showcase for the homme plus francais, the Comte St. Germain. If you looked up evil french man in a dictionary, you would see his picture. Because Dragonfly in Amber has so much material and Season 2 only has 13 episodes in which to show it all, the writers have had to do a lot of plot consolidation. This was evident in “La Dame Blanche,” which took the many spread-out St. Germain plots and mashed them into one episode. Not to say that any of his diabolical misdeeds were misrepresented in this episode, but they certainly weren’t presented in the same fashion as they were in the book. I don’t mind this reworking, however, since I found the Comte’s nefarious motives and connections too vague in Gabaldon’s novel. I appreciate the writers trimming them into more palatable plots for the viewers.
We’ve known that the Comte is an evil man ever since he sneered with Gallic fury at Claire back at the docks. It was only a matter of time before he took his revenge by poisoning Claire (in front of Duverney no less). Luckily, Master Raymond only pretends to sell poison, and Claire is hit with the bitter cascara that was very heavily emphasized in the last episode. Master Raymond gives Claire the Chekhov’s Gun of crystal necklaces, telling her that the crystal changes color when poison is around. The first person to notice this necklace is, of course, the Comte.
The Comte has his hands all over the events in “La Dame Blanche.” He poisons Claire, which, by prompting her to tell Jamie about Black Jack, eventually leads to their reconciliation. He then sends his men to attack Claire on her way back from the hospital, which results in Mary getting raped and Murtagh being knocked unconscious. At this point in the show, we’re still hazy on the exact details of the attack. All we know is that because the carriage broke, Claire, Mary, and Murtagh had to walk home in the dark, which led to them being attacked. Jamie is certain that the attacker is St. Germain, and whether you agree with him or not, it’s not difficult to see the Comte’s motives. His attempt to kill Claire failed, so his new plan is to make her fear him.Whether he’s doing this for revenge or just because of his evil streak remains to be seen. But from the look of those wicked eyebrows, I’d say evil streak is more likely.
Ultimately, it is Mary’s rape that has more of an effect on the plot than any of the Comte’s other plans. Claire emerges from the attack unscathed, though emotionally bruised. The immediacy of the dinner party means that she has no time to heal or even process the events that just occurred. As for Mary, it’s evident that the attack, though it wasn’t meant for her, will have lasting effects. The rousing brawl / cliffhanger demonstrated that fact. Her rape is a “plot device” that will have major implications for the Fraser’s future. A future that the Comte would give anything to see ruined.
How does it compare to the book? There were some slight changes. They changed the location of Claire’s poisoning, but like I said, that was to consolidate the plot. They also left out the scene where Claire pours a bucket of bath water over Jamie’s head after he comes home from the brothel with bite marks on his thigh. Though I would’ve loved to see Sam Heughan’s face, I understand that they were trying to emphasize reconciliation and the bucket scene would have worsened the conflict between the two. Besides that, the episode did a wonderful job of translating the events of the book onto the big screen. I especially like how Fergus is turning out. He and Murtagh have such an entertaining dynamic. Speaking of Murtagh, I hope they keep in a particularly humbling scene of his. Not only is it important for his character development, but it’s quite touching, and I hope they don’t cut it.