Outlander Episode Two: Life at Castle Leoch by Christina Ivanowich

Spoiler Disclaimer — I will be discussing the episode in detail, so I would stop reading now if you haven’t yet seen up to Episode Two. I will do my best not to include spoilers from the books, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make references to them. Now, on to Episode Two:

It begins right where we left Claire in Episode One, upon her first arrival at Castle Leoch. Up to this point, I think it is fair to say that Claire has been in shock, and that two days and nights on a horse without sleep or food have not improved her mental situation. So this is the moment when reality starts to truly sink in — fear and panic are beginning to subside and she is faced with the necessity of simply finding a way to survive in her present situation. Even things as simple as learning the names of her erstwhile captors, as she realizes she must make allies if she is ever to find her way back to Craig na Dun. And so the story slows down somewhat; we start to see the simple details of life at Leoch: the clothes, the customs and the people, and how Claire will find a place among them.

But the more we see of the residents of Leoch, the more questions arise. Colum and Dougal MacKenzie, the ailing laird of Clan MacKenzie and his brother, both clearly have their own agendas and do not trust her. As Claire points out, Colum is unlikely to live much longer, and there appears to be some conflict between the brothers over how to share their power and position. Is this the source of the obvious awkwardness among them regarding Colum's son and heir, Hamish, or is there more to that exchange?

Then there is Geillis Duncan, a woman from the nearby village who identifies herself as a "witch". In their first conversation, she instructs Claire on how to kill her husband, as well as in the use of a local plant for ending pregnancy. She comes across as strange right away, so why does Claire seem drawn to her? (More on that later.)

But this episode focuses quite a bit on Young Jamie and his origins. As Claire looks for an ally, he is a natural choice, as they already have a forced intimacy after two days on a horse together. Jamie has also exhibited that he likes her (I don't want to go so far as to say they are flirting, but there is a sexually charged moment between them early in the episode), and Claire is not above taking advantage of that. He clearly trusts her from the first, despite the fact that he is wanted by the English and his two uncles both believe her to be an English spy. For a man with a price on his head and a family to protect, why is he so open with a stranger?

Then there is the incident at Hall, where he volunteers to take the punishment for Laoghaire (pronounced like Lheeree) MacKenzie, who is accused of loose behaviour by her father. Jamie claims to not know the girl, and tells Claire he did it only to protect Laoghaire from being shamed in public. From everything we've seen of him so far, we know that Jamie isn't afraid of a fight, but is that all there is to it? Is he merely gallant, or is it guilt? Also of note, why would Dougal and Colum allow Jamie to take the beating? He is their nephew, and clearly of value to them since having Jamie in the castle can only bring trouble from the English. So why have him beaten, and badly, in front of everyone? Is it a message to Jamie, perhaps, and to Leoch, about his position? Are they putting him in his place?

Despite the fact that they exhibit a mutual trust and openness, it's important to remember that Claire and Jamie are both using a pseudonym, a nom de guerre, to protect themselves and their families. There are many secrets between them at this point, but not yet lies.

Thoughts on the series so far:

* I have really enjoyed the use of colour to highlight the two different time periods. When we see 1945, the colours are muted, almost sepia, with Claire's blue coat allowing her to stand out. In 1743, the colours are richer and more pronounced, particularly when she first arrives surrounded by green grass and red coats. While Claire feels lost in a dream or a costume drama, the colour makes her present situation seem that much more real to us.

* I think the music for the series is wonderful, though I'm not certain about the opening credit sequence as a whole. The music is composed by Bear McCreary, who also provided the music for Ron Moore's amazing Battlestar Galactica reboot, and there are definite similarities. The music is appropriate in time and feel for the show overall and there have been a few excellent music cues that really added to the scene (I'm thinking specifically of the moment Claire is shot at by the red coats, and the lovely dance of the Druids on Craig na Dun in Episde One). However, shows like Game of Thrones have really upped the ante for what an opening credit sequence can do, and while they are very different shows, I don't think it can be denied that the opening for Outlander is minimal.

* Is it just me, or does Sam Heughan (Jamie) look like a cross between Henry Cavill (Superman) and Alfie Allen (Theon from GoT)?

That's it for this week! Can't wait for Episode Three!


Read our recap of the next episode, Outlander Episode Three: Time Travel — Science or Magic?, or the previous episode, The Outlander Premiere: Sex, Violence & Time Travel.

Christina Ivanowich watches television (and occasionally writes about it) from London, Ontario. You can follow her on Twitter: @civanowich.


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