Sunday, April 19, 2015

Episode 111: "The Devil's Mark" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 111 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled “The Devil's Mark”. I loved this episode!! In my opinion this is the best one yet. Riveting, suspenseful (even if you’ve read the book), and emotionally intense. The acting, writing, and direction were superb, and I’m so glad they were able to stay as close to the book as they did.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.

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Opening credits – notice Bill Paterson’s name there. I love his portrayal of Ned Gowan! Beautiful opening shot of the flock of starlings.

The thieves’ hole is much bigger than I expected (it turns out to be a small cavern rather than a simple hole in the ground), but it’s still a cold, dank, depressing, and scary place to be confined! The sight of the rat scuttling across the floor made me shiver a bit.

I love Claire’s anger in this first scene. Her “Are you saying this is MY fault?” is a parallel to the scene with J&C by the roadside in Episode 109.

“It’s a boy, ye ken.” Well, yes, if you’ve read the books, you know the child she’s carrying will grow up to be William Buccleigh MacKenzie <g>, but why is Geillis so sure it’s a boy? (It's not as though they have ultrasound in the 18th century, I mean.) This is just a minor quibble. I liked the way Claire jerked her hand away when Geillis tried to put her hand on her belly to feel the baby.

The guard’s “And I’m King Arthur” made me laugh. Listening to the thunder, I’m glad they have a bit of shelter from the rain, at least.

Claire’s first sight of the pyre: “Is that what I think it is?” “Well, it’s not a Maypole, Claire.” - Good line!

Very glad to see Ned Gowan! But his statement, “I see that we have dispensed with British law, which pleases me greatly, but I am certain [the court] will not wish to dispense with our proud Scottish legal tradition.” – Why British and not English? The distinction between British and English seems to be lost on the scriptwriters, not just here but in other episodes as well. That bugs me, but it’s a minor point.

I like the fact that one of the judges is tall and and the other one short and fat, just as “Mutt and Jeff” are described in the book.

Jeanie’s testimony is of course not in the book, but I thought it was well done. I liked the way Ned Gowan destroyed her credibility in just a couple of sentences: “the grumblings of a malcontented maidservant”.

Mrs. Donaldson’s testimony was very sad, just as in the book. I liked the way they interspersed bits of footage from EP110 showing Claire with the dead baby. I loved Ned Gowan’s reaction. He’s not intimidated by the crowd at all; he focuses entirely on the young woman, and manages to turn the situation around by pointing out that she failed to stop Claire’s “interfering with the work of the faeries”. But he’s gentle with her, and compassionate, and I liked that very much.

Alastair Duffie’s story about Geillis reminds me of this bit in the book:
While the testimony of many of the witnesses was simply absurd, and other witnesses had plainly been paid for their services, some had a clear ring of truth to their words.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I think this man could easily have been paid to make up that story.

I liked the scene with Claire and Geillis. At one point Geillis says, “I managed to divert near on 1000 pounds” – in the book, she says ten thousand, but maybe that didn’t sound realistic? When Claire says, “You actually love the bastard”, Geillis looks away. “Your words, not mine.” I was glad to see that here, because I think Episode 110 left viewers with the mistaken impression that she was in love with Dougal.

Claire’s memory of the starlings is very sweet. (And now I want to learn more about starling murmurations! <g>) I loved the way Claire pointedly refused to take the guard’s hand as she came up the ladder.

Laoghaire – uh-oh! Great scene, very well done. The bit about the potion Claire gave her in Episode 104 was a terrific addition. I liked the examiner’s comment, “Cease your ramblings, Mrs. Fraser! You’re an embarrassment to yourself.”

Father Bain is just riveting! “You have made a prodigious mistake” – I definitely did not see that coming! I never thought I would feel any sympathy for this man, but when he fell to his knees, saying, “I am no longer worthy to serve the good and holy people of this parish”, I definitely felt sorry for him. And I loved the bit where he turned and gave Claire a half-smile.

[NOTE: I've already seen some people commenting that they didn't think Father Bain was at all sincere, that they took his expression as he glanced back at Claire as a smirk.  I prefer my interpretation, because it gives Father Bain's character more depth and complexity, making him less of a one-dimensional villain than he appeared in "The Way Out", or in the book, for that matter.  But you're certainly free to disagree!]

The scene with Ned, Geillis, and Claire was also a good addition. It increases the dramatic tension considerably. And I just love the scene between Claire and Geillis! “Looks like I’m going to a fucking barbecue!” – great line, and possibly Claire’s first indication that Geillis is also a time-traveler.

I’m not really sure what Ned hoped to accomplish by firing a pistol in the middle of the courtroom. It wouldn’t have changed the outcome, and he might well have been arrested himself! But it made for a good distraction so that Claire and Geillis could have their brief whispered conversation.

“The question you had before” – when Claire said she didn’t know if it was even possible to go back – “I think it is possible. 1968.” That sent a shiver up my spine even though I knew it was coming.  I liked the way they moved this revelation here, so that Geillis can pass on the information to Claire herself, rather than via Dougal, as it's done in the book.

Jamie’s cavalry-coming-over-the-hill-just-in-time entrance is Just Perfect!! Very much the way I've always imagined it.  Sam's delivery of Jamie's lines is absolutely spot on here.

Glad to see they explained the smallpox vaccination scar, for the benefit of the many viewers who’ve never seen one before.

In the middle of the frenzy that follows Geillis’s confession, as they’re carrying her out, you can hear the examiner shouting, “Cover her up! Cover her up! She’s with child!”

The scene with J&C in the woods is just wonderful!! I love the way they fit the “honesty” exchange in here, and the rest of the scene is very much as I have always imagined it from the book, including Jamie’s expressionless mask, as he tries to digest what she’s telling him.

I love the way he sits down beside her and touches her knee, very gently. And when he took her into his arms, I had tears in my eyes. “Aye, I believe ye, Sassenach. But it would ha’ been a good deal easier, if ye’d only been a witch.” – perfect!! Just perfect.

The scenery as they ride away is really beautiful.

I was startled to see the next scene from Jamie’s POV, as he watches Claire sleeping. There's such tenderness in the way he looks at her! The sex scene is very tastefully done, understated, but sensual, just as it’s described in the book.

In the scene the next morning, I like the way Jamie’s expression shifts in an instant from love and tenderness (when he looks at Claire) to a sort of grim determination, as he thinks about what they’re about to do at the stones.

Notice that Jamie reaches out and briefly touches the tallest stone, and nothing happens. It's subtle, but I'm glad they included it.

I shouted, “NO!!” when Claire was about to go through, just as I always do on re-reading or re-listening. And when Jamie said, “I just…wasna ready,” I thought, “You’re never going to be ready for that, Jamie. NEVER. Not even when it happens for real.”

The farewell is so difficult, even though I know perfectly well what’s coming. I’m so glad they used the exact words from the book here!

I liked the closeup of the rings very much. The ring Jamie gave her, when viewed close-up, looks almost as though it could be silver. It’s nicer-looking than I expected, in fact. I’m glad they didn’t use a voice-over for this part. Seeing Claire touch her rings, first Frank’s and then Jamie’s, and look up at the stone, makes her thoughts abundantly clear.

There’s a LOT of smoke coming from that campfire!

“On your feet, soldier.” – Good line, echoing what she said to him at the end of Episode 101.

And at the end, Jamie and Claire are in each other’s arms (where they belong!!), and it doesn’t matter what the future may hold, as long as they face it together.

What a fantastic episode this was!! I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think they did a fabulous job adapting it for TV!

What about the rest of you? I'd like to hear what you thought of it.

Here are my previous OUTLANDER episode recaps. Please come back next week for more!

Episode 101: "Sassenach"
Episode 102: "Castle Leoch"
Episode 103: "The Way Out"
Episode 104: "The Gathering"
Episode 105: "Rent"
Episode 106: "The Garrison Commander"
Episode 107: "The Wedding"
Episode 108: "Both Sides Now"
Episode 109: "The Reckoning"
Episode 110: "By the Pricking of My Thumbs"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

REPOST: Culloden anniversary



Today is the 269th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, which took place on April 16, 1746.



I like this video very much. (The song is "The Ghosts of Culloden", performed by Isla Grant.)

Diana Gabaldon noted in her blog post about her 2008 visit to Culloden that she saw the place where Jamie woke after the battle, thinking he was dead.  When I asked her on Compuserve if she recalled where that was, exactly, she said,
Jamie made it almost to the second government line.  He woke in a little swale or dip (you recall he was lying in water), about forty feet off the path that leads from the Visitors Centre--maybe a couple of hundred yards beyond the VC itself.
The photo below shows the area where the government lines were, marked with a red flag.



I was lucky enough to be able to visit Culloden in 2012.  It's an amazing place, and the Visitors Centre is very well done.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD paperback coming June 2!



Diana Gabaldon's WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD (Book 8 in the OUTLANDER series) will be out in trade-paperback format -- that's the large size paperback -- on June 2, 2015.  You can pre-order here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

For those of you who haven't yet read it, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD (aka MOHB or MOBY) is a terrific read, one of my favorites in the entire series, and highly recommended!  For more information about this book, see my Book 8 FAQ here.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Interview with Gary Lewis and Graham McTavish



Here's an interesting interview on Vulture.com with Gary Lewis (Colum) and Graham McTavish (Dougal).

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

Among other things, Gary and Graham talk about the events of Episode 110, "By the Pricking of My Thumbs".  So if you haven't yet seen that episode, there will be spoilers in this article.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Episode 110: "By the Pricking of My Thumbs" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 110 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled “By the Pricking of My Thumbs”.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! *** 

There are SPOILERS below!  If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.

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First, a quick comment about the opening credits. At “billow and breeze”, notice Simon Callow’s credit as the Duke of Sandringham.  I liked the dueling pistols in the opening bit. Fascinating to see what’s involved in loading one – like a miniature version of a musket. <g>

The opening sex scene starts out straight from the book, complete with the “butterfly wings” of Jamie's tongue. <g>  My first thought on watching this was that Jamie learns VERY fast! My second thought, when Murtagh started pounding on the door and calling, “Wake up!”, was that this is very similar to the scene in FIERY CROSS chapter 89 (“The Moons of Jupiter”), where Jamie comes knocking on Bree and Roger’s cabin door to find Roger half-dressed and Bree still lying in bed.

"Jamie, if I tell you something, will you promise not to ask me how I know?”
“I told ye, I’d never ask ye for anything ye didna wish to tell me.”
It's good to see this here.

Jamie talking about returning to Lallybroch – this is simplified somewhat from the book. Here, the only thing stopping Jamie from going home seems to be the price on his head, not his guilt over what he thinks happened to Jenny. But I really liked Jamie’s line, “We’d be happy there. I know we would.” Also the way his whole face lights up when he talks about it.

Nice to see Ned Gowan acting lawyerly. <g> I love the twinkle in his eye just before Murtagh says, “If ye have something on your mind, Ned Gowan, then speak it.”

The scene between Laoghaire and Claire is one of my favorites in the whole episode. Very well done!

"Jamie Fraser was and is mine. And you did both of us a wrong past bearing when ye stole him away.”  - good line, and I’m sure she still believes that 20 years later!

The dialogue in this scene is really good. I especially liked this: “He must have to get himself swine drunk of a night before he can stand to plow your field” – SLAP!  (Well, she deserved it, for being so nasty, but my impression was that Claire apologized because she’s trying to be the adult in this conversation.)

Geillis performing her “summoning” in the woods beneath a full moon is suitably mysterious and eerie. And I liked very much how they showed the similarity between what Geillis is doing and the dancers on Craigh na Dun from Episode 101.  (Including the music, which is one of my favorite bits from that episode.)

The revelation of Geillis’s pregnancy is, of course, not at all the way it happens in the book, and I thought Geillis’s reaction was out of character. In the book, she didn’t seem happy at all about the pregnancy, more resigned to it, saying "accidents happen", or words to that effect.

“My darlin’ Dougal” – I didn’t like this. In the books, Geillis doesn’t believe in love. Is this an act for Claire's benefit, or are we expected to believe she’s actually in love with Dougal, and not just interested in him for his money and power?

I liked the way they used the flashback with Frank and the Reverend to explain why Sandringham's association with Dougal is important.

The whole scene with the changeling was VERY well done, and I was relieved to see they went back to the book. I liked the mist in the air around the trees. Claire’s reaction to finding the baby was very good.  (I kept thinking of her cradling Malva’s baby in ABOSAA.) Jamie crossed himself left-handed again, just as in Episode 105, but aside from that, Jamie in this scene is very much the way I always imagined from the book. He’s gentle with Claire, seeing how upset she is about the baby.

I liked Jamie’s reaction to Claire signing her name “Claire Elizabeth Fraser”.   And it made me think: Frank found records of citizens complaining about BJR’s activities. Was this document part of that historical record?  Just speculation, of course, but interesting to think about. <g>

Simon Callow is wonderful as the Duke of Sandringham!  And I like the set decoration here – the furniture, the paintings on the walls, everything gives it a very authentic 18th c. feel.

HOWEVER....I have a problem with this scene. As well-acted and beautifully shot as it is, it simply doesn’t make sense to me, in terms of the story.

“Ah! So Lord Broch Tuarach has sent you along to soften me up. To play on my well-known sympathies for the weaker sex.”
“I can assure you, Your Grace, that Jamie has no idea I’m here, and nor would he approve if he did.”

OK, so how did she manage to get there from Leoch? Someone would have had to take her in a carriage, or ride along with her on horseback for protection and to show her the way. I don’t believe she could just sneak off by herself without Murtagh or Auld Alec or someone else knowing.  And considering what happened the last time Claire wandered off without Jamie's knowledge, it seems very unlikely that she would do so again only a few days later.  The logistical issues here make this whole scene seem both contrived (set up only to get the Duke and Claire to meet) and unnecessary.

But I do love Simon Callow’s performance, and the dialogue in this scene is terrific!  “Libelous falsities”, etc.

Claire’s confronting Sandringham about the Jacobite gold from Dougal strikes me as awfully risky (Jamie’s line in ABOSAA, “Ye were always bolder than was safe” comes to mind”), especially in view of what we know about her encounter with him in DRAGONFLY.  If she needs him to be a friend rather than an enemy, deliberately provoking him like this seems a very odd way to go about it.

I didn’t care for the scene where Dougal goes berserk with rage and grief.  Yes, it’s dramatic, and visually interesting to watch (I liked their use of the targes, in particular), but what was the point of it, exactly?  Just to show that Dougal had feelings for his dead wife?  (And why on earth would he feel that her death from a sudden fever was his fault? Surely such things were common enough in the 18th century!)  Or was it only designed to show off Dougal’s sword-fighting skills?  It felt way over the top and unnecessary to me, and not just because this is a scene that’s not in the book.

Whatever Claire gave Dougal, it’s a VERY fast-acting sedative!  Laudanum, maybe?

I liked Colum’s line at the end of the scene:  “Watch over him. I’ll deal with the sodden fool when he regains sobriety."  And this line (from Rupert?): "If ye drop him, I’ll have your balls.”

Geillis is terrific in the next scene with Claire. She seems almost gleeful at the news of Maura’s death.  And I love her reaction when Claire says, “Your husband might have something to say about that.” The look in her eyes, combined with that little sound she makes, is just priceless. <g>

“What the hell are the MacDonalds doing visiting the Duke of Sandringham?”  I had the exact same question.

“I must admit that shielding [Randall] from the consequences of his misdeeds sometimes feels like a full-time occupation.” – great line

This whole plotline about the duel seems very contrived. “The MacDonalds and the MacKenzies are sworn enemies, but this is not a clan matter.” That makes no sense -- it seems to me that ANY interaction between two clans who are "sworn enemies" becomes a clan matter by definition -- and Murtagh is absolutely right that Jamie should have stayed out of it, that there will be other chances. I saw this as Jamie’s stubbornness (“It’s a risk I have to take”) overcoming his good judgment, and I didn’t like it.

The banquet scene was very good. I liked the way Colum presented the Duke with the dirk to carve the bird.  Arthur’s death scene was done very well, especially Geillie’s reaction (“anything but a grieving widow”) and Claire’s diagnostic skills.

But I totally could have done without the duel. Dramatic but pointless, is the way it seemed to me.  At times it looked like something out of a completely unrelated 18th-century costume drama, not OUTLANDER as we know it. And I really don’t understand why Jamie took part in the bantering with the young men afterward. He’s only half a MacKenzie, and we have no reason to think he had any dealings with MacDonalds in the past. So why does he react so strongly to their insults?  Just an excess of testosterone, or is there something more to it?

It seems to me that Jamie’s “Is it true the MacDonalds learn of love by rutting with their mother?” actually provoked the fight. Of course, when the young MacDonald rushed at Jamie with his sword drawn, calling him a “buggering sodomite”, Jamie had no choice but to fight back, but I still think the whole fight was totally unnecessary and (for the third time in this episode) contrived purely for dramatic effect.  It’s only luck that Jamie wasn’t seriously injured! 

I liked Claire giving Jamie the silent treatment afterward. “You’re not normally a close-mouthed woman, Claire. I expected noisier displeasure.” – good line.  (And finally we see where the bit from the opening credits with Claire stitching a wound comes from. <g>)

The scene with Colum, Dougal and Jamie is very good.  Colum is absolutely riveting, totally in command, and Gary Lewis does a wonderful job in this scene, as does Graham McTavish. I was surprised to see Dougal go all soft-hearted over Geillis (I think that’s the first time we’ve seen a genuine smile from him in the whole series, in fact), just because she’s carrying his child.  But I liked Colum’s reaction, pointing out the parallel between this child and Hamish and making it clear he’s not actually going to let Dougal marry Geillis. In fact, I love Colum’s dialogue throughout this whole scene.

I was certainly not expecting Colum to order Jamie away from Leoch along with Dougal, but it’s an effective way to make sure Jamie is out of the way when Claire is arrested for witchcraft. 

The farewell scene between J&C was well done. I liked Dougal’s line, “I said kiss her, dinna swallow her”.  <g>

“Come back to me, James Fraser” is an echo of the flashback scene with Claire and Frank at the train station in an earlier episode.

Nice to see the young lad from “The Way Out” again, this time bringing Claire the note from Laoghaire.  “Claire, Come quick. Geillis” was all it said, and she took one look and galloped off, completely disregarding Jamie’s warning. That's pretty reckless of Claire -- somewhat more so than in the book, where it's made clear that the message stated Geillis was ill.

I liked the scene between Claire and Geillis, except for the bit at the very end where they put Claire in the 18th century version of a paddywagon. That seemed far too modern, and totally unnecessary in a small village like Cranesmuir. Why not just make the prisoners walk?

The self-satisfied smirk on Laoghaire’s face was just priceless! Great way to end the episode.

On the whole, I think this episode had a lot of enjoyable moments, but in my opinion it strayed much too far from the book at times. The acting and the dialogue were first-rate, though, which probably means I'll enjoy it more on subsequent viewings. And they did manage to set things up very effectively for the witch-trial next week.  (The previews for that episode look FANTASTIC!)

What about the rest of you?  I'd like to hear what you thought of it.

Here are my previous OUTLANDER episode recaps.  Please come back next week for more!

Episode 101: "Sassenach"
Episode 102: "Castle Leoch"
Episode 103: "The Way Out"
Episode 104: "The Gathering"
Episode 105: "Rent"
Episode 106: "The Garrison Commander"
Episode 107: "The Wedding"
Episode 108: "Both Sides Now"
Episode 109: "The Reckoning"

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Diana Gabaldon's comments on Episode 109

Diana Gabaldon made some very interesting comments today on Compuserve about a controversial scene in Episode 109 ("The Reckoning") of the OUTLANDER TV series.  (No, this has nothing to do with the infamous "spanking" scene!)

*** SPOILER WARNING!! *** 

There are SPOILERS below!  If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.

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I've seen comments from a lot of fans who really disliked the scene with Jamie and Laoghaire by the river. While I personally didn't have a problem with it (because Jamie resisted the temptation and didn't actually kiss Laoghaire), to my surprise it's become one of the most controversial parts of that episode.

Diana Gabaldon posted a detailed explanation on Compuserve here, and I would really urge you to take the time to read what she has to say.  My reaction on reading her comments was that I really hope we get to see the longer version of this scene on the Blu-ray of the second half of Season 1, eventually!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ron Moore's Episode 109 podcast now available!

http://assets.starz.com/stzcom/outlander/podcast109.m4a

As many of you know, Ronald D. Moore, executive producer of the OUTLANDER TV series, has recorded a series of podcasts containing behind-the-scenes information about the making of each episode.

The podcast for Episode 109: "The Reckoning" is now available, and I enjoyed it very much!  It was really interesting to hear Ron Moore and Matt B. Roberts, the writer on Episode 109, talk about the filming of this episode.

In case you missed them, here are the links to the earlier podcasts:

Episode 101: "Sassenach"
Episode 102: "Castle Leoch"
Episode 103: "The Way Out"
Episode 104: "The Gathering"
Episode 105: "Rent"
Episode 106: "The Garrison Commander"
Episode 107: "The Wedding"
Episode 108: "Both Sides Now"

You can also download them from the STARZ website here, or from iTunes.

There will be a podcast for each of the upcoming episodes, so check back each week for more!