Sassenachs, we are already on episode eight of Outlander’s second season! Can you believe it? This season feels like it’s alternately flown and crawled by. This week’s episode embodies both; it felt like the parts at Lallybroch flew by, but the trip to Beaufort Castle and Lord Lovat lingered long than it needed to. Like episode two, this week is a bridge, the transition from one part of the season’s overall arc to another. Along the way, though, this bridge exposes what one might think of as a weakness, but I want to show you that it’s not.
The Definition of Insanity
At the end of last week’s episode, Claire asks Jamie to take her home to Scotland following the stillbirth of their daughter, Faith. Claire’s encounter with le Roi Louis XV not only secured Jamie’s release, but Louis XV also arranged for Jamie’s pardon with the English crown, which cleared the way for him to return to Scotland without the fear of the hangman’s noose. The couple returns to Lallybroch, where Jenny and Ian welcome them back into the routine and comfort of Jamie’s ancestral estate. There, they seek to heal their broken hearts and hope that their efforts to thwart Prince Charles have been successful.
The post, though, proves otherwise. A copy of a letter with Jamie’s forged signature announces his support for the Jacobite cause, which Jamie himself was trying to avoid because now, once again, Jamie Fraser will have a price on his head as a traitor to the English crown. Conveniently, the Bonnie Prince also wants Jamie to ask his grandfather, the Lord Lovat, for the support — and men — of Clan Fraser. Jamie and Claire take off for Beaufort Castle, with a warning from Jenny: Lord Lovat does nothing without getting something in return.
When Jamie and Claire arrive, they also find that Jamie’s uncle Colum Mackenzie is there as well. He’s received the same letter and seen the same signatures and knows that this Rising could end disastrously. He seeks to convince Lord Lovat to sign a neutrality agreement to stay out of the fighting. Lord Lovat, though, wants to play both sides if possible to preserve his tush. He wants to help Jamie, but only if Lallybroch is part of the deal. Jamie tries to find a way around that kind of a deal and Lovat’s seer, Maisri, provides it. Maisri tells Claire about a vision of her lord’s execution that she is loathe to share with Lord Lovat. Claire uses this vision to try to convince Lovat to support Jamie. Instead, Lovat tries to attack Claire, but Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat’s legitimate heir, stops him and pledges his support to Jamie. Lord Lovat signs the neutrality agreement with Colum, however, leaving Simon high and dry.
As Simon leaves with Jamie and Claire, who are to meet with the Prince’s forces in a few days’ time, Lord Lovat appears, leading his men to follow Simon. Lovat uses Simon to lend his support to the Rising without violating the neutrality agreement. If the British win, it will look as if Lord Lovat stayed out of the fighting and hopefully avoid the repercussions of the Jacobites’ loss. If Prince Charles is successful and King James returns to the throne, Lord Lovat can claim credit for supporting the Rising by sending his son and his men.
“I Pity You”
This episode is fairly straightforward in its aims. With the forging of his signature on the letter from the Bonnie Prince, Jamie is forced into the fighting whether he likes it or not. He’s also committed to helping restore King James because, as he tells Claire, perhaps helping them win will be the way they change the future. Jamie goes to convince his grandfather to lend his support, some political maneuverings happen, and Jamie leaves with the men he needs.
What had many Sassenachs up in arms was the appearance of one Laoghaire Mackenzie, the girl who was trying to eliminate Claire so that Jamie would be free. Laoghaire made no secret of her affection for Jamie to Claire and Claire made no secret of Laoghaire’s contempt for her, a departure from the Outlander books. With season three presumably happening, the writers were forced to find a way to make it believable that Laoghaire would be a part of it. The changes to Laoghaire’s involvement in season one have to be cleaned up in season two to make season three plausible. Hence, Laoghaire accompanies Colum to Beaufort Castle and attempts to make amends with Claire and Jamie.
What the show does a terrible job of, however, is reminding you that Laoghaire is supposed to be sixteen. Nell Hudson, the actress who plays her, is clearly not a teenager so it’s easy to forget that Laoghaire’s part was not supposed to be this big. In the first book, Claire did not tell Jamie about the ill wish or the part the girl played in the witch trial. Laoghaire never testified at Claire’s witch trial. Laoghaire is merely a background character, a young girl smitten with Jamie who tries to get rid of his wife so that she can have a chance with him. The show gave her more to do which meant that the show had to do more to clean up her role before moving on. For book readers, this feels like a betrayal. For those who are experiencing the story first through the show, this appearance makes total sense.
Without spoiling Laoghaire’s future role, I will say that Anne Kenney needed to have Laoghaire here to lay the groundwork for next season. While filming the first season, the producers and writers had no idea if there would be a season two so they gave Laoghaire a bigger role to heighten the drama. Kenney is left with the thankless task of cleaning up that mess and, though it’s clunky and this character is annoying, she does leave the state of things between Claire, Jamie, and Laoghaire clear enough that the story presumably can go forward as book readers expect.
“Je Suis Prest”
Next week brings another episode of Outlander as Jamie and Claire work to prepare the Highlanders for battle with the British. We’re on the downward slope, as the Frasers have finished with Paris and the story is barreling headlong toward Culloden Moor. The season’s first episode already told us how this will end. The question becomes now, how will we get there?
Here is Starz’s preview for next week’s episode:
Additionally, here is the Australian preview for episode 2.09:
See you all on the flipside, Sassenachs!