TV Review: “Outlander” – “By The Pricking of My Thumbs”

Written by Caitlin Cooper April 14, 2015

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Last week’s “Outlander” episode was one of the weakest episodes yet due to inconsistent writing and some odd acting. The one thing the episode did well was the politics between the brothers Colum (Gary Lewis) and Dougal (Graham McTavish). Colum, as the Laird, is the head of Castle Leoch; Dougal has been acting like he’s the Laird, in some ways. Dramas such as these are making the show increasingly intense, in a good way. Those dramas, as well as the animosity Laoghaire (Nell Hudson) feels towards Claire (Caitriona Balfe), reach a peak in the latest “Outlander” episode.

All seems to be well between newlywed Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan). But Jamie longs to clear his name and return to his home. To do so, he plans to approach a powerful man who may be able to help him. Getting the Duke of Sandringham’s (Simon Callow) help proves to be more difficult than they assumed when Jamie ends up fighting a rival clan at a dual. Colum becomes fed up with Dougal and takes drastic measures to assert his authority; unfortunately, this one decision will have dire consequences for many people, Claire included, as she’s left alone and targeted by a jealous rival.

“I can finally return home to Lallybroch.”

There’s a lot that happens in the latest “Outlander” episode, and I do mean a lot. There’s a death, a fight, a murder, an exile, and an arrest. Because so much is fit into one episode, it does seem like the writing suffers at moments. Dougal’s wife dies, and he wildly grieves for her…for about 10 minutes. Then he’s already flirting with Geillis (Lotte Verbeek), who is pregnant with his child. That’s the biggest inconsistency in the episode, but it’s pretty noticeable. Aside from that, everything is so tense which makes for an entertaining episode. Last week, Colum was so angry with Dougal for playing politics behind his back. Colum is sick of his brother’s antics, and after he catches Dougal and Geillis flirting just after her husband dies – because she’d been giving him cyanide – he decides to send Dougal away so that his behaviour won’t have a negative impact on the clan. Jamie gets in over his head a bit with the Duke but achieves some success. He also helps Claire understand the superstitions of the village people when she once again encounters their cruel actions due to beliefs.

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Despite Claire’s warnings about the Duke of Sandringham, Jamie proceeds with his plan to enlist the man’s help. Little does Jamie know that Claire has a plan of her own: she’s playing a game of politics and wits with the Duke so that he’ll be kept in line. Basically, Jamie is being stupid again, but Claire is back to being smart and using her intelligence to survive. The fighting between her and Laoghaire is stupid, but Claire mostly handles it as an adult whereas Laoghaire is being immature and conniving. But what becomes clear to Claire is that her friend Geillis isn’t to be trusted, either. Geillis has been keeping big secrets, and she’s been slowly killing her husband so she could be with Dougal. Unfortunately for Claire, her friendship with Geillis and her rivalry with Laoghaire results in her being arrested for witchcraft. Laoghaire accuses Claire of witchcraft knowing well that she could be burned to death; obviously the girl thinks having your ‘romantic rival’ killed isn’t a disgusting thing to do. And for the first time, Claire doesn’t have Jamie there to protect her because Colum ordered Jamie to escort Dougal to his place of exile.

“If anything happens to Jamie during your little dual, well, quid pro quo.”

Claire is back to being consistent, which means Balfe can make the character shine once more. I think “Outlander” is better when the point of view is of Balfe’s Claire. Heughan plays Jamie as hopeful, joking, and serious; this range shows how talented he is. McTavish is wild, but also secretive and smug this episode. It made for aha! moments. Callow as the Duke of Sandringham plays the pompous, sexist, and powerful man well. He’s both threatening and, at times, comic. There’s one scene that I wish never happened because it’s just so weird. I attribute part of the weirdness to the way Verbeek portrayed Geillis doing her ritual. Lewis is brilliant as Colum in this episode, even though his character is a jerk.

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“Outlander” seems to be struggling a bit, but things are looking up judging by that intense cliff-hanger at the end of this week’s episode. The drama is at a high and there are moments of comedy which makes for plenty of entertainment. Secrets are revealed, rivalries become more apparent than ever, and danger is abound. While the script has some inconsistencies and one scene that I wish wasn’t aired, overall the script was good and the acting mostly good, too. With that cliff-hanger, I can’t wait for next week’s “Outlander” episode.

My Rating: 8/10

 

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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