Outlander 1.02: “Castle Leoch” Review

What is a Brassiere?

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

Outlander continues its winning streak with another solid entry with this week’s Castle Leoch, which advances the plot just so slightly but illuminates the supporting cast a lot more. The episode largely revolves around Claire staying at, you guessed it, Castle Leoch. But while that may sound trivial, the entire hour is built with a quiet suspense as you gradually realize that almost nothing good is really coming out of this. Outside of, perhaps, the Claire/Jamie romance that is quite attractive without a sex scene. Not that I would necessarily mind one in this case. Outlander has been handling sex in a very refreshing, mature fashion.

We learn more about Clan MacKenzie this week, introducing Gary Lewis as the head of the clan, Collum. Lewis is spectacular in the role, luring the audience in with the idea of his character being a sweet, if smart old man. He turns the table on Claire spectacularly in one of the most tense dinner scenes ever, beginning with the pronunciation of Claire’s last name. A simple question that unravels into a tense, drunken interrogation. It’s masterful. Annette Badland (Doctor Who) plays Miss Fitzgibbon, a wonderful character who provides the most hilarious moment yet when she gapes at Claire’s bra. “It’s from France,” Claire explains. Of course it is, Claire. Of course it is. Lotte Verbeek’s (The Borgias) Geillis Duncan is a sharp mirror to Claire, slowly revealing her own knowledge of herbs, specifically the ones that cause abortions. I look forward to knowing more about her in the future. Jamie’s past begins to come to a little light, where he reveals that his sister went inside with the vile Jonathan Randall to ensure his survival. Claire begins to cry over her, as she says, deceased husband and the two share a wonderfully depressing bonding moment over badinage changes. I love this pair.

Claire Beecham is amazing. Caitriona Balfe’s performance continues to astound, especially considering that this is her first major role. She not only plays Claire, she embodies the very character within her being. Watching Caitriona has in the show become watching Claire, and that’s the highest compliment an actor/actress can be given. Claire is neither rendered incompetent nor is she made into a proverbial Mary Sue where she has no faults. Claire is a wonderfully recognized female protagonist that is fiercely loyal and independent through and through. Not for a second does she let go of who she truly is, for the best and worst. Her love of history and marriage to Frank comes in use here, as she gives a hilarious voiceover wondering which Hanover was on the throne and using King George II to her advantage when conversing with Collum. Collum inquires about her being caught in a forest and being almost raped for no good reason. Claire’s response? “Is there ever a good reason to rape, Master MacKenzie?” Never change, Claire. Ever. She enters the dining hall awkwardly afterwards, reminding each and every single one of us of our first high school cafeteria lunch, where we sort of stand around and wonder where to sit. In Claire’s case, she gets to sit at the top table with the head honchos, even though that proves her undoing. Collum unravels her story over food and drink, effectively ending her departure for Inverness at the episode’s end. She’s brilliant, but not infallible. Even though this other zinger from her is equally brilliant as her first against Collum: “For a woman, you ask a great many questions.” “So I’ve been told.” Claire, will you be my best friend? And a potential romantic partner? If not, I’ll still take the friendship[ if you’d like. Please?

Visually the series continues to outdo itself. Outlander really seeps into 1743 Scotland, but a few colorful elements keep it tied to the present. Even Claire begins to wonder if the era was that much different. As trials are decided by the autocratic decision of one man, she quickly realizes that yes, the era is very different. The lighting during the various cases was very well done imbuing the hall with a regal but dark setting. The chamber where the episode ends on a massive cliffhanger is the most visually impressive part of the episode for me. The contrasts between 1945 and 1743 interweaving turn the room into an intriguing dichotomy between a prison and a study to liberate oneself.

All in all, a great episode that builds upon the previous week and makes me wait tirelessly until the next one arrives. Outlander has done the incredibly impressive thing of refusing to settle within a specific genre and has instead allowed the story to speak for itself. The voiceovers are still there and they’re not just confined to Claire. However, they’re used better this time around or perhaps I just feel that way having experienced them already in the pilot. There was only one instance where I found the voiceover to be completely unnecessary as Balfe’s expressions are more than enough to convey her emotions. Outlander was given a 16-episode order from Starz for the first season, which is unusual for a prestige drama, which usually range from 12-13 episodes. Thrones is a little unusual with its 10 episodes a season, which is understandable considering the visual effects expense alone. But what 16 episodes allows Outlander to do is to allow the story to unfold at its own gradual pace. And it’s paying off beautifully.

Brilliant

9/10

Episode Title: Castle Leoch

Writer: John Dahl

Director: Ronald D. Moore

Image Courtesy: Zap 2 It, IB Times UK, Inside Trekker @ Blogspot, Film Trophy, Fangirlish

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