A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Trust can be a fickle thing. It can build steadily over a period of time or be locked instantaneously within a single moment. It can likewise be broken. The relationships Claire has built in eighteenth-century Scotland are all balanced on that trust or lack thereof and here they come clashing at the most critical juncture yet on her journey. It’s not as if Claire is a stranger to danger in any fashion, but all of her previous trials suddenly became much smaller, much less threatening in light of the byzantium she found herself ensnared in this week. Trials of witchcraft have been popularized considerably in the mainstream consciousness, but the absolute horror of the proceedings remains as terrifying as it ought to be. There was no semblance of pity or justice that prevailed in cases of witchcraft, the trials by water were alone to disprove that. If you tried to swim away like a rational human being or you didn’t drown because of other reasons like the environment around you, you were either hanged or burned at the stake. If you drowned, well, then you went to Heaven. Either way, you were monumentally fucked. And how was one to defend themselves anyway? When anything you put up in your defense can be construed as magic, what say does reality have in those circumstances? Claire knows as well as anyone from the modern age that these trials were a farce, a public spectacle that became a despicable act of bread and circuses.
There’s no one arriving to help the two women imprisoned in a dungy hole with massive rats for company. Dougal has been banished and Jamie has been sent with him. That leaves Claire and Geillis to try and understand each other at the very least before their seemingly inevitable demise arrives right around the corner. Their initial conversation is as brittle as would be expected, with Geillis admitting that she had been killing Arthur over a long period of time with poison as to prevent him from seeing her pregnancy. That would leave the pathway clear for her and Dougal to get married (Colum has sealed that door for now it seems). As dawn arrives, the trial begins. Suddenly Ned arrives and a beacon of hope is lit for Claire and Geillis. Ned is savvy in matter of law, attempting at first to declare the trial illegal on account of British law, but then when that didn’t fly, used Scottish laws to establish himself as a lawyer for the defense. The Duncan housekeeper Genie testified for over an hour with extremely precise details, but Ned renders her useless with the evidence that she is simply an unsatisfied housekeeper who detested her employers to begin with. The mother off the faerie child Claire had found testifies against her, but Ned silences her with a remark on how her fear and lack of effort was responsible for the death of the child.
The second part of the trial was infinitely worse, if that was even possible. Laoghaire’s testimony only made me want to see Claire strangle her completely but it was the priest’s testimony that turned everything on its head. One would expect him to be bitter about the moment when Claire had successfully treated the boy by medicine and not prayer and one would be accurate in that assessment. The initial outpouring of support for Claire is surprising, but it sits rather uneasily considering their history. And then the twist comes. The priest admonishes his failure, lamenting that the only option left for him now was to leave the parish itself. Immediately the crowd turns even more on Claire and Geillis, accusing them of turning away a man of God. Ned, recognizing that the trial was essentially over, tells Claire that the only way to save herself was for her to renounce Geillis. She, being Claire, refuses to do so. That alone would have been significant, but Geillis throws in a further wrench. She asks Claire why she was in Scotland, that there must be something else besides the story that she is from Oxfordshire because no one believes that to be true. Dougal, Colum, Geillis, none of them believe that to be her truth. “It was an accident!” Claire bemoans and Geillis’s face breaks apart. The exceedingly strong hints are confirmed when Jamie thunders through the proceedings, brandishing his sword and threatening to murder any man who came near Claire.
That fickle matter of trust rears its head once again as Geillis looks tearfully upon a whipped Claire in Jamie’s arms. Their bond has been built slowly, in little fractures over time, two strong, independent women holding their own in an exceedingly hostile period for women who simply don’t do as they’re told. Their independence was always threatening to those around them, but they had each other to lean back on to for some semblance of support and an underlying sense of camaraderie, even though it wasn’t until that fateful day that the true extent of their camaraderie was revealed. Geillis quickly absolves Claire of any wrongdoing, taking upon her shoulders the entirety of the blame for witchcraft, effectively throwing her life to the wolves below to save Claire’s. In that moment, that bond between the two women is sealed with more strength than any other relationship in the series through an act whose heartbreak has no parallel. As Claire is being led away from the proceedings, Geillis reveals her “Mark of the Devil” that gives the episode its name. To those uninitiated, it might be just a mark. And then Claire’s terrified voiceover comes around. The mark on Geillis’s arm is the reaction to a smallpox vaccine and suddenly Geillis’s reference to 1968 becomes stunningly clear. Geillis is a time traveler as well, but unlike Claire, it appears that Geillis came from 1968 with a very clear purpose in mind. The despicably cheering crowd carries Geillis as if a morbid sequence of crowd surfing was upon them. It’s a terrifying cliffhanger, but something tells me that with the camera’s focus on her pregnant belly, Geillis will survive this ordeal.
Jamie asks Claire for the truth and she tells him everything that is encapsulated in “I’m from the future.” She lays out the entirety of what she knew about the period, including the doomed Jacobite Rebellion and the inevitable failure of Bonnie Prince Charlie. At its surface, this is an absurd story to rationally believe, but Jamie knows Claire, her rational mind, and above all he trust her. “I believe you, Sassenach,” he says quietly and you can feel the relief just pouring out of Claire. She tells him that all she was trying to do was get back to her husband the entire time at Craig na Dun and that’s where Jamie slowly takes her. Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan are absolutely phenomenal in this sequence, the two actors effortlessly betraying their emotional conflict. For a moment Jamie pulls Claire back from the whispering stones, but they let go of each other. Claire and Jamie say their good-byes as she turns towards the stones. Her hand reaches out towards the stones and suddenly the cameras snaps away to a sleeping Jamie. He’s woken by Claire, who spent the longest possible day at the stones, trying to decide in which direction she wanted her life to head. There was gain and sacrifice on both paths that lay at this fork in the road. She made her choice, the path she wanted to travel upon. For now the two are happy, a life at Lollybroch awaiting them. But the consequences are surely not that far behind.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“No one is coming, Geillis.”
+“Lie near me.”
+The children’s chant of “We’re going to burn the witches” was absolutely terrifying
+“I guess burning as witches is better than freezing to death.”
+Geillis raising money for the Jacobite Rebellion
+“He’s got an eye for the lasses.”
+“You actually love the bastard.”
+Bonding with alcohol
+Claire’s “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” reference to Nathaniel Hale. Geillis: “Nicely put.”
+“If you really were a witch, now would be a good time to use your powers.”; “Same to you, my friend.”
+“Protect each other.”
+“We’re hardly a flock, you and I. Although according to witnesses, I have been known to take wing.”
+Claire doesn’t take the man’s hands
+“It’s truly… all for nothing.”
+“Looks like I’m going to a fucking barbecue.”
+“I have nothing to say.”
+Ned pulling his gun
+“I think it is possible.”
+“You’re all murderers! Your God will damn you all! You’re going to burn in Hell!”
+“Get your bloody hands off me, you bloody bastards!”
+“I swore an oath in front of God to protect this woman!”
+“The first man forward will be the first man down!”
+“This woman is no witch, but I am. I bear the mark of the Devil!”
+Geillis’s pregnant belly is one of the most realistic I’ve ever seen
+The court’s tapestry being used to cover up Geillis
+People reacting with glee was despicable
+Jamie: “Are you a witch?” Claire: “Are you serious?” Love you, Claire.
+“It came pouring out of me like a cataract of water over a broken dam.” What a beautiful piece of dialogue.
+The sex scene of Jamie masturbating Claire was about as hot as expected
+“On your feet, soldier. Take me home to Lallybroch.”
Title: The Devil’s Mark
Written By: Toni Graphia
Directed By: Mike Barker
Image Courtesy: EW