Outlander – Season 2 Episode 4
“La Dame Blanche”
Claire and Jamie plot to make Prince Charles look foolish in front of everyone important enough to show him support as other complications get in the way as season 2 of Outlander starts to pick up speed.
The main plot of the season is Claire and Jamie’s secret campaign to stop Prince Charles from starting the rebellion that would ultimately lead to a brutal defeat at Culloden. This story is at the root of everything that happens in the season and the constant reminder that the whole venture is doomed to fail keeps a sense of dread hanging over everything.
A plan is concocted to throw a lavish dinner party that has several important people in attendance so that they can make the Prince look stupid in front of his peers. Discrediting someone is as good a way as any to make support dry up so it makes sense.
As luck would have it the perfect way to discredit the Prince exists because of his affair with Louise that has now resulted in a pregnancy. The plan is to exploit that and for Charles to lose all credibility when the news comes out. It seems solid enough but I’m not so sure it would be enough as surely affairs among the rich and powerful are fairly commonplace in France around this time period. Would an illegitimate pregnancy really be enough to rob someone of all the influence they have? For the sake of the plan it works but when put under any scrutiny I really don’t think it’s enough.
The issue is more complex than simply discrediting the Prince by airing his dirty laundry due to the friendship Claire is developing with Louise. There’s a genuine softness to any scene Claire shares with Louise indicating that they are becoming close in a way that would make Claire think twice about betraying her in the name of her plan. Claire and Louise share a great scene in this episode where they discuss the practicalities of aborting this illegitimate child. Louise wants an abortion and Claire is willing as well as able to help but the method isn’t a pleasant one so it bears really deep consideration.
It is something that Louise has thought about privately and has arrived at the decision to abort on her own for various reasons but clearly hasn’t considered all of the options. She can’t pass it off as being her husband’s child as it as been too long since she was intimate with him so abortion seems to be the only option to keep her infidelity hidden. Claire gives her an unconsidered alternative involving being intimate with her husband and then passing off the child as his. It’s dishonest for sure but will allow Louise to keep the baby, her reputation and her marriage all in one go. Claire points out that the important thing here is to make sure that the baby is loved and ending a life that doesn’t have the chance to start is worse because the unborn baby is completely innocent in all of this.
Claire’s suggestion mirrors what will come to pass when she returns to her own time as she is faced with a similar situation of raising a child without him or her ever knowing who their true father is. It’s a really complex issue and Claire’s views on the matter are certainly up for debate but the practical benefits for the child are obvious. The child gets to live and be loved so does it matter that there is so much dishonesty surrounding this innocent life? I don’t have the answer and I imagine my views would be coloured if I was thinking about it realistically rather than hypothetically. Claire is encouraging Louise to make the best of what is definitely a bad situation and, to her, dishonesty is the best policy in this instance.
There at lots of moral grey areas in this episode such as the discussion Jamie and Claire have over making the Prince look foolish. Claire questions if they are “bad people” and Jamie tries to reassure her that every bad thing they do is for the right reasons but Claire’s response is cutting when she points out that bad people probably use the “right reasons” to justify their actions. It would be so easy for the writers to try and paint Claire and Jamie as being noble and infallible but that’s not what is going on here. We, as viewers, are encouraged to question their actions as they do and figure out for ourselves if what they are doing is right. There is no easy answer and the show doesn’t pretend that there is one either.
This is an important episode for Claire and Jamie’s relationship as he finally finds out that Black Jack Randall is alive. Jamie’s reaction isn’t one that Claire expects and I was definitely surprised to. The news reinvigorates him and makes him feel “like a man” once again. Part of the problem he was having moving on was knowing that he would never be able to get revenge on Randall for what he did. Now that revenge is a possibility again he is filled with a renewed sense of purpose that lets him regain some of his lost confidence.
Claire and Jamie’s loss in intimacy has been the primary way of showing how Jamie has been feeling and this changes in a big way after he finds out the truth. Suddenly he is consumed with lust again and this manifests in a really tender scene where they reconnect sexually after so long. It’s tastefully done without feeling gratuitous and completely informed by the state of their relationship at that time. There is also an awkward scene where Jamie tries to justify a whore biting his thighs as being a good thing for their relationship. I don’t have much to say about that other than it felt out of place and Jamie put it best when he said that he wasn’t explaining it well. I’m sure there was a point that the scene was getting at but it didn’t quite come across.
I would say that this episode had a little too much going on as evidenced by the rushed nature of Mary’s rape at the hands of Brigands. It was a shocking scene that definitely existed to further the plot. Mary has been established as a really innocent character who fears being touched sexually so having her virginity taken through rape is pretty much the worst thing that could happen to her. It would be terrible if it happened to anyone but for Mary it only adds to the fears that she already has.
The situation seems even more mysterious when it is made clear that they were sent for this specific purpose and that they turn tail when they realise that Claire is there. They refer to her as “La Dame Blanche” -hence the title- and are visibly terrified by this which causes their retreat.
It seems that the most likely candidates for arranging this violent assault are the Comte St. Germain and the Duke of Sandringham. Why they would arrange for this isn’t clear as yet and they may yet have nothing to do with it. Focusing on the cane and the birthmark suggests that the reveal of the attacker will be a big one and their connection to whoever arranged it will probably shed more light on the situation. For now having Mary robbed of her innocence in a brutal way and the fact that Claire’s presence alone was enough to stop it is interesting enough.
It crossed my mind that someone knows the details of her plan and wants to do everything they can to stop it. Arranging for Mary to be raped could have been enough for them to cancel this dinner party and allow history to progress unhindered. It was a definite consideration from Jamie but Claire insists that the show must go on because there is too much at stake. Considering we had Geillis in season 1 who was from another time I am open to the idea that someone else with future knowledge is actively working to preserve the natural course of events.
Master Raymond (Dominique Piñon) – who has been around all season but I haven’t had cause to talk about him as yet- stands out as someone who might have interest in preserving history. It is established in this episode that he is fascinated by things from other times and strongly hints that he knows that Claire is in that group. He seems like a kind and caring man but there is also something off about him that makes me think it could be possible that he is responsible.
The dinner scene itself is as awkward as you might expect. Prince Charles is no fan of the Duke of Sandringham because he insists on belittling the Pope and laughing at Charles’ bragging about God wanting him to be the King of Britain. Jamie and Claire’s plan seems to work when Charles is visibly upset at the announcement of Louise’s pregnancy as he knows that he must be the father. This is made clearer when he tells Claire’s husband “I believe you are a man in the dark, indeed.”
Any potential success is ruined by Mary’s panic attack that makes it look as if Alex Randall is trying to rape her. The result of this is a brawl over Mary’s honour. It really was never going to end well and helps reinforce the whole idea of the plan being doomed to fail.
Before closing off this review I’d like to share a theory I have about Claire’s baby. We clearly see that her baby bump is showing in this episode but that doesn’t seem to be the case in the future set scenes in the first episode. My thinking is that she has this baby in the current present and falls pregnant again shortly before returning to her own time. It would explain the discrepancy in a satisfying way and really take advantage of the time travel premise while adding complexity to Claire’s family situation.
An engaging if busy episode that furthers the plot in a significant way and adds complications. Having the whole thing be doomed to fail adds a sense of dread to the narrative and focusing on the morality of trying to undermine people that history regards as heroic is a nice touch. There are some great scenes between the characters and the established mysteries create intrigue.