Some fun character "returns from the dead" were exciting and fresh, even for book readers.
Stellar supporting performances from returning favorites Lotte Verbeek and David Berry.
Much needed added tension with the return of a central villain.
Glossing over some of the "dirtier" historical elements, including turning what could be a compelling slave character into not much of anything.
A few less layers to character relationships due to previous oversimplifications
More coincidences. So many coincidences.
It’s all about familiar faces (some back from the dead!) on this week’s Outlander
Finally we get a glimpse of what poor Young Ian (John Bell) has been up to on this week’s Outlander! He’s been taken to Jamaica to the home of the “Bakra”. She takes literal blood baths and she’s also a familiar face. Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek), the witch who time travelled in season 1! She’s still up to her witch ways and looking for the sapphires from seal island for a spell. She still has time to drug and seduce Young Ian as well. Oh, Geillis. She also has Archibald Campbell (Mark Hadfield) and his clairvoyant sister Margaret (Alison Pargeter) in her employ. Remember them?
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Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) arrive and search the slave markets when Claire’s outrage causes a massive ruckus and Jamie is forced to purchase the slave Temeraire (Thapelo Sebogodi) to both save him and quell the problem. They secure his help as their search takes them to the governor’s ball where we see another familiar face. Lord John Grey (David Berry)! And he’s now the governor. He meets Claire and it’s crazy awkward because of Jamie’s son but he promises to assist them in finding Young Ian.
Claire is gobsmacked when upon searching the ball she runs into Geillis back from the dead. They introduce Geillis to Lord John who’s wearing the sapphire she seeks and Geillis has Margaret Campbell read his “fortune” to get a prophecy about the next king of Scotland. Captain Leonard (Charlie Hiett) arrives so Jamie and Claire depart but not before Temeraire tells them Young Ian’s with Geillis and they realize she’s lied to them.
And in the very last moments Jamie is arrested by Captain Leonard! There’s so much to say! Let’s dive into “The Bakra”!
Ding, dong, the witch is… back?!?!
We love when characters come back to life on Outlander. So when we saw the mercurial Geillis Duncan at the top of this episode we shrieked with joy. And what an entrance! We expected Geillis’ return but we love surprises. And seeing her emerge from a blood bath certainly constitutes a surprise. It fits in with the character’s more mystical and sinister side and we thought it was a hell of a lot of fun.
“Don’t worry. It’s only goat’s blood. The protein and iron keep my skin young.” -Geillis
Geillis was always one of the more colorful characters on Outlander. The writers have beefed up her role here, having her appear earlier and choosing to let us see the prophecy about the next king of Scotland. And she’s just as unpredictable as before. Sinister in her dealings with Young Ian, charming to her “old friend” Claire and downright nasty to Archibald Campbell and his sister. We hope the show goes into more detail about why Geillis is kidnapping young boys. Is it really just to take their virginity and kill them?
You always got the feeling Geillis was taunting Claire as well. We wondered why she wasn’t more confrontational with her! Claire isn’t stupid and Geillis was so saccharine. She sounded so surprised when she realized Geillis had lied we wondered where her brains had gone. And we’re also a little surprised she didn’t ask Geillis about seeing her go through the stones in the 60’s. Perhaps in the finale?
Outlander misses a huge opportunity
Outlander had an opportunity with the slave market. Claire is a time traveller with modern sensibilities who was also best friends with a black man in the 20th century. It’s not that they glossed over the slave market. It’s just that we expected a more visceral reaction watching them. It just felt rushed, and after at least three episodes where things dragged along at a glacial pace speeding through just felt wrong. Why was it suddenly that particular slave that broke the camel’s back for Claire? She’s a doctor as she’s told us about three thousand times. She didn’t react that strongly to the slave being branded earlier.
“My nephew. He’s been kidnapped– taken into slavery as you were. There are some men that may ken where he is, but I canna speak with them. They’ve been enslaved. If you will come with us to the governor’s reception tonight, speak with these men, learn what has become of my nephew, then we shall be indebted to ye.” -Jamie
Not that we’re specifically interested in the show lingering on the atrocities of slavery. The vile and uncomfortable behavior of the auctioneer was disgusting enough for that. But Jamie isn’t from the 20th century. Seeing Claire explain her feelings to him could’ve been effective, or the two of them having a short conversation before showing up at the slave market. Jamie appears to be against slavery himself. As a man of the 18th century how did he come to those views?
And who was Temeraire? As repugnant as Claire found slavery she still needed Temeraire’s assistance and she certainly didn’t treat him as anything more than property. Could the tenor of their conversation been altered instead of just having them ask him for a favor? They were using him as much as any owner and didn’t really give him that much of a choice in the matter other than this odd psuedo tit for tat. This episode was a bit shorter to begin with. Is it so much to ask for some character development?
Old friends spark new jealousies
Claire and Lord John’s relationship is one of the more complex relationships in the Outlander universe. This episode did what it could to salvage that idea after two major changes in episode six and episode ten, Jamie telling Claire about his son Willy and Claire not meeting Lord John on the Porpoise, respectively. Though these changes don’t mean much to the storyline of the show overall they undermine that very complex relationship.
“He has told you a great deal.” -Lord John
They’re both in love with the same man. And Lord John certainly didn’t leave Jamie voluntarily like Claire did. The jealously and censure flying between them was really compelling. The trouble is that we miss the conflict in Claire because of their previous friendship. We love the subtle competition between them but miss the added layer of reluctant friendship. They tried to put it in by having the mention of Lord John defending Claire at Corrieyairack and Balfe and Berry sell it hard. We still feel that added layer is missing. Since we have a fondness for complex secondary characters like Lord John we hope production figures out a way to return it.
Final Verdict: A few blasts from Outlander past made “The Bakra” an irresistible romp
A “bakra” was a slave master in Jamaican patois. Despite Claire being a reluctant slave owner herself, it’s clear who the “master” of this episode was. Geillis plays everyone like a fiddle from the moment she appears on screen. Ever dedicated to the Jacobite cause she also reveals she still hasn’t grown any morals since the last time we saw her. The intrigue and adventure along with some strong performances really made this episode a fun one to watch and we really wish it had been longer.
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So how will Jamie get away from Captain Leonard? Will Lord John help in that direction? How will Young Ian escape? Yi Tien Cho meeting Margaret at first seemed innocently sweet but then we caught a whiff of a possible romance? Did anyone else get that vibe? How will Geillis connect the dots and figure out who the prophecy is about? How is there only one episode left in season three with so much left to go? Will we see Brianna and Roger again this season? Is anyone else getting depressed that another Droughtlander approaches?
Lotte Verbeek is outstanding as Geillis down to the odd pattern she uses for her voice. She’s so compelling every time you see her and she really makes the character so odd with so many layers that you feel off balance every time you watch her. And we can’t help but mention that entrance again. People who hadn’t read the books would be shocked just seeing Geillis but we appreciated the fact that that entrance left people who had read the books a big surprise as well. And for the record we are incredibly jealous of Lotte Verbeek’s incredible body. She couldn’t have been more chillingly seductive.
Having a clear villain we’re familiar with really focuses the action and certainly helped this episode in terms of interest. It also seems to have helped focusing the writing, though the show is certainly setting up a few characters with villainous tendencies. The return to an adventure feel also contributed to the overall feeling of fun which made this one a great watch.
One thing that helped our overall enjoyment of this episode was the scoring by Bear McCreary. We usually enjoy his work but this suspenseful storytelling really seems to be his thing. When Claire and Jamie were at the ball and the camera panned around to Geillis and you heard that bowed sitar sliding down the minor triad with that odd sharp 11 the hairs on our arms stood on end. McCreary perfectly captured Geillis and his contribution to the mood of this episode cannot be overstated.
There’s only one more episode of Outlander this season and so many loose ends to tie up! We hope the finale doesn’t feel rushed. Great characters with better writing from Luke Schelhaas which fits in line far better than his last writing outing for Outlander made this episode far more enjoyable from top to bottom.
Comments and Questions: Only one episode left in the season! Say it isn’t so!
- How does Geillis keep that goat’s blood from congealing in her stone blood bath? And how to they drain it? Must be a total bitch to clean.
- The show finally alluded to the fact that Jamie is a Freemason. Wonder if that will come up again?
- Don’t think we didn’t notice that Geillis’ new last name is Abernathy- the surname of Claire’s 20th century bestie. There are no coincidences in the world of Outlander.
- We actually really liked the repurposing of Claire’s clothing. We guess that it’s Marsali that’s such a fine hand with a needle?
- That was some fierce eye connection between Jamie and Claire. Get a room, guys.
- Balfe’s subtle delivery of the word “wife” towards Lord John and his necessarily closeted nature was such a burn! Poor Lord John.
- Please, PLEASE we want Yi Tien Cho and Margaret to run away together!!
- Geillis quoting Casablanca when she meets Claire was pretty great.
- Nice manners, Geillis. Nobody questions when she just grabs his sapphire?
- Jamie handing Claire the photo and miniatures was a sweet. Who knew he was carrying them?
Outlander returns for its finale Sunday, December 10th, 2017 at 8/7C on Starz.
Only one episode left!There’s only one episode left of Outlander in the season! Make sure you join us for our roundtables and our last full review before our FULL SEASON review!
Outlander Review 3×12 “The Bakra”