Series Rewatch: Outlander S1, E2 – Castle Leoch

Written by Ronald D. Moore and Diana Gabaldon
Directed by John Dahl

Traveling back through time is something Claire (Caitriona Balfre) is still having a hard time accepting here, despite the overwhelming evidence. Still, she must adapt and does a fair job doing so in this second episode which is mostly character-driven.

Jamie (Sam Heughan), Claire & their party arrive at Castle Leoch with Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish). It was a two-day ride on horseback, and Claire frets she won’t be able to find her way back to Craigh na Dun without help. Silently, she observes the interactions when they first arrive, taking it all in.

Claire is treated warmly, if skeptically by the woman who runs the place, Mrs. Fitz (Annette Badland). Claire treats Jamie’s bullet wound as best she can under the circumstances and the two open up to each other. Jamie opens up about the scars on his back, and Claire mourns Frank (Tobias Menzies), telling Jamie her husband is not alive.

Claire is given clothes of the time period, which are many more layers and much heavier than what she is used to wearing. She meets Colum MacKenzie (Gary Lewis), who suffers from Toulouse LaTrec syndrome. His legs are misformed and he has great pain. Claire tells him she is a widow who was traveling with a servant trying to get to relatives in France when they were waylayed by highwaymen. Alone, she eventually stumbled onto Captain Jack Randall which is how she was found by Murtaugh (Duncan Lacroix). The story seems to be accepted, although everyone remains skeptical of the new addition to the castle residents.

Claire is led to believe she will be traveling to Inverness on the following Saturday and immerses herself in Castle life until then.

This second episode, narrated by Claire, builds the characters the viewers were introduced to in the first episode. That one created most of the setting for Claire’s travel in time and introduced us to characters who will play a big part in this season and next. There are more characters here, but the ones we already met are given more depth, particularly Claire and Jamie. They seem to be drawn to each other and open up to each other about their pasts, or at least as much as Claire can open up and not seem crazy. Dougal MacKenzie is lurking and suspicious, just as he was in the first episode. He doesn’t know, yet, what to make of Claire. How much he counsels his brother in this regard seems to me minimal as Colum reassures Claire he keeps his own counsel about things.

It’s also interesting to watch Claire and Colum interact. His disability hasn’t affected his mind as he’s quick with questions when things don’t seem right. Gary Lewis is excellent here, giving Colum great strength despite the disability, and also making the viewers see him as a keen observer, able to discern situations quite easily. He doesn’t know what to make of Claire. He knows she’s hiding something, but just what that is he can’t be sure. Dougal thinks she’s an English spy, and has his men following her. What exactly she’s supposed to be spying on isn’t yet known, so his disclosure of that seems to hint that he’s up to something that he’s nervous about.

There is definite chemistry between Claire and Jamie. Credit to the actors who seem to get along very easily in the role. Sam Heughan had extensive acting experience prior to this, but Caitriona Balfre had very little. Still, she really seems to radiate the fish-out-of-water feelings of Claire, while at the same time trying to use what she knows as a way of helping to be accepted. Unfortunately, this also leads to Colum deciding she has a place in the castle as a healer, since the previous one died. Balfre is excellent as she tries to cope with the situation, relying on what Frank told her in their later time as a way of dealing with the questions thrown at her. She comes off as both confused and confident at times as she tries to walk that tightrope.

Castle Leoch is a great episode with great character development that really immerses the viewer in 18th-century Scotland. The visuals are stunning, both of the castle and the surrounding area. The costuming is excellent. Watching Claire shed her 20th century dress for all the clothing required in the 18th century will make anyone who hates bulky clothing (like me) be grateful we were born in this era. The acting is terrific as well, although we’re just starting to get a hint of what a great couple Balfre and Heughan will make.

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