Saturday, April 30, 2016

Outlander 2x04 Review: “La Dame Blanche” (A Series of Unfortunate Events) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

“La Dame Blanche”
Original Airdate: April 30, 2016

Oh, boy. That was a lot, huh? When the episode began, I thought it was about cultivating intimacy and what it means when that intimacy changes and falters. I thought it was about how Claire and Jamie reconciled and began to let the other back into their hearts and beds, or how Louise had different levels of intimacy with her lover, her husband, and her friend Claire. I thought it would be about how these characters masked their intimacies when they were at a very public dinner party, and how all of that maneuvering is mirrored in Jamie and Claire’s relationship and new careers as spies.

But then the episode suddenly became about another rape to further the plot.

Claire’s young friend Mary has started to come out of her shell. She met and fell in love with Alex Randall, Black Jack Randall’s brother, after they met at Versailles, just as Louise said she would. Mary seems peppier now, and even Fergus has picked up on her bright eyes and new perfume. Mary went with Claire to the hospital to help after many people were injured in an explosion, and when Mary and Claire went to leave, they found their carriage wheel was broken. Based on the opening clip of a mysterious man with a mark on his hand unscrewing the wheel, it seems likely this was sabotage. The only solution to get to Claire and Jamie’s dinner party, where they’ve invited all the players in their political chess game, was to walk home.

It was on this walk that Claire, Mary, and Murtagh were attacked by a man with the same mark. Murtagh was beaten, and Mary was attacked and raped while Claire was restrained. As soon as Claire’s hood fell off, the attackers ran away, claiming she was “la dame blanche.”

Claire and Murtagh bring Mary back to their home and help her get inside unnoticed. They did not alert the authorities because Mary’s future would be ruined if society found out she was no longer a virgin. Claire and Jamie have a heated discussion about the unfairness of the situation and how it wasn’t Mary’s fault she was raped, but even a feminist from the future can’t change their situation. They leave Mary with her love, Alex, and Claire warns him not to give her too much tonic because it causes visions.

Of course, Mary wakes up, has a vision that Alex was the man who attacked her, and he tries to restrain her to keep her from interrupting Claire and Jamie’s dinner party. The dinner guests include Prince Charles, the Duke of Sandringham, the Comte de St. Germain, and Claire’s friend/Prince Charles’ lover Louisa and her husband. Claire and Jamie set it up to set a trap for Prince Charles. They were hoping that if he learned that his lover, Louise, was pregnant with his child in front of everyone, he would expose himself for the fool he is, which would ruin his chances of getting any funding.

But because Alex is restraining a screaming Mary, that quickly becomes the event that derails the dinner party, rather than Charles’ foolishness.

Outlander has handled Jamie’s rape with consideration and storytelling heft that has focused on Jamie’s tenuous recovery and the horror that spread to so many areas of Jamie’s life. I’m not sure the same consideration has been taken for the women who were victims of rape or assault on this show. Time will tell how it addresses Mary’s rape, but right now it looks a lot like a plot device.

I don’t think shows should never include rape – it’s unfortunately a common occurrence, and of course stories should address it and work to tell the stories of rape victims. Women have to deal with rape and the threat of rape during every day life all the time, so absolutely that should be reflected in stories. But it is also exhausting and horrifying to watch over and over again, and it has come up quite often in Outlander. I don’t have any answers here, and I generally trust Outlander to handle women’s stories with care. But your mileage may vary, and it’s worth thinking about how and when stories about rape are told.

In Mary’s case, the scene focused on her, and not her attacker, whose identity hasn’t been revealed yet (unless that mark has been revealed before and I can’t remember?). The show also focused on the consequences of the rape, including Mary going into shock and being unable to go to authorities. I like that they addressed that because so many women, even today, have legitimate reasons for not turning to the authorities. It may not be fair that many women feel like they can’t go to the police for help, but it’s reality that women are often punished for coming forward about rape.

But, ultimately, I wish I wasn’t spending this entire review talking about rape because there was a lot of other great things in this episode I’d rather be talking about, and I definitely would have preferred to watch Jamie and Claire acting as spies at a high-stakes dinner party than watch a young girl be attacked and raped in an alley. As soon as I knew Mary’s life was entwined with BJR’s, I expected sexual violence was in her future. But it didn’t have to be.

Un Petit Mot:
  • Claire also gets poisoned in this episode, likely by the Comte St. Germain. Her enmity with the Comte is blossoming nicely, and I wish there was more of the dinner party so they could have spent the evening trading passive aggressive comments. 
  • The way scenes were framed when Jamie and Claire were fighting were beautiful. Jamie and Claire were alone in the frame, and the camera was close on their faces, making it seem like they were whispering to the audience, but making them seem so alone. Later, after they reconciled, the camera was just as close on their faces, but they were both in the frame together after renewing their close bond. 
  • I am so glad that Claire didn’t drag out telling Jamie about BJR being alive. But I don’t think his cheerful demeanor was as good of a sign as Claire seemed to think it was. 
  • The candlelight on this show is just beautiful.
  • Claire’s deep blue cloak was stunning. And where can I get a robe like hers? 
  • “You mean sleep with my husband? My lover would be furious.”


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