Outlander S02E04 “La Dame Blanche” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Amazon Prime Instant Video, new episodes every Sunday
Writer: Toni Graphia
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Essential Plot Points:
- When Claire collapses in pain while attending a meeting between Duverney and Jamie she suspects the Comte St Germain (who’s lurking in the shows) is behind it.
- Jamie comes up with a plan: he and Claire will throw a dinner party, and invite both the Duke Sandringham and Prince Charles; somehow they will make a Charles look a fool in front of Sandringham to convince the Duke not to fund his uprising.
- Realising this means that Jamie will meet the Duke’s secretary, Alex Randall, Claire finally admits to Jamie what she previously learned from Alex that his brother: Jack Randall is still alive.
- Amazingly, Jamie takes the news well. More than well – he’s virtually swing from the chandeliers in joy. This means he gets the chance to kill Randall. Claire makes sure he won’t abandon their mission and rush off to Scotland right there and then, but Jamie’s happy to leave murdering his rapist as a special treat for afterwards.
- Claire visits Master Raymond to see if he sold the poison to the Comte. He says if he did so it was unknowingly, through a servant.
- As Claire has been pondering time paradoxes and how they relate to 20th century hubbie Frank (ie, could her actions in the past wipe him out in the future?) she agrees for Master Raymond to peer into her future. He assures he she will meet “Frank” again… which isn’t quite the answer she was hoping for as that implies she’ll be returning to the future.
- Master Raymond also gives her a necklace with a massive white opal that will apparently change colour in the presence of poison. Has this guy ever considered getting a job at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic?
- Claire learns that Louise de Rohan is pregnant by a man not her husband, but convinces her not to abort but pretend to her husband that the baby is his.
- Claire and Jamie later realise that the Louise’s “other man” is Prince Charles after the Prince drops in for a nighttime visit and asks Claire to tend to a monkey bite (Louise has a bitey pet monkey).
- LIGHTBULB MOMENT! Why not invite Louise and her hubby to the dinner party too – that should get the desired prattish reaction from the popinjay Prince.
- On the day of the party, Claire and Mary are called to the charity hospital where they help out after an explosion at the royal armoury injures lots of men.
- When it’s time to return for the party they discover their carriage has been vandalised. They walk instead. Mary admits to Claire that she has a secret lover – Alex Randall.
- They are attacked on the way and Mary is raped. The attackers run off, however, when they appear to recognise Claire and call her “la Dame Blanche”.
- In Claire’s absence Jamie welcomes guests including Sandringham and his secretary Alex, Louise and her guileless hubby, the Comte St Germain, Prince Charles and the guy to whom Mary is (unwillingly) betrothed.
- Claire and Mary return. Claire tends to Mary then leaves Alex to look after her.
- Claire changes the enters the party. Everyone sits down for dinner. In amongst the frivolous chat Jamie causally mentions Louise’s pregnancy. This isn’t public knowledge yet but her hubbie happily confirms it.
- Less happy is Charles who starts acting a bit of an arse but before he totally loses all decorum the party is interrupted by a scream.
- Mary has woken up, and – mistaking Alex for an attacker – she runs off through the house. But Alex catches up with he and tries to restrain her…
- Unfortunately when the part guests burst in on them it looks like he’s raping her.
- There’s a big fight as Mary’s intended and her Uncle try to defend her honour by skewering Alex, and Jamie and Murtagh try to stop them.
- The Prince leaves with the Comte St Germain taking the opportunity to suck up to him.
By far the best and most consistent episode of season two so far, “Le Dame Blanche” is a hugely satisfying mix of dark humour, dark themes and dark twists. Most importantly, the plot is finally making some significant moves forward with previously disparate characters beginning to cross paths in compelling ways.
There are a lot of surprises too. Who’d have guessed that learning Jack Randall was alive would be Jamie’s Viagra? Well, with a bit of help from a bitey whore, amyway. Interestingly, Prince Charles also presents Claire with some bite marks later in the episode, though his were from a monkey… there’s a whole motif and underlying metaphor here that we don’t want to explore too closely.
Jamie’s reaction to the news about Randall is slightly worrying. It’s refreshing that he doesn’t fly off the handle but the look in his eye when he realises he can still kill the guy has the hint of the zealot about it. This in the same episode that he and Claire set up a dinner party which will callously abuse friendships in the name of their mission. “We’re doing a bad thing for a good reason,” says Jamie. “Isn’t that what all bad people say?” ponders Claire. It’s a small exchange that’s almost lost in the swirl of the episode’s big events, but it is a crucial exchange. Is the greater good really worth sacrificing smaller good things for?
In its own small way it’s also this show’s version of, “If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a child, would you?” Claire is committed to her mission only because she knows the future. Without that knowledge would she ever treat unwitting acquaintances with such cold, calculated insensitivity? It’s revealing an ugly side to her that’s she’s beginning to find distasteful herself.
There are some great performances here too, with Simon Callow as fruity as ever as the Duke and Andrew Gower delightfully slimy as Prince Charles. Fergus and Murtagh look like they could form an unlikely comedy double act (with the young Fergus much more worldly wise than than than the Scotsman). Wry humour is a huge part of the episode’s success, but it’s not compartmentalised into comedy moments; it co-exists with the drama and tragedy, levity finding root in moments such as Mary – her fingers covered in grease obtained from hanged man – muttering, “I need to wash my hands first.”
With Master Raymond there’s also a deepening of the show’s supernatural elements. Can he actually see the future? Will Claire’s necklace really change colour? How come he owns a prehistoric skull several decades before Mary Anning and Gideon Mantell popularised dinosaurs as a scientific study? Or are there other explanations for what’s going on here? Whatever the case, there’s clearly more to the guy than meets the eye.
Jamie and Claire’s dinner party from hell goes to hell for all the wrong reasons as yet another character is added to the show’s rape tally. While Jamie’s experience was downright harrowing, poor Mary’s trauma is treated more like a plot point, and somewhat tastelessly juxtaposed with a farcical fight scene. The episode’s only real misstep is that way it doesn’t change tone in its final act; not just because the light touch feels at odds with Mary’s ordeal but also because it leaves the audience wondering if there’s supposed to be something more ominous to this turn of events. It’s difficult to work out if this turn of events is supposed to be a serious set back for Claire and Jamie’s mission or a mere social scandal that means they won’t be invited to the right parties for a few weeks. The fact that the Comte leaves with the Prince suggests bad news, but it’s by no means clear.
- Murtagh and Fergus’s discussion about the mysteries of women outside the hospital was a lovely little scene.
- Claire and Jamie’s big marital spat about the way he discovered he’d got his mojo back wasn’t supposed to funny, but it did have contain some moments of dark, droll humour that made the scene more effective rather than undercutting it. People do say stupid and/or unwise things in the heat of an argument:
• “She did get a wee bit carried away.”
“She… are you referring to that brunette whore that Fergus is always talking about?”
“No, it was a different girl entirely.”
• “Oh I know what sixty-nine is.”
“Ah well she was rather insistent about it, although I think she would have settled for the six. The nine could go hang.”
- The now-obligatory Master Raymond scene was once again a highlight as the toad-like (book’s description, not ours) apothecarist hints heavily that he fully embraces the dark arts and has a “fascination with things not of this time”.
- Despite our issues with the slapstick elements in the fight scene, the shot of Fergus tucking in to the abandoned feast was a perfect, cynical counterpoint the the ridiculous affairs of the upper classes.
- Claire’s reaction to Jamie’s suggestion for a name for their baby was perfectly understandable: “Dalhousie… I mean… it sounds more a sneeze.”
- Claire and Jamie actually sort out their big spat by having a sensible chat; not many women would be quite so ready to overcome the fact their man needed a whore to help them get it up, but’s preferable to another couple of episodes of them sulking at each other.
- Prince Charles may be utterly odious but Andrew Gower’s performance of him is utterly brilliant.
- And once again, the design department need a big round of applause of creating sumptuous scenes like the dinner party.
- The fracas at the party is played partly for laughs with almost farcical fight moves and comedy asides (Sandringham bemoaning, “I was so looking forward to dessert!”) which, while amusing, jars slightly with the fact that Mary has just been raped. It leaves the episode on a curiously nebulous tone.
- We’re not totally convinced that the mouse-like Mary would go anywhere near the pus- and pee-encrusted charity hospital.
- When is the Comte going to let us see his other expression?
- Oh Lordy, more chess metaphors… Jamie makes mistakes when he’s distracted by his pregnant wife. This had “FORESHADOWING” written all over it.
And The Random:
- Just in case your basic French is terrible, “Le Dame Blanche” means “The White Woman”.
- At the dinner Louise de Rohan wonders who has seen Lully’s opera Acis et Galatée (1698) which is ironic as the story revolves around a love triangle. The opera was commissioned in honour of Louis, le Grand Dauphin, the son of Louis XIV and grandfather of Louis XV – the current French King in the timeline of this series.
- Claire’s conversation with Louise de Rohan about raising her baby with a man who isn’t its father is clearly suppose to remind us that this is exactly what Claire is doing in the future (as seen in the season premiere).
- Director Douglas Mackinnon has helmed eight episodes of Doctor Who (including the brilliant “Listen” and “Flatline”), Steven Moffat’s underrated Jekyll (2007) mini series and a number of episodes of Line Of Duty series one and two.
Review by Dave Golder
Read our other reviews of Outlander