I have to start this by saying how much I’ve enjoyed the Starz series Outlander since the beginning, and supported almost all the changes from the source materials to the screen. So many of them made perfect sense for the narrative, for entertainment purposes, and for keeping certain cast members around because of how wonderful they are.
That said, the most recent episode of the show left me disappointed and scratching my head. If you haven’t watched season 3, episode 12 ‘The Bakra’ and don’t want spoilers, you may want to go read something else until you do.
Still here? OK then. (All photos thanks to Starz and their media team.)
Previously in this season of Outlander, Jamie (Sam Heughan) revealed to Claire (Caitriona Balfe) the existence of his natural son, Willie. In the book(s), the reveal of Willie’s existence happens at the Governor’s Ball in Jamaica, as well as some notable scenes between Lord John (David Berry) and Claire. Don’t even get me started on Lord John NOT being on the Porpoise when Claire was pressed into service — I felt personally robbed by this omission.
This directional shift really changed the tone of Claire and Lord John meeting in ‘The Bakra’, as the level of dangerous tension is almost non-existent. Yes, it’s important for these two to like each other right now, but at the same time, the balance of that relationship is now skewed towards the ‘nice’ side rather than ‘complicated’. This big of a departure from the source material has me dreading how it’ll affect their personal plots later on.
But a good change is getting some of Young Ian’s (John Bell) personal narrative during his kidnapping and imprisonment aboard the Bruja and at Rose Hall. This makes sense for the show, as in the book we don’t get any of his experiences as things are happening.
I will say the addition of the beautiful moment between Mr. Willoughby (Gary Young) and Margaret Campbell (Alison Pargeter) was fantastic, and I immediately wanted more if it.
On to the bigger one: The Return of Gellis.
True, there’s always been a bit of Countess Bathory about Gellis; this story change wasn’t as jarring as the others. Lotte Verbeek who plays Gellis said of coming back to the series in such a bold way:
“I was delighted to do it. There’s quite a lot to blood bathing — making sure you don’t float and staying under the surface, and washing off after every single take.”
And of the change in her character’s return in the show vs. the book:
“I really appreciate that Starz and the show are doing something that wasn’t in the books; they made the choice of doing a scene that’s really quite out there. As it became more wicked with the blood bath idea, I was just really excited to do that. There was a fun atmosphere on set [that day], because we all knew we were doing something outrageous.”
There is also another big change from the book to the show pertaining to the Governor’s Ball, but I don’t want to touch on it in case it pops up later in the season.
For the most part, ‘The Bakra’ does help pick up the slogging sensation of the majority of this season. Which is unfortunate, because book 3 (Voyager) is where the character-driven action really picks up into the rest of the series.
With only one episodes remaining before the dreaded Droughtlander descends upon us, here’s hoping the pacing and urgency returns. Outlander airs on Starz Sunday nights.