Just last night, Outlander fans were dealt a couple of blows- the replacement of a beloved character, and the return of another. In season 4 episode 7 “Down The Rabbit Hole”, things once again diverge from the source novels by Diana Gabaldon, and reception has been mixed, to say the least.
If you haven’t caught up with season 4 yet, you should do that before reading further because THAR WILL BE SPOILERS.
Obviously by now, you know that Brianna (Sophie Skelton) survived her trip to the past. She has some mishaps- hurting her ankle, not planning for how cold the Highlands actually are, stuff like that- before being rescued by a blonde we were not expecting to see in such a context.
Brianna wakes up in a lovely bed in a warm room, to the face of one Laoghaire MacKenzie (Nell Hudson), the woman who tried her damnest to get Claire (Caitriona Balfe) killed in order to get her chance with Jamie (Sam Heughan) 20 years before.
It makes for some pretty tense moments, although melodrama sort of outshines any real powerful moments with the two. As the audience, we know who these women are to each other, and the scenes were spent waiting for the fireworks rather than appriciating the humanity of Laoghaire.
Outlander Executive Producer Maril Davis spoke a bit about the decision to have Laoghaire return (mostly stemming from actress Laura Donnelly being unavailable this season to return as Jamie’s sister Jenny Murray):
“We just love her Nell. I know not everyone loves to hate Laoghaire but she did such an amazing job and we also love the idea of seeing Laoghaire as a normal person, do you know what I mean? Laoghaire is a good mom. She’s done some horrible things but it was interesting to see Laoghaire before she becomes crazy Laoghaire, and what kind of person she would be if this did not happen to her. they could have all been friends, who knows? But then of course, the Laoghaire that we know and love comes out.”
This makes sense, and the fact that we still get Brianna and her Uncle Ian (Stephen McCree) meeting sort of makes up for the shock of seeing Laoghaire again.
Which brings us to the second big surprise of the episode- the return of one Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies). Sure, they’re “just flashbacks” from Frank’s perspective, but Menzies’ fabulous portrayal of the professor remains one of the high points of the series.
It’s heartbreaking seeing Frank struggle with wanting to tell Brianna everything (they are very close, after all), and wanting to protect her. But again, Menzies’ brings the pain and love to the surface in the role.
Once again Outlander EP Maril Davis commented on the decision to include Frank Randall again:
“Any chance to work with Tobias is amazing. This whole idea of Brianna feeling so excited to go meet Jamie…obviously, there are reasons why she has to go back. But it felt like she had to do mourn her parents, as well. She was raised by someone who’s not her birth father. This tear between the man who raised her and the man who is her father but couldn’t raise her. The guilt of that. Does she have room in her heart for both of them? Would Frank mind if she loved this other person who is her father? Is she being disrespectful to his memory? We loved the idea of her struggling with that. Obviously, the story took on a little weight because at the last minute, Laura Donnelly, who plays Jenny, could not be in this episode because of a prior commitment. We had to adjust the story and that’s why Laoghaire ends up having the bigger part.”
And that moment of him appearing to Brianna as she’s about to board the ship? >This< writer will admit to openly weeping due to the beauty of the moment.
Outlander returns on Sunday for season 4 episode 8, “Wilmington”, which marks the 50th episode of the STARZ series.