5 Questions to Ponder After the Outlander Midseason Finale

By
Photo: Neil Davidson/Sony Pictures Television Inc.

Before you file Outlander away for the next six months while the Starz series is on hiatus, let’s revisit a few seemingly small plot points from the first eight episodes that you may have overlooked during all the excitement over Claire’s time-travel affair with a frequently shirtless Scottish hunk. Questions that you might want to be asking include: What dangers might a woman with knowledge from the 20th century being facing in 1743? What minor characters will have a bigger role to play in the story to come? And how might the 1743 and 1945 story lines intersect when the show picks back up in April 2015, and beyond? While the following list of questions contains spoilers up through the midseason finale, we only hint at possible events to come, based on scenes from the show so far, knowledge of the Diana Gabaldon novels, and interviews with cast and crew.

Is that Jamie's ghost?
In episode one, Frank, returning to the hotel room he’s sharing with Claire, sees a kilted man in the street who seems to be staring at his wife as she brushes her hair in the window. But as Frank approaches the mysterious Highlander, the man, Frank says later, "just vanished, and then I felt a chill down my spine." At the point at which that non-encounter occurs, we hadn't met Jamie — but on rewatch, the Highlander looks an awful lot like someone we do get to know in subsequent episodes. By episode eight, which takes place six weeks later, Frank suspects that this man might have had something to do with his wife's disappearance. But was he even really there? Was he a time-traveler? A ghost? We probably won't find out this season who was doing the peeping at Claire, since it has yet to be revealed in author Diana Gabaldon’s ongoing book series. She told Vulture that the figure will be explained and that the reveal will likely be "the last thing in the last book," but she said that she has shared the identity of the Highlander with showrunner Ronald D. Moore and actor Sam Heughan. "But they're the only people who have or will see it until we get to that book," she teased.

A Scotman never forgets?
Before Claire bolts for the stone circle, Jamie gives her an order: "You stay here. I'll be back, I promise ... Now you promise me you'll stay put. Promise you'll be here when I get back." Even though the final shot of the midseason finale suggests that he will rescue Claire from Black Jack Randall, Jamie is not the type to forget that a promise has been broken. Remember, the Highlanders suggested that Claire's "hide be tanned" for her rough language in episode one. And in episode two, a girl was ordered to be beaten in public because of "disobedience" — her father thought she was being promiscuous. (No proof required there.) And in episode three, a young boy was nailed to the pillory by his ear for stealing — and that was considered the more merciful sentence. "That was just a reality of the time," actress Caitriona Balfe told Vulture recently. So what do you think happens to women who disobey their husbands? "Careful," Geillis Duncan warned Claire in episode four. "Promises are a serious thing in this country."

Who are these kids?
Did you notice the little boy serving biscuits at the reverend's house in episode eight, the one who looks at Frank when Frank announces his decision to depart for Oxford? Author Diana Gabaldon told us that she fought to keep this character in the show's first half "to make a point." While we don't get all of Roger Wakefield's backstory during his brief appearances, nor are viewers privy to the conversation between Frank and Claire about adopting children that the boy's presence triggers in the book, which Gabaldon sums up as "Can you love an adopted child like your own blood?" She said, "There's a reason for needing Roger here. I told them, 'You need to include him because he's going to be important in the later story [in other seasons],' so they stuck him in, in a way that's inconspicuous but registered his presence." Then there's the question of Hamish, whom Claire first sees playing in the courtyard with Dougal in episode two and who she assumes is Dougal’s son from the way he swings the boy around. But when she refers to Hamish as Dougal's son when they are formally introduced, everyone gets very quiet, and the boy tells her that he is the son and heir of Colum MacKenzie, not Dougal MacKenzie. Curious!

What about the other women in Jamie's life?
The first time Jamie went up against Black Jack Randall, it was to protect his sister Jenny. "I was up in the fields when I heard shouting," he tells Claire in episode two, recounting the day he was arrested for obstruction because he tried to prevent the rape of his sister. "[Randall] wanted to send a message — this is what you get when you fight back against the English." Jamie's been waiting for the day when he could return home to Lallybroch and see Jenny again. As for the girl whose punishment Jamie took on, Laoghaire might have been forgotten, but she won't be ignored. Remember, she last wanted to use magic to turn Jamie's heart back toward her. How do you think she'll feel when she finds out he has gotten married to the very woman who gave her an ineffective love potion?

What happens to witches in the 18th century?
"I want to see the witches," Frank tells Claire in episode one, before they go to spy on women dancing around an ancient stone circle. "Well, they're not actually witches. They're sort of meant to be Druids." Among them is sweet Mrs. Graham of the tea leaves and hand-readings. With their modern-for-1945 perspective, Frank and Claire are not scared, just fascinated by the seemingly innocent pagan Celtic ritual. But in 1743, those same practices would be viewed quite differently, coming off the witch trials of the earlier part of the 18th century. (Outlander stretches the historical record a little bit; the Witchcraft Act of 1735 ended severe punishments for accusations of witchcraft, and the last execution of an accused witch in Scotland occurred in 1727). Still, should a woman pop up in 1743 with knowledge of the future and a reputation as a healer, that could put her in the crosshairs — especially if she's interfering with the local practices of the church. Remember the exorcism she interrupted in episode three? That didn't exactly make her BFFs with the local priest Father Bain, who threatened Claire, "You've made a fool of God, and God will have the last word."

Instead, the closest thing Claire has to a BFF is a woman suspected of witchcraft — Geillis Duncan, she of the many potions to get rid of various problems and the husband with strangely persistent digestive problems. "Geillis has a purpose," Moore told Vulture. "If she's just a friend, I think you would start to wonder, 'Why is she in the show?' So I thought, Let's lean in more towards that, and let's make her a bit more mysterioso." He said that Geillis's words and actions should make you curious about her — at least as curious as Geillis is about Claire — "so that you wonder, 'What is this game between the two of them? You have a secret, I have a secret, but we're not going to tell each other our secret?'" Moore said he's "hiding the card in the deck a little bit" here, but that he wants the audience to be wondering, "Maybe she is a witch. Maybe there are witches. Maybe she controls the stones." And actress Lotte Verbeek teased, "There is something otherworldly about Geillis." Exactly what that is, non-book-readers, you’ll just have to wait until April to find out.