I knew that this was going to be my favorite episode of the season going into it, because it encompasses my favorite chapters of the book, and I was totally right. That was an epic hour of television! These actresses and actors are so talented, I was sucked right into the show and was on the edge of my seat even knowing full well what would happen. I got goosebumps! I cried!
This review has actually been the hardest to write, I think I was so wrapped up in all my feelings about it that it took a couple of viewings (I am on #3 right now) to actually be able to form thoughts about it.
From the start, the title card with the murmuration of starlings is so evocative and mood-setting. Then we’re thrown into the thieves’ hole with Clarie and Geilis and we get to feel claustrophobic right along with them.
Loved Geilis’ disbelief at the beginning when she says to Claire “you think I’m a witch?” Then her face when Claire tells her that Colum sent Dougal away and no one is coming for them. Lotte Verbeek BROUGHT IT this episode. Caitriona Balfe was very powerful, too. I loved how she just started screaming her frustrations in the trial, that was such a Claire thing to do. These two ladies, so fantastic at what they do. And even made up all grimy to look like she was in a dank hole for two days, somehow Caitriona looked even more radiant than usual.
Ok, one character nitpick- why on earth was Geilis so obvious about her activities such that her maid knew she went out woods-dancing on full moons? She didn’t think that would ever come back to haunt her? Maybe she actually knew some of the history of witch trials and thought she’d be safe, if she had done research in the 1960s and saw that the last witch trial in Scotland was earlier than this time?
Ned is so charming and funny and awesome. I love that the show has really brought him out. This show has 100% improved so much of the book. I am so looking forward to what they’ll do with the rest of the books, should we get lucky enough to get them all adapted (or at the very least, all of them through book 6… books 7 and 8 are not my cup of tea).
On the podcast Toni Graphia (she wrote this episode) mentioned that the guy testifying about Geilis turning into a bird never broke character, even when they weren’t filming. Love that! By the way, Toni also said that she wanted to write this episode from the very start, she loved this part of the book. She did an amazing job. Here’s a good interview with her about this episode.
The townsfolks and churchy dudes are ok with Laoghaire seeking out a potion but it’s witchcraft for Claire to make the potion? Wouldn’t taking a love potion be imbibing in witchery? I hate Laoghaire, but Nell Hudson did a great job. That last remark about dancing on Claire’s ashes was so creepy.
Geilis and Claire during the recess! So intense! Ron Moore wins forever for adding in Geilis’ “Looks like I’m going to a fucking barbeque” line. Brilliant.
Claire getting whipped was just brutal. That was so hard to watch.
Jamie! Coming in all swashbuckling and saving the day! At least, Claire’s day.
And then, the best part- Time Traveler Confessions! OMG. This is my catnip. I love time travelers finally telling someone in the past that they’re from the future. I do think that the decision to move Claire & Jamie’s honesty promise from the wedding night to this scene is a little ill-conceived, because I think having that vow of honesty between them longer makes it more plausible that Jamie would believe her without questioning. I also wish they had cut the voiceover about feeling adrift and anchorless (didn’t she say exactly that two episodes ago?), it didn’t seem to work here, it’s too close to the stones scene.
Finally, FINALLY! The choice at the stones! I do wish they had kept in Claire’s line “is there really nothing for me here?” So glad they didn’t leave it on a cliffhanger, though!
In conclusion: best episode of television ever!