Hi everyone. It admittedly feels a bit strange writing these recaps as usual with the world seemingly spinning out of control around us, but life has to try to go on I suppose. And just a forewarning, it may take me a bit longer in the future to get things posted given the current circumstances.
This was an interesting episode and I’m still processing it a day later. Although we had some temporary cuteness and levity with the introduction of Adso, overall the tone of this hour was fairly dark.
More than dark, it had a very Greek tragedy feel about it. Consider the elements of Greek tragedy: a prologue, ordinary people behaving in complicated ways (being both moral and immoral), family conflict, and death. These elements are all present in this episode…as Claire exclaims (in Greek), “Eureka!” I have found the theme.
Claire makes some interesting analogies about God in her voiceover, suggesting that time is God’s eternal web. Which, of course, would make God the spider. Just as an insect becomes entangled in those strings of time, no matter how we struggle to free ourselves we are trapped in a destiny laid before us.
Which sounds very reminiscent of the Greek Fates, those mythological deities in charge of every mortal’s destiny, controlling everything with their Threads of Fate…knowing exactly when one’s string was due to run out. Not even Zeus himself could interfere.
According to the Fates, everything is predetermined; one’s fate or thread cannot be changed. And no matter how one tries to fight against that destiny, he or she invariably draws themselves closer to it. One becomes trapped, similar to an insect in a spider’s web.
And so it is with our characters. Claire and Jamie are each other’s destiny, and so every choice or path leads them to a life that was fated from the start. That’s the optimistic spin on this episode. As Claire tells Jamie, the loss of her patient led her to London, which led to Reverend Wakefield’s funeral, which led to Roger, which lead to Jamie. It was always fated, and no matter how much any other conflict tried to intervene, Claire and Jamie’s love and future together were always predetermined.
On the flip side, the argument of predeterminism, of an all-knowing being(s) controlling everything with their web or strings, suggests that we cannot prevent tragedy either. It, too, is fated from the beginning. Which makes me suspect that no matter how hard Jamie tries to prevent Murtagh’s death, it has already been determined. And every action he takes to stop it, including killing a man, only brings it closer. The web has been laid…they are already trapped.
And if we take that theme of predestination and apply it to the whole of the episode, then we can see how the path for everyone is already clearly marked. It’s especially clear if you’ve read the books to see how every action our characters make sets off that string of vibrations across that spider’s web. Brianna’s decision to visit Bonnet in the jail has consequences, as does Roger’s decision to stay loyal to the militia. Every action only ensnares them more in the web; the noose only tightens the more they struggle against fate. (There’s some foreshadowing for you).
We’ve seen this before in the Outlander canon— the more Jamie and Claire have tried to change the future the more the future seems fixedly predetermined. Every choice made about Blackjack Randall, or Mary Hawkins, or Prince Charles, or Geillis all results in the same future as it was already written. The more our characters try to change destiny the more certain it becomes.
This episode consists of three story lines— three threads, if you will: Claire and the loss of her patient in the 1960s, Roger and Brianna (and Stephen Bonnet), and Jamie and Knox. Like a web, the stories are all interwoven. Like a web, our characters become tangled in the threads of fate.
Graham Menzies, a man devoted to his wife above all else, is a man who surely reminds Claire of Jamie. But with his jocularity and lighthearted demeanor, I’d argue he also very much reminds Claire of Rupert and Angus. What is supposed to be a fairly routine and straightforward surgery ends in tragedy when Mr. Menzies has an anaphylactic reaction to penicillin. Despite every measure- every precaution- tragedy happened anyway. A higher power cutting that thread of fate.
That tragedy led Claire back to Jamie, but it also led Brianna and Roger through the stones— vibrating a string that eventually placed them all in Bonnet’s web. Roger and Brianna are both young and still imperfect with each other in their marriage, and so they keep secrets from each other in an effort to spare the other one’s feelings.
But as anyone in a long marriage can attest, such efforts rarely work. Secrets turn to blended truths that turn into lies and mistrust. The more we try to delay an uncomfortable conversation, the more we pull the inevitable closer to us…bound to what is fated. Such inevitability happens here.
I did like the touch about Brianna wanting to start a university and teach math; with the flashbacks to Claire we are reminded just how much independence these two women gave up when they time-traveled.
But there cannot be a MacKenzie University simply because there is no MacKenzie University. The future is written and, at least for our time-travelers, it is known.
Murtagh’s fate is yet unknown and, although Jamie contrives to prevent his godfather’s death, I fear every action he does in doing so pulls us closer to its certainty. Knox discovers too late that he has been trapped in a web of Jamie’s device. Murdering Knox seems necessary, but will it leave a vacancy in Tryon’s army that Jamie now has to fill? Has killing Knox only entrapped Murtagh that much more?
Brief shoutout to Adso, reminding us all that cats care nothing for your plans or destiny and that is why we love them.
Brianna muses to Claire that we can never fully know what’s coming, and how relevant a sentiment that is this week. Certainly most of us did not predict that the world would be where it is right now. My family and I are mostly secular, but perhaps there is no better time to take comfort in a deity that knows a plan for us. It certainly can’t hurt. And that takes us back to perpetual adoration— the constant faith we lay bare to a fate that is not yet fully known. We cannot always predict what is coming, but we try to do the best we can anyway.