"Castle Leoch", the second episode in the new Starz original adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, takes us further into the rich history of Claire’s 18th century adventure. When we left her, Claire was travelling with the highlander men of Clan MacKenzie to their home village, away from Inverness and the stones at Craigh na Dun – away from the doorway back to the world she left behind. As she attempts to acclimatize herself to her settings, she soon senses something strange and possibly untrustworthy in Dougal MacKenzie and his Laird brother, the disfigured clan leader Colum MacKenzie. While Claire finds potential foes lingering in her shadows, she also finds new company in village healer Gellis Duncan and Castle Leoch’s cook, Mrs. Fitzgibbons. Meanwhile, from Jamie she begins to learn more about the charming Scot’s history and the notorious reputation of her attacker, Black Jack Randall. If viewers of the premiere episode were delighted in the historical vibrancy of the drama, fans can expect to be enraptured as the series continues to Castle Leoch. The premiere’s rolling landscapes are replaced with the rustic grandeur of the citadel and a precise depiction of everyday life in a 18th century Scottish village. In one scene, Mrs. Fitzgibbons helps to outfit Claire in something more befitting her time and place, giving viewers a look at the process of women’s dress in the era. From the food in the kitchens to the settings of dinner in the great hall to the simplicity of the stables, Castle Leoch comes to life from the pages of the book in a beautiful show of authenticity and pride.
One of my (and I’m sure many readers’) favorite things about Claire in the novel is the way she calls up her knowledge of the time and place she finds herself thrust into. Incredibly smart and quick on her feet, Claire is armed with everything she needs to muster her way through history. The show remains true to the book in that way, with much of the episode focusing on Claire’s internal efforts and her external observations as she familiarizes herself with the past. It’s particularly exciting to see time given to her development as a strong-willed, independently-minded female character.
Appearing for the first time in this episode are Lotte Verbeek as Gellis Duncan, Annette Badland as Mrs. Fitzgibbons, Gary Lewis as Colum MacKenzie, and (briefly) Nell Hudson as Laoghaire. The casting choices continue to impress, with each actor working diligently to bring the characters lovingly to life – and making it look rather effortless along the way. Lotte Verbeek is especially wonderful as Gellis, a mysterious woman who quickly draws Claire’s attention. As trusts and distrusts are revealed, episode two of Outlander takes viewers deeper into the reaches of an intriguing, beautifully-imagined story.
"Castle Leoch", airred Saturday night on Starz at 9pm EST/PST; catch up OnDemand or on the Starz Play app, and find lots of behind-the-scenes extras at Starz.com.
Disclosure: Access to programming was made available for the purpose of review | Photos: © Starz