Outlander The Bakra Review
Starz’s Outlander: Season 3, Episode 12: The Bakra was nearly a singular episode thanks entirely to how the episode began and the way the antagonist carried herself during a pivotal re-entry scene. When a viewer gets to know a TV series, its rhythms, and its boundaries, the viewer’s expectations for surprise, no matter how ingenious a potential surprise may be, gets lowered.
Outlander was no different but through The Bakra, the TV series raised those expectations higher than they had been while simultaneously redefining them.
It is rare that a shift in tone for a TV series can be positive. It wasn’t between the last two seasons of Fringe but it certainly was in The Bakra.
The distinct tone, the precise, slightly unsettling music, and the villain’s introduction at the beginning of The Bakra were so well-done it created a singularity bubble within the Outlander universe. The viewer may have thought they were watching a high-end vampire series or a delightfully macabre horror TV show. That spell slowly dissipated but it held all the way until its scantily clad wielder, Gillian Edgars / Geillis Duncan / The Bakra (Lotte Verbeek), revealed her naked body once more and made Ian Murray, Jr. (John Bell) an offer that I doubt he had the mental or hormonal restraint to refuse.
Watching Geillis seduce Ian, coiling and brushing her body against his, was reminiscent of Melisandre’s seduction of Gendry in Game of Thrones. Ian’s lack of virginity was most-likely the only factor that saved his life when it came to Geillis.
At her outset in Outlander, Geillis presented as a woman with a cause that had fallen in love, who had turned murderess, and then was burned alive. The clever turn of events in Season 2 of Outlander was that the viewer never saw Geillis burned. It looked like she was going to be burned. The viewer assumed she was burned but it was never shown. Then other events began occurring and the viewer’s attention was skillfully diverted, like a well-orchestrated magic performance.
In addition to that ambiguity revealed in The Bakra, Geillis Duncan’s hinted to Dr. Claire Beauchamp Randall/Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) that Geillis had poisoned her second husband, inheriting all of his wealth and property in Jamaica. Geillis was never a woman that would sit back and let the current take her where it wanted. Geillis was a disrupter that took the initiative. She was someone that would force the current to her will, to flow in the direction that she saw fit. From college professor to The Bakra, Geillis had transmogrified into a industrious murderer and a manipulator that would do anything to get what she wanted. As evidenced by the events in The Bakra, Geillis valued human life far less than she once had when she first traveled back in time. Young male virgins were nothing more than play things to her, power sources, their lives meaningless.
When Geillis Duncan previously murdered Arthur Duncan so she could be with Dougal MacKenzie, Geillis had already started down a dark path. In The Bakra, the viewer saw where that path had led her.
Geillis’ eventual use of non-scientific methodologies shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise to the viewer. Outlander was a TV series that already dealt with theoreticals like time-travel and time paradoxes. A witch doctor (mentioned), a working truth serum, and a fortune-teller (who could actually see the future in cryptic form) in The Bakra were far more easy to digest because of the metaphysical elements already present in Outlander.
The most surprising moment in The Bakra, second only to Geillis being alive, was all of the unspoken dialogue and history between Lord John William Grey (David Berry) and James “Jamie” MacKenzie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Lord Grey’s emotional reaction to Jamie was transparent. Jamie was used to it, as well as Grey’s controlled desire for him, but Dr. Claire Fraser was completely unaware of it. When Jamie told Claire about Grey and his son, Jamie clearly left out a key element in Grey and Jamie’s relationship i.e. Grey’s attraction and yearning.
Claire Fraser was a bystander in the room with Lord Grey and Jamie, a third wheel, a sensation that Claire had never felt in the past with Laoghaire MacKenzie and Jamie or any other woman for that matter.
It seemed that Lord Grey and Jamie wanted to say things that would have been inappropriate or uncomfortable to say in front of Claire (especially since Claire possessed something that Grey clearly wanted). A pause was never so pregnant as the one in the room when Lord Grey saw Claire and Jamie Fraser alone in The Bakra.
Lord Grey was unaware that while previously musing in The Bakra about the P.D.A. between Claudel “Fergus” Fraser and Marsali MacKimmie, a look of matured love and connection had passed between Jamie Fraser and Claire Fraser as they silently shared with the other how far their affection and bond had progressed.
It was lucky for James Fraser that the acting governor of Jamaica was an old friend that harbored unrequited affection for him. Jamie was going to need such a friend in a high place when it came to his charges, trial, and possibly, his execution.
The slave market presented in The Bakra was an aggressive ache for Claire Fraser that grew into agony as she stepped deeper and deeper into the market’s soul-corroding bowels. Hearing about slavery, reading about it, seeing movies about it, paled in comparison to it’s deplorable reality. When Claire came face-to-face with such a monumental injustice, the human being in Claire lashed out, thrashed, and wailed for that government institution to cease and desist. It hit Claire especially hard because her best friend, besides Jamie, was black and that between the two of them (Claire and Joe Abernathy), there was no difference.
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