I am extremely glad not to have read Outlander books for a reason: I don’t know what to expect when I watch the series. Especially, I don’t know what to expect of my favourite character, Dougal McKenzie.
Dougal is, what I call, a white character with infinite shades of grey. I feel attracted also by the purely evil characters, but the white-greyish ones are absolutely those more appealing. When they appear within the lines of the book you’re reading or in the film or tv movie you’re watching, to quote over-quoted line of Forrest Gump, you never know what you’re gonna get.
Dougal McKenzie is a leader, it is clear since the first frame: respected by his men, intelligent, decision-maker. But, despite all his qualities, he’s not the laird, but his elder brother who, in Claire’s words, lives borrowed years, as he suffers a very serious sickness. Nevertheless, Colum (I knew I saw Gary Lewis elsewhere… he was Billy Elliot’s father!!!!), like Dougal, is also a leader, and the clash within the brothers is evident to the cunning Claire since she arrives (or rather, returns) to their castle.
During those first days in their castle Dougal clashes not only with his brother, but also with Claire. He’s trapped between two feelings: he knows, as Black Jack Randall does, that Claire is lying regarding her sudden appearance in his lands, but, on the other hand, he feels attracted to her.
In a first moment the leader overcomes the man: Dougal thinks that Claire is an English spy and gives orders to his men not to leave her alone for a moment, and, when Colum decides not to let her go back to Inverness (most probably on Dougal’s advice) she perceives him as a jailer.
As I mentioned in my previous post on this series, if chapter six is the one of Captain Randall’s “revelation”, chapter four is the one of Dougal’s. He has to swear fidelity to the lair, his brother. And, once more, there’s a fierce battle inside his heart: he is sure that he could be a better lair than his brother, even a better father, but the blood, the family ties and his honour forbids him to oppose his brother in a direct way. That ceremony is not a sweet draught at all for Dougal, and he drinks hard, trying to forget or at least, to make that ceremony hurt a little bit less.
Right after the oath, Dougal finds some men trying to rape Claire when she is escaping from the castle. Of course, the laird’s brother cannot admit a clan’s guest to be molested and Dougal rightfully kicks their asses off. But once they go this time is the man, weakened by the alcohol, who overcome the leader, and when she wants to go away, he grasps her. Dougal is not attacking her as those men wanted to do, he just surrenders to Claire, embraces her, bending his head, hiding himself behind her, and saying, with all his body I just can’t stand it.
But after she refuses him he lets her go. He could force her if he wanted to but that’s not the way he would want a woman that not only desires, but that after the hunt of the following he also admires. One of his men is seriously hurt by the wild boar. In a heartbreaking scene, Dougal cuddles with tenderness the dying man in his arms, while Claire, who has seen during the war many men die and knows how to ease their passing, asks the wounded, Geordie, to describe his home.
After Geordie’s death they return to the castle, defeated and frustrated. Dougal gives vent to his frustration playing with the other men of the clan, including his nephew Jamie, a hard-blows-allowed version of grass hockey. During that game, with the excuse of hitting the ball, Dougal has the chance to shake a little Jamie, who is his nephew, but also an obstacle.
The day after Dougal feels the need of thanking Claire for what she did for Geordie, and makes her the proposal, or rather, a veiled order, to accompany him and other kinsmen to a tax collecting tour in the clan’s lands.
During the course of that trip Claire sees Dougal first like a mobster cashing bribes, to realise afterwards that the money was needed to gather an army to fight the English during the Jacobite rebellion. Afterwards, the unplesant meeting with Captain Randall takes place and when finally Dougal and Claire manage to leave he makes her a proposal: according to the laws she can’t be summoned again by Randall the following day if she’s not longer an English subject, but Scottish, and the only way of becoming such is marrying one. When Claire asks Dougal if she would have to marry him, Dougal says a sentence that has passed already to the story of tv:
And here is where the McKenzie enigma reaches its peak. Most probably Claire would have accepted him in the end (although it would have taken her a little longer… silly lass) but instead Dougal proposes his nephew. And, moreover, in the “wedding chapter” Dougal insists on a sometimes apparently reluctant Jamie to accept the deal. Why? Not having read the books, I can only guess… Loyalty to the family.. to protect not only Claire but also Jamie? I hope to have the answer to the many questions raised by the Mc Kenzie enigma next April.
After all this talk about the character, what about the performance? I have defined Mr. McTavish’s work with these adjectives in a comment to the previous post:
Majestical. Posed. Elegant. Efficient. Credible.
And also, incredibly attractive. I wouldn’t mind Mr. McTavish grinding my corn. Metaphorically, of course…
PS… Thank you!