Outlander newcomer Jessica Reynolds on Malva's fate, secrets left to uncover
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday's episode of Outlander.
Dear Malva, we hardly knew ye...
From the beginning, it seemed clear the Christie family were destined to bring trouble to the Ridge. But everything came to a head on Sunday night's episode, "The World Turned Upside Down." After dysentery and a second mysterious illness took the lives of many on the Ridge and practically killed Claire (Caitriona Balfe), new trouble was in store, courtesy of one Miss Malva Christie (Jessica Reynolds).
The Christie family came to the Fraser home to tell them that Malva was pregnant — and, according to her, by Jamie (Sam Heughan), who Malva claims began an affair with her while Claire was delirious in her sickbed. Of course, Jamie denies this, and Claire is blindsided by her former apprentice's sudden determination to upend her marriage.
Turmoil between the families ensues, and Claire struggles to recover emotionally and physically in the midst of this sudden betrayal. But things take a far more tragic turn when Claire discovers Malva lying in the Fraser garden, her throat slit. Claire desperately tries to save Malva's unborn child, cutting the baby from her womb, but it's too late.
We caught up with Jessica Reynolds to ask about Malva's bloody end, what her motives in accusing Jamie were, and why she was driven to betray Claire after seemingly coming to see her as a mother figure.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The book is out there as a reference point, but when you signed on to the show, did you know that this was going to be Malva's fate from the beginning?
JESSICA REYNOLDS: When I was auditioning, I didn't. When I got the part, I found out from the book because I read my whole book. That's how I found out. And I was like, "Oh, my good god!" [author Diana Gabaldon] really found a way to put all the worst things that could happen to an 18-year-old girl into one plot line. It's just pure tragedy, isn't it?
When Claire's ill and Malva insists on staying by her side, is Malva already putting the pieces for her accusation into in motion?
Yeah, I think so. As far as I'm concerned, she found out she was pregnant between episode 2 and episode 3. In the filler of that. That's when she starts to have to figure out her own fate, and she's busy in survival mode. It starts quite early on. But in terms of when she says she wants to stay, I think she's upset and genuine and loves Claire and doesn't want to leave her side. But there's also a lot playing against her and there's a lot that she feels she has to do in those moments, which are not are very nice things.
Well, along similar lines, it's she and Mrs. Bug who cut off Claire's hair, and I'm curious if you think that she genuinely thought she was helping, or if that was some sort of weird twisted revenge on Claire?
I don't think it's as evil as the surface maybe sees it as. Yeah, she thinks that it is going to make Claire less beautiful and that Jamie will somehow scare away from her because of that. It's a very teenage girl thing to do, like, "I'm going to cut your hair." There's an element of that, but alongside that, there's so much innocence and desperation and an undeveloped brain working here and acting out and doing such awful things because she's in dire circumstances.
Why, after everything Claire did for her in this relationship that they've built, do you think she accuses Jamie? She could accuse a number of other people and have a much more valid claim.
We will find out more. There's obviously a solid explanation. And I don't want to give away too much. But there's reason behind the madness.
What is your take on her thoughts about or beliefs in witchcraft? Because we've seen her dabble in it herself. And obviously there's her history with her mother as well.
We see at the start she's a good Protestant girl. She's learned a lot. She's taken for her Bible what her dad has said, but then she's heard things about her mother, and that entices her. There's a part of her that's, like, fearful and thinks this could be real. And then there's part of her that thinks it sounds kind of cool to be a part of that. She sees the science as a magic, as you see in the ether scene. "I've never seen the like of it; it's like bringing a dead person back to life." In those instances in that time period, it is like witchcraft, but the best kind of witchcraft to her.
She could have gone to Claire for help to begin with. But instead she chooses to accuse her of witchcraft and turn against her. Can you illuminate why that is the case, and if some part of her really starts to believe that Claire is a witch?
No, I don't think she does believe that. Especially not at this stage. At the start, potentially. She's almost scared of touching the book and everything. There's still those doubts, but by that stage, no. Malva's got a big hold over her. There's a lot of influences and things that are getting in the way of Malva doing what she thinks she should ultimately do. But it will all become unraveled. And we'll see.
Why was she so promiscuous? Is that out of trauma? Seeking pleasure?
These are all such brilliant questions, but it will be explained. We'll see. There's so much going on behind the surface and as to why Malva does become promiscuous and does meet with a lot of men, there's a very specific reason for it all.
We saw that she was approaching Claire's surgery before she died. Did you have a specific thing in mind that she was going there for?
If she had lived and gone on to have this child, what do you think her future would have been?
I like to think that she maybe would have been welcomed into the Fraser's family in some sort of way. And could have continued as an apprentice or an assistant to Claire maybe. That's the ideal scenario. I guess that's all she wanted. To have some sort of purpose of her own that didn't rely on men all the time. And that didn't involve a life of abuse, basically. I think that there was that potential for her.
You've said things will unravel, so will we ultimately learn the truth of of who the father of the child is and who her killer is?
Yeah, I'm sure we'll find out at some point. It's in the books, isn't it? You can look it up. But no, don't. Save it. But yeah, there has to be some sort of conclusion, right? I just love seeing the debate of Malva and this frustration over her. It's brilliant. Let's keep up this chat about her and whether she's good or bad. Or justified or not. It's so interesting to discuss, even on a psychology level.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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