- Outlander -Malva Christie Is Not A Villain In 'Outlander'
"Malva" is a name that strikes fear and outrage in the hearts of many an Outlander fan. "Beware of Malva," said a picture of new Outlander cast member Jessica Reynolds shared by her costar Alexander Vlahos. The hubbub surrounding the impending arrival of Malva Christie on Fraser's Ridge has been rather ominous, but I'm here to tell you, despite everything that might go down in Season 6, Malva Christie is not a villain.
Major spoilers ahead for Outlander Book 6 A Breath of Snow and Ashes.
From Black Jack to the Browns, there have been plenty of villains on Outlander. And, if you're like Outlander executive producer Maril Davis, you may think Malva falls into that category. She sure does some seriously villainous things in the sixth Outlander book by Diana Gabaldon. But when you look at the reasons behind her actions, you can have more empathy for this teenage girl.
Malva is Claire's apprentice in her surgery during A Breath of Snow and Ashes, and Claire strives to be a sort of mother figure to the teenaged girl. But when Malva is revealed to be six months pregnant, Malva lies and says that Jamie is the father. Claire finds Malva murdered just days later and fails to save her baby via a hasty Cesarean section. Claire's accused of murdering Malva and her baby, but Malva's father Tom takes the blame to save Claire.
As Tom Christie reveals in Chapter 97 of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Malva was the product of an affair between his wife Mona and his brother Edgar while he was imprisoned at Ardsmuir. According to Tom, his wife was a witch. And though Tom's views on his wife were inevitably influenced by his staunch Presbyterianism and the backward notion of women as evil enchantresses ("It was the curse of Lilith," he says), Mona was certainly not mother of the year. She was hanged after murdering Edgar when Malva was only 2 years old. Mona left the care of Malva and Tom's legitimate child Allan to Edgar's widow until Tom was able to bring the children to the American colonies during his term of indentured service.
Claire shares how Tom says he tried to save Malva's soul by doing things like "beat the wickedness out of her" — as Claire once witnessed. Tom explains that he beat her that time cause he caught Malva trying to cast a love spell with human bones on Jamie. Tom also reveals that Malva had tried to kill him and Claire so she could be with Jamie. Rather than being in love with Jamie, Tom claims that Malva "lusted for wealth, for position, for what she saw as freedom."
It's hard to know how Tom truly felt about his adopted daughter since, when he is giving Claire the backstory of his family, he's doing it under the guise of a false confession for Malva's murder. But he truly seems to believe that Malva has the "same darkness of soul" as her mother. You can argue that Malva did have a dark soul, like Gabaldon herself has insinuated, but the circumstances Malva grew up in make her more of a victim than an evil girl. And there's a very good reason that Malva was so desperate for freedom that she went so far as to poison Claire and her father.
In Chapter 122 of A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Allan Christie confesses that he's the one who killed Malva and explains the very disturbing details of their relationship. "His final monologue changes the game," Ginger Wiseman of The Outlander Podcast tells The Dipp. "It flips what we think we know of Malva, how we may have first judged her, on its head."
Eight years her senior, Allan took care of Malva when they lived with their neglectful aunt. And starting from when she was a very young girl, Allan began sexually abusing Malva. He shows no sense of remorse, proclaiming, "She was mine!" to a sickened Claire.
"Here we have someone who also came from a broken home, who also had to watch his mother's execution, but who then became the abuser," Wiseman says.
He continued his sexual abuse throughout Malva's young life. He also physically abused her out of jealousy. When she had become pregnant (something Allan had never considered a possibility), she began sleeping with other men on the Ridge, hoping to be able to claim the baby was one of theirs. But this too enraged the possessive Allan, who beat her and then came up with the idea to pin the pregnancy on Jamie. He thought Jamie would offer them money to make them go away and then, Allan and Malva could leave the Ridge together.
But then, Malva told Allan she couldn't go through with the plan anymore because she didn't want to hurt Claire. "No matter what I said to her, she just kept saying that — she loved ye, and she'd tell," Allan tells Claire. So, he murdered her.
After normalizing an abusive, incestuous relationship for over a decade and threatening her to keep silent, Allan killed Malva when she wanted to expose it. Though she hadn't been able to stand up to Allan for her own sake, she could for Claire's sake. "Malva dies because she refused to continue manipulating Claire. Malva's baby dies because she refused to continue manipulating Claire," Wisemen says.
Beyond Allan, Tom failed her as well. With his wife and brother's betrayal, I get that it would be hard for Tom to love Malva. But Claire suspects that Tom was aware of the abuse his biological son was inflicting on his half-sister and cousin. And Tom chose not to see it or stop it. Rather, Tom focused on the wickedness in Malva that needed to be beaten out of her. His ignorance and his bias meant that instead of protecting this young girl, he chose to think of her as evil.
Because of everything she puts the Frasers through, Malva is one of the easiest Outlander characters to hate. But unlike villains like Jonathan Randall and Stephen Bonnet, Malva was not someone who simply wanted to inflict pain on others. Everything she did — poisoning Claire, blackmailing Roger, blaming the pregnancy on Jamie — was done out of desperation. And she felt remorse for her actions, which is rather incredible considering she only knew abusive familial relationships her entire life. Tragically, that remorse is what cost her her life.
"It's easy to say that Malva is a villain," Wiseman says. "It's harder to widen your field of view and see the bigger picture. To consider Malva's upbringing, her sexual abuse by her brother, and the manipulation she was forced into by shame. To see that this very polarizing figure lost her life and that of her child's when she said 'no.'"
It's no wonder that Caitriona Balfe described the Malva storyline in the upcoming Season 6 as "a really heartbreaking, but a really twisted narrative that they all get embroiled in." And Claire, the character who is most directly hurt by Malva's actions, is able to forgive Malva. "Oh, Malva, I thought in despair. Oh, my darling Malva. Why didn't you tell me?" she thinks when Allan confesses.
In the later book, Written in My Own Heart's Blood, Claire visits what she secretly calls "Malva's Garden" — the place where Malva had been murdered — and hopes Malva's "spirit had fled and was at peace." Claire thinks how she loved the "strange, damaged young woman" and that she "perhaps had loved me, as well as she could."
Claire doesn't hate Malva — far from it. And so while it will be tempting to hate her and categorize her as a villain during Outlander Season 6 (and yes, it's written in a way that will surely make you hate her at times), the audience's perception of her must shift once Outlander reveals the entire truth behind Malva's actions.
"Malva was a victim. Of child sexual abuse. Of incest. Of rape. Of manipulation. She also did some very bad things. And when she tried to do better, she was murdered," Wiseman says. "I offer that a girl who has been traumatized by the time she was 2 maybe, just maybe, was also a tragic victim in this story."