- Outlander -Jessica Reynolds Talks Malva's Fate & Motivations On 'Outlander'
Spoilers ahead for Outlander Season 6, Episode 6, "The World Turned Upside Down."
Claire's world may have been turned upside down in Outlander Season 6, but Malva's world has ended. After Malva accused Jamie of impregnating her, Claire found Malva Christie's dead body on Outlander. With her throat slit, Malva's death was unmistakably murder and Claire was devastated as she tried in vain to save her former apprentice's unborn baby. Despite everything Malva had done to Claire and Jamie in the episode, it was a heart-wrenching scene and I had the opportunity to speak with Jessica Reynolds about Malva's death and why exactly her character might have done what she did.
Though Malva started as a curious, if odd, sheltered young woman desperate for Claire's knowledge, her behavior became more unsettling in Episodes 604 and 605 as she spied on Claire and Jamie having sex and broke off the finger bones of the Sin-Eater's corpse. For Reynolds, Malva's pregnancy is the key to the disturbing shift in her character's behavior. "I think that you can see when she starts to do the real damage and that is when she finds out she's pregnant."
"She's a little intense at the start. She's obviously suffered abuse her whole life. She's, I believe, mentally ill," Reynolds says. "[But] I don't believe the moments of manipulation come until she's in the deep and she has no other choice, as far as she's concerned, but to lie and to make up stories and avoid such horrific circumstances."
Upon reflection, her flattering Claire and becoming her medical apprentice may seem devious now. But Reynolds says those "little curious moments" were genuine. "She is a bit of a people-pleaser and she has a bit of a version of herself but it's not to manipulate," she says. "It's because she wants to look clever, and she wants to look polite, and she wants to look kind — especially to someone like Claire."
When it comes to when exactly Malva found out she's pregnant, Reynolds says it wasn't specified in the Season 6 scripts, but she "worked it out in terms of the scenes." The scene Reynolds decided that Malva had just learned she was pregnant ended up being cut from Season 6. But the actor describes it as a moment between Malva and Caitríona Balfe's Claire about "sowing seeds and how they're similar that they both didn't have their mothers" growing up.
"It's quite metaphorical," she says. "I was like, 'She just found out she's pregnant there.'" (Although viewers didn't get to see this scene, Reynolds thinks it'll make the deleted scenes in the DVD and Blu-ray releases.)
Yet, even if it was unplanned, why would a pregnancy make Malva act out in such a way? Lying that Jamie "took" her in his time of need when Claire was sick? Well, the whole story behind Malva's motivation hasn't been revealed on the Starz show yet and isn't something Reynolds is allowed to speak about. (Although readers of Diana Gabaldon's A Breath of Snow and Ashes know already... as long as the series sticks to the books, that is.) But you don't necessarily need the whole picture to still have some empathy for poor Malva Christie. As Reynolds says, "Does she deserve to get murdered? I don't think so, at all. I think there's a lot of people who've done a lot worse and haven't received that."
There's also the background that viewers do know currently, with Reynolds saying her character was "doomed" since she saw her mother being hanged for being a witch. Reynolds made sure to read A Breath of Snow and Ashes and even fan theories about her character before filming. That led her to come up with a backstory involving Malva's mother, Mona. "I kind of came to the theory that Malva's mother wasn't so well. Wasn't mentally very well. And I think Tom took out a lot of his anger on her for doing maybe some erratic things," Reynolds says, acknowledging that Malva may remind Tom of his dead wife who, as he says, is "burning in the fires of hell." Reynolds adds, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
She also points to something a fan wrote on Twitter that she retweeted. "I thought it was a wonderful insight of: If you make a child feel like they're evil and tell them that they're evil and punish them from that [young] age, they're going to start to believe it. And the rest of their life, they're going to have to either prove that they're not, or fall into that role." It's the latter that Reynolds thinks, "That's exactly what happens to Malva ... having that oppression, being beaten down at such a young age, what else is she going to do?"
Despite the insight that Reynolds has into her character's mindset, there's no doubt that not all viewers will be feeling sympathetic toward wee Malva Christie. When I ask if the 24-year-old if she'll avoid social media after "The World Turned Upside Down" drops, she laughs. "There's so much protectiveness when it comes to Jamie and Claire, obviously and rightly so," she says. "After Episode 5, I've started to get the, 'Malva's a witch, Malva's a b-i-t-c-h,' and all that. And honestly, it just makes me feel like I'm doing my job. I don't take it to heart."
As Gabaldon previously emailed me, "Jessica is Absolutely Great in the part. The viewers will all want to kill her themselves..." But Reynolds doesn't seem too worried, saying that the fandom has been "so good at differentiating" between her as the actor and Malva as the character. "They've honestly been too kind to me."
However, the episode still leaves the question of who the "real" Malva is — the creepy manipulator or a maltreated young woman desperately acting out because of her circumstances?
"As humans, we all have a need to compartmentalize, right?" Reynolds says, adding about Malva's behavior, "I think it's all real." Malva did breakdown at one point, revealing her deeply-buried emotions when Claire came to her home and told her, "I'm sorry for whatever it is that you're going through that would make you so desperate to do this." Beyond that, Reynolds says there was another moment when her character got to show how she really felt.
"Even in the accusation scene, she kind of breaks down," she says. "She's crying and saying, like, 'I'm sorry, Mistress Fraser, that we've gone behind your back and slept together.' But I think Malva's also going, 'I'm sorry that I have to do this to you.' I think there's that subtext."
"In the books, Claire says she loved her. And I believe Malva wholeheartedly loved her as well. I think she feels awful about the whole thing."
Although Malva might have felt bad for betraying her mentor, Claire's bound to feel bad too since Malva was murdered while Claire was out due to using the ether. As for why Malva was coming to the Big House, Reynolds says, "I actually can't reveal. It's coming. We will all find out. I just can't reveal." But she can say, "What we will see in the future shows remorse — deep, deep remorse from Malva. We'll definitely see that it's not just a selfish act."
As for whether or not that justifies what Malva did? Well, Reynolds has a wish for fans. "Debate it to the end," she says. "What outweighs it — her circumstances or what she does to other people?"
But be advised — it's probably best for Outlander fans to wait to learn Malva's full circumstances before making their final judgments.