Actor David Berry brought the character of Lord John Grey to life in Outlander Season 3. We break down the most delicious facial expressions that made us fall hard for the character and the actor.
Outlander Season 3 seemingly flew by, electronically hurdling across space and time, just like the heartfelt sentiment of Lin Manuel Miranda in his 2016 Tony Award acceptance soliloquy, “And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.”
Just as Miranda did with his solemn statement, the adult Lord John Grey of Season 3 captured my heart with his unrequited 1750s illicit love (is love is love) of Scottish Highlander James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.
I love Lord John particularly for those moments when that ramrod-up-his-arse, straight-faced British military mask drops and his secrets spill out of his heart through his expressive face, all courtesy of Mr. David Berry. Mr. Berry, I adore you for bringing Lord John to life almost as much as Lord John adores Jamie! Obsessenachs, if you, too, are keen on Lord John, join me as I reminisce about his Season 3 delicious expressions.
Lord John and Jamie’s Meet Cute
Outlander book readers, or Davina Porter listeners, are intimately familiar with the Jamie and Lord John (aka Major John William Grey) storyline from Diana Gabaldon’s eight-book series that has captivated readers for more than 25 years. They may have even read Ms. Gabaldon’s Lord John book series (and we yearn for a Lord John TV spin-off as hard as Lord John yearns for Jamie!). TV-only fans met Lord John first as 16-year old English scout William Grey, in Season 2’s Episode 9, “Je Suis Prest.” NOTE: Skip down to “Who’s the Poor Devil Now” if you remember the skirmish between Red Jamie and Young William, second son of Viscount Melton.
There the young scout was, creeping around at midnight, sneaking up on the notorious Red Jamie and trying to slit his throat, landing a broken arm for his efforts. Claire assists Jamie with further table-turning by giving an award-worthy improv performance as a fellow British captive.
Soldier and gentleman even in his youth, the earnestly resolute Young William, brilliantly played by Oscar Kennedy, ultimately gives up his military secrets in order to defend the “English gentlewoman” he thinks is being held captive by Red Jamie. Young William (YW) bargains for Claire’s honor, telling Red Jamie (RJ), “Release the lady, and I will tell you whatever you wish.” YW spills the beans and, when RJ spares YW’s life, their parting exchange proves prophetic:
RJ: “I give you your life. I hope you use it well.”
YW: “I owe you my life. I should greatly prefer not to, but since you have forced the gift upon me, I must regard it as a debt of honor. I should hope to discharge that debt in the future, and once it is discharged, I will kill you.”
RJ: “Then I must hope, sir, that we do not meet again.” (Aw, didn’t you love that elegant RJ bow!?)
YW: “A Grey does not forget an obligation, sir.”
Dun. Dun. Duuuun. Poor wee devil! That first encounter, both humorously animated and deadly serious, only hinted at a future meeting between RJ and an adult Lord John, years later and with a special RJ twist, and how their lives would become intertwined.
Who’s the Poor Devil Now
The adult Major John William Grey’s first Outlander appearance was anxiously awaited by all the book readers. Kindly, they shared just enough on social media to pull the collective chain of non-readers.
All of us were amply rewarded in Season 3 Episode 3, “All Debts Paid,” as the story fast-forwarded to 10 years after the failed Scottish uprising. At about 4:30 in, we get our first glimpse of those Lord John Grey expressions as the now dashing British officer arrives to assume the role of governor at Ardsmuir Prison where Jacobite Highlander prisoners were held after the 1746 Battle of Culloden.
Lord John’s Beefeater bearing was on full display as he and the outgoing governor navigate through the Ardsmuir warren to a courtyard where prisoners were allowed outside. Upon hearing that Red Jamie is one of the prisoners, it’s obvious by Lord John’s almost imperceptible double-take that he’s shocked and the changing emotions quickly flickering across his face revealed he most definitely remembers their first meeting on that dark night years ago…
Confusion, Fear and Contempt. The inner dialogue is written all over Lord John’s face.
Red Jamie, here, in my charge?
He blinks in disbelief and those lush brows that give Richard Rankin’s a run for their money quickly rise and fall back into place. His chin rises and his mouth gawps slightly as he peers at his archenemy, in the flesh, across the courtyard! There’s a minute narrowing of the eyes before his officer mask falls back into place. How dare anyone even think he would deign to interact with that fiend.
Wait, Mac. What’s this guy saying?
This Red Jamie Mac Dubh is spokesmen for the Highlander prisoners!?
Lord John’s chin rises and his brows knit themselves into the slightest of frowns. Despite the fact that Jamie is chained and no physical threat, it’s obvious as they lock eyes briefly across the courtyard that Lord John recalls the anguish of that long-ago encounter. Almost imperceptible, yet still delectable, his eyes flair as he intently listens to Red Jamie’s story. The outgoing governor shares that the fear Red Jamie inspired in battle has left some convinced he’s the Devil himself to which Lord John replies, maybe just a little bit breathless, “Poor Devil now,” and gazes once again at Red Jamie. He gets all indignant at the suggestion that a weekly tête-à-tête with Mac Dubh would be a good practice to continue. His mouth draws to the right as he spits out scornfully, “I’ll not dine with that…prisoner!” Famous last words, Lord John.
We Gotta Stop Meeting Like This
Show watchers get only a small taste of how that long-ago encounter with Jamie and Claire had made Lord John a laughing stock and the intensity of the shameful memory. In an ‘I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille’ moment, the ever-polite Lord John is interrupted from reading some mysterious book and lifts his head toward the window, quickly licking his lips in anticipation. Chains rattling in the hall announced the impending inevitable face-to-face meeting with Jamie that had Lord John shaking in his boots.
He gathered his nerve for a formal introduction (during which neither disclose that they recognize each other) and they agree that Jamie/Mac Dubh will continue his “William Shatner for Priceline” role as prisoner spokesman. As supper is served, it’s clear that one of Roger’s rat satires would have proved useful for Lord John. The ensuing rats vs. cats discussion gives us two more delectable expressions.
Shock, Distress and Poise. Lord John is clearly out of touch with prison life.
Oh, no, the prison is overrun with rats but the prisoners wouldn’t ‘care to have a cat takin’ all their rats.’ Oh, Red Jamie, I_can’t_even.
Lord John again displays the rising chin, wide eyes and rising brow of disbelief. As Jamie confirms that the men do indeed eat what they catch, Lord John catches his breath and his face freezes at the horror. Jamie fueled the revulsion fire by taking a few steps towards Lord John and expressing his “God knows what you did to be sent here” sentiment. Lord John’s composure dissolved to truly palpable anguish observed through the dropping of his chin, straightening of his spine and his minute movement backwards in his chair but he valiantly tries to recover. The Lord John mask reappears as he exercises his control by “granting” Jamie permission to leave. His added “for now” and the slight narrowing of his eyes gives us a hint that he’s struggling mightily to retain the upper hand and his composure. As Jamie is led away, Lord John’s huge sigh of relief and slumping in his chair lets us know how being so close to Red Jamie again released all_his_adrenaline.
Anger. The ongoing cat and mouse game between the two is replete with ever-increasing smiles and sweetness from both as they dine together and strike several seemingly mutually-beneficial bargains. God’s teeth, though, it’s hard to get one up on James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. Dios mio, Red Jamie has escaped! Breathless, Lord John’s mouth hangs open and his eyes widen, sending his bushy brows into overdrive. Who’s the Poor Devil now, Lord John?
Meet Cute #2
The hunt for the escaped prisoner continues for days, but Lord John won’t give up.
Press on, buck up, make a pit stop, oops.
We get the biggest shock yet – Jamie’s twisted recreation of their first meeting and his snappy “Yeah, that’s how it’s done, William Grey…” capture of Lord John and his sword.
Disdain. The physical assault turns to verbal sparring and takes an unexpected turn ending with Jamie taking a knee and yielding the sword, asking Lord John to keep his long-ago promise to kill him. Lord John takes the high road, though, despite his still-brightly-burning shame over Jamie getting the best of him twice. His nose crinkles in disgust as he spits out the words, “I am not a murderer of unarmed prisoners,” and breaks that promise made in his youth.
Prisoner of Love
A definite shift in power occurs over the coming months. Baby-blueing and bushy-browing fireside chats ensue over dinners and chess, moving their relationship to a new level of trust. Then, dun, dun, duuuuun, things once again go off the rails.
Sorrow. Sharing stories of their mutual losses over chess, Jamie tells Lord John Claire is “gone.” The wee cunning bastard Lord John makes a horribly wrong move, a ‘let me kill you with my never-ending love’ intimate touch. The single tear of remorse sliding down his completely still face said it all. Checkmate, Lord John.
Hell or Helwater
Lord John gets a chance to make amends, when the prison closes and the prisoners were to be transported to the colonies or territories. Lord John couldn’t free Jamie from his sentence as a traitor, but he could spare him the hell of transportation and find him a better sitch. As a groomsman at the English Helwater estate, Jamie would have some measure of freedom. As Lord John told Jamie about his ‘home’ for the coming years, he tried to assure him that it was the best option.
Atonement. Despite his snappy tricorn hat tamping down those bushy brows, Lord John’s regret for that thumb rub is evident in his shifting eyes and quivering mouth. He is sincere to his core in his desire to find the best spot possible for Jamie and promises to check on his welfare often. Lord John keeps his promise and their friendship builds over time. Checkmate, JAMMF.
Prelude to a Kiss (well, in the book)
In Season 3 Episode 304, “Of Lost Things,” Lord John paved the way for Jamie, making his life at Helwater generally pleasant for a time. But, as par for the course now, Lord John had to put on his fixer tricorn when Jamie is both blessed and cursed with the birth his son Willie who he cannot claim as his own. Everyone who knew the secret agreed Jamie should go home to Scotland before the truth about Willie became evident, leading to a bit more drama.
Ecstasy and Agony. Jamie asked Lord John to serve as Willie’s father and suggests that he would be willing to, you know, no big whoop, give his body in return. Mr. Berry obviously saved the most delicious Lord John expression for this scene. Those bushy brows are like ecstatic caterpillars dancing across his forehead, almost knocking the tricorn hat right off his head as disbelief, shock, utter joy – all_the_feels – fly across his face. They seal the deal with a handshake.
NOTE: Some book readers would like to have seen this part of Diana Gabaldon’s story make the on-screen cut.
Jamie lingered awkwardly a moment, and then, as though suddenly making up his mind to it, stepped forward and bending down, cupped Grey’s face between his hands. Grey felt the big hands warm on the skin of his face, light and strong as the brush of an eagle’s feather, and then Jamie Fraser’s soft wide mouth touched his own. There was a fleeting impression of tenderness and strength held in check, the faint taste of ale and fresh-baked bread. Then it was gone, and John Grey stood blinking in the brilliant sun. “Oh,” he said.
Jamie gave him a shy, crooked smile.
When the time comes for Jamie to actually ride away, Lord John’s profound grief at the agony of parting with Jamie, seemingly forever, is written all over his face. Profoundly frowning, his forehead crinkles and his bushy brows curve in delicate waves above his grief-stricken eyes. Billy Joel style, ‘they parted, the closest of friends.’ Does the amount of time exist in which Lord John could forget Jamie? Ah, nope!
Meet Cute #3
To our delight, the Lord John and Jamie storyline picks up years later in Season 3 Episode 12, “The Bakra,” giving us more of Lord John’s charming expressions. A career move for Lord John sends him to Jamaica to serve as governor and, as fortune would have it, Jamie lands there, too.
Desire. It’s a shock for everyone, but particularly for Lord John, when the guy he’s in love with shows up in the reception line at his party, the governor’s ball (Anne Gavin, thanks for that description)! Mouth agape, Lord John’s wide eyes follows Jamie’s bow and his smile lights up the room. Only one problem for Lord John – Jamie’s missing wife who has returned after 20 years is there, too!
Again, Mr. Berry kills it in this scene. Unable to contain his delight, Lord John escorts them to a more private setting where he stops himself from his impulse to reach out and embrace Jamie. They have a moment catching up before the tension builds and it gets super awkward, especially for Claire, and Lord John bolts. Catching up with Claire later, Lord John ups the discomfort ratchet to an 8 on the 10-point cat-fight scale. He should probably be thankful Claire’s attention turned elsewhere. Me-oowww!
Here Comes the Governor
Lord John finally smooths everything over by rescuing Jamie from the ladder-climbing-wanna-be-Navy-Lieutenant, oops I mean Captain, Leonard in the Season 3 Finale, Episode 13, “Eye of the Storm.” In the best Army vs. Navy game ever, Governor Grey basically sweeps the deck with the overly-ambitious Leonard swabbie.
Sarcasm. Lord John leads the swabbie down the primrose path, first smiling then becoming appropriately agitated, his voice dripping sarcasm. No warrant, no sworn affidavit, nothing – really, Captain Leonard? Then no Jamie ’cause your authoritay ends where mine begins, at the water’s edge! CHECKMATE, Lieutenant Leonard.
Farewell. Their debts to each other paid, until the next crisis that only they can fix for each other, Lord John offers a heartfelt sendoff, “Good bye, Jamie, and good luck.” His longing gaze speaks volumes. “I shall probably want you till the day I die.”
Appreciation and Felicitations
As Allison Keene noted in her Collider Season 3 Finale Recap, “Lord John is a liberator and a friend” to Jamie. Best. Black Jack. Antidote. Ever! Amirite?
My sincere thanks to Mr. Berry for bringing us the delightful, the delicious, the delovely character that is Lord John Grey. A special word of thanks also goes to Mr. Berry’s Outlander superfan mother-in-law who urged him to take this role!
Mr. Berry (and Lord John Grey), we wish you well. Until we meet again next season, good bye and good luck!
What was your favorite Lord John Grey moment or expression in Outlander Season 3?