Outlander is back!
I have been waiting to type those words for months. The first half of the first season featured some the best television I’ve seen all year. I was over the moon for Outlander; “The Wedding” was, by my estimation, the best episode of television in 2014. So, when I realized that the show was coming back about a week ago, I was itching to watch it.
The second half of the first season started out with a episode that burned through a lot of character development in fifty-five minutes. We explore all facets of Jamie as he comes to terms with the idea of being a modern husband to go along with his modern wife. This episode, I will say, took a little while to warm up for me.
Part of the problem, I think, is that they are unwilling (or perhaps unable; I’ve never read the series) to let Jamie be anything but a good guy. His incredibly off-putting outbursts aside, Jamie is the perfect hero. His innate goodness anchors what is actually a very depressing and very dark show. If Jamie becomes one of the bad guys, then there are no good guys. Claire is left to fend for herself in a world that would eat her alive before she had a chance to scream.
Thinking more about it now, I think they made the right decision to go through this gamut of character actions in one episode. The longer Jamie is the bad guy, the long this show becomes an exercise in ticking time bombs. Claire is the most important and most charismatic person on the show, but without the protection Jamie provides, she’s in incredibly present danger.
Not much you can do about that now, really; the world has been set up as harsh and unforgiving and utterly disgusting, and any attempt to soften that would come off as cheap. But what’s really horrifying is understanding the future of our protagonists. Claire has evaded being assaulted a few times now; that luck is going to run out. That’s the world of this show. The darkness is inescapable. But it’s such a progressive and subversive show that it’s able to tackle those kinds of themes with grace and aplomb; Outlander will treat them with the gravitas that they deserve. But that doesn’t mean I really want to watch it occur.
It was interesting how they took Jamie, too, from Point Misogyny to Point Husband. The A-Plot of this episode was dealing with the fallout of the MacKenzie brother feud. With Colum furious at his brother Dougal for raising money for a Jacobite army, things were coming to a boil. But Jamie convinced Colum to allow Dougal to “play the rebel,” which bucked the tradition of punishment for those who oppose their lords. Jamie realizes that he must buck tradition in order to be with Claire, who has not and will never abide by the degradation in which Jamie put her through.
This is accomplished by Jamie stating those things out loud, which I usually have a problem with, but I thought it was necessary this episode. The way that they weaved the Jamie/Calire story together to allow the A-Plot to influence the B-Plot character was perhaps a bit too subtle, and it required a little bluntness to get the point across. But I thought that was still really good.
I will say, though, that it was pretty weird how Outlander framed some things. It’s not much different, principally, for Jamie to beat Claire with a belt against her will than it is for Black Jack Randall to try and rape her. They’re both taking ownership of her body, both punishing her, both controlling her. The show framed the belt beating as almost whimsical, which was very, very odd.
– Nobody does sex scenes like Outlander. My god.
– Some of that stuff was really explicit, but it was also very natural.
– The way they paint the world of this show is just amazing.
[Photo via Starz]