After months of waiting, Outlander fans were finally rewarded with an all-new episode that dealt with the fallout of Claire’s capture and delved further into the relationship between Jamie and Claire.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this episode, and from the reactions I’ve seen online, I’m not the only one. I am excited to have the show back, and there were a lot of things I loved about the episode – but there were some troubling things about this episode as well.
The episode didn’t pick up exactly where the midseason finale left off, instead backtracking a little to give us Jamie’s point of view on his meeting with Horrocks, and the rescue attempt. I was excited when it was announced that the first episode would be narrated from Jamie’s point of view. Fans of the books know that as the series progresses we do start to get Jamie’s perspective more often – though the only POV told from the first person remains Claire’s. I was also looking forward to hearing more of that Scottish accent (I just love his voice).
The male point of view in this episode was a much bigger contrast and affected the tone of the episode a lot more than I had anticipated. Ultimately I think the story is told best from Claire’s perspective, though it was interesting to see things from Jamie’s point of view. The one moment when I really loved hearing his thoughts was shortly after he rescues Claire and they have their argument about her not obeying him. “She asked forgiveness and I gave it. But the truth is, I’d forgiven everything she’d done, and everything she could do, long before that day. For me, that was no choice. That was falling in love.” I loved that line, though in the books at this point we only suspect that Jamie has already fallen in love, there is not yet proof of his level of attachment to Claire (though you could argue storming Black Jack’s fort is proof enough).
But let’s talk about that argument, and the later scenes, which cause the trouble for viewers. Shortly after rescuing Claire from Randall, the men stop to water the horses and Jamie demands an apology from Claire, essentially blaming her for her abduction and near-rape at the hands of Jack Randall. Claire responds appropriately – with anger and accusations of her own – but from our 21st Century point of view this seems very wrong and like everything we’ve been fighting against for years. However, I think it’s important to keep in mind a few things, the first being context. This isn’t the the 21st Century, it’s the 18th and for good historical fiction you can’t transpose our thoughts and beliefs on that culture or it won’t be accurate. Second, I don’t believe Jamie was blaming Claire for becoming a victim – his argument was with her disobeying his orders and ultimately putting the rest of the men at risk. As Jamie states in the infamous “spanking” scene, had Claire been a man, those exact same actions would have been dealt with more harshly – possibly even with death. Since Claire isn’t a man, it’s easy for us to take offense at this scene, but we should still look at it within the historical context.
Another thing I think fans of the books recognize that those who haven’t read the books may not be aware of yet, is the way Jamie reacts to fear – particularly fear for Claire’s safety. Anger is his default defense mechanism to avoid showing weakness and fear, and it was likely something he was taught from an early age. Time and again in the books Jamie’s initial reaction to any fear for Claire is anger – especially if it was Claire who put herself into harm’s way. Therefore, Jamie’s anger in this scene isn’t just because Claire disobeyed his orders, it’s also because he was terrified of what Jack Randall could have been doing to her in the time it took to plan and carry out the rescue.
Let’s return to the subject of that “spanking” scene, which can’t come as too much of a surprise to readers, since it was in the books. I appreciated that they showed how fiercely Claire fights back, and does not make Jamie’s job any easier for him. The one thing that bothers me about this scene – and it bothered me in the books as well – is the way Jamie says, “I did not say I wouldn’t enjoy it.” This line is so contradictory to everything we later learn about Jamie, that it really feels out of place. Without giving away too many spoilers, similar punishments later dealt out to other characters are obviously distasteful to Jamie, and he later has issue with any of his actions that could possibly cause Claire any level of harm. The line felt out of character in the book, and even more so onscreen. It draws an uncomfortable (and, in my opinion, inaccurate) parallel between Jamie and Jack Randall that I’d rather not think about. however, as much as I don’t like that line, it will help to later demonstrate how naive Jamie was, and how much he learns from Claire and grows even just through the rest of the season.
Another scene I found disappointing was Laoghaire’s attempt to seduce Jamie. I understand that they’re trying to make her jealousy and desperation obvious, so later incidents are more clear than they may be in the book, but it felt wrong. While I wouldn’t put something like that past Laoghaire, the scene read as though Jamie were actually tempted and that bothered me. One thing that Jamie made clear to Claire multiple times in the book was that he was never actually interested in Laoghaire, but that’s not how the scene played out. It was as though the only reason he was resisting her was his vow to Claire, after he had already admitted earlier – in voiceover- that he was falling in love with Claire.
Aside from these issues, I enjoyed the return of Outlander. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe were terrific in this episode (of course, they always are). The material in this episode could not have been easy for either of them, but they handled it well. Heughan especially shone in how well he transitioned from the angry, stubborn, prideful Scot yelling at Claire, to a vulnerable and remorseful man asking forgiveness. The transition was even physical – he towered over Claire in his anger, then collapsed in on himself as he huddled on the ground. That scene was well-written and well-done.
Even the above scenes that some fans may have the most trouble with are necessary to the plot, and I believe for the most part they were well-done. We need to see this clash between Jamie and Claire’s backgrounds and personalities. The vast differences between them are what makes it even better when they finally find common ground and begin to respect and love each other. It also helps to highlight how much their relationship grows and evolves over time. I’ve only read the first four books of the series so far, but I love the relationship between Jamie and Claire, and these scenes are some important building blocks for what’s to come.
Claire’s voiceovers may in general be better than Jamie’s, but I still enjoyed hearing his Scottish accent and seeing his perspective for a change and I think this episode was a good choice for that. If I’m remembering the book correctly, Claire spent a lot of her time upon their initial return to the castle shut up in the room being angry and jealous, so shifting to Jamie’s perspective so we can see what’s happening, instead of learning it second-hand, was a good choice.
I’m excited for the rest of this season, though I know things are going to get a lot darker before they get better. However, two of my favorite moments from the books have yet to come, so I’m looking forward to seeing how those scenes are played out on screen. Hopefully they’re done well.