Monday, September 29, 2014

OUTLANDER: Season 1 Episode 8: Both Sides Now

First off, purists take a deep, cleansing breath! Yes, this episode took some liberties with the book, but all liberties were taken with the blessing of the creator herself, Diana Gabaldon. More on that as we go through the episode.

This episode, liberties and all, worked for me, and by the end it felt like the right place to put the midseason break. Though I may have wailed a bit when the credits rolled because I now have to wait until April for the story to continue. At least that gives us time to re-read the first book and maybe one or two more!

Jamie, we hardly know ye.    OUTLANDER STARZ TV
Jamie and Claire and their growing love and affection for one another were sweet, but there wasn’t enough of it. I still worry that there hasn’t been enough for the non-reader audience to understand Claire’s increasing love for Jamie. Since this great love is the basis for the entire series of books, it is imperative that the audience knows that though she loves Frank, her true, forever love will be Jamie. That needs to be built up a bit more. As I said in my post on episode 6: By this point in the book the reader knows Jamie Fraser to be an excellent man, loyal, brave, strong yet gentle, intelligent, and a man of his convictions. As readers we cheered when Claire was ‘forced’ to marry him. (My friend, Anne Hartley, who also has strong feelings about this, has written a short guest post that I’m including with this one. You will find it at the end. I agree with her wholeheartedly.)

Frank’s search for Claire is what has the purists in an uproar. But as Diana Gabaldon has said, since the book is told from Claire’s perspective the reading audience couldn’t have seen what Frank must have been doing while she was missing. I liked seeing that part of this episode! And while the two of them going to the stones was pretty melodramatic, and made for a midseason cliffhanger, it was still fun. Fairly sure he wouldn’t have heard her calling his name, however. And did you see a little of Black Jack in Frank a few times in this episode? That was chilling. First, in the police station as he coldly put the detective in his place, and later with the con artists in the alley where he lost control and nearly killed the man. And Black Jack was just as vile as ever in this one. He makes your skin crawl. Again, hats off to Tobias Menzies for amazing acting in both roles in this episode!

There is concern that all these Frank scenes are making viewers feel a certain sympathy for him and that people are tending to be more Team Frank than Team Jamie. Again, a little problem with the screen version that isn’t there in the book version. Book readers are always Team Jamie, as if there could be another team!! Ha ha! And it ISN’T just the sex!! (See above comments re the character development of Jamie.)

I loved seeing Claire learning to defend herself with a knife—one of my favorite parts of the book, too. In that scene we not only get the feeling that she’s now fully accepted by the men of the party, but that she, too, is comfortable with them and truly feels like she belongs.

Of course that knife lesson comes in handy very soon after. The attempted rape was handled well. We also get that much needed glimpse of Jamie gently caring for Claire afterward. She’s pissed as hell at him for his inability to keep her safe—an emotion she’ll pay for soon. But it’s a passing emotion—dinna fash yeselves. 

What will you do, Claire?  OUTLANDER STARZ TV
As mentioned earlier, the BIG moment in the episode, aside from the very last moment of the very last scene, is when Claire finally makes it back to the stones and the hope that she can travel back to the 20th century. After weeks of trying to get to them she finally sees the hill and its stones, and suddenly she isn't so sure what she wants to do. A decision is made and she runs for the stones only to have her hopes dashed once more. A lot of melodrama here, but it works.

As if Claire facing one attempted rape in the episode isn’t enough, she gets the attempt by Randall, who dripped with evil throughout that scene. Ms. Balfe’s Claire must be growing on me because I could actually feel her fear and revulsion. But fear not, sweet Claire, your knight in shining armor will swing in through that window and save you from the mustache twirling bad guy!! Oops, wrong story. But, uh, same staging! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always LOVED Jamie’s rescue of Claire, but that was a little too Errol Flynn for me. Funny that she had mentioned him earlier in the episode!

While this midseason ending episode was oozing with drama and romance, and that touch or two of melodrama, my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE moment was when we finally got to see wee Roger Wakefield!! How adorable is he?! I know many of us were disappointed when there was no mention of wee Roger in the first episode, so YAY for letting him appear in this last episode of the first half of the season!

LONG wait until Outlander returns for the second half. If you’ve never read the book, this would be a great time to do so. It is a rich and thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. If you have read it, time to revisit it. Until April then…

Slàinte mhath!

Anne Hartley’s thoughts on Jamie’s character development:

            In the first eight episodes of STARZ adaptation of Outlander I have loved the lush Scottish scenery, the comradery of the MacKenzie Highlanders and the absolutely perfect casting of Ned Gowan.  Where I think the series has fallen short, to date, is portraying the character of James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser.

            The casting of Sam Heughan is not the issue.  I feel he embodies the character as I envisioned but the show has given Mr. Heughan little more to do than look good in a kilt (which he does indeed) and make love to Claire(also accomplished admirably). Jamie Fraser is more than that though and it is the depth of this man as written in the books that the series has lost. The lack of development of the Jamie Fraser character places viewers who are unfamiliar with the books firmly in the Frank Randall camp believing he is the great love of Claire’s life while readers of the books at this point were clearly routing for Claire to stay with Jamie because they had already come to know him as a character.

Jamie Fraser’s character- his morality, strength, passion, and heart- are what endear him in the book and what viewers have yet to see in the series.  Dougal, Claire, Frank, Black Jack all have more of a presence so far and I’m hoping the viewer finally gets to meet the real Jamie Fraser in the second eight episodes.

Thank you, Anne!! I agree!!!

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