The title card to this episode is one of the best in the season so far. It’s a bit of a fake-out, in that, even though you’ve just seen all of the “previously on Outlander” nonsense reminding us just who and what the watch are in Scotland at this time, you have to ask yourself, “do they actually mean a timepiece?”
The great thing is, once you get to the end of the episode, you realize they meant both. And not in some forced way, but in a beautifully metaphoric way, that rises organically out of the episode. Fantastic. Despite being almost entirely contrived from whole cloth, and having very little to do with the book, this is one of my favorite episodes of the back half of the season.
Alastair over at Storywonk said that the story structure itself in this episode is like the precision cogs in a clock, so there’s another meaning there, too.
Because the only thing that meshes this story with the books is Jenny giving birth and Jamie being captured, I won’t have too much to say about book vs. show. So I’ll just focus on the things I liked about the episode.
There’s so much wonderful tension in this story. It’s spun throughout the episode and builds, with rises and falls. For example, what you think is a moment of conviviality, while they are sharing war stories at dinner, is slashed almost immediately with suspicion and fear.
The casting is fantastic, especially for Taran MacQuarrie. The other members of the watch are slimy and violent enough to be forbidding, but he’s the standout. I loved watching Jamie break in the stable yard and beat the tar out of the three watchmen. Taran’s respect for him even while he’s still wary is another hallmark of the Taran/Jamie relationship.
When Horrocks showed back up, the way they handled him in the earlier episodes made more sense. He’s probably my least favorite thing about the episode, though. The best is contrasting Jenny’s labor and fight to bring wee Maggie into the world with the raid/ambush.
I can’t decide if I like Jenny’s description of pregnancy being moved to her labor, because instead of her weaving a spell with her words, she’s talking through her pain. It still works, but differently. (Note- shouldn’t her water break after a while of contractions? I know not all labors are the same, but the water breaking usually happens closer to “go time” – not two days earlier).
Jamie and Ian are so wonderful together. They are so much like brothers. I could watch an entire episode of Jamie and Ian.
Claire’s worries that she’s barren are so heart-wrenching. And Jamie takes it hard, but tries to reassure her. This is where we break from the Jamie who strapped his wife to the Jamie who says he can’t bear her pain, even in a “good cause” like pregnancy. I just wish they’d have done things differently in The Reckoning.
Ian’s choice to kill Horrocks is shocking, but totally understandable. Jamie’s way of calming Ian, and bringing him back from the edge of disbelief and despair is lovely.
I like how MacQuarrie pays them back for the hay, which brings him back to the “likable” side of the tension oscillation. But then he comes right out and asks Jamie why they killed Horrocks, and we’re back on the fear side. Jamie punctures the tension, taking the blame for Horrocks’s death, and gaining Taran’s respect. But also an obligation, which he fulfills by agreeing to accompany them on the raid.
I didn’t like the frozen moment when she said goodbye to Frank for the last time, but this one felt more natural. There’s an understanding that what Jamie’s going to do is dangerous, and she’s worried, but loves him. She didn’t think that she would never see Frank again, but it’s absolutely possible that Jamie wouldn’t come back, even without treachery.
Taran’s reasons for his life choices are interesting, and it’s clear that Jamie’s tempted. It’s nice that they finally come to a place of rapprochement right before everything goes to hell.
The fake-out for Jenny’s death (lying there in her bloody shift) was not fun, but I understood that it was also standing in for us not seeing the blood being shed in the gully.
Ugh. Claire VO again. Go away! Her conversation with Jenny more than accounts for her feelings. We don’t need to be beaten over the head with them. Really, this moment between them is far and away better than some stilted exposition. I love that Jenny gives Claire the boar tusks as a way of finally accepting her as a sister and friend.
The boar tusk bracelets themselves are…problematic? Giant, awkward, and Claire clearly is thinking: WTF?? They can’t seem to get the jewelry right in this show. Costumes are amazing, but so far, they’ve been missing on all three pieces of symbolic, important accessories: Claire’s wedding ring from Jamie, Ellen’s necklace, and Ellen’s bracelets. And don’t get me wrong- I’ve softened a bit on the wedding ring. But I’m still going to miss having the engraved message for Claire to discover in the 1960s. And much further down the road, I don’t see how Brianna will be able to whip out Ellen’s necklace at Lallybroch as proof that she is Jamie and Claire’s daughter. The boar tusk bracelets have already played out in 114, The Search, so they aren’t as big of a deal, but they looked awkward the whole time.
Claire staring at the road when Ian comes back without Jamie just tears your heart out. That is the way to end an episode. No false conflict, nothing that will be easily resolved in a moment, but a world-shifting event that is going to change everything going forward.
Unfortunately, the next episode is a hot mess. It’s about 25% amazing, and 75% awful. Not uncomfortable-like-The-Reckoning-awful, just ill-conceived nonsense. It’s one of the reasons I put off coming back to blogging about this show, because I knew I was going to have to find something nice to say while hating every moment of the Claire and Murtagh show. But more on that next time.