Episode 213 – Dragonfly in Amber

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Here we are at the finale. I am both super excited and very sad that we’ll have to wait at least a year for more Outlander! But I still plan to blog during the hiatus. I think what I’m going to do is a re-read. I’ll start with Outlander and work my way through Voyager, since that will be season three’s main inspiration. I’ll have to figure out exactly how I want to spread that out to fill up 50ish weeks, and I’ll probably do other blogs when the Blu-Rays release and talk about deleted scenes.

Before I get started…I HATE that they chose to intercut the time periods. Every single time, it punctured the tension, no matter which direction they were moving. The ones toward the end of the story weren’t quite as bad, because both stories had picked up momentum, but probably all the way until the last ten minutes it was annoying to jump around.

OK, now into the finale!

In general, I’m a big fan of the changes they made to streamline the 1968 story. They gave action to different people than had it in the book, but it worked organically and in a much cleaner fashion than the clunky chapters at the end of the book. The Gillian stuff relied heavily on coincidence, but I’m willing to overlook that because it made everything move faster and gave Brianna a face-to-face relationship with the woman who would become Geillis Duncan.

The “title card” on “The Avengers” was…weird? I mean, I guess it places us well in the 60s, but it took me a while to figure out where we were and what was going on. Why are all of these kids here? And yes, I know who Roger is, and I could make an educated guess that this must be the Reverend’s funeral because of metatextual knowledge, but it takes forever for the show to tell us his name. Anyone who doesn’t know is going to be super confused. A good title card places us in space and time and sets up the theme for the episode. I’m not sure what “The Avengers” tells us about the story of “Dragonfly in Amber” and it doesn’t even set up time and place because we could be in 2016, streaming it online from anywhere in the world. So, title card fail.

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Wee Roger, all grown up, and mourning his father.

But getting into the story, I am liking Richard Rankin. It is clear from his acting that he is just standing there, numb and devastated by the Reverend’s loss. And there’s Fiona, comforting him. I like this introduction better than the slightly more exasperated one of Roger already having dealt with the first blows of loss and now working through the aftermath of the Reverend’s “stuff.”

When Claire and Bree arrive, it’s a welcome distraction for him. Although I have to admit that it took me a while to recognize Claire. I was paying attention to the toast and trying to figure out the Scots, and then all of a sudden it was like, “Oh, that’s Claire. Weird makeup.”

When I watched it the second time, I noticed Fiona in the background as Roger searches for Bree – she’s plumping pillows and keeping a close eye on Roger.

The introductions are a little awkward, as Bree and Roger pretend they aren’t looking at each other, and Claire tries not to remember everything. Fiona is hilarious, giving Bree the stink-eye.

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I’ve got my eye on you, Yank.

I wish they hadn’t done the voice over as Claire looks over the mantelpiece. The music was more than enough.

I’m glad they moved Claire and Bree into the manse rather than a hotel. It makes things more immediate and draws them closer to Roger. And of course Claire notices Bree noticing Roger.

The change for how Claire finds out about Roger’s true name works well. And when he asks “how she did it” the first thing I thought was – how did she travel through time? But her answer is poignant and as raw for 20 years of grief as Roger’s is for only a few days.

And then we have the first break in time. I would have been OK with a brief “flash” back to Jamie, but the actual flashback, especially since Claire wasn’t there to witness the scene, feels jarring and odd. Then we’re all built up with doom and peril, and then we flash right back to Bree and Roger taking a happy drive with smooth tunes.

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Warning – super cuteness ahead.

Bree and Roger poking each other over history is cute, but I’m not sure what it’s going to be setting up (other than referencing events that her parents will later witness and people her parents will later meet – like Benedict Arnold). Sure, having Bree react to the flogging post at Fort William makes sense, but otherwise I’m not sure what this is doing.

Claire’s visit to Lallybroch is much more poignant. After she promised to close off this portion of her past, everything is now flooding back. Except two hundred years have passed, and the house is a ruin. The Catullus reference is lovely and heartbreaking. I wish they’d found a way to put the quote inside the ring. This visit then instigates her visit to the records office.

But first we have to cut to the attic in Culloden, stopping the action in the 60s and shoving us into like a minute of high tension, then puncturing it again with a beautiful picnic by the loch. There are important things being discussed here, but it feels so much less important compared to planning to kill Prince Charles.

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Oh, Bree. You know that came out exactly right.  And who can blame you? I want him to see my BEDroom, too.

It is cute when Bree says Roger should see her bedroom and he takes it the way any red-blooded young man would; and then is flustered and rubs his head. Which, by the way, is a Dougal MacKenzie gesture.

I am not sure why they didn’t mention who owns Lallybroch now when Claire goes to the records office. Wouldn’t that be the point of her going to find out?

The relationship between Bree and Claire is at first teasing and fun, but then it switches to strife. Kids always see these things, and can sense the distance between their parents. Brianna knows something is wrong, but not what.

And then we jump again, and lose the thread of that scene to try and pick back up in the attic of Culloden House. This time, we see that Dougal is listening, but we don’t allow the action to proceed. Instead, there’s another jump so that Bree (and Roger) can meet Gillian Edgars. Will she remember Roger, now? It made sense that she wouldn’t know him after a brief encounter in the dark at Craigh na Dun, but she saw him and shook his hand. But when Roger and Buck go back, will she recognize the man she met (twice!!) in Scotland in 1968? Obviously she doesn’t know him as her seven-times great-grandson (or Buck as her son!) but will she remember his face? Or his name? Although perhaps Gillian/Geillis doesn’t really look at men except for how she can use them. And she would have sensed a kinship with Bree–the time traveler kinship–and perhaps focused on her instead.

Then we have Claire making disparaging remarks about Charlie at Culloden, and seeing the dragonfly in amber that was found on the battlefield.

But again we move in time. It would have made a little more sense to move here from Gillian, because the woman who led Dougal by the cock was Geillis. The dragonfly doesn’t make much sense as a jumping-off point, because she doesn’t give that to Jamie until much later.

The fight is fine, but I very much dislike how it ended. I don’t like the deliberateness, or Claire’s pushing the knife in. Dougal’s death was much cleaner in the book, much more a result of his attack on Jamie. Here, they had him down, and although he’s still struggling, I feel like they didn’t have to kill him. I’m sure the show wasn’t intending that viewers have that response, but it’s what I felt. In the book, it wasn’t quite an accident, but it happened during the heat of the battle. Here, because of the way it was shot and that Claire had time to jump in and help, it makes me question why they couldn’t have taken different action.

Then we jump again, back to a more light-hearted scene with Bree and Roger. Richard Rankin is SO CUTE when he sings the rat satire. And Sophie Skelton  play’s Brianna’s joint amusement and attraction well. I’m a little sad that we don’t go to St. Kilda and have their kiss, but I assume that will come at the beginning of season three.

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Roger Mac, you may sing to me any time you like.

The rest of this scene follows the books, having them find the box and pictures.

Then we jump again. They do have Rupert be the one to see Dougal dead at Jamie’s hands. But what I don’t understand is why they had the scene play out the same way it did in the book. I would have much, much rather liked to have Rupert act differently, maybe witnessing more of the conflict and understanding what they were trying to do. It doesn’t feel right for Rupert to just let Jamie go, although I think from the way he looked at Claire, she was the reason he let it happen. It would have been better, I think, if Jamie had appealed on that basis – let me get Claire away, she’s innocent. I wonder why they didn’t do that?

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Purple heather, with a little bit of white.

Claire at Culloden is a final catharsis for her. She says goodbye, after never being able to do it before. She has finally tried to put Jamie behind her, to make her peace with his death. I appreciate what they are doing, but it drains everything out of their leavetaking at Craigh na Dun. We know that she is going to finally come to terms with his death. It’s still devastating, still painful, but she has lived and is living now, for their daughter. I dunno. It’s beautiful and everything, but I wish they hadn’t done this. In the book, when she sees Jamie’s grave, she’s gutted. And then angry.

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Research always brings people close together.

Back in the Reverend’s study, Brianna and Roger find the articles from when Claire disappeared and returned. Instead of Roger putting together the pieces later on his own and deciding not to tell Bree right away, they figure everything out together. This pushes the action forward and makes the confrontation happen faster. The pain and anger between Claire and Brianna is palpable and raw. I like that Bree asks Roger to stay and that they sit beside each other. In that moment, Bree feels closer to him than to her mother, and it’s good framing to have the character who is most emotionally vulnerable face the others.

Roger is fidgety and uncomfortable, but when Brianna would go, he stops her, reminding her that she wanted the truth. We see him rub his thumb over the back of her hand in a comforting gesture, and she settles back down.

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I volunteer my hand as tribute.

We get a very brief flashback instead of the full story that comes in the book at this place. Again, everything is all out of order. We’ve already seen this in the future, so we know that Fergus will make it back to Lallybroch. In a way, that’s good, so we don’t worry about him.

But it’s an awfully brief cut to supposedly encompass the whole story that Claire has just told when we flash back to the 60s. They keep Brianna’s reaction pretty much the same, including her storming out and saying hurtful things. They do bring back the Deed of Sacine as proof, so when the show flashes back, there’s some connection. It is nice that they acknowledge Fergus as Claire and Jamie’s adopted son.

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I eagerly await casting news for adult Fergus, but there’s no way they will find anyone who can beat this kid for cuteness.

Brianna and Roger work nicely together, even when they’re at odds. I like that he’s there for Bree, willing to say difficult things to her, and doesn’t just try to say what she wants to hear because he likes her and wants to stay close to her. Roger is a stand-up man. And, to be honest, I’m way more enamored with him than Jamie.

I could, once again, live without the voice over when Claire recognizes Gillian/Geillis on the pamphlet, but I’m glad that Claire goes to visit Greg and that we don’t have the weird visits to the Institute. This scene works well to get Gillian’s notebooks into Claire’s hands and is much faster.

Gillian running into Bree at the pub is a bit more coincidence, but it makes a little sense that the Roses would come and celebrate after their rally. The next voice over is actually necessary to give us the information about Geillis, since there’s no good way to have Claire deliver that information via dialogue.

Back to Culloden, where Jamie gives Murtagh his orders. But Murtagh, as always, will go his own way. The show doesn’t deal directly with Culloden (and so avoids the issue of BJR’s death for this season), but it does frame Murtagh’s death with significance – he will fall beside Jamie, beside his laird and godson, where he belongs.

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Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser, grinning in the face of death.

With a little liquid courage, Bree comes back to talk to Claire. Claire tells her that she fought against what she felt for him, but it was the most powerful thing she’d ever felt in her life. Roger is still looking at the research – deciding whether or not to tell Claire.

Bree liked Gillian. There is a definite connection between travelers, an instant thing that makes them want to like each other, even though the others may be a little crazy. This helps explain why Claire was willing to overlook eccentricity and creepiness with Geillis (even murder…although only when she thought she was coming to act as a healer) and some of the same things with Master Raymond. Not so much on Le Compte, though. And he’s even of Raymond’s “family” so that doesn’t mesh quite as well with the theory. Or maybe the particular circumstances of their meeting overshadowed what could have been a different time-traveler connection.

Roger’s explanation to Bree makes sense, and yet, I feel like he’s already started to believe Claire. He’s a historian, and he’s seen the Deed of Sacine and the research done by his father.

I would have liked a reference to the baby earlier than here, even though this is how it happened in the book. I’m not sure how they would have done it, but some kind of acknowledgment of the pregnancy in the last episode would have worked. Then we don’t have to mess around with dates and times and courses here, and can just move forward with the knowledge that Jamie will never let Claire die with him while she’s carrying their child.

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Of course I kept track. I color-code the daybook in my sporran. Green=we had sex. Yellow=you were kidnapped. Red=you had your courses. (There are no blank days in Jamie’s daybook.)

Back in 1968, it looks like Gillian is wearing that odd grey outfit of felted wool from (I think) the first time we met her in the gardens at Leoch. I like that connection, but hate that they had Roger say “fucking barbecue.” What a terrible callback, and for such a terrible reason.

I also feel like the fact that Bree and Roger can both hear the stones would have been much more significant if we’d already seen Jamie and Claire at Craigh na Dun and had Jamie tell her he couldn’t hear it and touch the stone and have nothing happen. I don’t mind that we don’t have the quite as dramatic scene as the book, where Roger has to pull Bree back from going through with Gillian, but without having the Jamie scene first, we lose almost all sense that Bree and Roger can travel, too.

In general, I feel like we focused on the wrong things at Craigh na Dun with Jamie and Claire. That last frantic coupling made sense after a night of softer passion, but feels super awkward here. And I super miss them carving their initials in each other’s palms. I knew it wasn’t going to happen, but that’s one of the things I like most – that they literally carve themselves into each other to remember forever.

EDIT: Diana Gabaldon shone some light on the not-carving thing on her Facebook page. She mentions logistics (like how the blood knife for the blood-bonding ceremony was awful) as one of the possible reasons why they wrote this out of the series. And it would be an additional piece of makeup for the actors, since they would need a scar prosthetic put on their hands at all times, and hands are not a good place for makeup since we use them a lot. So I get it. But man, do I miss it. The stupid dragonfly doesn’t pack nearly the same emotional punch.

I am glad that they kept his speech about Purgatory, and loving Claire well. I wonder why they had him give her the ring, though? It becomes a little important later in the series…maybe there are two? And it’s just a tiny little Easter egg for book readers, it doesn’t actually have any significance except to prompt Claire to say she’ll name the child for Brian Fraser.

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If that tear is real, they must have done 500 takes to capture it. Either that, or it was total happenstance on take one. Or CGI.

The one thing I like is that Jamie was actually there, and literally held her hand, when she passed through. The fight with the redcoats made it more likely that Jamie would actually die there, at Craigh na Dun. It helped explain why she wanted to know the outcome of the battle, and whether he’d made it there, but since they weren’t doing that in the show, this works really well.

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Claire, you’re going to miss the awesome knitwear, aren’t you?

Oh, man, another reference to secrets but not lies. But it’s good that Brianna finally believes. And that Roger can now share what he knows – that Jamie survived.

They basically ended it where I thought they would, right where the book ends.

Except Claire is staring up at Craigh na Dun, and the music is sweeping, and there’s glorious sunlight, and she says she wants to go back, and all I can think is – THERE’S A DEAD BODY UP THERE DOES NO ONE REMEMBER GREG EDGARS JUST DIED???

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THERE IS A DEAD BODY LITERALLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.

So, yeah. The end was a little soured for me by that. I’m sure I’ll get over it, but wow.

In general, I liked the changes made to the 1960s. They made everything flow more easily and much, much faster. They also started us off with tension between Bree and Claire rather than presenting them first as a somewhat typical mother and daughter. I know Diana Gabaldon has said that Bree was a difficult character for her, and I think we’re benefiting from the fact that she got to know her much better over the years, and we can jump right in with a good sense of who she is and how she would react in these situations.

Really, what bugged me were the time jumps. But if they hadn’t cut it that way, it would have been much more obvious that we only had like 15 minutes of material in the 1740s. Well, maybe 20. But not even half of the episode took place with Jamie and Claire. By chopping it up and serving it in tiny slices, it helped give the appearance that we’re really telling Jamie and Claire’s story. But I’m not fooled, and the sheer number of Bree and Roger screencaps in this blog should tell you where the emphasis really was for the episode.

And don’t get me wrong. I love Roger and Brianna. Or maybe I really just love Roger, but whatever. So I am happy to spend all kinds of time with him. But I feel like the show has completely moved away from Jamie and Claire now. Like even their final scene at the stones was undercut by the knowledge that Claire has now found peace. I think that’s supposed to pay off in the final scene, when Claire has to re-evaluate everything and decides to go back, but that didn’t work for me at all.

I guess, to sum up, there are lots of things to love about this episode. Gorgeous costuming, beautiful shots, incredible performances. Some very well-written scenes, particularly between Brianna and Claire. But an overall disappointment because of the intercutting killing the tension and there just not being enough Jamie and Claire.

What did you think?

 

 

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Speculations – Season Two Finale

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Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser. Simply the best.

I was going to speculate about the next seasons this week, but I decided to sit down and think about changes that have been made this season and how they might shape the finale.

The truth is, of course, that for everything that was changed, most things were later wrangled back to match the course of the book. But there are still some lingering issues that may cause us to move in a different direction next week.


Rupert is alive.

Rupert survived the church, and I think the chances are that he will survive Culloden. Perhaps he will choose to desert with the Lallybroch men and go to live as Young Jamie’s tacksman during the long awful years that will follow. Depending on how closely they stick to the events of the book, Rupert may witness Jamie kill Dougal. Speculation on various fan pages is that Rupert is still loyal to Dougal and won’t be as easy to intimidate as the random Willie from the book. That may lead to another speculation – that Murtagh will die holding off the vengeful MacKenzies as Claire and Jamie escape to Craig na Dun. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. For one thing, if that were the case, Jamie isn’t going to be able to go back to the battle. It’s a bit of a loose-end in the book that Jamie decides to go back and “get lost” in the confusion and throw himself in front of the British cannon. Of course, it doesn’t matter to him at that point who kills him. But if he goes back to protect the Lallybroch men specifically (as it seems Claire thought he did at the beginning of the season), then there can’t be a big stromash over Dougal’s death.

So I think Rupert has been disillusioned by battle and war and death, and has latched on to Ross, and feels his loyalty split. So he will understand why Jamie and Claire would contemplate a last-ditch effort to thwart certain death.

Lotte Verbeek accidentally revealed that she is in the finale.

I really hope that this news doesn’t mean that we’re doing Gillian Edgars in the finale. At least, not the whole shebang. If anything, it would be useful for Claire to perhaps encounter her by “accident” in Inverness. But if I were the writers, I would save her part of the story for Season Three. Still, the fact that she’s in this episode means we’re either going to deal more directly with her Geillis persona or at least introduce the younger Gillian in 1968. I am quite afraid that we’re going to spend the bulk of our 90-minute finale in the twentieth century. I hope not, but her presence worries me. I certainly don’t think that they will reveal that Geillis did not burn at the stake at all, and is living comfortably in Paris during the events of the Rising.

Murtagh is amazing and everyone loves him.

Not that BookMurtagh isn’t amazing, but he doesn’t quite reach the level of TVMurtagh. One of the reasons (aside from Rupert being the likely choice to see Jamie killing Dougal) that people are speculating that Murtagh will fall defending the Frasers as they retreat to Craig na Dun is because the fandom wants him to have a meaningful death. And while we later find out in the books that Murtagh died protecting Jamie on the field at Culloden (something Jamie did not thank him for at the time), that is not revealed for a LONG TIME. The show will probably try to deal with his death a little more directly and promptly. I’m not convinced that he’ll die fighting off the MacKenzies, but he might be shown dying at Culloden. Or he might come with them to Craig na Dun and fall defeating the redcoat patrol that finds them there.

TV is an immediate, visual medium and it will be difficult to obscure Black Jack Randall’s death (without some level of fandom outrage).

If you aren’t a book reader, you may not realize that we still don’t know exactly how BJR died. Jamie has trauma-induced amnesia about the battle of Culloden, and has only ever remembered snatches of it. All he knows is that he woke up underneath BJR’s dead body, and assumes that BJR may have actually protected him (accidentally or on purpose) from being killed. Jamie does not know whose hand struck the killing blow for BJR, and from things that Jamie has told Brianna, I think he has made peace with that fact. I don’t know that we’ll ever find out exactly how Randall died. Or, if we do, it’s going to be part of the mythical last scenes of the final book, when we’ll find out the truth of Jamie’s ghost in Inverness. I believe Diana has said that that was Jamie during the battle, or perhaps in that moment while he was passed out.

But what I’m really getting to, here, is that I don’t think that level of obscurity will fly on TV. They may try it anyway, to stay consistent with the books, but I’m not sure how well that will work. I mean, I can see how they would do it, but I just don’t know how well they’ll get away with it. Also, BJR is way, way more monstrous in the show. In the book, I hated him, but kinda understood some of what drove him. His love and devotion to his brother made him a complex and much more interesting character. But after last week’s episode, I think we’re fully down the dark path that we started in “The Garrison Commander.” And that Black Jack needs to die horribly, on screen, where everyone can see it, and where there are no questions about how or why.

At least that’s how I feel. I may be wrong. And I’m not even sure I want to be right or wrong. It will be interesting either way.


 

So that’s my speculation for next week. As I’ve stated on my Season Two Speculation page, I think they will open in 1968 and get all the way to St. Kilda before flashing back to 1746. Others have speculated that the two storylines will be intercut, and while that’s possible, I can’t imagine how they’ll manage to build the tension of both stories simultaneously.

Do you have any wild speculations about the season finale? Or have I completely overlooked a change that will have long-term, rippling effects? Leave a comment and let me know!

Episode 212 – The Hail Mary

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Ye gads, this was an amazing episode. So well structured, with the parallel brother stories, and with such amazing character work and emotion. It absolutely displays the best of Ira Steven Behr and Anne Kenney’s talents. So well done.

I am at a writer’s conference this weekend so I fear this is another short blog for me. I promise to come back over the hiatus and expand these blogs, filling in more detail after I have time to re-watch the season during the break.

A couple of thoughts for the future: I am so glad that they brought in the French gold now, as a viable option for avoiding the fight at Culloden. As a book reader, when I first heard it mentioned, it jolted me a bit, but after I thought about it more, I liked it. I know a lot of readers dislike that whole plot line, but it is rather a large thread in the series and they can’t remove it without doing a LOT of changes. So I’m glad it’s introduced here, in a way that actually makes sense to the plot, and won’t just appear out of nowhere in Season Three.

At first I thought I would be upset that Dougal doesn’t kill Colum, because I wanted some canonical evidence of what is heavily implied but never stated in the book. But by the time I got to the end of the scene I was weeping and I totally did not care. This Dougal is not book Dougal, and Graham McTavish is AMAZING. I don’t know which writer had that scene, but I am betting it was Anne Kenney because the emotional notes were perfectly on point. I was so moved, and the scene encapsulated every nuance of the relationship between Colum and Dougal.

That is contrasted with Black Jack Randall. They have pushed him much farther into the monster than the book did. At this point in the book, I actually had some sympathy for him. The fact that he approached Claire with the bargain spoke well of him. But the show has her propose the bargain. When Alex spoke of the good man behind the dark wall, I thought we might actually see that man. But BJR immediately proves that he has become the dark wall. Yes, he marries Mary for his brother’s sake, but when Alex dies, he descends into a fit of rage.

On the one hand, I’m a little sad that we’re losing some of the complexity of BJR. On the other, it is so beautifully contrasted with Colum and Dougal that it’s hard to care too much.

Some other little moments I loved:

  • When Colum arrives and says he thought, if Wee Angus ever died, Rupert would be right behind him. And Rupert says, “I did, too.”
  • When Murtagh offers to wed Mary. I love that man so much!!
  • All of Jamie’s interactions with Colum and Dougal. So well written and well acted.

I think this episode is my favorite of the season. I have a lot more to say about the ins and outs, but I’ve got my first workshop at 9 am (it’s 7:50), and I’ve got to go get ready for the day. I won’t be live-tweeting tonight because of the conference, but I can’t wait to see what everyone else thought of the changes!

EDIT: Apparently a lot of people are super upset that this episode didn’t spend more time with Jamie and Claire. I have to admit that, now that it’s been pointed out, I totally agree. But only in the context of the season as a whole, and only in the sense that we ought to be ramping up to the devastating separation that’s about to happen in the finale. On the merits of this episode by itself, I did not really care. It felt natural to me that the war was pulling them in different directions. Their few scenes together were nice, and I LOVED when Claire told Jamie that she would help him kill BJR. Yes, I miss the romantic elements from S1. Yes, I miss the sex (go to caramckinnon.com and look at this week’s blog posts for my total love and appreciation of sex and romance). But I’ve missed them more in other episodes where they felt conspicuously absent. In this one, I was very happy with the story I was given.

 

EDIT 2: I forgot to mention that, with the break next weekend, I am going to be posting some wild speculations about future seasons of Outlander, based on changes the show has made. Come join the conversation and tell me what you think is going to happen next!

Episode 211 – Vengeance Is Mine

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AKA, the one that Diana Gabaldon wrote.

My book is out on Thursday! But I’m still drowning in prep, marketing, and promo stuff, so I fear I will not be able to do justice to Herself’s episode until next weekend at the earliest. But this is what one of my “notes” sheets looks like, that I take while watching the episode. It’s not very polished, but it should be amusing!

I like that we have a mix of people in the prince’s council who wear wigs, and some who don’t. There are some people who are kilted, and some who aren’t. The costuming in this show is always amazing, but it’s moments like these that remind me just how good it is!

It’s nice that Jamie is trying so hard to change what happens based on what Claire remembers. At first I couldn’t figure out why he was championing the march to London, especially since everyone else in the room was against it, but when he talked to Claire afterward I understood. And we finally get the sense that he is committed to bringing the Lallybroch men home. I suppose you could infer that earlier, since he’s a good laird and a good leader, but now he has actually promised to do it. This might be as close as the show will get to his “list” from the book – and probably no surprise that DG wrote this episode. 🙂

Subtitled Gaelic? What world are we living in?? I guess because we’re in Jamie’s PoV, it makes sense, but we were in Jamie’s PoV with him and Murtagh last season at the monastery, and they didn’t subtitle it then.

But SUPER YAY for having a quiet moment with Claire and Jamie. DG understands, obviously. 🙂

The scene when Dougal bursts in and announces they’ve been sent to Inverness is fantastic. Nice tension, good build-up of conflict.

I am curious as to why Jamie and co. run away from the Lallybroch men at the ambush? Is it to draw off the soldiers? It looked like a pretty sizable patrol; not something the Lallybroch men could easily handle. Or is Jamie just trying to get Claire and Fergus away?

OH MY GOD THEY ARE GOING TO KILL RUPERT I HATE THEM FOREVER.

Or maybe not…Claire says he can be treated. Ok, calm self. Claire removed the bullet and he seems to be fine.

This is a nice way to put them into the church without having them actually go to Falkirk. And it makes more sense if they are still in northern England that they’ve taken an English hostage. That was something that always bothered me in the book – where were they supposed to have found Claire, exactly?

Claire, that was really loud. You’re pretending to be a hostage, not Lady Broch Tuarach. Also, this version of Claire can totally lie. No glass face for Caitriona Balfe.

Is Hazlemere a real place? I find a Hazlemere and a Haslemere in England, but they’re both in the southwest, which doesn’t fit with them riding from just north of London to Inverness.

Jamie is so pissed off at having to give up Claire. I love that he doesn’t say anything, and yet we can see every single emotion cross Sam Heughan’s face.

I am so glad they didn’t kill Rupert. I would miss his black humor. “Gie ‘er a wink for me, eh?”

I would not miss the Clairifications if they went away, though. But hey, there’s a location. Crich. That places us squarely in England, south of Sheffield. Which makes much, much more sense if we’re going to end up on one of the Duke of Sandringham’s estates than making us ride south from Falkirk for days and days.

What makes less sense is how they’re going to work Hugh Munro into all of this. He’s definitely going to be here because he was in the “previously on Outlander” opening. And there he is…how did he get so far south? Is this Munro ex Machina?

Caitriona Balfe and Simon Callow are fantastic. And I very much like the change from the book, not having all of his secrets revealed right away. I love Sandringham as a smarmy oily bastard, with his danger wrapped up in artifice. His layers of plots, playing both sides against the middle, is so wonderful, and the show is doing a bang-up job with him.

Yay for the acknowledgment that Sandringham and Saint Germain were working together, as predicted. Not sure I believe Sandringham 100% about Paris (especially since he later tries to pretend that he didn’t suggest the rape), but wow, how powerful when he reveals himself after she recognizes Danton.

The guys ragging on Claire’s Gaelic letter is fantastic.

OK, great. The duke is in the kitchen. Why not just run? I suppose she thinks he’ll call for help. But it’s lovely to see Mary with a little bit of backbone.

Excellent. Now we have all of the major players in the same room. How wonderful that we take care of the fact that, in the book, Murtagh had no way to know about the duke, and yet took his head anyway. And we give Mary the knife that kills her rapist. So much more satisfying than letting Jamie do it.

Mary Hawkins, you are a kick-ass woman.

Also, it looks like Hugh Munro gets to live!! Yay!

 

And that is my “notes” for “Vengeance is Mine!” I was tempted to screen-grab the duke’s severed head for the blog header, but I decided to be nice and use the quiet moment in bed, instead.

OK, back to prepping for Essential Magic. Visit caramckinnon.com or pre-order from any of these places:

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Episode 210 – Prestonpans

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My book is releasing in less than two weeks, and there is so much work to be done. This will probably be another short/choppy post, so I apologize in advance. If you want to see what’s been taking up my time and energy, check out my website – caramckinnon.com – and find out more about my new series of fantasy romances!

Well…I don’t even know what to say about this episode, except that I wept like a child. Most of the episode didn’t grab me. I watched, but wasn’t engaged by the war story. Aside from the some of the elements with Dougal (wildness vs civility), this felt like a typical battle narrative. Then, Fergus’s reaction to having killed a man tugged me in. Finally, seeing Rupert grieve for Angus ripped my heart out.

I’m not going to talk much about the episode, because the broad strokes of it align with the book. I might come back after my book releases and talk about the beautiful cinematography and excellent acting, but for now I will focus on changes from the book. The changes are few, because both book and show are interested in what really happened at Prestonpans (with a little bit of fictional license). The battle is a part of history, so they couldn’t change much of the chronology or outcome without breaking their premise – that history really can’t be changed.

A few things I miss from the book:

  • Jenny Cameron. I know we already have an amazing Jenny, and they may have decided to remove this one because of name confusion, but I really, really miss having another strong female presence here. There is some historical confusion about who this woman actually was (accounts at the time may have attributed the actions of three separate women to a single person), but that just means that Outlander can decide for itself who she was and what she did. And they could have called her Jeanie, which is close but not the same. I would have loved to see her there, fighting all the way through to the end of the Rising.
  • The quiet moments with Jamie and Claire. Sometimes I feel like this show barrels through the story at such a terrific pace that we can’t catch our breaths. This episode only really slows down once we get to the end, and see the price of war. With that said –
    • Particularly missed is their lovemaking after Jamie tells her the story of the battle. I think the episode ended well, but I wish there’d been space for that. It is so beautiful and poignant when he says he needs Claire, and they come together to remember that they are alive, and what they are fighting for.
    • Also missed-Jamie’s Act of Contrition and reciting his list of the men under his command. I hope we see this at some point, because it helps establish the kind of leader-and man-that Jamie is. The list is also going to be relevant at the end of the season, when Claire is interested in finding out about the men from Lallybroch.

Now, on to what they added.

Having Dougal present allows us to continue exploring the dichotomy between the wild Highland Charge and modern warfare. At first, his abilities are an asset. He proves that the ground is poor and keeps the Jacobite leaders from making a poor decision about the battlefield. And this battle proves that the Highland Charge does have a place in the war – the same as the “commando raid” Jamie went on in the last episode, or any type of what will later be called guerrilla warfare. Knowledge of the land, and the ability to exploit the terrain, is important.

But Dougal also represents a sort of rage and brutality that makes the rest of the leadership–especially the Bonnie Prince–first uncomfortable, and then disgusted. I just read an article about Prestonpans that said Charles actually took to the field to beseech some of the Highlanders to stop slaughtering the wounded, so Dougal’s actions have historical precedent. Likewise, other clans took in the British wounded and gave them what medical attention was available. So everything here is being drawn from the actual events of the battle.

I’m sad that Lieutenant Foster had to die to prove that Dougal is a right bastard–since we knew that already–but I suppose we hadn’t seen him be quite this brutal before.

The other changes–namely the presence of Rupert and Angus–were gut-wrenching. We’ve seen Ross and Kincaid now several times throughout this part of the season, but Kincaid’s death alone would not have hit as hard as Angus. Although I have to admit that it wasn’t Angus’s actual death that made me cry. It was watching Rupert grieve for him that broke me. Grant O’Rourke’s face in that final shot before the end credits is so powerful. I don’t know if his role is big enough to get any kind of supporting actor award, but my god he deserves it.

The fact that they killed Angus this week does make me wonder. Will they make us go through Rupert’s death next week? I saw the church in the preview, and from what dialogue we got, we know that Jamie and Claire are going to be separated. So they’re following the books that much.

Honestly, I don’t think they’re going to do it. I could be wrong, but since Willie is gone and now Angus, too, I think it’s going to be Rupert who sees Jamie kill Dougal in Culloden House. It means we wouldn’t get to have the echo of the scene from “The Gathering” when Claire and Dougal sat together over the dying Geordie, but it could be much more powerful for Rupert to see Jamie killing Dougal – and understand why Jamie had to do it. Rupert in the books is loyal to Dougal until he dies, but this version is far more complex, and he has now lost his best friend. I can see him turning that to vengeance for a while, but by the time the Highlanders limp to Culloden, he will be disaffected and just want to stop the killing and the dying.

No matter what they do, I’m sure the finale will make us all sob pretty much non-stop.

Now, back to looking over proofs and making sure everything is perfect for Essential Magic. It’s coming out June 23rd, available at all major book retailers online!

Post Script: Holy crap Ira Steven Behr has a glorious purple beard. I adore it!

Episode 209 – Je Suis Prest

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This week’s blog is very choppy. In some places, I just wrote a single sentence. Other elements got more attention. I don’t have time to re-watch the episode and do a more thorough job. My daughter has her big dance recital today and my husband is away for work, so one viewing is all I have time for!

If I get the chance later this week, I’ll come back and flesh this out. What you’re seeing is my initial gut-reactions, that I typically tweak and expand after my second watch. But it might be interesting to see those, anyway.

Nice title card, reminding us that Claire was in WWII. It has been said that all wars are the same war, being fought endlessly.

Murtagh’s wink at Claire is so sweet!!

Claire touches her wrist when Jamie mentions a watch. Different meanings for different words.

RUPERT AND ANGUS – Ye Wee Smouts!

Willie got married and isn’t here? Who is going to witness Jamie killing Dougal? I really thought that was the point of making him a bigger character last season?

Seriously, show. Dougal is right. There really is no time to waste. So why are we wasting this episode on something completely pointless?

Drill Sergeant Murtagh? Also, the snow in the air proves that this is really the wrong season.

Not sure how I feel about the training montage(s).

I like that Jamie is more interested in the welfare of his men in particular than the Cause overall, or what he can gain by being near the prince.

The origins of JHRC! I wonder if this is something they made up, or if it’s from DG’s notes.

I am starting to figure out what they’re trying to do in this episode – to pit the old Highland ways against modern warfare. Because the truth is, the Highland Charge is going to be broken with terribly efficient and brutal ease at Culloden. Jamie is right – Prestonpans and their other wins worked because of a mixture of surprise and good fortune.

Claire tries to psychoanalyze Dougal, but she isn’t entirely successful. Her own psyche is too troubled. I’m not sure how I feel about what they’re doing with Claire this episode. PTSD is a real thing, but Claire has always dealt with hers by compartmentalizing, by fracturing part of herself and focusing on the immediate, literal dangers and problems. She turns off emotion and then deals with it later. In the post-show behind-the-scenes, Matt B. Roberts talked about how PTSD can be triggered years after the fact, so, again, I believe that this really happens to people. I just think Claire already has a coping mechanism for hers. I also think that, while her conflict speaks to tone and theme, it doesn’t do much for plot or even much for characterization. Claire isn’t transformed by what happened. Rather, it reinforces her beliefs and convictions. So while it is interesting, I don’t know what it adds to the story.

I really, really don’t like that they changed the reason for Ross and Kincaid’s lashes. The men were brought in by Dougal. Why shouldn’t they have believed they were supposed to be there? Jamie’s punishment seems unduly harsh. It makes sense to punish them – and himself – for Lord John (or William, as he calls himself at this point) managing to enter the camp and attack. That is a totally legitimate dereliction of duty. This is…not.

After watching the rest of the episode, it’s clear that they were: 1) putting Dougal’s men on sentry duty with weighted emphasis and 2) establishing the penalty for this kind of infraction, but I think we all understand that corporal punishment was used at this point in history for military discipline. No need to flog two men who didn’t really do anything wrong in order to justify doing it later to Jamie. Or, if you want to contrast the two floggings, make the first one for a real offense.

Claire’s dialogue attempts to anchor us into a more specific time – for two years she’s tried to stop this war.

I am confused about why they added them swearing that Claire wouldn’t be alone again after she tells Jamie about her WWII experience. He already asked her to promise him that she would go back to the 20th century if things got bleak. He’s going to hold her to that promise. I don’t like that he’s going to break this one. Unless he decides that it isn’t alone as long as she’s pregnant and is going back to Frank? But that’s the letter of the vow, not the spirit of it. Dislike.

Why change the Lord John scene from him attempting to help Claire to just attacking? It makes it feel much more awkward when Claire happens along and starts the farce that she’s being held against her will. Maybe it’s just that I dislike whenever Claire tries to pull one of these scenes (like lying to BJR about Sandringham, faking her vision last episode, etc.). It made sense to me in the book that Jamie really didn’t want to torture this boy, especially since he didn’t yield at first, and was looking for a way out of it. The fact that John had attacked to protect Claire in the first place was what gave Jamie the idea to use her to coerce him.

I can see that Claire’s trying to do the same thing in the show, but why does she think it will work? It is nice that Jamie picks up on Claire’s idea and jumps to use it, because it’s always nice to see Claire and Jamie working together, but it doesn’t feel particularly motivated. And, sigh, here’s another threat of rape, even if it’s not a real threat and is being used as an alternative to torture.

Also, Lord John never finds out in this version that Claire is actually Jamie’s wife. So his little speech at the end isn’t motivated by the same feelings of shame and humiliation. He’s unhappy at being forced to give up information, but he would feel justified because of the inducement. We could have trimmed a few training montages and allowed him to ask, as he does in the book, what assurance he has that they will let the lady go. And then why not allow Claire to treat the broken arm? This is their first interaction of what is going to be a long and very fraught relationship. It needs to be…more.

Not that I advocate for keeping things just because they set up something in the future. I honestly feel that the scene in the book works to establish character, and it is plot-relevant because of the cannon and the upcoming battle. I can’t imagine why it was trimmed and changed so much. Although I did love when he shouts that he isn’t a spy, since I know what’s in his future. 🙂

I don’t mind adaptive changes when they enhance the story, bring out unexpected nuances, or fix minor problems in the source material. But this show has started to create problems for themselves that they’re going to have to solve in unnaturally twisted ways if they want to keep the broad strokes of the story intact (which they say they want to do).

In aggregate, I’m really not sure what this episode adds to the overall story. I guess it is trying to show Jamie changing from a Laird into a General, not just in the eyes of his men, but particularly in the eyes of Dougal. But I still feel that most of what happened wasn’t necessary and didn’t advance the plot. A much shorter training sequence, then Lord John, and then the battle of Prestonpans could have all fit neatly into this episode.

But perhaps my feelings will change when I get the chance to come back and watch again. I won’t be live-tweeting tonight, but I hope everyone has fun watching and tweeting!

Episode 208 – The Fox’s Lair

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There are a few small missteps in this episode, but I think that Diana Gabaldon doesn’t understand the phrase “jumping the shark.” I am actually a little happier after this episode, because I couldn’t see how, after the witch trial in the show, there was any possible way in the world that Jamie would ever marry Laoghaire. But if she is truly contrite, and still in love with him, and Claire has made her peace with her (if not actually forgiving her), then maybe, just maybe, it would make sense for him to be worn down by Jenny and agree to the marriage.

I adore the title card this week. It reminds me of the cat for The Wedding. I suppose it’s a bit on the nose, but foxes are one of my favorite animals, so it works for me.

Opening with them already in Lallybroch was a wise decision. I wish we’d had time for the rest and peace of the year in the books, but it’s implied that they have now been there a while and are already settled in. Wounds have had time to heal, at least a little. The highlights from the book are there – the potatoes, the letters and books from Louise, and Jamie’s late-night conversation with his niece.

The changes are understandable. It makes sense for Charles to charge Jamie with recruiting the Frasers at the beginning of the uprising. That part feels organic, at least.

The mention of Jocasta gives me great hope for future seasons! She’s as canny an old bird as the Auld Fox is cunning. If they split Voyager over two seasons, we won’t meet her until season five, but I can wait.

Jamie’s reaction to the Bill of Association is exactly as I imagined it. He is so angry, and can’t let his rage loose with the family all around him. And Jenny and Claire are devastated.

Can I stop for a moment and say that Sam Heughan is amazing? He is so faithful to the text, using Jamie’s physical tics, including keeping his fingers stiff on one hand and tapping with the other.

I like that Jamie uses the arguments that came from Father Anselm in the book- that Claire has already changed things by being in the past. And her argument that they flee is something that Jamie, as laird and head of his family, cannot accept.

It’s nice to have Claire and Jamie working together again, instead of being pulled apart.

Watching Jamie and Jenny spar is one of the best things ever. When Jamie says, “Janet,” in that tone that only siblings can get, it makes me chuckle.

Jamie confessing about his father being a bastard is both cute and heartbreaking. It obviously bothers him, but Claire could care less. Of course, he takes his shirt off half-way through the confession, and that’s enough to distract anybody. The way the shot fades out on him standing there, silhouetted, is bloody gorgeous.

Then there’s another beautiful shot, of the light glinting off Claire’s ring as she searches the bed and doesn’t find Jamie. It must tear at her heart, and yet warm it, to see him holding his fussy niece. Jenny’s dialogue is drawn pretty much directly from the book, but I wish there’d been a little space in this scene for Claire and Jenny to talk about Faith. Jenny references Claire’s pregnancy, but then moves on. I’d like Jenny to tell her that what happened wasn’t her fault, that sometimes these things happen and no one can stop them, and there is no reason or logic. That Claire will be a mother some day.

But I suppose I will live without that assurance.

Claire and Ian’s exchange – “take care of your Fraser” – made me smile. They’ve been allies ever since Claire and Jamie first showed up at Lallybroch. We don’t get to see much of them interacting, but he is her brother-in-law, and this is Claire’s family in a way that she has never had before. When Jenny instigates their hug, and they hold each other close, it breaks my heart. Because of the way events have been moved around, I don’t think Claire is going to be coming back to Lallybroch in this season. This is the last time she will see Jenny and Ian for twenty years.

I wonder if the rosary that Jenny gives Jamie is the one he will later give to William?

Jamie deals perfectly with Fergus. He’s too old to be treated like a wee bairn, but too young to be allowed to fight with the others. Making him subordinate to Murtagh, as a sort of page, is a brilliant idea.

The Claire-ification during the travel montage is probably not necessary. Jamie references Simon’s way of getting wives to his face (rape and trickery) and we know he had affairs and bastards – or Jamie wouldn’t be alive. Jenny already said that his loyalties shifted to whoever could line his pockets. We don’t get any additional information in the voice over that isn’t organically found within the episode.

Colum at Beaufort Castle is…odd. I mean, I get why he’s there, and I suppose it makes sense, but he is definitely more healthy in the show than he was in the book. By this point, he was very close to death, and considering euthanasia.

I’m not particularly bothered by this first scene with Laoghaire. I wish they hadn’t pushed her quite so far last season – that she’d been more like the book, wanting to get Claire in trouble but not really wanting her dead – but I’m willing to go with her change of heart. She’s obviously still in love with Jamie, but if she sincerely regrets hurting Claire (and it seems she is, because of what she later agrees to do), then I’m willing to go with it.

I want to like Maisri, but I am a fan of The Decoy Bride and when she’s on screen, I can’t stop seeing Maureen Beattie saying she wants to be thrown into a volcano. I also think that we lose some of the weight of her character in the show, and that she is turned into more of a plot element, but I’ll get to that after her conversation with Claire in the church.

Simon is cunning, and knows how to needle his grandson. I like that Jamie loses his temper, that he isn’t quite as polished and canny as he is around the MacKenzies. But the problem isn’t entirely the Auld Fox – it’s the situation, where Jamie needs something and Lord Lovat is absolutely willing to use that to squeeze what he wants out of his grandson.

I also notice that Jamie isn’t wearing a kilt in this scene. I wonder if he’s taking his cue from Simon, who also doesn’t wear a kilt?

I dislike that Jamie uses La Dame Blanche again. It’s better to call her a Wise Woman, but it’s much better later, when he calls her one of the Old Ones. This is what Jamie believes in the book – or at least half-believes, anyway. But I guess this is better than in Paris, because he knows that his grandfather is superstitious, and at least this time he’s using the accusation to protect Claire rather than his man card.

I like Young Simon better in the book. He was a bit of a bastard, and a brawler, but he was loyal and willing to follow Jamie. I’m not sure what to make of this version of the character. He reminds me of Lord Byron, except the famous poet wouldn’t be born for another forty-ish years.

Claire’s decision to have Laoghaire give Young Simon confidence is also odd. I suppose this is the “jump the shark” moment, but I use the phrase loosely, because what I think was really meant was that this is the moment when Claire does something completely out of character. The idea itself is fine, but when Laoghaire balks, Claire should have relented. Instead she persists. She does tell Laoghaire that she doesn’t need to use her body to entice Young Simon, but Laoghaire is young. She’d only be about seventeen now, or maybe closer to eighteen, and doesn’t understand subtlety.

Also, holding forgiveness over Laoghaire’s head is unkind.

In the next scene, Colum is saying all of the things that Jamie is already feeling, and the things that Jamie fears, but Jamie has chosen to fight. This is another change from the book, where Colum seeks Jamie’s advice and decides not to support the Stuarts. I wonder how they are going to get Colum to Edinburgh later? Perhaps, after they begin to win battles, he decides he has no choice? Or perhaps, the series will have Dougal kill him at Leoch, and then lead the clan to join the prince.

Young Simon is so awkward, declaiming poetry. Laoghaire is used to the MacKenzie men, like Rupert and Angus, or even like Willie, who are more primal and physical. I think that’s why she likes Jamie. He has the strapping physicality and warrior spirit that is familiar to her, but also the keen mind and curious soul of an intellectual.

Something is definitely missing from this scene with Claire and Maisri. I think it’s the acknowledgment of Claire’s foresight. There is a connection between them in the book. Although she doesn’t have visions the way Maisri does, she knows things that are going to happen. It is made much more explicit in the book how that kind of knowledge can be difficult, or even impossible, to carry. That isn’t even touched on in the episode. In fact, I feel like the only reason Maisri is here is for Claire to co-opt her vision later, in a very false and theatrical display that was a much more out of character action than anything she could have done with Laoghaire.

Jamie goes to the stables to calm himself down. I like that he wants to be a beast – the second reference to “To a Mouse” in this episode. I suppose that Jamie’s off-hand remark that Claire should reveal herself as from the future is what gives her the idea to fake a vision, but I very much dislike that scene.

As soon as Claire drops the tankard, everything feels so very false, not only because I know it isn’t true, but because everyone else seems to know it. Colum even shouts it out as a pretense. Only  Jamie’s reference to the Old Ones saves it at all for me, because he actually believes that.

But the rest feels so fake, especially the way Lovat reacts. I think he’s acting, too, trying to create a scene as much as Claire is. Young Simon walks directly into his father’s trap. You can see the gears turning as he makes his choice – pretend neutrality and send troops as though they decided on their own to follow his son.

Colum’s farewell is lovely. He truly does care so much about Jamie, and wishes his nephew would take any other path. We linger so long on their goodbye, that I think we may never see Colum again. I’m going to make the guess that Dougal will return from Beannachd to kill Colum at Leoch, then lead the MacKenzies to join Charles Stuart.

Laoghaire’s wish to one day earn Jamie’s love is the final thing that makes me think this episode was supposed to put Laoghaire into a more favorable position to marry Jamie in season three.

The Auld Fox’s parting shot – that he hasn’t gotten Lallybroch “yet” is nice. But even better is the show’s casual assumption (the second so far this season) that the “secrets but not lies” conversation actually did happen on their wedding night. Two episodes ago, Claire told Jamie that it was OK for him to lie to her occasionally, and now Jamie tells Claire they may have to “rethink their agreement not to lie to one another.” Both of them are teasing, but they are obviously referencing their vow to maybe keep secrets, but when they do tell each other something, it will be the truth. Head canon is now official canon!

I suppose Maisri does have one other purpose in this episode – she gives Claire hope that the future can be changed. I’m not sure that’s enough to make up for the very false note of the false vision, but I suppose it’s better to go into the war with hope, even though the dramatic irony is still very much in place. We already know they are going to fail.

The preview for next week focuses almost entirely on preparing the troops, but Dougal’s presence is part of why I think he’s going to either kill his brother or somehow get Colum out of the way in the next episode. It’s also possible that he’s just there, supporting his prince, and maybe tries to take leadership away from Jamie.

I suppose we’ll see next week!

Episode 114 – The Search

I have been putting off writing this blog post because I don’t know how to write it without being a giant Negative Nancy. The thing is, despite how disappointed I was with how the show handled the strapping, there’s still a lot to like in “The Reckoning.” But in “The Search,” there are only a handful of scenes that I actually like. Most of the episode feels contrived. No, worse. It makes no sense in the world that they’ve created. At least in the book, they do their little song-and-dance routine as a way to make a little coin and get attention to ask questions. The fact that Jamie will hear about Claire as a healer is a bonus – it might draw him to them – but it isn’t their entire plan. Plus, the whole thing takes up a few pages at most.

So…I don’t know how to be objective, and I don’t want to write a rant. But I do want to move on to the last two episodes, because they are gut-wrenching and painful and desperately beautiful. That means I’m going to focus only on the parts of the episode about which I have nice things to say.

First- the title card is…odd? I don’t hate it, but it does seem very on-the-nose.

Ian’s struggle strikes deep into my heart. How it hurts him to feel useless. Also, Jenny Fraser Murray is a BAM (Bad-Ass-Mother). While Claire is lost in voice-over, Jenny is like, “Get your ass in gear, Sassenach.” But it does bother me, thinking of what’s going on under her skirts since she just gave birth. Not to be too graphic, but things still…leak for a while. I’m seriously more bothered by that than the crow eating out the dead dude’s eye.

I LOVE that they put a lactating mother on screen. I approve of all child-feeding choices – every woman has to make the decision that best suits her life and her child – but we need to do more to normalize breastfeeding. Not because everyone should or must do it, but because it is a totally natural thing and we shouldn’t be afraid or shamed by women who do it.

  • Jenny – “He’s not daft enough to pick a fight with ten armed soldiers.”
  • Claire- Raises eyebrow
  • Jenny – Nods- yeah, you’re right

Jenny and Claire with the redcoat is brutal and terrifying, and is the best sort of scene to shove Jenny’s deep 18th-century practicality up against Claire’s 20th-century optimism. I wish they hadn’t taken the choice away from them by giving it to Murtagh, though. That was a misstep, in my opinion. Claire needed to choose, and we needed to see it. Jenny is right. Love forces a person to choose, and it isn’t quite enough to Claire to say she would have done it.

The girls reminiscing about their unusual childhoods is lovely. But UGH to more VO the next morning. We understand that she needs to get back to the baby. The milk-expressing scene should have done it. And then, their parting strikes home how different things are between them from when they first met.

And now we enter my least favorite part of the episode. Which is sad, because I love Murtagh, and I want to love Claire and Murtagh traveling in the lovely wilds of Scotland. Sadly, although it starts out well with her healing people and using her strengths at reading people, Murtagh’s sword-dancing is supposed to be quite good, and the Scots revered a good sword dancer. The show manufactures some very unlikely conflict, and then the episode takes a sharp left turn through the pumpkin patch to crazy town.

So I’ll pick up again with Claire and Murtagh in the cave by the sea. Damn, but I love watching Murtagh reminisce about Ellen, and then to bend enough to embrace Claire back and comfort her? It makes me cry. I hope we eventually get a book, or at least a short story, of Brian and Ellen.

Skipping over the remnants of the gypsy plot…

We find poor Claire, getting Dougal when she wanted Jamie. And what a right bastard he is about it, too. Fortunately, Claire knows exactly how to handle assholes. Although I chuckle on the “we won’t talk about Geillis today” line. I still wonder if they’ll put her into season two, other than as Gillian Edgars.

I like that they gave Willie the first vote to help Jamie when Claire goes to speak to Dougal’s men. It brings the character to a nice arc by the end of the season, from the raw lad who started on a journey in Rent to a man who can stand up for what he believes in, even when the path is hard.

And then we enter into darkness.

Episode 110 – By the Pricking of My Thumbs

My overall reaction to this episode was “well…huh.”

Firstly, I was quite certain that Ron Moore said in an interview at some point that they weren’t going to do the changeling. Perhaps I misheard? I can’t find it now, anyway, so who knows what he actually said. Maybe I conflated the changeling and the water horse. So I wasn’t expecting to see that.

Secondly, the whole fandom had pretty much decided that Dougal wasn’t married in the show, since his wife had never come up after nine episodes. It was weird to have it only come up here, and then to have Dougal’s extremely melodramatic reaction was out of character and just awkward.

There are times when sticking to the books makes the show have to turn itself in knots, and this episode is one of them. They needed to get to the plot points of Geillie and Dougal’s affair, and it’s more dramatic if they’re both married and both spouses die. It’s also a better explanation for why Colum exiles Dougal, but I’d have believed the exile even if the only reason Colum wanted him away was to keep them from eloping/take care of Geillis. Which is what happens in the book, anyway. So they kept things in that they didn’t need to keep and elaborated on things that didn’t need elaboration.

There are a couple of elaborations that I love. The Duke of Sandringham is one. I am fond of this new, “I don’t like work” version of the duke. The sportsman with the high-pitched voice from the book is funny, but this one feels like he’s part of a high-stakes political game, and that he would fit in perfectly at court.

I’m also a fan of Claire confronting him directly, and actually telling Jamie about the connection to Randall. It’s hard to understand why she doesn’t in the book.

The duel is a fun little moment, and I’m neither for nor against the addition. I don’t feel that it really adds anything to the story, but it doesn’t make anything worse and it gives us a little more time with Jamie, so I’m fine with it.

The summoning in the woods is gorgeous, but it makes me wonder what they’re going to do in the abbey. Claire learned the opium/hypnosis trick that she uses to save Jamie from Geillis in the book. Maybe she’ll have some kind of flashback to a soldier under opium in the war.

Speaking of flashbacks, OMG how many times are we going to have to see Reverend Wakefield and Frank opining about the Duke of Sandringham? Do they really think we’ve forgotten? Or that there are tons of people who haven’t watched the first nine episodes just now jumping in on episode ten?

Anyway, I adore Colum in the scene where he banishes Dougal and Jamie. We feel his power as Laird, not with physical menace the way that Dougal does things, or with wit and humor the way Jamie does it (although he can and will show physical menace, too), but by a kind of magnetism and strength that is inside of him. Jamie’s reluctant obedience is fantastic.

Dougal’s claim to love Geillis rings a little false until he mentions the child. We haven’t heard about his daughters in the show, and now that we’ve heard about Maura I would think they would have mentioned the girls. So I’m guessing that he is hoping to marry Geillis and finally have a legitimate child of his own. That need gives him vulnerability.

Mrs. Fitz is so sweet with Claire, but I wonder how much she guesses of her granddaughter’s affections and intentions. It’s Tammas who delivers the note – Laoghaire’s cousin – and I’m betting she asked him to do it. He probably just thought it was a prank. After all, Claire saved his life.

I like that Geillis is proud and self-assured when Claire comes to her, rather than drunk and dissolute like she is in the books. Although why Claire doesn’t say “Dougal is gone” when Geillis says he’ll protect her, I have no idea. It may be a function of the way they edited the scene, but it feels like Claire had plenty of time before Jeanie opened the door to say “Christ, Geillis, Dougal is miles away, with Jamie, and Colum is out to get you.” Then they could have both gone out the back.

Meh.

I haven’t mentioned the opening scene, although it was lovely and captured well the description from the book of butterfly wings. It felt very soft and loving and showed us exactly where Claire and Jamie are now. So did the scene with the changeling. Jamie says almost the exact same line he said in the Black Kirk (about the people not knowing much more than what Father Bain tells them), but this time with gentle affection. I still need to finish my blog post tracking the Claire/Jamie relationship arc over the season, but maybe I will wait until the whole season is done, and then I’ll have all sixteen episodes to work with.

In general, this was not my favorite episode. It did have a couple of very nice scenes, and I enjoyed it more than I did 109, but 109 tried something daring and failed (in my opinion). This one didn’t do much that was daring, and sometimes it’s better to fail spectacularly than to succeed mediocre-ly. *not a word*

Episode 109 – The Reckoning

Outlander is back!

I’m still working on some of my hiatus content. We’ve had several rounds of the flu, strep, and stomach viruses at my house, and I’ve got three different posts in various stages of completion but nothing ready to post.

Instead, I moved straight on to my blog for the first episode of 1B.

May I say first, I am surprised and pleased that my theory about Colum (and Dougal, to some extent) turned out to be correct! The book never explicitly states that Colum wanted Jamie to be laird (or at least regent for Hamish), but it is certainly something you can read into their interactions if you want to. I’m excited to see how this will play out over the course of the rest of the season, particularly the next episode, with the Duke of Sandringham and Jacobite issues. There will be even more implications for season two when the issue of how the clan will “jump” is paramount.

I wonder whether the show is going to show us Dougal killing Colum in Edinburgh. That’s another thing that is implied, but never stated, in the books. It will have to be done in a way that lets Claire and Jamie know the truth, but not be able to prove it, or else Dougal won’t be allowed to lead the clan to war.

But let’s backtrack to the episode. I loved Jamie as the narrator. The whole cold open, and the monologue, did an excellent job of placing us in Jamie’s PoV. That’s an important choice, because I don’t think we could have made it through the strapping otherwise (it didn’t really work for me as is, but I’m choosing to whistle past it).

I’m a fan of the change that Ned told them not to kill anyone, rather than Jamie having an unloaded pistol because he’d already killed a guard. I’ve never liked the fact that, in the course of proving his innocence in the death of an English soldier, he kills a different English soldier. Plus, wouldn’t the shot have alerted the guards? So not loading their pistols on purpose makes much more sense.

One drawback to this scene (and the end of “Both Sides Now”) is that we’re still not getting the knowledge from Claire that BJR really can’t rape her until Jamie is present, and someone else’s humiliation or pain is involved. I realize that would take some of the immediate danger out of the scene, but I’m actually OK with rape being off the table. BJR is dangerous enough with a knife. But the show has skirted the issue a few times now, so I’m guessing it isn’t going to come up until Lallybroch, when it becomes the point of contention between Jamie and Jenny. Or maybe not at all.

The scene by the brook between Jamie and Claire was beautiful and raw, but I have to admit I was terribly distracted by the fact that the men and horses were only a few feet away. I wish they would have staged that differently. All I could think of the whole time was that I would have been mortified to be having that conversation in front of Angus, of all people.

Still, I would have preferred just about anything rather than what happened next. I’m not going to go too far down this road, because everyone’s reactions to the scene are different, but the strapping is one place where I wish they wouldn’t have stuck so closely to the books. It wasn’t so horrific that I will refuse to watch the rest of the season, but it was uncomfortable enough that I’ll probably always skip this scene when I re-watch the episode. For most purposes, I’m going to pretend it never happened.

The pacing of this episode is totally weird, and the quick cut to Leoch is one of the reasons why I wish they hadn’t filmed the strapping scene so closely to the source material. I can accept the strapping there because of Jamie’s stories on the road afterward. The show doesn’t have time for that, so I really wish they’d set things up differently.

Then we have the conflicts between the Brothers MacKenzie and Laoghaire and Jamie. I’m actually a big fan of what the show is doing with Laoghaire. Most of what we know about her in the book of Outlander (not including what we learn in later books) is really just Claire’s speculations. The show is setting her up to be a little more sympathetic. Yes, she’s forward, but she’s sixteen and having her first “love,” which is an intense and powerful thing. She thinks that Jamie’s arranged marriage is like most of the ones in this era- loveless and mostly on paper. After all, he took a beating for her and then snogged her in an alcove.

I’m also totally OK with the way Jamie handles her. He isn’t used to dealing with women on a romantic level. He knows how to talk to his sister and his tenants, and Claire acts enough like Jenny or “one of the guys” that he’s fairly comfortable with her. But Laoghaire is something completely different, and he’s treating her gently. I think he’s also still attracted to her, which makes it hard when she throws herself at him. He’s tempted, but this is one of the choices he mentioned in his opening monologue. The choice wouldn’t matter if the other option wasn’t at least a little viable. That doesn’t make Jamie less of a hero or a bad person. All it means is that he’s not perfect. But he does make the right choice. He turns her down, even if he could have done it in a less-fumbling way.

In general, I think everything with Laoghaire and Jamie could fit perfectly into the books. We never see their interactions at Leoch. Jamie says nothing happened, but from his perspective, nothing did. Seeing her awkward advances and his even more awkward refusal makes me understand why Laoghaire would say what she says during his return to Scotland thirty(ish) years later. Her accusations that he led her on and yet never really saw her meshes well with this encounter.

Getting back to the episode, the political tensions were fun, and I loved how Colum listened to Jamie’s advice. It reminds me of what he tells Jamie in DiA, how Ellen used to be his best friend and how they would make plans for the clan together, before she ran off with Brian. I saw the same thing from Colum during the Gathering when Jamie gave his oath. He was so angry that Jamie was even there, because Colum was sure Jamie would end up dead. Instead, Jamie proved that he was just as savvy and sure-footed as Ellen, and managed to find the middle path. The smile Colum gave was an acknowledgment of his sister-son, and the heir he would place above his hot-heided brother.

Now Jamie is proving just how good he would be as Laird. It’s a shame that he’ll never truly hold that place, not even on the Ridge. He sees the people there in North Carolina as his, but not all of them view him the same way. And his brief time as Laird of Lallybroch ends in pain and isolation; he’s able to save his men only after great personal sacrifice.

The last scene is probably my biggest disappointment in the episode. Not so much because it’s a bad scene – it actually works very well within the framework of the episode, and I really like what Jamie says about going a different way than his father and grandfather – but only in comparison to the same scene in the book.

I am fine with losing some of the fight (although I’ve always seen Claire’s jealousy over Laoghaire as the first sign that she has truly fallen for Jamie). The bit about the money has always rung a little false for me, but the moment when she chooses to stay, and when they come together in violent, passionate lovemaking, is one of the major turning points of the book.

The scene is still a turning point for the show, of course. Jamie tells Claire about the key to Lallybroch, and that she’s his home now. Claire asserts herself, and proves that they are equals in their marriage, not one subject to the other. But it’s not quite the same. When Jamie says he’s going to make her call him Master, there is no impetus for that assertion. And when he says that he is her master, and she’s his, it feels just the tiniest bit hollow.

In the end, this is not my favorite episode. In fact, it is probably my least favorite so far. But that is only in comparison with the very excellent episodes that preceded it, and some much more weighty scenes in the book. It’s still one of the better episodes of television I’ve seen.

What do you think? Do you have an opinion about Laoghaire’s strip tease? Leave a comment and tell me your reactions to the episode.

PS- If you want to talk about the strapping, all I ask is that you be open to other interpretations than your own. I’m uncomfortable about it, but I know others found it funny, or at least non-objectionable. I don’t think they’re wrong, or morally bankrupt, or terrible people, for having a different reaction than me. Basically, be polite!