Episode 308 – First Wife

Episode 308 Header

This week I have been—thank goodness!—busy writing. I went to a write-in for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with a friend this weekend and we used our extra hour writing until 3:30 this morning. So I crashed for most of the day today and I am just now watching the episode for the first time at about the time that it is airing live.

The title card looks like it should be a spread from the Outlander Kitchen cookbook by Theresa Carle-Sanders (which you should totally get if you like to cook). I’m not sure yet what it’s meant to represent—maybe wifely duties at this point in history? (After watching the episode, I still don’t entirely get it).

UGH to the voice-over again. Haven’t they heard enough criticisms of it yet to stop using it? It’s such a crutch, and not an excuse for bad writing.

The acting in the first scene is amazing, though! Love Sam doing the Jamie finger-tic, and the tension between Jenny and Claire. Caitriona is playing Claire as optimistic and longing for the camaraderie and home that she lost so long ago, and that need for family is overriding her awareness of just how long it has been and what those twenty years have been like in the Highlands after Culloden. But Jenny can’t forget, and Laura Donnelly plays that beautifully.

OK, I don’t get it. Jamie thrashed Claire in season one because he “had to” but he comes up with a creative alternate punishment for Young Ian now? Why couldn’t they write their way around Jamie beating his wife in season one, too?? And yes, I’m sure there’s an argument to be made that he has matured and grown in twenty years, but that’s ridiculous when the only reason for keeping the first scene was because it was in the book. If that argument worked then, why not now? This scene was written to be a punishment for both Jamie and Young Ian—so that they would both feel the pain and the shame of what they’d done. I don’t hold with corporal punishment for children, but at least the book had nuance and shades of meaning to it. This is just smelly manual labor and, while unpleasant for Young Ian, has no consequences whatsoever for Jamie.

There’s so much going unsaid in this episode, as everyone carefully avoids talking about Laoghaire. And then there’s Jenny who sees too clearly and can’t accept the lies that protect Claire’s secrets.

I’m a little confused about the flashback, and why it’s here. I mean, it’s introducing the idea of the gems and coins that will need to be retrieved to pay Laoghaire off later, and it gives Claire more insight into Jamie’s past, but it feels intrusive—the brushstrokes of the painting.

Lots of people have talked about Claire and birds, and I like that she talks about hearing Jamie’s voice in birdsong, and that they finally included the story of the plovers from Outlander.

Oh, wee Joanie. One nice thing about breaking Claire’s PoV is getting to have sweet moments like that, and seeing Jamie in a different guise than laird, husband, warrior. Jamie as father (and later grandfather) is always nice to see.

The fight was pulled directly from the book, and Sam and Caitriona played it very well. I particularly liked Jenny and Claire afterward, and Ian confronting Jenny for her choices.

The writers seem to be forgetting just how vicious and terrible Laoghaire was in season one, compared to the books. I truly can’t see any circumstances under which Jamie would have married her, given what he knew in the show and what he witnessed at the trial. The post-surgery scene tries to address it, but falls far, far short of the mark. The arguments from the book only make sense when he didn’t know what Laoghaire did. I understand loneliness, and wanting to be a father, but that does not explain why he would pick Laoghaire, not even for the sake of Marsali and Joan. Not after season one, and not even after the “forgiveness” episode. It’s one thing to forgive and make their peace with her. It’s another thing to marry the woman who tried her damnedest to have Claire killed.

(Also, it’s hard to suspend my disbelief about the girls and Young Ian looking exactly the same over two years previous in the Hogmanay flashback—the sort of thing that I would probably buy into if I weren’t reeling with incredulity already).

I did laugh over Sam playing up Jamie’s fear of the needle. But it doesn’t really save the episode for me. I’m terribly bothered by Jamie’s choices in ways I wasn’t in the book.

Ned Gowan does nearly save things. Damn, I love that man. I would watch him just reading law books aloud. And I like Jenny’s concession, and softening, that will turn to many years of anger and pain when they lose Young Ian, first to the pirates, and later to the Mohawk.

I feel so little when Jamie says being a printer is naught compared to being Claire’s husband. That really should matter more, but it has so little weight when we don’t understand, in the show, just how important a part of Jamie’s identity that is. I want to feel a thrill when he asks her if she’ll risk the man his is now for the sake of the one she knew, but I just…don’t.

Am I overreacting? Does anyone else feel the same way I do? That marrying Laoghaire really was an unforgivable act, under the conditions created in the show? Or are we supposed to pretend that didn’t happen? Are the writers attempting to retcon the witch trial?

I’m not going to stop watching the show over this, because it’s pretty much done now and I love Marsali and Joan, so I’m glad they weren’t written out and I’m also glad that Claire comes to be more of a mother to Marsali than Laoghaire ever was. But much like “The Search” in season one, I will probably never watch this episode again, and will do my best to forget about it, despite some very good performances by the actors.

Sigh. And I still don’t see how they’re going to shove all of the rest of the content from Voyager into the remaining five episodes. But I will admit I am very much looking forward to seeing Claire on the Porpoise meeting John.

And can anyone explain to me why they don’t use a boat to go out to Selkie Island? I hear what Jamie is saying about the current, but just start farther up the coast and drift down, rowing against it just enough to steer where you want to go, and then row hard to get back to shore. Obviously it didn’t stop the men in the longboat from the ship. And given Jamie’s profession, he definitely knows people who have boats. Why not write to Jared and have one of his ships pick up the coins? We haven’t introduced Michael yet in the show, but he could have easily picked them up. So many plot holes! But I’ll let them pass.

The post-episode talk-back makes everything worse for me, Laoghaire-wise. Ron Moore talks about how he wanted to give Laoghaire more stuff in season one to make her more sympathetic and show why Jamie would eventually want to marry her—but that is the exact opposite of what they did by making her role in the witch trial more prominent. I am glad for Matt B. Roberts pushing on Jamie wanting more to be a father than to be married to Laoghaire. That’s the one true note in this episode, and the one thing I can believe about Jamie’s choices.

I promise I won’t harp on this forever. I’ll put it behind me so that I can enjoy future episodes. But I needed to rant and moan a bit first.

What did you think about “First Wife?” Do you buy what the writers are selling? And, by the way, I totally respect you if you do. The children angle is going to be my headcanon from now on, basically telling myself that Jamie only took Laoghaire because she came attached to Marsali and Joan, and that he never wanted her at all. If you are on board with him forgiving her and trying to make a true marriage, I can accept that—I’m certainly not going to tell you that your opinion is wrong! It just happens to be one I don’t share. But let me know what you think in the comments! I’m always interested in hearing other people’s reactions.

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