Episode 313 – Eye of the Storm

Episode 313 Header

You’ll notice as you read this blog that I don’t have a lot to say about what actually happens in the episode. I predicted most of it last week, and while I liked the execution of many of the details, when I compare this week’s episode to last week’s, it just comes up short. Most of what I talk about in this blog are the things I think were missing.

I really, really hope that next season is better balanced in terms of assigning material from the book to each episode. Because I felt like this one was just ticking the boxes that needed to be ticked to finish Voyager and wrap up the season. I didn’t feel engaged by much of the story, even the parts I liked (John and Jamie, Yi Tien Cho and Margaret, some of the interactions between Jamie and Claire).

And, honestly, if I hadn’t already read the books, I wouldn’t feel any particular need to move on to the next season. They’ve wrapped everything up with a nice bow and here we are in the new world. This could easily be a series finale rather than a season finale. But getting back to the episode…

The title card seems to be foreshadowing the storm and Claire being dragged off the ship with a broken leg, but it’s curious to me that they’re showing that. In the talkback at the end of the episode, they said they were trying to set it up the same was as the premiere, but in the premiere, we kept coming back to Jamie on the battlefield, and the rest of the story was told via flashback until things moved forward. This was a time jump—starting at the end and then jumping back in time, to then later catch up to the opening scene. So if they were going for parallel structure, they missed the mark.

I do like the bit with Fergus and Marsali. It’s fantastic that she’s asserting herself in their relationship, and Fergus isn’t beating his chest and telling her no. And he’s no less masculine or manly for allowing his wife to be his equal. It’s really lovely to see.

Damn, I love Lord John. And yeah, things happen pretty much exactly as I said last week. John is never going to let any harm come to Jamie as long as he has the power to stop it. And damn, does he know how to throw his weight around. My heart fluttered as Jamie walked away. David Berry is killing it. All of my other complaints aside, they did a great job of casting this season.

Geillis is super nuts, y’all. And it’s odd to me that Claire used Brianna as proof. Why not just tell Geillis about seeing her at the stones in 1968? Or talk about Greg Edgars? Claire couldn’t have known those things if she wasn’t there, so that should be proof enough that she traveled. I mean, yeah, it’s in the moment and all that, but Geillis is off-her-rocker crazy. Wouldn’t Claire’s instinct be to protect Brianna at all costs? It was her instinct in the book, as I recall—Geillis found the pictures in Jamie’s pocket. “Because it needed to happen for the story/conflict” is not a good reason.

But we’ll just have to go with it. And the rest of the plot pieces come together, as predicted, with Margaret and Yi Tien Cho. I hope they make it to Martinique, and that she’s not too scarred about what happened to her brother, asshole though he was.

UGH to the voice over! It was so intrusive into the scene and threw me right out of the story. It drained every last bit of tension away. We all get it. The pool is the portal. It was clear from the moment they entered. And everything else in the scene made it clear, too. Stating it just made me start thinking and stop feeling—the exact opposite of what you want the audience to do in a moment like this.

And wow, they did not need to keep coming back to the shot of Geillis with her head partially severed from her neck, and the blood spurting. Ugh. Gross.

I did like Claire’s shock, and Jamie pulling her and Young Ian close. That was nice.

But of course, they get back onto a ship. And my first thought is that we just very volubly stated that Jamie could be taken—if he were at sea. (Spoilers: nothing comes of that. Inexplicably.)

I’m very distracted by the soap on Jamie’s face in this love scene. I know, nitpicky details. But soap tastes disgusting, and would be worse in this era—even if it’s expensive soap. There’s no way some of that isn’t going into Claire’s (Caitriona’s) mouth. Ah, finally wiping it off.

As much as I’m all for love scenes with Jamie and Claire—and this one’s dialogue was taken straight from the book—I hate to say it, but this is gratuitous sex. I’ve written a number of blog posts on sex scenes and romance, and the rule about sex is the same as the rule for any scene. If the scene isn’t pushing the plot forward or doing some other story duty (character development, raising stakes, creating conflict, etc.), it should be cut. And that scene should have been cut, because nothing happens except sex.

Or, rather, the scene should have been rewritten so that it acted as a way for Claire and Jamie to reconnect after everything that has just happened. If they’d had Jamie work through Claire’s trauma after killing Geillis, bringing her back with touch and love, this scene could have been amazing. Instead, it feels jarring. Here we are, after everything that has happened, and we’re getting this tongue-in-cheek, teasing, everyone’s happy and hunky-dory love scene. What??

And what about Young Ian? He was raped by Geillis. At least in the book, there was fallout from that act. Gabaldon dealt with it. She didn’t forget about it, or think we’d forget about it. I’m not thrilled with how it all worked out in the book, but she didn’t shy away from it, either. I don’t understand why they didn’t just cut that entirely. They are basically treating it as though it wasn’t a rape at all—which it entirely, 100%, was. And so was what happened to Fergus last season, but they dropped the ball on that one, too. What is up with that?

And then we’re tossed right into a storm. But there’s no sense that any of their actions are driving things forward here. It’s just random.

Why not write it so that they went into the storm because Jamie wasn’t on deck to tell them to avoid it? What if, like in the book, the Porpoise was actually pursuing them and that forced them into the storm? We could have lost the sex scene and done that instead. I still don’t understand why they cut the pursuit from the show. It feels like a mistake, even if I didn’t know how it worked in the book. There was very heavy-handed foreshadowing in the scene with LJG that never went anywhere—Chekhov’s gun that didn’t go off.

Basically, this episode is the culmination of all of their bad choices earlier in the season—and now not having enough time on this end to tell the story we need. They’re having to truncate everything, and the episode ends up just being a string of scenes that don’t feel totally connected.

The literal eye of the storm was a pretty visual, but I’m not getting the metaphor. What is the storm, exactly? Geillis and her prophecies?

Speaking of which, how does she manage to share that news? Did she send letters to like-minded people living in this time, and the word passes down 200 years until Brianna and Roger are living at Lallybroch? Or does someone else make a separate prophecy at some point?

The beach interlude was also baffling. It made more sense in the book to have Claire wake up in the house, and for their hosts to come and talk to them there. And at the end of the scene, the people just stroll away, no questions asked.

There also isn’t the sense of claiming their own identity again that we had in the books, since they’ve been using the name Fraser for most of the season, and certainly since arriving on Jamaica. That was always the big, dramatic bit for me, that pulled me through to the next book. Jamie has had to hide who he is for 20 years, even after Claire returned. But now he is in the New World, with a new start—and that allows him to regain his identity for the first time since Culloden. It’s a huge deal…and we didn’t get that sense at all.

All-in-all, I’m very disappointed with this season. The standout moments are the Jamie portions of the first few episodes, the much more nuanced and careful presentation of Yi Tien Cho, the lovely acting by David Berry, Fergus and Marsali’s relationship, and episode 312. Other than that…wow.

All I can say is that there is no Frank in Drums of Autumn (I don’t even remember any flashbacks, although it has been a while since I read it), and so maybe we will actually get a more balanced season four. One can hope.

Do you agree with my assessment of the season? I know several of you have been liking it, and that’s great! I really want to like it more, I swear. And I’m still hoping for the best as they move forward. There’s the potential for some truly epic stuff in the next book. *fingers crossed*

As usual, I will post a speculation page at some point during the hiatus to consider how to break Drums of Autumn into 13 episodes. But I doubt I’ll get that done until early 2018, as I still have to finish Secret Magic, the fourth book in my Fay of Skye series.

Despite my moaning and grumbling, I really do enjoy watching this show and writing this blog, and I enjoy getting comments from readers. So thanks for chiming in each week, and I can’t wait to see you all again for season four!

Advertisements

Episode 310 – Heaven and Earth

Episode 310 Header

I am actually doing this episode’s blog in advance! I am having several Thanksgivings this year, and one of them is tomorrow (well, later today), so I stayed up late and am watching at midnight. I’ll schedule the blog to go up around 10 am.

Whoa, another cold open. Although I suppose it makes sense to get the last few minutes of the last episode from Jamie’s perspective before we officially start this one.

Still loving the new intro, especially the melding of the folkdances from the women around the stones to the African dances around the bonfire.

Oh, there they go with the title card, opening the cask of crème de menthe.

UGH VOICE OVER. We get it. A shot of her looking wistfully out to sea would do as much—if not more—than the terrible voice over.

Elias is super cute, and I hope they don’t kill him off like in the book. I know that deaths make for drama and we have to kill our darlings, but I like him. The actor is doing a great job of capturing that odd reality of the British navy in the era, when junior officers were almost always the younger sons of gentlemen or family of other officers, and could go to sea at a very young age. And yet they were meant to be in charge of much older men, many of whom had been pressed into service and had absolutely no desire to be there.

Wow, I was super right about how awful this scene with Jamie and Fergus would be. It was bad enough disparage Fergus’s feelings, but then to bribe him with his blessing is just…icky. I know Jamie is frantic, but wow. I want to say #notmyjamie, but we’ll see how the rest of the episode goes.

Overbearingly evil men are overbearing and evil. Ugh to the cook being so moustache-twirlingly bad.

Elias saves the scene, though, as he is saving the episode for me so far.

The Johansen scene was a little weird—especially since alcohol poisoning can be very serious, including making you go blind or die. It felt like the only reason it was there was for Claire to see the Portuguese flag, which in turn sends her to the captain’s cabin where she can read the log entry about Jamie. I don’t like it when the plot elements are so painfully obvious and not actually motivated by character action.

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ. This show already has a rape problem, which is to say that it relies on rape too heavily as a source of conflict. But to feed into the lie in our culture that women routinely lie about rape to get their way, or get out of trouble, or just to be bitches, makes me want to scream. Especially right now, when we are finally, finally listening to and believing women when they come forward to talk about being assaulted. This is such a step in the wrong direction. Do better, Outlander writers. Do better.

The Fergus and Marsali scene was nice. I like how they’re both strong-willed and stubborn, but accept each other with their strengths and weaknesses. It was also very well-acted. I was convinced that Fergus was on the edge of giving in, and then finally brought himself back to reality. Well done.

I dislike Claire using Elias to get to Tompkins, but just like Jamie, she’s willing to cross some ethical lines to keep the person she loves safe. But unlike Jamie, Claire thinks she’ll be able to keep this particular situation under control and that it won’t end up hurting anyone who doesn’t deserve it. I like that she’s actively seeking Tompkins, though. I always hated that he just randomly ended up needing surgery in the book. I loathe deus ex machina coincidences.

And again with the rape threats, against Marsali this time, and with their “friendly” crew. What the hell? Although I imagine that’s going to mean that Fergus refuses to set Jamie free and risk Marsali being hurt.

Claire is certainly a little vindictive against Tompkins, but he did set the print shop on fire and try to kill Young Ian, so I can’t be that mad about it. And putting him into the brig with the typhoid carrier is a nice touch.

I love that Fergus stands up to Jamie, and throws his words back at him. Jamie isn’t seeing clearly because he’s blinded by his worry for Claire, but Fergus has the pulse of the ship and he knows he’s doing what is best for all of them.

Oh, crap. They are going to go there. Poor Elias. I wish I didn’t know that at the beginning. And damn you, Bear McCreary, because you’re ripping my heart out right now.

I like that Claire makes an attempt at escape and fails, and Captain Leonard tells her the truth about everything. Nicer to have things out in the open, even if Leonard is being too stuffy and honor-bound about it.

EDITED TO ADD: I forgot to talk about Jamie’s return to the crew and giving his blessing to Fergus and Marsali. Basically, I kinda hate this entire plotline. Jamie would never do the things they had him do in this episode. He’s not an idiot. He has walked tightropes of politics and danger before (remember giving the oath at Leoch? Not to mention pretending to be Prince Charlie’s friend while secretly working behind his back to thwart his ability to start another Rising). I know he’s upset about Claire, but does that take away everything that makes him who he is? They are writing him as though he was like Dougal, slave to his emotions, instead of like Colum, canny and intelligent. Jamie would make a plan to save Claire. He wouldn’t go off half-cocked and he would never, ever hold something so important as his blessing in marriage over Fergus’s head to do something that he knows could literally get Fergus killed. No way, and no how. #NOTMYJAMIE And then they somehow just bring him out at the end and he’s back to normal. WTF?

(back to the original blog)

Oh, sadface. We haven’t had the scene with John and Claire on deck and she’s about to jump ship (literally). Maybe they’ll move the conversation to later, once they’re actually on the island. Because I really adore that particular exchange. Or maybe they couldn’t justify it because John has had flashback-style memories of Claire and they didn’t think we would believe that he wouldn’t remember her (although her not recognizing him isn’t an issue since he was only 16 before Prestonpans). And it doesn’t work as well after he knows who she is and she knows what John means to Jamie.

Or maybe they’ve removed him from the Porpoise completely, and it will just be a surprise to find him already installed as the governor in Jamaica. I can’t imagine that he won’t appear at all in the rest of the season—although the revelation about Willie has already happened. But so much of Claire and John’s friendship is established in that scene where they talk while Jamie is being questioned about murder. I doubt there will be a murder since there wasn’t a Fiend in Edinburgh, but I still want them to have that conversation.

The preview for next week doesn’t look very exciting in terms of changes, except that it looks like Jamie will still be with the crew when the Artemis beaches. And I didn’t see anyone who might be Lawrence Stern, so we may just have Father Fogden. But I really hope we get a wedding with attendant sheep!

Well, now the writers have clearly stated (in the talkback) that they are planting rabbits throughout the season to be references to Bree. It made no sense whatsoever on the battlefield at Culloden, but I guess I see what they were trying to do. Matthew B. Roberts suggested that it will have a payoff at the end—I’m guessing that will somehow tie into the Bakra episode and Margaret summoning the vision of Brianna.

This episode wasn’t terrible, but aside from the Elias and Fergus storylines, I wasn’t very impressed, either. The stuff with Tompkins just feels like a distraction. How did they know about the dead man in the crème de menthe? It obviously wasn’t an accident that they opened that cask. And why was Tompkins pressed? He made it sound like Sir Percival did it on purpose, but why would he do that except to cover up something? And yet, the warrant was sworn for Jamie anyway. It doesn’t really make sense.

What did you think of the episode? Did you miss Lord John as much as I did? They’re cutting storylines left and right. Are any of your favorite pieces from the book missing? Or did they keep in something you love? Let me know in the comments!

(PS–if you aren’t watching Lani Diane Rich’s Outlander vlog Sex and Whisky, you are missing out! I almost always agree with her opinions and comments.)