*the series second season premieres April 4th catch it here
If you like your Scottish served “your way” like a fast food establishment then Diana Gabaldon is the first stop in town. For over 20 years she has been praised the world over for delivering her Scottish piping hot and fresh and her customers relish every bite. Now that she decided to work with an expert in the “kitchen” like producer/writer Ronald D. Moore, the first season of the Outlander series has turned out to be a show you savor like a good 8 course meal.
I must say I have to commend the Starz network for continuing after Spartacus to respond to the elements the fans loved the most in that successful series with another unique artistic take on historical fact. On the surface Outlander seems like the exact opposite of the testosterone filled gladiator epic but in fact this new series is a wonderful blend of both masculine and feminine energy. Outlander is a series that makes equal use of the different characteristics of women and men and that also includes what they have in common; in this case it is love.
This first episode debuts as it should with its principal figure, Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall. How in the world the production found this gem of an actress I have no idea. Within the first few minutes Caitriona is in full command handsomely guiding the audience through the fascinating landscape of Claire’s character.
“There is no place on earth with more magic and superstition mixed in its daily life than the Scottish highlands.”
HighLight: For me the highlight of this episode will always be the specter of ghost Jamie. My mind takes me on long strolls imagining Jamie Fraser passing on some time hundreds of years ago and returning to his beloved highlands to wait for his “Brown-haired lass” to one day return to him.
To be honest so much happens in this episode that I have to concede I can’t adequately describe it all. Please, if you have 8 hours to spare I urge you to spend it watching not only this exemplary pilot but the entire Outlander series. Truly this is marathon viewing at its best and this series from the cast, production, direction and writers represents quality television at its finest.
“Just never forget you’re English in a place where that’s not a pretty thing to be.”
We fall further down the rabbit hole in this the second episode of the series. Not only are we introduced to the wonders of dressing and grooming in the 18th century but Claire goes full Nurse Beauchamp, Medicine Woman tending the now shot and bleeding Jaime McTavish. The setting for all this “nursing” is full of mood lighting and moving background music but it’s the superior acting that delivers one of the best scenes in the entire series.
We also get a firsthand look at the series and deep seated conflicts between the British army and the people of the Highlands and it’s brutal, grimy and costly in lives and basic humanity. You get the sense that the Scots are living moment to moment and there is an interesting symmetry between them and the newly minted time traveler Claire Randall.
HighLight: Jamie telling Laird Mackenzie, “Is there ever a good reason for rape?”
The Way Out-3
We find war nurse Claire going all ER/Chicago Hope with a dash of House thrown in for spice in this episode. The false lead in confession at the beginning feels as abrupt and startling as the cold water poured over Claire’s head by her over eager chamber maid. Claire begins her medical residency by helping “THE Mackenzie” with a therapeutic massage.
Then we are treated to a wonderful 18th century version of a music video all the while Jamie attempts to mack Claire while someone else was flirting with him at the same time. Hey, don’t hate the player hate the game. Lol!
“This is my sister’s house and my father’s before and we’ll decide what is done under its roof.”
HighLight: The Black Kirk turns out to be an old abandoned German monestary. It’s the setting for another Jamie and Claire charming conversation which once again cements their potential couple status.
This action packed installment opens with a daring game of tag a theme that is often repeated in this series but especially so in this episode set at an annual clan gathering of the Mackenzie. Love, Love, Love the Diana Gabaldon cameo. It’s great to see the creator of the series so welcomed in the adaptation of her work and she’s not a bad actress! (Who Knew?)
Claire’s love of hard liquor comes in handy when she tries the old Macbeth trick of getting people sick drunk before betraying them.
“I come to you as kinsman as ally but give you no vow. For my oath is pledged to the name I bear”
HighLight: The 40’s music score for the beginning of the boar/hairy pig hunt was pure genius.
For all of her caution and careful planning Claire Beauchamp lets her 20th century flag fly a little too high catching the intense and quite troublesome attention of Dougal Mackenzie war chief of the clan and the Lord Mackenzie’s only surviving sibling and an altogether very sneaky dude.
One of my favorite animals are horses and this installment in the series has loads of them. To see how important they were to everyday life in the 18th century is truly amazing.
And the outrageously delicious amount of Gaelic spoken in this episode reminded me of the hours I spent as a 15 year old thinking about learning the language and then someday traveling to Scotland and assaulting the locals with my bad accent. I have always had dreams of the heather filled glens of the highlands and watching this show is like reliving my girlish fantasies.
Two auxiliary characters stand out one is Ned the lawyer who is a great addition to the mix of boisterous highlanders and Jamie’s smoldering sexiness and the other is the tall and inquisitive English Lt. Jeremy Foster.
The Garrison Commander-6
“If you want to hear London speak perhaps you should have stayed in London.”
The tensions between the Scots and the English are beautifully put on display in this episode and the tug of war for possession of Claire begins…..
In the course of the action in this episode we get an even closer look into the abyss that lies behind the eyes of Black Jack. He is a truly a scary character that seems beyond the bounds of sanity and society. If truth be told he reminds me of the hollowed out soldiers from Apocalypse now. He wears the redcoat uniform well but there’s an emptiness in him that makes him appear mostly suit and very little man.
“I dwell in darkness madam and darkness is where I belong.”
Another great episode that both moves the plot toward the climax of a truly shot gun wedding and at the same time spotlights the brilliant acting of this first rate cast.
HighLight: Jamie telling Claire he’s virgin! Squee!
I must say that I read some Diana Gabaldon years ago but somehow I didn’t get to the Outlander series. So while I have heard rumblings of the Outlander books I had no experience of the stories until the Starz Series premiered.
“You have my name, my clan, my family and if necessary the protection of my body as well.”
A burly, storytelling, hot and sexy both bold and gentle virgin. How was supposed to resist? Gabaldon has written a man for the ages in the Outlander 18th or 21st century it doesn’t make a difference. Hell a man of such character and caring recklessness will be irresistible in the 27th century! I am a woman who loves men and James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser is a man to love.
Claire and Jamie’s post coital conversation was a perfect balance of embarrassment, tender awkwardness, wonder and regret. For this alone the series is worth a watch but then you get to the actors performances, Sam Heughan as Jamie and Caitriona Balfe as Claire. Caitriona is luminescent in every scene she’s in and she is in nearly every scene. Her presence is the anchor for the show and watching the intricate tapestry of emotions cross her beautiful face is a joy to behold. She is without a doubt a talented artisan and someone I hope to see on the scene for a long time to come. Heughan is a stunning man but whose subtle and sensitive acting is a credit to his training and obvious natural ability. He could have just relied upon the wonderful and carefully rendered script, but Sam needs no such crutch. He leaps beyond convention and like the character of Jamie embodies his portrayal with a delicate touch that the “frighteningly romantic” Jamie would not have without him. It’s hard to cast anyone to play the perfect man but Heughan somehow manages to convey the impossibility of perfection and the ease in which it can be achieved all at the same time.
Both Sides Now-8
It’s fashionable in this modern age to dismiss the idea of good and evil. But there is evil. And it finds purchase in the good men. By giving sin the sweet taste of ecstasy.
These words really resonate in the episode and serve as a perfect moral foil in the actions of each member of the main cast. Everyone’s morals come into question and definite boundaries are crossed. For Jamie Fraser it’s when he’s literally caught with his pants down and has to make the decision to either save Claire from a sexual assault by a redcoat or forfeit his own life. A dilemma he’s unfortunately all too familiar with.
Claire who has recently been trained in the fine art of highland self-defense must put that training to “good” use when her true nature is that of a healer. She takes a life and murders a man mid attack. The pangs of both shock and guilt lay heavy at her feet and in a bid for the normalcy of the 20th century she runs away from her newly married and well bedded “husband”.
Jack Randall in his usual psychotic stupor commits further acts of unspeakable brutality but there is a momentary chink in his armor and for that one second we can see some unsettling vulnerability in the character. And his 20th century counterpart Frank is teetering on the edge. And at a particular hopeless moment descends into violence at the very idea of his wife’s infidelity.
HighLight: Black Jack Randall is a true double role played so admirably by Tobias Menzies that he’s the one man that can credibly say a man can serve two masters. The mania in British officer Jonathan Wolverton Randall is echoed in the desperate panic of his 20th century descendant historian Frank Randall as he attempts to search for his missing wife. The modern Randall, if the late forties can be considered “modern” times, is a man without a purpose once he loses his wife and Tobias does a wonderful job letting the audience understand the desolation of a husband who has lost more than he can bear to lose. His performance is poignant and sad but he’s by no means a pitiful character. There is a quiet strength about him that reminds us of the eternal and mysterious stones of Craigh Na Dun.
This is a finale worthy of a great television series and that cliffhanger ending is the right up there with who shot J.R.!
photo credit: www.starz.com
I agree that the Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall is perfect for this role and is perfect for marathon watching. Thank you for the review.