Outlander: The Reckoning

“She asked forgiveness and I gave it, but the truth is I’d forgiven everything she’d done and everything she could do long before that day. For me, that was no choice. That was falling in love.”

It’s back! After six long months, we can all return to the Highlands and lose ourselves in the story of a woman trying to make her way in a past that she neither completely understands nor completely respects. Except...

What makes Outlander work is that it takes a genre we all know and turns it around. Instead of a male-centric, coming of age, defining his own morality story, the PTBs have made Claire not only the protagonist, but tell the story from her point of view as well. The show has never wavered from it, until tonight. The change didn’t completely work.

I think I understand what the creators were going for. Jamie is the other half of this story and I am sure there are viewers who want to see his point of view, want to understand what it is that he is feeling and experiencing. His marriage to this woman must be as strange and difficult for him as it is for her.

The problem with the shift in the point of view is that Jamie is not the interesting character here; Claire is. Yes, Jamie has fallen in love with this woman who has the temerity to speak her mind and to demand that she be treated as an equal. But, he is not struggling to cope with living two hundred years in the past, nor is he coping with the fact that he is married to another.

To create tension for Jamie, we had all the political stuff around Colum, Dougal, and the gold. We also had the scene with Laoghaire where she throws herself at her crush. Neither was particularly effective as neither had the emotional urgency that the previous episodes have had. With the benefit of history, we know how the Jacobite uprising is going to end. We also know that Jamie is not the type of man to cheat on his wife.

My biggest problem with this shift in the point of view is the scene where Jamie “punishes” Claire. I hate this scene. I hate it in the book; I hated it here. I have never understood why a woman would write such a scene, no matter the point she was trying to make.

It also doesn’t fit Jamie’s character. Jamie is a gentle soul, able to move beyond the horrors of what has happened to him and see the best in the world around him. I’ve never been able to understand how a man who has been beaten nearly to death could beat someone else, let alone someone he loves. But, here the scene is and I can’t ignore it.

Because the point of view has shifted, this scene becomes terrible. The first time through the episode, I had to turn away. We are watching this scene from Jamie’s point of view and, therefore, are meant to side with him. We are somehow meant to understand that he is doing what he feels he must, what his father has done before him.

Even worse, when viewed through the prism of the marriage night where Claire teaches Jamie about the pain can be pleasure principle and then the scene at the end when Claire holds a knife to Jamie’s throat, we are meant to see that these two are going to have sexual encounters that fall just this side of truly violent.

Which would be fine, except that in the scene where Jamie beats Claire, she is not consenting. She is deriving no pleasure from it; he admits that he is. When all is said and done, the act drives them apart, very nearly permanently.

As much as I disliked about this episode, there was a lot I liked. The fight by the river was beautifully shot and acted and my heart ached for both of them. Haven’t we all said things in the heat of the moment, especially when coming down off an adrenaline high, that we regret. The entire exchange felt real.

I loved the whole interaction between the two of them before they started having sex. I admired Jamie for understanding that his relationship with his wife is going to be very different from any other he has witnessed. I admired Claire for admitting that, although she should walk away, she cares about this man. A lot.

Interestingly, the final scene reverted the story back to form. We are now firmly back to Claire’s point of view and she has regained more than a modicum of control over herself and her relationship. I am glad.

Bits and Pieces:

— I want to avoid spoilers for those who have not read the book. To discuss differences between the book and the show, foreshadowing, or anything else that might spoil the story, head over to my review of the novel.

- Once again, I must comment on the cinematography. More than once, I gasped at the sheer beauty of the the settings where the scenes were shot. The ruins where Jamie and Claire argue, the river that Jamie is standing next to during his voiceovers, and Colum’s office were all exceptionally lovely.

- In episode one, Claire’s first words as we meet her are “Strange, the things you remember.” In episode nine, as the point of view shifts to Jamie, his first words are, “Strange, the things you remember.” Subtle, yet incredibly effective, continuity.

- One more thing about the spanking and then I will move on. I promise. Because Jamie has sworn his loyalty to Claire the way the other men did to Colum, we are meant to understand and forgive him for what he did. It is important to note that this story is a work of fiction and I believe Jamie when he says it will never happen again. If, however, Claire were my friend today, I would assure her that no matter what he says, it will happen again and that she needs to run far, run fast from any man who would beat her bare buttocks with a belt.

- We finally learn the significance of the key that is now Claire’s wedding ring. It is the key to Jamie’s home. Lovely, lovely moment.

Quotes:

Claire: “You’re sure there’s water down there, aren’t you?”
Jamie: “Aye, I think so.”

Jamie: “You are my home now, Claire.”

Jamie: “Sassenach?”
Claire: “Yes, master.”
Jamie: “What does fucking mean?”
I looked up when that particular word came into use. As you can imagine, the internet can’t agree, but most sources place it much earlier than the 18th century. No matter. It’s a funny moment.

Podcast:

By far, the best podcast to date. Moore is joined by Matt Roberts, the writer of the episode. As a writer, I was fascinated by the discussion they had about the choices they made during the writing and editing of this episode.

I was very keen to listen to this podcast because I wanted Moore's take on the spanking scene. He and Roberts spend a lot of time talking about why they included it and the way they wanted to portray it. They were eloquent and they made some good arguments. I still hate the fact that the scene exists, but I came to respect the choice.

The scotch they are drinking is Talisker. One of my favorites...

PaleyFest:

Every March, The Paley Center for Media puts on a series of talks with the actors, writers, and producers of television shows that, for whatever reason, have resonated with an audience. This March, one of the shows chosen was Outlander.

Yahoo streamed the event live; I watched it later. Let me start by saying that Yahoo has some streaming issues, but it is possible to watch if you have a modicum of patience with loading and playback.

The event itself was fun, but not the best I have ever seen. Caitriona Balfe impressed me with her beauty, her wit, and her intelligence. Sam Heughan impressed me with his beauty; although, I must admit, I think he looks much better in a kilt with his hair down than in modern dress and the hair pulled back.

Tobias Menzies has the dry wit of the English. It was he who made me laugh out loud more than once. Ron Moore was very interesting to listen to; Diana Gabaldon less so.

If you are the rabid fan that I am, check this out. Otherwise, there wasn’t a whole lot to recommend it. I do, however, recommend checking out the Paley site. Many of the past panels are available either on YouTube or Amazon Prime. They can be enormous fun.

Awards:

While it was on hiatus, Outlander was nominated for a bunch of awards. It won the Most Exciting New Series at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards and it won Favorite Cable Sci-Fi/Fantasy Show at the People’s Choice Awards.

Outlander has been nominated in four categories for a Saturn Award: Best Actor on Television (Tobias Menzies); Best Actress on Television (Caitriona Balfe); Best Supporting Actor on Television (Sam Heughan); Best Television Presentation (Outlander). The winners will announced June 25.

Let’s just pause for a minute and consider those last nominations. I understand that the producers probably didn’t want to pit Menzies against Heughan for an award, but what an interesting choice for actor and supporting actor.

ChrisB is a freelance writer who spends more time than she ought in front of a television screen or with a book in her hand.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it really was a mistake to change the distance Claire had to cover to get to the stones - in the book, it is clear that she is leaving him; in the series, she really didn't really go far, and it seems even more harsh.

Got to agree, that scene was unpleasant in the book, and awful in the series...

Hopefully the series will return to form again!