Last week ended with Jamie having a pistol held to his head. This week ended with Jamie in danger as well. His life is under constant threat; nowhere is safe.
Yet, so far, both Jamie and Claire have managed to escape from all the dangers they have encountered. They have escaped from Black Jack; they have avoided being burned at the stake; they have each been under threat of rape that fails to occur. After a while, watching characters narrowly escape constant threat becomes less exciting. If we know that somehow they are going to get out of the danger they are in, the danger fails to work as a narrative device.
This show, however, keeps the danger exciting. Not because we believe that Jamie is really going to be shot by that pistol, but because each experience changes the person to whom it happens. Jamie’s scars are literally covering his back. Claire’s are internal. The reason we worry that Jamie has been taken by the English is not that he is going to die. It is that, at the hands of Black Jack, he most certainly will be harmed, perhaps severely. Watching Claire worry about this man she has come to love makes us worry as well.
The reason I mention all of this is that this episode is a good example of what happens when there is too little dramatic tension. This was a slow episode, too slow at times. It was centered around the theme of family and what being a family means.
For Jenny, it is loving her husband enough not to tell him that she is in real danger of dying in childbirth. It was nice to see the sisters-in-law relating to each other through the birth, but it felt a bit pat to me.
Ian protects his family in the ultimate way; he kills another man. The fact that he did not do so lightly told us more about him and his love for those around him than any speech would have. I loved the scene where he admitted that he enjoyed McQuarrie’s visits because the man doesn’t look at him as less than. Again, a small but effective insight into who Ian is.
Claire and Jamie had very little time together this episode. The scene where Claire admits that she may not be able to have children was sad. Jamie’s reaction was further proof of just how much he loves his wife. As we watch his face, he is clearly heartbroken that he may never be a father. Yet, he is nothing but supportive to Claire as she is with him. As she leaves, his true sorrow manifests itself as he sits down and looks off into the distance.
While there was a lot I liked about this episode, it didn’t work all that well in the end. There were too many plot lines that were hurried through. Claire and Jenny’s making peace didn’t quite feel earned. I would have liked to spend more time watching Ian’s reaction to killing Horrocks. A lot happened, but very little tension or character development resulted.
Bits and Pieces:
-- This was the first episode that deviated sharply from the book. To comment on the differences, please head over to my review of it.
-- I love the idea of a stiff drink before childbirth. While I am sure that every doctor reading this will shake his or her head in bewilderment at my stupidity, it seems to me that is might ease the process.
-- I have memorized McQuarrie’s toast: “Here’s to a good life and a merry one/A quick death and a good one/A pretty girl and an honest one/A stiff whiskey and another one.”
Ian: “No man can stand up to that monster Randall alone. Not you, not me. It takes an army. And, the Watch is our army.”
Jamie: “Remember we used to argue which was the bigger sin, fornication or killing and worry whether we would go to hell?”
Ian: “Well, it you’re going to hell, I might as well go, too. God knows you’ll never manage alone.”
Jamie: “Get the shovel.”
Claire: “It’s all right. It is possible to deliver a breech baby. I’ll only have to reach inside and guide it out.”
Jenny: “All right, but you’ll be fetching me a good, stiff dram before we start.”
Claire: “In that case, the baby will likely be drunk, too.”
Jenny: “Then, he’ll come into the world a true Scot.”
Jamie: “They’ve burned hay we need for the winter. You’d have me turn the other cheek?”
Ian: “That’s why you’ve got two cheeks, ye lemmer.”
Moore is joined by Toni Graphia who wrote the episode and Matt Roberts, another writer on the show. A really fun hour as the three discuss why they made the changes they did from the book. Some funny behind the scenes stories as well. I recommend this one.
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.