Outlander: America the Beautiful

"A dream for some can be a nightmare for others."

Let's start the season with a hanging. Geez, no foreshadowing there at all.

I struggled with this review. Not because it wasn't a strong episode, because it was. But Outlander began as a time travel love story set in war-torn Scotland, and now it is turning into something a bit different. And I'll readily admit that Colonial America is not my favorite time period, except when it's John Adams singing about foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia.

Although I'm happy to follow Jamie and Claire wherever they go for as long as this series lasts. Honestly, after all the war and death and twenty years of separation, couldn't they just be together for awhile? That seemed to be the thought uppermost in Claire's mind during that sweet love scene in the woods – that fate will inevitably separate them again.

Danger still follows them, of course, and this episode's first casualty was the unfortunate Gavin Hayes, who at least went out with courage and style. Hayes could have gone along with Jamie's rescue plan, but he chose not to endanger the lives of his friends, and good on him. I really enjoyed the tavern scene where Lesley sang a lament in Gaelic for Hayes and everyone joined in, not to mention the surreptitious sneaky burial afterward. Although that particular scene was memorable for something other than burying Hayes.

Jamie's longing to be a father always gets to me. Fate has stolen all three of his natural children from him, but he has compensated by parenting Fergus, Marsali, Joan, and his nephew Ian. The strongest scene in this episode, with the possible exception of the robbery on the barge, was Jamie and Ian in that darkened graveyard talking about their common experience as victims of sexual assault. Like the good dad he is, Jamie gently assured his nephew that Ian had simply done what was necessary in order to survive, a touching callback to what Claire told Jamie in "To Ransom a Man's Soul." What lovely performances by John Bell and Sam Heughan.

It's also touching that Jamie decided to stay in America because it will eventually be his daughter Brianna's country. And yet, even before everything went to shit at the end of the episode, Jamie didn't make the mistake of romanticizing the place. Colonial America is huge and exciting and full of opportunity, but just like Scotland, the redcoats are everywhere and war is on its way. Even with Claire's knowledge of what's coming, the Frasers could easily wind up on the wrong side of history – again.

The gems could have made all the difference. Jamie and Claire could have bought land of their own, unencumbered by the obligations of the Governor's land grant. That is, if it hadn't been for the charming, murderous Stephen Bonnet.

It made sense that Jamie and Claire decided to give Bonnet a break. He seemed so friendly and personable when they found him hidden in their wagon. Bonnet was almost flirtatious with Claire when she was patching him up, confiding that he had a fear of drowning, asking her about her two wedding rings. Bonnet also lucked out by confessing to Jamie that he was a smuggler, since Jamie used to be a smuggler, too. Maybe the fact that Bonnet had the gall to ask them to risk their own lives to get him through the checkpoint should have been a big red flashing clue that the guy was no good – especially after Hayes, a genuine friend, did the exact opposite.



But no good deed goes unpunished. That final scene set to Ray Charles' America the Beautiful actually gave me chills, even though I'll readily admit that the message was heavy handed. Caitriona Balfe and Ed Speleers did some compelling work in that scene with just the expressions on their faces, especially when Claire tried to swallow her wedding rings and Bonnet viciously pried them out of her mouth. Lesley tried to stop Bonnet and his pirates, and paid with his life.

And now the Frasers have lost two of their friends and all of their money in the space of one episode. Message received. Not entirely beautiful, America is.

Bits:

— North Carolina, 1767. The credit music now has an American banjo-like flavor, and the title card featured an eagle.

— This season is based on Diana Gabaldon's fourth Outlander book, Drums of Autumn. Hayes was hanged to the sound of drums, reminding me of the opening of season one's "Wentworth Prison."

— Before the credits, there was a scene showing Native Americans in 2000 B.C. building a henge and dancing around it. Claire told Jamie what was going to happen to the Native Americans and compared it to what the English did to the Highlanders.

— I really enjoyed Jamie telling Claire about his Aunt Jocasta and her three dead husbands, all named Cameron. Aunt Jocasta must be a prominent citizen if the Governor actually stayed at her house.

— Jamie gave Claire a gift to commemorate their marriage twenty-four years ago: a new medical box with a microscope. Not jewelry, clothing or books, but something that was perfect for her.

— When Bonnet rose from his hiding place beside the graveyard, he was like a ghost rising from the dead. Another bit of foreshadowing.

— It's sad that Lesley and Hayes are gone. Shades of Rupert and Angus, although they were never quite as memorable. I miss you, Rupert and Angus.

— Marsali is pregnant. So much for birth control. And she and Fergus are staying in Wilmington to look for work. Needless to say, I want them both in the Colonies with Jamie and Claire.

— The possibility that Claire could get pregnant wasn't mentioned. Neither was menopause. Although we can easily assume that as the most advanced doctor in the eighteenth century, Claire is on top of the situation.

— During dinner with the Governor, Jamie was wearing the same vest he wore in Paris and at the Governor's reception in Jamaica. I know we have to acknowledge that our leads are much older now, but come on. "Mutton dressed as lamb"? You're gorgeous, Claire.



— In this week's hair report, I try not to objectify Sam Heughan, but are they deliberately trying to tone down his looks with that messy hair?

Quotes:

Jamie: "What it comes down to is that your cock doesn't have a conscience, but you have. It's not your fault, lad. You did what you must, and survived. That's all that matters."

Bonnet: "There's something about the notion of an infinite circle that fascinates me."
Claire: "Well, the hangman's noose is a circle you'd do well to avoid in the future."
Or not.

Jamie: "When my body dies, my soul will still be yours. Nothing is lost, Sassenach. Only changed."
Claire: "That's the first law of thermodynamics."
Jamie: "No, no. That's faith."

Claire: (re: the Governor) "He's much sneakier than I thought. He's practically Scottish."

Jamie: "What in God's name would your mother say?"
Ian: "I dinna ken. But she'll be saying it in Scotland, won't she?"
Besides, Ian has a dog now. How can he go back to Scotland when he has an American dog?

An interesting, violent start to the season. Three out of four infinite circles,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

Programming note: I will absolutely finish reviewing season four before five starts in February, although I might not do it quickly. There's no Supernatural episode this week, so I thought I'd at least begin.