Outlander: Man of Worth

For me, this finale was an unsatisfying end to an unsatisfying season. Let me unpack that, because I wasn't unhappy with everything.

Ian's sacrifice was the best thing about this episode. I thought it was especially moving that Ian didn't even consult Jamie about his decision. Jamie was ready to trade himself for Roger, and he and Claire were bidding each other a heartfelt goodbye while Ian proved his love for them by simply doing it himself. The initial misunderstanding that put Roger in such a horrible situation was not Ian's fault, but he took responsibility for it, anyway.

This particular plot twist made sense, given Ian's consistent season-long interest in Native American culture, and showed what an adult he had finally become. The agile and clever way he got through the gauntlet that Roger couldn't manage was wonderful to watch, and his huge smile and obvious joy at his success was lovely to see. Jenny wanted her youngest son to be a "Man of Worth," and now he is.

I also thought Otter Tooth's backstory, as told by the female Mohawk warrior Wahkatiiosta, was quite powerful. Poor guy! Like Geillis Duncan, Otter Tooth went back in time in an attempt to save his people, and he failed. A brief time travel segue: Otter Tooth must have killed people who wouldn't have died in the original time line, and obviously, Claire has saved the lives of eighteenth century people who would have died without her help, but we still don't know if any of this has had an effect on the future. This is a question I wish the series would answer.

Anyway. The long fist fight and exposition dump between Jamie and Roger was overdue and featured good performances by Sam Heughan and Richard Rankin. It's sad that all this time, Roger had thought Brianna had turned against him and asked Jamie to beat Roger and get rid of him. What else could he have thought?

As the truth came out, Claire kept coming between Roger and Jamie, both physically and verbally. Jamie saw the entire situation as black and white, and any hesitation Roger might have in taking on the raising of Stephen Bonnet's child carried zero weight with Jamie. Jamie also made it clear that he would have been quite happy if Roger chose to leave Bree and go back through the stones alone. Of course, Jamie was angry and grieving; he had just lost Ian, whom he loved very much.

But it was an awful lot to hit Roger with all at once. Of course Roger would need time to absorb all this, including the fact that if he chose to stay with Bree, he'd be stuck in the past. It's interesting that Jamie was on the other end of a similar situation twenty years ago, when Claire went back to Frank. If Claire had returned to Jamie pregnant with a rapist's child, would he have taken her back? Yeah, I'm pretty sure he would have.



Back to River Run. Jamie and Claire are now grandparents! And of course, Roger eventually returned, I never for a moment thought he wouldn't. Bree and Roger running into each other's arms was maybe a bit cringeworthy. Plus, when she told him, "You're here," she should have added, "And wow, Roger, you look awful."

And now I'm going to complain about season four

This season has been my least favorite. I'm assuming the producers are aware of why people watch this series: Jamie and Claire and their unusual time travel marriage. Yes, there are many enjoyable three-dimensional supporting characters that I love, a long list of them. And yes, there are plenty of unusual and interesting situations. But the strength of this series is by far and away its two lead characters.

Too much time this season was devoted to Brianna and Roger as lovers and new time travelers. While Bree meeting Jamie was absolutely wonderful and the visit by Lord John enjoyable, it was counterbalanced by the artificiality of what happened to Roger and why, although I'll readily admit that this also happened in the book.

I don't usually discuss the Outlander books in relation to this series, but there's much more of a difference this time between book four and season four than previously. Drums of Autumn had many lovely character-driven scenes as well as comical and dramatic moments that didn't make it into this season. Just one example: in the book, Jamie and Claire got back to River Run in time. Claire was midwife, while Jamie held Brianna in his arms as she gave birth. It was beautiful. And not in the series. Why?

A couple more examples. In "Do No Harm," the emphasis in the book wasn't on the unfortunate Rufus, and Claire trying unsuccessfully to save his life. It was on Jamie and Claire weighing all of the many issues they would be confronting if they decided to stay at River Run. The situation with Mueller in "Savages" happened while Lord John was in the cabin suffering from measles, which made it a lot more interesting. What happened to Father Alexandre in "Providence" was brief, and Roger didn't "save" him.

And Jamie and Claire weren't even in two episodes this season, "Down the Rabbit Hole" and "Providence." Again, why? Because many of the best moments in the book weren't adventurous and visually striking enough for the series?

After three strong, fascinating seasons, I don't understand how they could blow the fourth this way. Here's hoping they right the ship in season five.

Bits:

— This episode's title card vignette was Otter Tooth sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper as white kids dressed as faux Indians were running around offending him.

— We're now in 1770. Claire has been back with Jamie for four years.


— I glossed right over Murtagh's romantic encounter with Jocasta, although I thought it was delightful and made sense, since they'd known each other fifty years and Murtagh loved her sister. It also made me confused about events in book five, and I'll stop there before I spoil you.

— I liked that Bree waited for Roger to arrive before naming their son. It was a loving act of faith in him.

— Otter Tooth's huge opal explained why his ghost appeared to Claire. I wonder if we'll see Otter Tooth's ghost again?

— When they arrived at River Run, Jamie and Claire actually looked as if they'd spent months traveling and living rough. Roger looked even worse.

— Murtagh thought Bonnet died in the jail explosion. Come on, guys.

— Cliffhanger. The redcoats arrived with orders for Jamie to form a militia and hunt down Murtagh. I don't think we needed a cliffhanger, but okay.

Quotes:

Ian: "You once said that you wished me to become a man of worth."
Jamie: "Ye dinna ken how worthy ye are."

Roger: "Having me beaten nearly to death and sold into slavery seemed a trifle extreme, even for a woman with her temper."

Obviously, I had my issues with the season in general and this episode in particular – feel free to post a comment and agree or disagree. Two out of four large and important opals,

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

2 comments:

milostanfield said...

I haven't liked S04 as much as the previous seasons (and books) for the simple reason that it takes place in America, not Europe. Part of that is that I've always found "Enlightenment" Europe more interesting than colonial America. But most of it is that I see that time in our history creating problems that we are still failing to solve. 3/5s of a person, anyone?

But I'll still be there for Jamie and Claire! Oh yeah. With the scenes that they do, how can those two actors not be lovers in real life?

I was glad to see more emphasis on other characters. I thought that strengthened the show. I especially liked Ian. And also Bree for her growth. She inherited her mom's assertiveness but does not yet have Claire's seasoning, but I now have the feeling that she may well get there.

Billie Doux said...

milostanfield, what you said? "With the scenes that they do, how can those two actors not be lovers in real life?"

A bit of an answer. There's a Youtube video of Sam Heughan at a con talking about he and Caitriona filming a love scene for the first time, and what was involved. It's entitled, "Sam Heughan: Let's Talk about Sex." It's delightful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtFMv7AHgSA