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 visits 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. And Roger didn't "save" Father Alexandre.

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 two white kids dressed as cowboy and Indian were running around offending him.

— We're now in 1770. Claire has been back with Jamie for nearly 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 didn'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
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

8 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

ChrisB said...

I did not dislike the episode as much as I think you did. In fact, it did something that very episodes of television have ever made me do -- I stopped doing what I was doing and actually watched the entire thing focused only on the screen. A rare event these days.

Ian is -- it has to be said -- badass. I have loved watching him grow and mature. From the beginning, he has known who he is and he has made his life happen the way he wants it to. I literally cheered when he made it through the gauntlet. He looked so excited and happy. I would love a spin-off show about his life with Mohawk.\

Like many others, I am not as invested in the Brianna/Roger romance as I am in some of the others. It is not the actors' faults -- it is what they are given to work with. In fact, I think Richard Rankin has hit it out of the park in the past few episodes. His indecision about Brianna is difficult in light of the fact that he went back for the priest. Yet, he tried to walk away from him and was not successful. I think Roger just needs to have some internal battles, but they are, I admit, getting old.

And Brianna taking him back so readily is a bit much as well. They have been apart for a year after being together for about two hours. Let's all take a breath and see where this goes I would think. But, the story wants another sweeping love story. Unfortunately, it's not as well written.

Thanks for another great season of reviews. I certainly enjoy them as they almost always reflect exactly what I was thinking.

PS -- clicked through to the YouTube video. My God, but that man is swoon worthy. Then, got sucked into clicking a bunch of other Outlander videos. There are some good interview ones out there.

magritte said...

I think the problem with season 4 is that the writers have struggled as the show has moved away from being focused on a single person's story to more of an ensemble production. In the first season, Claire was present for most scenes and other than a handful of 20th century seasons about Frank, Jamie was present in nearly all those without Claire. In season 4, not only did we have whole episodes without Claire and Jamie, we had a fair number of scenes in which Roger and Bree were absent too--scenes with Murtagh and Jocasta, scenes with Fergus and Marasalie, etc. But they tried to have Brie and Roger go through as much drama as Claire & Jamie in season 1 in a much smaller amount of screentime leading to way too much plot (and as you rightly note, too much plot contrivance) and not enough character development.

Compare "The Wedding" from Season 1 to "Wilmington" in Season 4. Where Claire & Jamie got a whole episode devoted to their wedding, Brie and Jamie's handfasting is followed by a huge fight and a rape, and intercut with surgery at the theatre and a race to warn Murtagh. It's hard to really build their relationship when there's so much going on. And so their nuptials and their arguments got distilled down to essentials, which led to me wondering how well suited they really are. Some of Roger's statements make it sound like he has a very traditional, patriarchal view of marriage and with Claire as her maternal role model, that's hardly something Brianna will be content with. Maybe I (and Brie) are overreacting to a sentence or two spoken in anger, but the show never slowed down long enough for them to talk about what they expect from a relationship. So while we both had problems with the seasons, I think I have to disagree that too much time was devoted to Brianna and Roger.

They were more successful in character development with characters like Ian, Marsalie and Jon Gray, in part because they didn't have so much plot to work through in their scenes. On the other hand, Lizzie has been pretty much a plot device without any individualization to this point.

Josie Kafka said...

This is a question I wish the series would answer.

Me, too. And I think this question dates back even to Culloden and Jamie's survival. Sure, Claire wasn't there. But all it takes is one small change to tweak history, if it's that kind of story. Did Claire traveling back in time create a situation in which five people, including Jamie, were able to hole up in a house? After all, Jamie was saved by people Claire had treated before, right?

Plus, when she told him, "You're here," she should have added, "And wow, Roger, you look awful."

Yes! Why did he choose those capri pants in the first place?!

Like everyone else, I really loved Ian winning the gauntlet. Although I wonder if his Mohawk name will be some version of "Young [insert name here]."

I really liked this season, because it was nice to see some element of calm domesticity for Jamie and Claire. But it was the wackiness of the third season (or the second half of the third season) that bothered me.

Billie Doux said...

Josie said, But it was the wackiness of the third season (or the second half of the third season) that bothered me.

That is probably a book issue. The second half of the third book, Voyager, is longer than the first half, with the characters bopping around the Caribbean eluding Captain Leonard while trying to find Ian, more interaction with Geillis, a search to find the stones on Hispaniola, a murder subplot that connected Edinburgh and Jamaica, and so on -- it could have been an entire season in itself.

The producers had thirteen episodes and a lot of decisions to make. Do we emphasize the Caribbean stuff, or the twenty-year separation of our two main characters? I think they made the right decision, but it makes season three feel lopsided.

Josie Kafka said...

That makes sense. I can see why they prioritized what they did, although the result felt very rushed and improbable.

Liviu Luca said...

I haven't read the books, so I have to give you credit that scenes you described from the books would have added more value in the show. However, focusing on the show only, I find 4th Season to be excellent, exactly for having lots of little bonding moments between Claire and Jamie; that is something that was not so abundant in Seasons 1-3, given their more adventurous nature and tumultuous actions. It was the 4th Season that poured more subtle connection into the 2 lead characters, with those day-to-day small talk, gestures, smiles, touches. Even when they are not together in a scene, it is the others that do work on strengthening of Claire-Jamie love: Lord John's confessions (brilliant development), Marsali's feelings, even Tryon's remarks. This is the Season where Claire's doubts about her return are ended, where they really start to see a meaningful and fulfilling life together (the "home" paradigm), where Claire finally backs down in her ambitions (to live in a town) to make room to Jamie's quest of becoming a great man to his wife. I could see a more understanding and sophisticated Claire with each episode. The only thing I didnt like in Season 4 was the attempt to duplicate The Wedding in Wilmington, unfortunately Brianna-Roger chemistry does not have the same flame, and besides that The Wedding is unique, nobody wants that repeated.