Outlander: Between Two Fires

"This is what a world without civility looks like."

Did that fluffy wedding in the season opener make us forget that this show is R rated for violence? This episode began and ended with scenes that made me cringe.

Shame on you, Murtagh Fitzgibbons. Grievances, yes, but nothing justifies tar and feathers. It didn't make the Regulators look good. Although I'll readily admit that Lieutenant Knox didn't make the Crown look good, either.

At first Knox seemed like a relatively decent guy, talking with Jamie about manners and civility and aiding the poor – and then he lost his temper and stabbed a bound, helpless prisoner to death. Later, Knox called himself a hypocrite, but then tried to justify his actions to Jamie by claiming he'd given the man a soldier's death instead of a criminal's. Shades of Black Jack's rationalizations at Wentworth, huh?

After a subtle exchange of expressions of sympathy while in Knox's company, Jamie managed to covertly free the other two Regulators, but was shocked that Murtagh was capable of the horror of tarring and feathering anyone. I didn't think it possible that Jamie could ever turn on Murtagh, but now I'm starting to wonder if that's the way this situation will end.

Meanwhile back on the Ridge, I thought at first that Farrish was a tar victim from the riot, but no. He died of appendicitis that was worsened by mercury poisoning, administered by his own wife. Nice housewives didn't dissect dead bodies in 1770; they could hang or burn Claire for doing such a thing, much like Jamie could have been hanged for freeing those two Regulators. Interesting that Claire used that secret autopsy to recruit an assistant. It would have made sense if it had been Brianna, but I really liked the fact that it turned out to be Marsali. (Laoghaire would have a cow.)

Claire is a doctor, a healer. She can't turn away someone in pain because it might change the future. Would Jamie even be alive right now if it weren't for Claire bringing a small supply of penicillin back in time with her? Will making penicillin 157 years early change things in any significant way other than for the people Claire can save? It was smart of Claire to attribute her medical wisdom to "Dr. Rawlings," a (one assumes) male physician, but will it even help? But how can she not at least try?



The time travel thing is also becoming a serious issue for the MacKenzies. Brianna may feel that losing an education at MIT is a fair trade for the lives of both her parents, but Roger is a fish out of water in 1770, and not just because he's a terrible shot. It's possibly polarizing that Claire is backing Roger this time; she thinks they should go back to the future because it's safer. Claire mentioned heredity in regard to Roger's eyesight, but where it might make all the difference is with baby Jemmy. Is it hereditary, "hearing" the stones? If it is, does that increase the possibility that Jemmy will be able to hear them, too? That is, if Roger is indeed Jemmy's biological father.

That final scene at a lady-fight in Wilmington gave Roger and Bree an extremely good reason to take Jemmy to the 1970s: Stephen Bonnet, who is an even worse human being now than he was last season. Damn your eyes, indeed.

Book versus series

(...and by the way, I will never post a serious spoiler in this section.)

One thing the Outlander producers do often is move events around and/or give plotlines to other characters. Claire indeed acquired a physician's assistant, but it was in book six, not five, and it was a new character, not Marsali. I actually liked that they gave this to Marsali – it works for me. And Claire did indeed perform an autopsy, but it was on another person and at another place. I shouldn't say more in case it still happens.

Bits:

— The title card vignette was Claire making bread for her penicillin experiment. Did she really need that much bread? And where did she get all of those jars?

— In Hillsborough, Jamie ran into Edmund Fanning, the Governor's buddy. Fanning was the man Claire operated on in "Wilmington" and he had nice things to say about Claire's skills. That's the answer to Claire's problem, isn't it? The people at the Ridge simply have to become accustomed to her. It's too bad for anyone who dies in the meantime, though.

— While Claire was checking Roger's eyesight, we were reminded that Roger's father, Jerry MacKenzie, was an RAF pilot, and that Roger met his ancestor Morag MacKenzie on board ship last season.




— Loved the candle-making scene, mostly because of how beautifully decorative all those candles looked hanging from the gorgeous trees in front of the Big House.

— The Regulator encampment made me think of the Hole in the Wall Gang. And of course, Ethan's "I am Murtagh Fitzgibbons" was an "I am Spartacus" moment.

— Last season, Roger sang at the Scottish festival, but that was it. In two episodes now, he's sung three times: "L-O-V-E" in the wedding episode, and here, "Joy to the World," and "Abide with Me."

— Title musings: "Between Two Fires" was pretty much perfect. Everyone is performing a balancing act, and a dangerous one.

Quotes:

Claire: "It's bad enough I'm fighting the disease. I'm also fighting the cure."

Knox: "Where is Murtagh Fitzgibbons?"
Ethan: "I am Murtagh Fitzgibbons!"

Roger: "The whole thing goes against nature, Bree. It's like shooting at Tufty Fluffytail."

Brianna: "Our family is here."
Roger: "You and Jemmy are my family. James Fraser is my colonel."

Woman: "Can you imagine if it was discovered the King was being poisoned by his own physician?"
Well, yeah.

Claire: "Thank you for helping me hide the body."
Roger: "The Apprentice Under the Root Cellar. Surely that's a Nancy Drew novel begging to be written."

Claire: "It's my fault you're all here."
Well, technically, it's Jamie's fault for surviving Culloden.

Brianna: "What if it messes with some cosmic balance, or breaks some rule of space and time? Isn't this playing God?"

Turnbull: "Tis unlike you, Bonnet. Why not kill the man outright?"
Bonnet: "I considered it. But I must set a better example. I'm a father now."

Definitely heavier and less fun than the first episode, but including plenty of set-up for the season. Three out of four fluffytailed squirrels that teach road safety to kids,

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

4 comments:

inge oppenheimer said...

thanks for this review, billie! it enables me to avoid torturing myself with another attempt to view and make sense out of this plot-fragmented and excessively violent episode. if the rest of season 5 is no better i will remain strictly a book reader!

Billie Doux said...

inge oppenheimer, you're very welcome and I'm also hoping that season five won't be too violent. Honestly, though, both the tar thing and the eye thing were also in the books. Maybe it's just not as shocking as when we're looking at it.

milostanfield said...

So glad Marsali is becoming Claire’s apprentice. Lauren Lyle is a real scene stealer. The scenes between her and Claire were my favorite of the episode. She will be between two fires of 18th century superstition and rational science, with possible danger to Claire. Hope the writers run with it.

Jamie is really in a jam but at least he can play Knox like a violin (so far). Jamie’s political instincts are amazing.

I think the excess of violence (this was a violent time) helps add weight to Roger’s arguement to go back through the stones. Don’t blame him one bit. So much depends on Jemmy. If Jemmy can hear the stones what will Bree do? So many rocks and hard places.

Excellent "setup" episode. Thanks again for the review.

Billie Doux said...

milostanfield, yeah, I love Lauren Lyle's Marsali, too, and she definitely hasn't had enough to do since crossing the Atlantic.

I agree that Jamie's political instincts are indeed amazing. Probably because he grew up with Colum and Dougal MacKenzie as uncles. :)