I have decided that it takes me three viewings before I can truly enjoy an episode of Outlander. I find that the first time I watch I’m waiting for particular dialogue and scenes from the book. After this first viewing, I am usually left with a vague feeling of disappointment because it isn’t the book, even though I KNOW it is an adaptation. The second time I watch the same episode, I find myself watching with a critics’s eye looking for what’s been added or how things are different. The third time, I just watch and enjoy the show for what it is. Despite missing some desired dialogue and humor from the book, I thought all the crucial elements were there. It was tender and sexy. The dress, the regalia, the vows, the consummation, the highlander’s chaf, the pearls and the lovemaking were perfect. And….her confusion…as an audience, we could feel another layer being added to Claire’s already difficult problems. I certainly felt that Claire was on the precipice of falling into life altering action.
One of things I most admire about Claire is her inability to lie to herself. Despite knowing that she was _forced_ to commit bigamy and adultery, she refuses to give herself an excuse or to be in denial. She owns her feelings. She may not like what she is feeling, but she allows herself to feel it anyway. “Well, that’s it then, I’ve committed bigamy, and adultery and I enjoyed it “, our Claire thinks. Thanks to Outlander Starz and Caitriona Balfe’s performance, I too felt Claire’s trepitation, confusion and enjoyment.
We start the episode with a reminder that Claire is already married and we are introduced to her fear that time and circumstance are eroding her memories and interfering with her ability to withstand change. Valuable pearls that fall off a string and roll away to dark corners to be forgotten is a powerful metaphor for what she fears is her vulnerability and reality. She is afraid her reality is living in 1743 and the dream…1945.
I have to admit the lack of a chronological order was a bit disconcerting. However, I pretty quickly got over the change and found it to be an effective way to tell this story. There was a lot of story to tell in one hour AND bring to life sex-scenes fans have only been able to dream about. The flashbacks broke-up what would have been a lot of talk, talk, talk. It also allowed their intimate relations to progress in three obvious phases, consummation, exploration, and love-making. It worked.
In a recent interview, Sam Heughan expressed his surprise at the little details the fans notice. He remarked that in the stable scene, during Claire’s escape attempt, he touched the back of his head. He explained this was part of his technique of immersing himself in the character. As he said his lines he was thinking of Jamie and Dougal’s back story. Fans noticed and remarked on the significance of his small action. Love his technique and the fact that this episode was full of small significant guestures, expressions and actions. In fact, way too many to list! But, there were a few that are very much worth discussion. Let’s start with Claire’s glass face.
For most of the first six episodes, Claire has been forced to lie to protect herself. For the most part, she has been pretty good at it (she really struggles to not show her disdain or frustration for what she perceives as ignorant or unjust behavior). Folks suspect there is something she’s not telling them. However, even after constantly being confronted with their speculations, Claire has managed to keep her identity and body safe. In this episode, everything is showing on Claire’s expressive face and I love it. Her anxiety, fear, vulnerability, confusion, resignation and desire are there for the world to see. As a result, we feel for her and with her. As I predicted, Claire is a woman the viewer has grown to care about. Jamie wants to keep her safe and so do we.
The extras. The ancillary characters have added so much to the telling of this story. The little vignettes of the highlanders fulfilling Jamie’s wedding conditions were priceless. Ned and the “hoors”, Rupert and Angus and the wedding ring, and the “Scripture Showdown” were endearing and entertaining. They also helped advance the story-line that Claire is becoming an accepted and valued member of the clan.
There was symbolism. In addition to the pearls, I felt there were interesting symbolic moments. Even though he wasn’t discussed, Frank was like the shadow you thought you saw out of the corner of your eye. Like the ring tucked away, forgotten and almost lost. It was an interesting twist to have Claire and Frank also marry quickly, but not in a church. I _think_ they are trying to make a point with Jamie’s insistence on “properly” wedding… not sure yet. I guess I’ll wait and see how that plays out. And, Claire staring at hands with two weddings bands. But, my favorite symbolic moment was Claire wrapping the two of them together in Jamie’s plaid as they “rode”. It harkened back to that first dark rainy night they rode together wrapped in Jamie’s plaid.
And, the moments that made you awwww and ohhhhh. Murtagh speaking of Jamie’s mother. I want to reach through the screen and give the man a hug. Jamie stating that he’ll only marry once. The big reveal of the dress and Jamie in his Fraser plaid telling Claire his full name. The blood vow. The first kiss. My brown hair lass. So, many moments to move the heart.
I was worried that seeing Jamie and Claire, “people” I know, having sex would feel a little weird, a bit voyeuristic. But, although it was exciting to see our couple consummate their vows it was done tastefully and beautifully. I laughed and cried and sighed. It was sexy, but moving. Bravo.
Finally, Jamie was charming, kind, earnest, sexy and honorable. Hard combination to resist. Damn. I think our girl is in danger again…of falling in love.