Like many in the fandom, I tweeted the cleverest tweets I could for an hour solid in support of #EmmysforOutlander. I truly believe the show deserves accolades and as a fan I’ll do whatever I can to make that happen. The show was more than entertaining it was compelling.
As positive as I am that the show deserves all the awards they can get, I’m fearful that there is a fly in the Emmy ointment. It appears that the show is still battling an image problem. Please don’t misunderstand. I did not feel that recent interviews were negative, nor do I believe the interviewers have to read the book to talk about the show. But, I’m hearing questions and comments that make me fear the show is still misunderstood and as a result maybe not be as respected as it should be.
In a recent interview with Sam Heughan, the interviewer kept referring to the fact that his wife watches the show and that Sam appeared shirtless a lot. Sam was gracious and tried to steer the conversation toward a more serious and less shallow topic, but even Sam’s discussion of the Gaelic used on the show was turned into a “Fabio” type reference by the interviewer.
I have a theory that the show is still being perceived as a series based on a romance novel that Ron is somehow fixing up.
Point in case, another interview with Sam found the interviewer surprised that what he found were interesting plot twists and character development were INDEED in the book. He actually looked taken aback and asked the question again to make sure Sam had heard right. The same interviewer shared with Caitriona Balfe that he had binge watched the first half of the season and was now hooked on the show because he must have an inner old lady side to himself (can you see the incredulity on my face?). I continue to see the story referred to as a time-traveling bodice ripper romance where Claire falls for a hunky Scotsman (not that bodices aren’t ripped or Sam isn’t hunky, but you get my point). The show is still having an image issue. And…in my humble opinion things like this don’t help;
Sigh…..they are cute, but I’m really finding it hard to like a Black Jack Randall doll after episodes 15 and 16! Does he come with accessories? A mallet and nails? Lavender oil? Is this what Starz marketing folks think we want? If so, then I’m wondering what THEY think the show is about and who they think WE are? (They’ll probably sell thousands because they are cute and I know I’ll be taking some hits for this) So, I’m confused and I think people who really don’t know about the show are too! I know this is blasphemy, but maybe that original Vanity Fair article was right! Maybe they are marketing to who they THINK we are…hmmmm….the kilt drops…
All this leads me to be a bit concerned about how the show is being perceived by the academy voters if this is how the media views the show. However, a fellow fan pointed out to me that the critics have also consistently given the show high marks. And, they have thrown around some wonderful adjectives and called the show brave and ground-breaking and called performances stellar. So, maybe the RIGHT people (those with the power to influence votes) get it. Fingers crossed!
But…. just in case they need further convincing…here are my top reasons.…Outlander deserves an Emmy…its my blog…I can pretend my opinion matters if I want to!
1. They took their time
Those of us who read the books were understandably concerned about how they were going to do justice to our “big book” and story. We were relieved to hear Starz was giving the first book 16 episodes which was pretty much unprecedented. For us book fans, it still wasn’t enough! Greedy lot us book fans. There was a lot of talk about Outlander’s decision to take their time setting up the story including the use of voice-overs. It was a gamble for sure, but a necessary gamble if you intended for the show to last more than one season. This story needs the set-up. If for no other reason than to understand Claire’s decision when Jamie takes her back to the stones, The story needs the context of her internal struggle and the real danger she places herself in by staying. The “slow burn” of Jamie and Claire’s relationship was refreshing to see. They didn’t jump into bed despite an obvious attraction. Their relationship was given time to develop. By the end of the season, the viewer truly had a sense of who these “people” were. They gave us time to connect to the characters and their struggles. They allowed us to see how alike and different our world is from the one Claire finds herself. They allowed us the time to care about the characters.
2. They got the genre thing right
One of the most intriguing things about Diana Gabaldon’s books are the fact that they are hard to describe. Try it! I find myself saying a lot of “just trust me on this, I know it doesn’t sound good, but it is”. Because she was writing the first book for practice, Ms. Gabaldon freed herself from the boundary of genre. She wrote and figured she would determine what genre she was writing along the way. I’m not sure she ever did fit her square book into a round genre hole and I’m thankful for it. It made the reading that more interesting to have a mix of history, science fiction, horror, mystery, and yes, a love story. This would seemingly make the story more difficult to adapt, but I think this was one of the big things the series got right.
Every episode had a story arch and just when the viewer would think they knew where the story was going and maybe expect more of the same the show would change. One week, we are at witch trail and the next a complicated homecoming. One episode we are navigating life at the castle and the next traveling the Scottish countryside. We watched Claire try to match wits with the terrifyingly cruel Capt. Jack Randall and then watched her try to deal with a unwanted marriage and …honeymoon. And, … they never let us forget the stones and Frank were always on Claire’s mind. The adaptation worked.
3. They immersed you in 1743 Scotland
Scotland was a character in the story. It was breathtakingly stark and beautiful. The costumes and sets made it easy to believe that Claire had found herself in 1743. It was a rich viewing experience. The musical score, the filming, directing, writing and production choices were all made with the idea that everything had to have a purpose including the tougher more titillating stuff. I never felt the violence or nudity was gratuitous. It always felt necessary and as a result, we got to see an intelligent and beautiful story.
4. They let us see real women
A lot has been written on this subject, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the FACT that this show has done more for the portrayal of women in film than anything in recent memory. There is a lot good TV out there right now, but I would say that Outlander’s women were the closest to real people. The women on this show were portrayed as complex, strong, kind, ruthless, compassionate, sexually confident, intelligent, able to think on their feet, and heroes who could save the day. These ladies weren’t your typical damsels in distress!
5. Characters with character
I enjoy watching Game of Thrones, a show Outlander has been compared to. I have nothing against R.R. Martin or the show based on his works. They are what they are, but what they are is a far cry from what Outlander is or tries to be.
GOT’s season was full of characters acting out of warped emotions, values and needs. Lots of titillating stuff to discuss around the water cooler, but I must admit the most shocking thing about this show is how hard it is to find a redeeming character. I wish I could say this trend toward pushing the moral and ethical envelope was the exception rather than the rule on TV, but I can’t. It is all too common.
My reaction to the GOT characters and their actions is very different from what I feel when I watch Outlander. When I watch Outlander I find myself emotionally connected to their stories. Even given the fantasy element of time-travel, I found the main characters struggles to make the right choices familiar. Many of us struggle to do the right thing and be good people. When I watched Claire and Jamie and Ned and even Gellis make their choices, I felt a real kinship. My eyes filled with tears for the human compassion I was witnessing. These characters made unselfish choices. Refreshing.
6. Real People Sex
Once again they took their time and made sex a part of the story. The Wedding Episode was the closest thing to real sex between two people who care about each other that I’ve ever seen. The other elements of sex in the story were told with the same care and purposefulness. Sex is a part of life and relationships. It can be awkward, passionate, tender, and sometimes even horribly life-shattering. Outlander did not shy away from showing us sex from a man’s AND a woman’s point of view. It was beautiful and awful, but always done with story in mind.
I can’t remember the last time I was so blown away by performances. In fact, the show has been off the air for over two weeks and I can’t stop talking about those performances! I know there is this common belief that a viewer really shouldn’t notice the acting because if you do then somehow your disbelief didn’t get suspended enough. Maybe that’s true, but I’m pretty sure I bought what they were selling! My appreciation occurred upon reflection. Like I said before, the dust has settled and I can’t get the performances out of my mind! It felt real.
- Tobias: It was something about the eyes. Tobias Menzies portrayal of Frank and his ancestor Black Jack Randall was fascinating to watch. Watching an actor play two roles and imbue them with character was intriguing.. I saw their differences and their similarities. He managed to make Jack’s villainy believable and somehow human despite his monstrous appetites. He was terrifying.
- Sam: Sam Heughan’s portrayal of Jamie was spot on. Although I wished we could have seen a bit more of the man beneath the boy in the first half of the season, I was won over by the switch to his POV in episode 9 The Reckoning. ” What is Jamie thinking?” was a brilliant technique for moving the story and the character forward. Jamie had dialogue long enough to let us see his character and with his convincing acting skills, Sam had time to let us “see” Jamie. We saw Jamie be brave, calculating, thoughtful, loyal. imperfect, frustrated, devastated, strong, truthful, and caring, just to name a few of the many sides of the character I knew from the books. And then,…there are the last two episodes. I’ve never seen an actor portray so much with so few words. As uncomfortable as those episodes are to watch, I keep re-watching them because I’m amazed by the performances. Every time I re-watch, I find something new to appreciate like body language or a subtle look. The progression from a proud and unbreakable man to a totally devastated and broken man was heart-breathtakingly beautiful.
- Caitriona: I’m not sure that Caitriona Balfe’s performance is ever given enough credit. She is in almost every scene and without her brilliant portrayal of our frustratingly wonderful and strong Claire the show would not have succeeded. She made us believe that this happened to this woman and the viewers grew to care about her and her plight. We have all been strangers in a strange land and had to find our way at some point in our lives. Caitriona’s portrayal of Claire dealing with the unimaginable and retaining her humanity and strength of character truly made me proud to be a woman. She managed to get Claire’s sense of morality, justice and passion for life on the screen. We saw a woman who like many of us picks herself up, dusts herself off, accepts the situation and makes the best life for herself and others as she can.
One of my readers, an actress in the Biz summed up a lot of what I’m hearing from those folks who know what it takes to do a show like this;
It is the kind of TV we have been waiting for and we want more of this kind of quality story-telling on our screens.. Please consider Outlander for an Emmy.because they deserve it.