I was prepared to hate that shop bell. I had convinced myself that the episode would end with Claire opening that door and ringing that bell. I was anticipating an exasperating cliff hanger. We got a cliffhanger alright, but to my delight it wasn’t the one I was expecting. Instead of groaning out loud my frustration as the credits rolled by, I found myself sharing Claire’s intake of breath at the sound of a voice recognizably Jamie’s. I walked with her across that shop speechless, unable to answer his inquiry. I held my breath as she came closer to the opening between the shop and the press room and saw Jamie’s back bent over the machine. I could feel her tearful joy as she struggled to find words to speak and let him know she was there. I watched his reaction as his body stiffened at the sound of her voice and as he turned with an almost comical look of suspicion. His narrowed eyes suddenly flew wide and as she tearfully smiled down on him, the reality overwhelmed and he fell, “rather gracefully for a large man”. Claire’s concerned face was the most satisfying cliffhanger moment I’ve ever experienced. I was tearfully smiling. Bravo. Well done.
It’s the well done part that I want to reflect on. I told a fellow fan after last week’s episode that I feel like I’m saying the same things over and over. Everything has been so well done, so lovingly created, that I have found very little to “discuss”! My critique hasn’t been very critical and I’m starting to see what those early reviewers saw in these first six episodes.
..But tucked inside Outlander‘s salacious exterior is an intelligent, well-acted drama about the nature of love and intimacy, with an often radical position on sex…. NPR
…not just as a filler of the Game of Thrones void, but as an emotionally rich, powerful piece of storytelling in its own right…Vulture
….Then there is a bit more, an important addition that scales the Golden Globe nominated series to a new level. By that bit more, I mean that Balfe and Heughan are stronger than ever this year, as is the excellent Menzies… Deadline
…Often the Starz drama is lauded for its incredible set and costume design and ambitious cinematic scope, but the series’ pensive, poetic exploration of the human heart’s mysteries, and the quixotic nobility of commitment, is singularly brilliant and underappreciated in the realm of top shelf TV dramas…Salon
……Over the past two seasons of the show, it’s become obvious that they’ve all worked hard to make the emotional bonds among their characters meaningful and even a little unpredictable…Variety
It has been well acted, beautifully produced, and intelligently…written.
They do know what they’re doing
I see pictures of the fans with the cast from one “con” or another and even though it would be nice to meet them, the folks I really want to meet are the writers! I’m fascinated. I’m intrigued by how they are able to walk that fine line of honoring the source material and creating the show’s own independent personality and identity. This week they fleshed out a story arc from the book about Claire’s decision to leave Brianna and go back through the stones. In my opinion, this time in Boston was a needed bridge between Claire’s future and her past. Starz hashtag for the episode #impossiblechoices couldn’t have been more apt. I had always wondered how Claire could possibly have come to terms with leaving her daughter. I couldn’t imagine how she could do it!. They had to make this okay for us. They had to find a way to communicate why this woman would risk everything to go back. I needed to see how she arrived at that decision. What I didn’t expect to see was a bigger truth about the nature of love.
True love is rare.
The Voyage to the Print Shop
I am fascinated with how the writers were able to get us to that print shop scene. They have been drawing us a map to a true love’s reunion for the last three seasons.
Claire spends the first half of the season fighting her attraction to Jamie. We are able to see that she is in danger of loving him. Jamie asks her if what he feels when he lies with her is normal between a man and a woman. Claire shakes her head and admits that, “No”, what there is between them is different. We watched them grow closer and then there is the aftermath of Wentworth. In the Abbey, Jamie tries to send her away, but Claire won’t let him. She tells him and us that the only way she can make sense of all that has happened to her is to believe it is because they are meant to be together and that she will take him anyway she can get him.
In season 2, we see them trying to find a way back to each other. We see them fighting for their relationship. They always do find a way back to each other despite all that happens and stands in their way. When he takes her to the stones the second time, there is no doubt that their love is rare, mutual and passionate, “You are my home” insists Claire. “And you mine, but this home is lost”, Jamie promises that not even death will separate them, “I will find you”. Claire’s anguished cries when she knows herself to be back in the future are heart-breaking.
This season they have led us to the print shop door by showing us how empty Jamie and Claire’s lives are without each other, but they have also shown us how rare their love really is. Jamie is constantly reminded of Claire. Her memories color everything for him. He is a shell of himself without her. We see both Jamie and Claire live with the knowledge that they have lost a love they will never experience again. Everyone around them, Bree, Joe, Roger, Jenny, Ian, John. know that they have lived a “half-life” without their hearts. When Frank asks if Claire could have forgotten Jamie with time she tells him, “That amount of time doesn’t exists”. Jamie lights a candle for Claire because he remembers her …always. Their love is mutual and rare. Claire loved Frank, but whatever she felt for him paled in comparison to what she feels for Jamie.When Geneva asks Jamie what is the difference between love and what she feels, Jamie tells her that love is when you give your heart and soul to someone and they give theirs in return. It is the “in return” part that this episode highlights.
The scene that brought this all in to focus for me was the scene with Sandy the mistress and Claire. At first, I was incensed for Claire. This woman had no real idea what things were like between Frank and Claire and why they stay together. Claire wasn’t trying to have it all! Claire wasn’t being selfish. But, then I rewound the scene.
“You should have let him go. … All those years you never wanted him, but you wouldn’t give him up. He told me he stayed with you for Brianna, but I knew a part of him was still in love with you and always would be no matter how much you broke his heart. I had to live with that because he was the love of my life and I wanted him even if it meant I had to share him with you. I could have made him happy, but you were selfish you wanted it all. So, you lived a lie and made Frank and Brianna live it too. You threw away 20 years with him and I would give anything just to have one more day.
Sandy just encapsulated the desperate state of most relationships. She was talking about her relationship with Frank, but ironically, she could have been talking about Frank’s relationship with Claire. “… but I knew a part of him was still in love with you and always would be no matter how much you broke his heart. I had to live with that because he was the love of my life and I wanted him even if it meant I had to share him with you.” Frank knew Claire still loved Jamie, but he lived with it because she was the love of his life. He too believed he could make her happy. They lived a lie alright, but it wasn’t because Claire wouldn’t let Frank go. The lie they lived was because Frank loved Claire more than she loved him and he couldn’t let go. Sandy lived in discreet shadows because she loved Frank more than he loved her and she couldn’t let go. I wonder how many people hang on to relationships where the love isn’t mutual. How many settle for less. I believe to love and be loved equally is the exception not the rule.
Frank and Claire’s marriage didn’t work because there wasn’t enough time for her to ever forget her love of Jamie and his love of her. Sandy also reminded me that it has been twenty years. Twenty sad and lonely years, pining for the person with whom Claire can be her true self. What wouldn’t any of us give for just one more day with the love of our lives? What would Claire be willing to give or risk for the chance of one more day with Jamie?
Brianna reminds her mother that if what she felt for Jamie was that powerful, she must trust that he feels the same. She wants her mother to be happy and she knows without Jamie that will never happen. She reassured Claire that she is her mother’s daughter and that she will be fine. “He gave me to you. Now, I must give you back to him”. The decision to leave is made because the chance to love and be loved equally and passionately is the greatest reward any of us could hope to obtain and the only thing worth the risk.
The answer to Claire’s question is “no” to have gone once is not enough because to experience true love is worth the voyage again. Claire decides she will once again travel beyond the moon to find and live in a rare and mutual love.
“My marriage to Jamie had been for me like the turning of a great key, each small turn setting in the intricate fall of tumblers within me. Bree had been able to turn that key as well, edging closer to the unlocking of the door of myself. But the final turn of the lock was frozen–until I had walked into the print shop in Edinburgh, and the mechanism had sprung free with a final, decisive click.”
― Diana Gabaldon,