by Beth Wesson
Last week a fan blog wished the show would be more gritty…all I can say is be careful what you wish for! It felt like the show went from quaint to queasy as quickly as you could say “tar and feathers”. The storyline was so full of foreshadowing I was actually squirming. Claire continues to be uncompromisingly principled …to a fault. AND…Steven Bonnett “is a father now.” The portent of these words was so ominous I actually gasped and cried out loud, “Jemmie!” AND…no matter what Jamie does he is wrong. I felt so much second-hand anxiety, I wasn’t sure I would be able to watch it again. I did, but I wasn’t much more comfortable the second time! In preseason interviews, the actors said things were going to quickly turn to shite and they weren’t kidding. Hold on to your tricorns we are in for a bumpy ride.
Torn between loyalty and loyalty
“I didna think them capable of this”, says Colonel James Fraser. I found myself to be incredulous, as well, this seemed, unlike Murtagh. The insurrection in Hillsborough seemed an overreaction to the provocation. Then I thought again. I kept wondering what emotions lie under the skin of a revolutionary. How strong must it be to allow them to believe the actions we witnessed were justified? I thought of all Murtagh and the others had been through and how tired they must be of not fighting back. This New World Murtagh has spent years in prison and servitude, all at the hands of the English. His righteous anger at this treatment had been impotent, as he had no way to express it that would make any difference to himself or others. This anger wouldn’t have just gone away, it had to have simmered under the surface. Then just when he and some of his fellow countrymen have finally gained their freedom, here comes the English taxing away their hard-won lives. Anger would have come to a boil.
The crown believes themselves to be the superior and sovereign rulers of this country. Lieutenant Knox is aghast at what he perceives as ingratitude, from these backwoods people, “there is always a need to respect his majesty’s army”. Murtagh and the regulators have lost all capability of caring what the crown thinks or wants. The English’s arrogance and disdain toward the colonials is no longer to be born. The fatal flaw of Lieutenant Knox and the English is their underestimation of these people and their desire to be free and treated as the equals they are. They are not living by the King’s leave and will not “take what is offered and be thankful”. The English are failing to see they are reaping the mercy they showed at Culloden and in its aftermath.
I think Jamie Fraser is just beginning to fully understand what he is facing and how truly narrow is the path between the fires of loyalty to Murtagh and the settlers of Fraser’s Ridge. He knew his balance was precarious, but I don’t think he expected Murtagh to be such a zealot and that he would not make himself hard to find. He is shocked to find Murtagh so public in his defiance. It has become obvious that he is not waiting to fight at Jamie’s side. It seems to me that Murtagh understands that without information about the part the regulators play and how they fare in this “coming war”, he must blindly go ahead with his plans. They may not make a difference, but then again they may. In fact, none of us truly know how the actions of men like Murtagh shaped the revolution that led to the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Jamie is left trying to navigate his way between loyalty to Murtagh and loyalty to his settlers, his empathy for the regulators and his need to protect his family. Sam Heughan’s ability to emote that strain and its consequence is nothing short of staggering.
Torn between truth and truth:
The “truth fires” that Claire walks between are the truth that she is fighting the knowledge that she could be saving lives and the truth that that same knowledge could place them all in danger of losing everything. Right now, I’m worried they are all going to get burned because Claire cannot stop fanning the flames.
Life here is hard, dangerous, rife with ignorance and violence. The scene in Hillsborough was a harsh reminder, but the scene in the surgery cemented the truth for me. The Farrish’s wagon comes careening up to the Big House with an obviously ill Mister Farrish. A distraught Mistress Farrish has no idea how she could have done anything more to help! She has given him laxatives! She has let his blood! Claire confirms to her horror and ours that the man’s veins have been cut open and much needed blood drained. Then the clincher…the man’s wife has given him “Blue Mass Pills”…mercury. There is literally nothing Claire can do, but watch him die. She is fighting both the “illness and its cure”. She is a woman with knowledge, living in a world with none.
In an effort to get at the truth, Claire decides to do an autopsy.
I felt that that sentence needed to be given its own space. The danger in which she has placed herself and those she loves cannot be overstated. I kept thinking she has a body ripped open in her house! Literally, anyone could discover it just like Brianna. Brianna is right, it intellectually and practically makes sense in 1969, but that is not the time in which they live. What if someone does find out? We all know what will happen. But, Claire forges ahead consequences “be damned”. I’m not a doctor, but at some level, I understand her need and her frustration. If people would just listen to her, just come to her sooner, she wouldn’t have to watch helplessly while they die. But again, Brianna is right, Mistress Farris just helped her husband “die faster”. The truth is that there really wasn’t anything Claire could have done either way. Once again, we see Claire blinded by her need to help. At this point, it is starting to feel pathological. Her need may appear selfless, but in truth, it feels selfish. I want to shake some sense into her, has she learned nothing?
Torn between fear and fear:
Last week we heard that Bonnett, Brianna’s rapist and potential biological father to her son, was spotted in the province. This week we saw that he was more than a charcoal nightmare. Stephen, the sociopath, is alive and well and proud to be a papa. Excuse me while I shiver in fear. Bonnet was an absolute creep and brute in the books, but Ed Speelers’ portrayal of him might just be worse than BJR, and that, my friends, is quite a feat. Black Jack Randall was very much in control of his darkness. That in itself was frightening, but he was at least predictable. Bonnet’s duality of charm and savage brutality is frightening because of its capricious instability. He can be smiling one minute and cutting your eyes out the next.
I’m sure it was deliberate, but why did they feel the need to make him look good? Maybe, it’s just me? Did anyone else think they made him look gorgeous? It was disconcerting. Villians should look like villains, right? Then it hit me. Lucifer was an angel. It makes it even more frightening that he doesn’t look the part. There are no immediate warning signs, he seems affable. When he feels insulted by another man, he comments that they should settle the affront to his honor like gentlemen. He is only playing at the gentlemen. He is in truth feral. When he doesn’t kill the man outright instead of maiming him, it is because he “…wants to set a better example. I’m a father now”. He walks out, straightens his clothes back to genteel form, a look of eagerness then crosses his face. I was convinced that look and his attempts to be a gentleman were all about Jemmie.
Brianna is walking between the fires of fear and fear. On one side is the very real fear that her rapist lives. On the other side, she lives with the fear that her PTSD will destroy any chance she has at happiness. She fights to not let Bonnet win. She will not let what he did ruin her relationship with the man and child that she loves. She hides her fears. Like so many others like her, she puts on a smile and tries to live. This might be the narrowest path of all. She has survived, but that doesn’t mean she is healed. Healing from trauma comes with no guarantees about what life will be like after. Brianna lives with fear on all sides and maybe …she is walking through fire.