A Show Worth Caring About…A Reflection on Outlander 5.04 “The Company We Keep”

Standard

by Beth Wesson

 

Back before Outlander on Starz was on the air, I wrote an article that I hoped would be prophetic.  It was my prediction that viewers would care about Claire because she was a character worth caring about. In fact, I felt Outlander had a chance to be different than anything on TV at the time.  We were about to see if a show with characters with redeeming character could hold an audience’s attention.  Starz must have been hoping I was prophetic too because they posted it and Caitriona read it and said, “I concur”! Pretty heady stuff for a fledgling writer.  At the time, folks were comparing Outlander to Game of Thrones.  I always felt it was a very short-sighted comparison. GOT was full of characters acting out of warped emotions, values, and needs, lots of titillating stuff to discuss around the water cooler. 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. And, I think I was prophetic, I believe that the potential for Outlander to be something more has come to fruition.

As I watched this week’s episode “The Company We Keep”, I thought about my hopes for Outlander back in the day. This whole season has a vibe that I’m liking and I’m happy to say that that it seems the show has returned to its roots; a focus on people who struggle to make the right decisions and the relationships they have with others. If you were to judge ME by the company I keep, you would have to include the people I spend my Sunday nights with, the folks of Fraser’s Ridge. They are indeed people worth watching because they are people worth caring about.

Roger Mac

I care about Roger because he is man worth caring about.  In this episode, we continue to see Roger struggle to be a man in the 18th century. When Roger makes a decision, I find myself saying a little prayer, “please, please, please let him be right”. He tries so hard, but he has no experience or skills to draw upon except his academic knowledge. Right now it is of little use to him. He may know the words to the songs, the history of battles, but he has not lived them. He is literally bringing a book to a gunfight.  And yet, he gets up every day and tries to be the man everyone needs him to be despite feeling like he is letting everyone down. Roger’s only motivation is to be there for Bree and his small family.  I find it heart warming that a man whose only real experience of family is being raised by an elderly uncle is so all in.  He is a father to Jem, a husband to Bree no matter what time they live in.  He is loyal, honorable, and peace-loving. I trust he will find a way to be of use and earn Jamie’s coveted faith in him.

Fergus

I care about Fergus because he is a man worth caring about. The thing I love most about Fergus is his undying loyalty to Jamie. Jamie may not have gotten to raise a child of his own blood, but it is obvious he is loved by the children of his heart.  I believe Fergus tries to emulate his father “milord” and you can see the evidence in his relationship with Marsali. As an extension of his loyalty and love for Jamie, he has Roger’s back.  He treats him as the family he is and with the respect bestowed upon him. I hope we get to see more of Fergus’ story and struggles.  There is much about life to be learned there.

Marsali

I care about Marsali because she is a woman worth caring about.  This character! How could you not love her! She is spunky, straight-forward, open, and full of life.  Her humor and good-natured wit serve her well. I’m pretty sure you have to earn her love because he isn’t a pushover, but it would so be worth the effort.  She reminds me a bit of Jenny. If you are loved by her you would know it. Her conversation with Brianna in this episode showed wisdom beyond her years. I’m sure Brianna could tell she truly cares about her and I loved seeing the blossoming of this relationship. I hope we see more of her story of perseverance and unconditional love it is worth watching.

Brianna

I care about Brianna because she is a woman worth caring about.  Right now, the Brianna we see is a woman struggling to find her sense of self again. She is fighting a demon too many woman battle, rape, and its aftermath.  Despite what has happened to her she too gets up every day and tries.  She knows she is damaged and combating feelings she cannot control. Her superhuman efforts to be a good mother and wife are admirable.  However, the show, true to form, lets us see her frailty too. We see her struggle and feel empathy. I need to see her share her burden and hope that will happen soon.

Jamie

I care about Jamie because he is a man worth caring about.  Last week, I read an article where Diana Gabaldon discussed the 5.03 episode.  One of the things she said that has stuck with me is Jamie’s identity as a warrior. It permeates everything he does. He is always ready to fight to protect the people he loves and has responsibility for. You can be sure if you are lucky enough to be loved by Jamie you have his protection. I keep saying this, but the man isn’t motivated by power.  He doesn’t seek attention or riches.  His motives are truly purer.  He is motivated by love, loyalty, and honor. In this episode alone, we see him give two young boys their freedom and then protect them from harm, negotiate the best possible situation with the Browns and the militia. give Claire a child should she wish, and help two young lovers escape to live and love together. He cares, so I care.

Claire

I STILL care about Claire because she is a woman worth caring about. I had a friend attend Wizard World in Cleveland this past weekend.  She said that Cait shared that some of the hardest times as an actor are when you are asked to play your character in ways that are counter to what you believe them to be.  I’m totally paraphrasing because I wasn’t there, but I believe that was the gist of the conversation.  I can totally understand and I feel encouraged that she has more say in how Claire is portrayed this season. Last season, I lamented the lost opportunity to see the Claire of the ridge.  As a book lover, I remembered thinking the Claire of the ridge was my favorite because it seemed the later books were when Claire became all she was truly meant to be.  I’m happy to say I see her this season. I see a Claire who is frustrated by what is available to her medically, but who knows her purpose. I see a Claire who “loves her life” together with her Jamie.  I see a kind Claire who treats everyone she meets with respect and compassion.  This Claire is a true partner of her beloved husband.  She is a mother and grandmother to many.  She is loved and loves and I love her for her unflagging principles in the face of adversity.

A Show Worth Watching

This show is more than titillation. This show is about the complexity of life and relationships.  This show never shies away from difficult topics and takes the time to portray the aftermath of trauma. This show lets us see both men AND women as fully realized people.  At its core is a long term loving and passionate relationship, a couple who works and strives to stay together.  It is beautiful, transportive, and moving.  So, I’ll be keeping company with Outlander on Starz because I care about its characters and want to watch every week and I can’t give it a better compliment than that.

 

48 thoughts on “A Show Worth Caring About…A Reflection on Outlander 5.04 “The Company We Keep”

  1. Susan Kamlet

    Yes, yes, yes, Beth! This is a show of worth! When I read your blog, I admire that you can put in print the crux of what the series and books represent to me- the power of love.

  2. Susan Renshaw

    Loved your comments. So true!! And Roger is my FAVORITE character, especially in the books. I wish they would make him more likable in the series.

    • I am too! This wasn’t the most exciting episode and there were still a few little things that left me puzzled, but overall I felt it was good develoment for the characters and story.

      • Karol

        I agree, after lasts years tragic missteps we’re finally getting the Outlander we love and deserve. Brilliant job Beth.

  3. Rebecca Gill

    I watch each week with my husband who is a non-book reader. It provides me with a perspective of the show on its own merits as he is honest as the day is long. This week was better than last week, yet, my husband had no idea of the Isaiah Morton storyline as it seemingly wasn’t clear enough. His character and storyline was not introduced. It just appeared.

    When the writers veer off a little too far from the immense storylines (and trust me, I get it, they are immense), and attempt to combine storylines into one episode, it comes out disjointed and without context. Not all the time, but most of the time I feel this disjointedness of the story. I am relying on my husband to tell me whether it’s believable or not. Mostly he feels confused.

    I realize that my take on the show has been cynical. I have upset more than a few people with my take on things as I can come across as too critical, too harsh in my take on the show. I have high expectations each season, and have been left wanting since Season 3. The near perfection of Season 1, and subsequent continuation of that level of perfection into Season 2 spoiled me for what has become obvious to me. It has proven to be true that the pattern of Ron Moore is to delve into a project, get you hooked, and then as his interest wanes due to whatever comes next across his desk, the folks who take over take license with the subject matter as to make it unrecognizable. From the horrible wigs, to the always perfectly outfitted, perfect wardrobes with sixteen costume changes (especially for Claire the clothes horse) that never seem to get dirty in a very dirty time and place, to the unbelievable, perfectly constructed luxury of the Big House (who cuts that ginormous lawn?), I am having a hard time each and every episode.

    I did not experience the same episode as you did, Beth. I did not get the Claire that you saw, nor yet the Jamie. The sword dance did not even show Jamie’s feet, but a mildly obscured view through people that implied that Jamie was dancing. Call me ultra-cynical, but even in that stolen moment in the woods, I saw two actors interacting saying their lines rather than Claire and Jamie interacting in a very intimate moment. Maybe it’s the wigs, and maybe it’s just my cynicism on steroids. The actors who are not wearing wigs seem more real to me. Bonnet, Fergus, and many of the extras seem more believable in character. Claire’s voice over narrative told me more than the prior 45 minutes.

    Perhaps I should start drinking whisky again while watching.

    • LOL! The dance, I heard Sam say was changed to a highland fling if that helps. There are always thing in each episode that leave me with a quizzical brow and a “what were they thinking” mindset. (Germain suddenly couldn’t say anything but ball?) I think I will agree with you about Morton. My husband sounds a lot like yours. I had to explain to him several times who Morton was and what was going on. I will disagree with you, respectively, on Claire and Jamie and their interactions in the woods. This is the most natural and most fully realized that I have seen them. I can never fault their acting, I think it is amazing. And drinking whisky is always good!

    • Karol

      I know how you feel and I appreciate your forthright comments about the show. Especially about Ron. As show runners, Ron’s Outlander and Matt’s Outlander feel very different to me, though to some degree I do appreciate them both. Ron’s Outlander is grittier and more tactile, you not only see the dirt but you can smell it too. The authenticity in S1 was unlike anything I had seen. In Ron’s Outlander, the female gaze is highlighted and revisited over and over. The passion and danger is palpable, casting impeccable, Cait and Sam, but secondary characters too, Mrs. Fitz, Collin, Dougal, RupertAngus, Gellis etc.) Ron’s storytelling is brave and takes risks that pay off in spades. His use of Scotland and it’s ancient architecture as the most impressive location and important prop. Ron’s absence from the show these past 2 years has definitely been felt. Matt’s Outlander is more gentle, more safe in its direction, in some ways more sterile (hence your mention of the never dirty costumes and grandiose sets of JGS which I admit are a tad unrealistic, but God I love them) his production design, recreating North Carolina and Southern plantations is nothing short of spectacular. But the last season especially contains many unrealistic and hard to believe scenarios (Bree in S4 walking across the highlands in a thin dress and cape). That said, in S5 especially, Matt’s love of the Outlander story and characters does come through. His supervision in the writers room shows (I suspect Sam and Cait have also begun to flex their muscles.) and the dialog and character development has improved. The attention to story has gotten better staying closer to the book. I think you’re right when you say that The leads (J&C) seem to be acting and we don’t feel their connection/passion the way we did in previous seasons. And we NEED to feel them. That saddens me a bit. Still it is an exceptional show. But it won’t ever again be award worthy if they continue to play it safe, deriving their dramatic licence from over obvious foreshadowing ( lazy writing) gimmicky plot twists and always choosing to play out the most violent and graphic aspects of the books while omitting the scenes book lovers relish because they are too erotic. (This May not be true, but read somewhere that we won’t get “The Window” from TFC which is iconic) I mean this is the show that gave us “The Wedding”. Finally, as the show runner, as you pointed out, we also need Matt to be more to vigilant re disjointed writing and editing. Directors must not be afraid to push the lead actors, to pull those great performances out of them, which has to be getting harder for them after playing these characters for five 5 seasons. The longer a show runs the more challenging it is to keep standards high across the board. Though shows like Homeland and Greys seem to manage it, so we know if there’s a will there’s a way. I really adore this show, and if I didn’t, I certainly would not invest the time to comment about it. So while people may not like your observations, I think many of your points while hard to hear are indeed valid and surely intended to contribute to honest forthright discussion about a show and story that is beloved by all of us.

      • Rebecca Gill

        Karol, Thank you! One, for validating what I was seeing, and secondly, for expanding on it. Your explanation is spot on. It’s truly sad to see the slow, painful erosion of these amazing characters and outstanding storylines. I thought I was losing my mind a wee bit. I’ll still watch, but may have to break out the 12 year old Balvenie Double Wood to tolerate it without cursing.

      • Nancy

        There will never, ever be another season like #1. It was everything we wanted and more. There have definitely been hit and misses during the following seasons but for the most part, we’ve followed along on the journey. I’ve never complained … only grateful that there was a bit in each episode that made me feel satisfied. I’ve never doubted the vision of whoever was at charge. I’m in it for the long haul and I hope there will be the long haul.

  4. Thank you, Beth. More than anything, I thank you for making the time to write about each episode as seen by you. I have no idea what your life is like, but I’m guessing it’s crazy busy and still you make time to share with us. THAT alone is worth applause. I enjoyed the episode, and I adore Roger (mostly because I adore book Roger. However, I found myself shaking my head at all his singing. I do understand. As a book reader, I know what lies ahead, so establishing the value of his talent is important. AND I do get that the show doesn’t have the luxury of hundreds of pages to work with. I just found it a bit odd that in the midst of all the tension, he was singing all the time. Oh, well… I did enjoy the episode very much, and want more, more, more Fergus. I feel he is not being used to his full potential. But, last time I checked, no one asked me for my input, so well… I’ll take what they are willing to give me. And I hope they do continue to give me more Outlander for several more seasons! – Dawn

      • MaryJo

        Thank you Beth for sharing your critique of our beloved Outlander. The commentary was spot on for each of the characters you described, I could actually see Marsali’s sharp-witted tongue in action with her “plucking pheasant” rhyme during the wedding celebration. All of your remarks were well versed and spoke to the heart and soul which is Outlander, truly!

  5. Dear Beth,
    I so enjoy reading your take on each episode and so far am loving this season. Thank you for voicing your opinions each week. This is a show whose characters I really care about as well.

  6. Gale McGee

    You have written my own thoughts beautifully. Outlander and it’s wonderfully, complex characters is simply the best of what television can offer. Thank you, Beth!

  7. Sue Kennedy

    I absolutely agree. Roger really got short shrift last season. They’re doing a little better digging out of that hole this season. He is one of my favorite characters as well, and I hope that they let him shine as the season goes on.

    It is heartbreaking to hear all of the singing happening right now. Loved hearing him sing “Hielan’ Laddie”, that’s one of my favorite tunes.

    Biggest “Wha???” moment of the episode for me… having Jamie dance at Brownsville, and not a sword dance. If Sam had to learn steps for the show, why not the appropriate steps for the dance? They made a big show of putting the swords out there. Surely they knew that a significant percentage of the audience would know the difference?

    Jamie’s dance at Hogmanay was one of the most powerful parts of the book series for me, and including it in the show this way was a real wasted opportunity. (As was burning a Celtic cross rather than a fiery cross, but I digress…)

    Overall I’m a lot happier so far with this season than with seasons 3 and 4, but there definitely have been a few places where they’ve missed Ron’s steady hand.

  8. Sharon Cato

    I always look forward to reading your commentary after watching the episode. It is both thoughtful and concise. You always bring up great points, some I hadn’t even considered.

    This has been a great season so far. I can’t help but think it has a lot to do with more input from Caitriona and Sam and staying closer to the story line from the books. These characters seem more life-like as the series goes forward.

    Best regards,
    Sharon

  9. Carolyn

    Thanks for your incisive comments. As an early fan of the books, I worried that STARZ’s efforts would be not up to the original material and short lived. I had little belief that an audience would see what I saw in the words in the books. I rejoice that I was wrong….on all counts. Thanks again for your BLOG!!

  10. Laurel Hollis

    I concur as well! Last fall I started watching the show and then reading all 8 books while simultaneously going on a news fast (for a month anyway), which I’ve never done. I needed to be immersed in a community of humans who felt a duty to be a family to each other. And not just a nuclear family. That’s what so many of us need now, requiring courage and persistence to create bonds with others. We need role models who aren’t arrogant and selfish, but are also sufficiently flawed to engage our curiosity and spark hopes that they’ll make the good decisions you speak of. This season is loads better than last at portraying all of this.

  11. eataylo1

    Brava, Beth. You’ve captured all my feelings, too. DG has made us care about these people and the show has only intensified that feeling!!!

  12. Hi Beth, you did it again – read my mind. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Jamie and Claire as I see them in the books. I’m so pleased Sam and Cait now get the opportunity to infuse a little of their visions of Jamie and Claire into the roles – such a huge difference.
    I’m getting a better appreciation for how difficult life is for Roger in this world he has only read about. Sophie is ably showing Bree’s PTSD and I too want her to confide in Marsali who, as you say is wise beyond her years.
    I’ve read all the books a dozen times at least and thought I knew Roger and Bree but Rik and Lauren have made me see see them with a wider lens.
    I’m truly loving Season 5. The adaptations for the most part have been better than I thought possible considering who busy Fiery Cross is. Hope they keep it up.
    LOL I’m still looking for my short, tubby chatterbox Mrs Bugg – but I can’t have everything 😀
    Having Bonnet lurking unseen in the background is masterful keeping us waiting for the other shoe to drop.
    Yes, indeed all these characters are worthy of our love it’s why we have been so absorbed in the Fraser’s life and loves for so long. It’s why most of us “bookie” have read and reread the entire series dozens of time.
    Can’t wait for next week 😀

  13. Lisa N.

    Beth, again we are blessed because you have given us valuable insight. I agree this season has once again returned to relationships. I continue to look forward to your Monday blog. For me, a necessary follow up. Thank you.

  14. Nancy

    You’ve captured this episode perfectly, Beth. Thank you again for bringing it home for us. I’m loving Marsali in her role as wise-woman. Who would have thought? I’m so glad that the powers that are have let her light shine. I’m always feeling a little bit bad for Roger. I did so in the books, and I’m still feeling it. Poor wee Roger. So who could not adore Jamie dancing and Claire so happily laughing? It was extraordinarily lovely to see watch and see that. Their conversation in the woods about babies, family and love was perfect for me. Episode 4 done right in all the good ways. ❤️

  15. Jacqui Page

    I love your insights on each episode. This one touched deep down in my heart and brought tears to my eyes so thank you for giving me the opportunity to feel that. Tears don’t come easily – life has been too long to weep for much. But you come so close to the raw edge when you offer your thoughts. Thank you for sharing them.

  16. Janice Peck

    I am so impressed with the Fiery Cross series.. particularly the first one. I love your Blog as it reflect so much of what I am proud of in this wonderful series. I have read all the books so far and feel the writers and producers want to stay with what is best of the books and add or change only when necessary… Love It…

  17. Lytle Markham

    Claire IS Outlander! I realized from the beginning that a series could not be the books. I don’t think a full length movie of each book could do the story justice. That said, I love the series for what it is. Thank you Ron Moore!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s