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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.