Poor Devils Now… a reflection on Outlander episode 3.3 “All Debts Paid”

Standard

images-6

by Beth Wesson

 

I picture the Outlander’s writer’s room looking a lot like my house when I decide I need to organize.  My husband always shakes his head because my organizing tends to look like anything, but. “You KNOW it always looks worse before gets better!”, I remind him.  It seems I have to put everything out where I can see it before I can decide what is important, what can be thrown away, and how to put it all back together in a way that functions. It is a very long and messy process.  I’m pretty sure the task of adapting Diana’s Gabaldon’s big novels feels very much like cleaning at least three closets that haven’t been truly gleaned in 25 years. You have this huge amount of material to work through, favorites that you can’t bear to live without, limited space, and a need to have a system that helps connect things in a way that makes sense so that tomorrow you know where things go.

Now, here’s the difference.  They are working with words, ideas, metaphors, images, and characters instead of old clothes, purses, and boxes of children’s art projects.  Pulling on the threads of words and images both light and dark and weaving them into a pleasing pattern is a challenge I would love.  What I probably wouldn’t enjoy as much would be having to argue about those choices and having to compromise.  I understand the importance of having different voices in this kind of creative process, but I’m pretty sure I would feel strongly about my choices and find it difficult to let go.  Imagine finally getting that closet in beautiful working order only to have your mother-in-law come and tell you it’s all wrong! Now, I don’t know who is supposed to be the mother-in -law in this Outlander writer’s room scenario, but you get my point. I know these writers are dedicated to creating the best adaptation they can bring us whether we be book fans or not. I’ve watch them give space and respect to too many sensitive subjects to ever believe otherwise. This week, I saw Matt B. Roberts and the Outlander writer’s room tackle some significant storylines and character development, and arrange them in a way that will make sense tomorrow and in episode, 6, 8 or 10 for that matter. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to throw away some favorites, make hard choices, and fight to make the whole thing honor the source story and still be a its own story. They have fought the good fight and in my opinion, they won.

Unknown

Hard Choices

What Frank knew and didn’t know, what Frank did and didn’t do and whether that makes him one of the best or worst husbands has been a topic for debate in the fandom for a long time.  Diana has gone on record with her now famous “Defense of Frank” to let us know there is more to Frank’s story than meets the eye and reminds us that we only hear things from Claire’s perspective and that she has her own reasons for wanting to believe the worst of Frank.  And, so I was surprised to see Matt and team had decided to go with the Frank is “cheating” route right out of the box.  I’ve written a couple of posts about Frank and in each, I found it completely understandable that Frank would look for companionship, sex, and maybe even love outside this marriage.  What, after all, is a man to do with the knowledge that his wife has loved another man for almost 20 years?

When I think of Frank and Claire’s marriage warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  What started out straight and good and true has become a twisted volatile mess.  The choice to make Frank less than perfect and less the martyr is a good one, in my opinion.  It also made this whole situation that much more painful and real.  I’m still not sure how I feel about the “separate lives” thing being Claire’s idea.  It sort of goes against the belief that she wanted the marriage to work and that she was still trying.  I’m not sure if they are trying to suggest that perhaps she was trying to be kind to Frank or that she thought she could handle a “modern” marriage?  Either way, she sure seems surprised he is seeing other people and that her marriage has truly become one of convenience.

On the night, where she should be celebrating with her family, with those that love her, she instead has to face the demise of her marriage to Frank.  Claire coming face to face with Frank’s infidelity and his strained, slightly intoxicated reserve was unnerving.   His mumbled comments, pointed emphasis on “Dr. Randall”, and the out of character insult “green ain’t your color Claire” felt as real as any argument over a “dead horse” subject as I ever heard or felt.   The idea that this conversation is really going nowhere, that you’ve heard it before, and that you are just wasting your time, energy, and emotion, is familiar.

Tobias’ allowed Frank’s frustration and his reaching his limits to be communicated subtly with a shaky sigh, a thrown pillow, his not knowing what to do with his hands, and his furrowed brow.  Cait’s portrayal of a hurt Claire with her eyes brimming with tears, a lifted chin, and arms crossed around herself was a painful thing to watch.  The reason they can’t play charades isn’t just because they are bad actors, it is because they aren’t close enough to read each other.  Their marriage is an absolute train wreck, full of anger, regret and remorse.

The night the clock truly does run out on their marriage was so awful.  I agreed with Cait when she said this scene in the book had some powerful stuff.  I can remember being so confused by Frank telling  her he was leaving and taking Bree while he was spooning with Claire in bed.  He seemed so urbane.  In this episode, his tender regard for how she is feeling is followed by his announcement that he wants a divorce and that he is taking Bree with him. Not the same, but still satisfying. I’m sure there were a myriad of reasons for the change, but my guess is we had to see Frank walk out that door. The idea that he has been biding his time and waiting for Brianna to come of age before leaving Claire is a bitter pill to swallow.  His insinuation that Bree loves him more has to sting.  Did Claire’s following her calling come at too great a price?  Was she in danger of losing her daughter?  My guess is yes.  It feels as if Frank might have cultivated this scenario whether he was conscience of it or not.

I know it is implied that Frank stepped up and fried the bacon and black pudding up in the pan , so that Claire could leave Bree well cared for while she became a doctor, but the scene where they discussed this in the books felt important to me.  It was some needed insight into how this choice and arrangement came to be.  We learn how Frank felt about the whole thing, and how Claire was willing to give this up for Bree’s sake.  I felt it would have been important to see how Frank recognized that Claire had always know what she was meant to do and how rare it is to be so certain.  He, however, prophetically warned that there was a price, a debt… to pay.  In this episode, we see Claire about to “pay” that debt with the loss of her marriage and maybe her daughter.  Frank seems genuinely surprised that Claire is upset. I think he truly believes she doesn’t care.

His declaration that he wants to spend the rest of his life with a wife who truly loves him is nothing more than any of us deserves.  Despite his declaration, I loved that in a last moment of vulnerability, he asked Claire is there could ever have been a chance of her forgetting …”him”. It was not the simple and honest “No” from the book, but instead a poetic declaration that was just as honest and just as devastating.

I grieved with Claire for her first love, her lost love, her Frank.

 

Character Development

images-3

“Do you find your life burdensome, Mr. Fraser?”, asks Major John Grey.  A reasonable question to ask of a man whose life has been so drastically altered.  A poor devil now.

Jamie answers that he believes that the real burden in one’s life is to care for people you cannot help, not in having no one to care for.  Emptiness, but no great burden.  There is so much emptiness in these characters lives.

This episode was full of poor devils.

Poor Claire. Poor Frank. Poor Jamie. Poor John Grey.  Poor…Murtaugh.  Everyone has been cold and hungry for years.  Prisoners not just languishing behind barred doors and cold stone walls, but in minds, spirits, and hearts.  Everyone is starving.  Everyone is shivering with cold, which is the toll of living lives as prisoners to repressed thoughts, feelings, and memories.

We see a Jamie once again altered.  He has indeed just exchanged one prison for another.  He has exchanged one group of people in which to feel responsible for, yet another.  He is quiet, but not withdrawn. He seems cautious, distrustful, reserved.  And yet, he seems to have found a sense of himself he was missing in the cave.  He is a prisoner, but not cowed. “There is nothing you can do that hasn’t already been done to me”, he tells John Grey.  There is a sense of personal power in this statement.  He has faced and survived more horrors than any one man should have to stand, and so, what is there left to fear?  I see the makings of the wise man Jamie becomes.  He knows what things are truly valuable in this life and what things are worth fearing.

I was glad to see the show has indeed “saved Murtaugh”.  I had some pangs for how his presence might alter the story by lessening Jamie’s loneliness, but then I thought about what hell the poor man had been through and decided Murtaugh was a fair enough gift to give Jamie.  We saw Jamie offered an opportunity for further healing in the form of Lord John Grey and his honorable actions.  He surprises Jamie with his concern for the men under his care, his integrity, and his personal generosity.  We start to see Lord John earn Jamie’s hard to be won trust and a tenuous friendship begins.

John shares a personal story and makes himself vulnerable in front of Jamie.  With eyes glistening with tears he claims,”There are some people you grieve over forever”.  His openness and willingness to share his personal grief with Jamie appears to give Jamie a sense his own grief is in safe hands. He shares his own loss and we see Sam Heughan utter Claire’s name in a voice so full of longing and with a face so full of emotion it would make an angel weep. The scene that follows was no less remarkable in the depth of emotion shown and restrained.  Kudos to both of these actors for such a poignant heart-breaking performance.  This was one of those times when the TV series truly enriched the book series for me.  Seeing John’s offer of condolence turn into something more and the horror, betrayal, and pain that caused for both was heartbreakingly painful to watch.

Moving forward…

outlander-staffel3-john-grey

The debts paid in this episode are all ones we can recognize in our own lives. We pay back kindnesses, give into admitting our mistakes, and reap what we sew,.  Jamie and Claire are altered by their grief, changed by their experiences, and forced to move on with their lives.  This episode managed to encapsulate what was most important for moving these characters and the story forward.  They painted us a picture of two people who are truly missing their other half and finding living hard as a result.  The show has taken on the challenge of showing us the story of Jamie without Claire and Claire without Jamie.  It is not a pretty tale and yet, it has been beautifully told.

 

 

Advertisements

Spoilers: They tried to live without their hearts…Jamie and Claire the years apart

Standard

imageAfter hearing the distressing noise, Lord John approaches the door thinking of perhaps going into the room to see if Jamie is alright.  He hears heavy breathing and realizes that Jamie has awakened from a bad dream. He overhears the big Scot talking to his lost wife, “Could I but lay my head in your lap, lass. Feel your hand on me, and sleep wi’ the scent of you in my bed”.  John knows he shouldn’t be hearing this extremely private conversation and tries to back away quietly. Before he gets away he hears Jamie sob and then whisper, his voice full of longing and pain, “Christ Sassenach, I need ye”.

Cue me, ragged intake of breath and leaky eyes.

I’ve been rereading The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon, my favorite of the Lord John books.  Last night, I reached the scene where Lord John Grey hears Jamie cry out as if he was having a nightmare. This is one of those scenes that causes me to take an involuntary sob. The characters have become so real to me that I feel invested in their lives and experience moments of crippling compassion when I read of their moments of distress or pain.  I feel what John feels and what Jamie feels and have to put the book down and take a moment to recover, laugh at my silliness, and curse and simultaneously love Diana for writing books and characters that can move me this much.  I’ve often wondered if Diana feels the kind of empathy I do when she writes. Does she have to take a break and recover, does she smile through her tears at the beauty of these poignant moments she has written?

Diana has written many moving scenes in her novels, but this particular scene gets me every. single. time.  I’m curious as to why this scene, in particular, makes me so…so…verklempt! Reading that scene and “overhearing” Jamie’s private moment with his vanished wife makes me feel like I’m right beside Lord John trying desperately to get away from that door. Like Lord John, I want to go into that room and offer Jamie comfort, but I know there is nothing I can offer that would comfort him.  With that realization, we can now think of nothing worse than Jamie knowing his private pain and moment of grieving was overheard and we are quietly careful as we move down the hall.

Loved Diana’s metaphor of John missing a step and coming down hard as he escapes detection. Hearing Jamie longing for his dead wife brought John back down to Earth hard. The heart wants what it wants, but John is a realist and no fool.  He knows this man will never be his. This man will never be his because his heart belongs to a woman and a ghost at that.

It’s Claire’s ghost that I find myself thinking about this morning and Jamie’s as well, the ghosts of their lost love. I think this scene affects me so much because it is one of those rare moments when we get to see what Jamie is thinking and feeling.  We can guess how lonely he has been without Claire, but this overheard private moment confirms it.  He is trying to live without his heart and having a tough time of it. He needs her. Time hasn’t cured this. A decade separates him from that moment on Craig Na Dun and yet, his need of her hasn’t lessened.  His grief feels raw to me.

I’ve also been thinking this morning about the print shop and how the TV series is going to get us there.  I know there has been some speculation because people can’t wait to see our couple back together.  They want to get to the “good stuff”.  I understand that is “good stuff” and I would love to see them stay as faithful to that scene in the book as possible, but the show has to think about viewers other than book fans. I am reminded of an article I read about adaptations and good story-telling.

…Going from a derivative work to its source, people tend to expect fidelity less than when they start with the original, then move to the adaptation…When I read the book first, I go to the movie expecting to see a strict translation of what I saw onto the screen, even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story…

http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2012/03/22/149145605/what-fans-will-love-and-what-they-might-not-in-the-hunger-games

“…even if that’s not truly what I want, or what best serves the story…”, the truth is those moments at the print shop need to be earned.  They need the context of knowing what has come before.  It will not be enough to segue way from Claire’s realizing Jamie might still be alive to her going back through the stones. Viewers will need to know what life was like in the in-between.  And, whether we want to admit it or not, we book readers will too.  Those moments at the print shop are meaningful and moving because of what happened in those twenty years apart and who Jamie and Claire were without their hearts.  They are starved for each other’s company and face the despair of knowing they will never again have the kind of mutual love they shared. They long for each other and when I read of their longing my heart aches for them.

Too many of us can relate to their need to go on living despite devastating loss.  In Claire’s case, she pushes forward for Bree and Jamie for Fergus, William, Jenny, Ian, and their children. They go on…they exist.  Diana lets the reader see that our beloved couple are never far from each other’s thoughts. She paints us a picture of two people who truly aren’t complete without the other.  Diana chose to tell Voyager in a mixture of present day with flashbacks to the past that slowly builds the suspense and intensity of emotion.  The search for evidence of Jamie’s survival is then followed by the reality of the Dun Bonnet’s real story and we see the names on the Ardsmuir roll sheet in the flesh.  We get glimpses of the deprived and lonely existence Jamie led.  We are then transported to the inner workings of Claire’s marriage of convenience.

We will need to see what life was like for Claire. I know this isn’t a popular idea for many fans because it means more Frank.  But, to ignore what life was like for Claire would not serve the story well and lessen the impact and meaning of the print shop reunion. These glimpses of life with Frank are sprinkled throughout the story, but it makes sense to me that the show will need to rearrange things and tell the story more chronologically. What was life like for Claire?  She made a promise and I believe truly tried to make it work with Frank.  She did love him, but what ever she feels for Frank pales in comparison to what she feels for Jamie. Frank believes they can make it work. He needs to make it work because he loves her, but her heart is irrevocably Jamie’s.  As a result, what started out straight and good and true becomes a twisted convoluted mess.

One of the few looks Diana affords us of Claire’s life with Frank comes from her remembrance of the night he died.  Not a very flattering portrayal that, but in his defense, what’s a man to do? What’s a man to do with 20 years of knowing your wife loves someone else?  When I think of that particular icy night, warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  You know what time and pressure do to a lump of coal, right?  A diamond.  Time and pressure left us no gems here.  What happens when feelings get suppressed? When time and pressure are applied to that suppression? Anger. Resentment.  Emotion doesn’t stay inside the skin.  Feelings can never be fully suppressed.  They find a way to come out and sometimes it’s sideways.

.Outlander Season 3

I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.

“...he looked like Bree, didn’t he?  He was like her?”

“Yes.”

He breathed heavily, almost a snort.

“I could see it in your face– when you’d look at her, I could see you thinking of him.  damn you Claire Beauchamp, ” he said, very softly.  “damn you and your face that can’t hide a thing you think or feel.”

“…I did love you, ” I said, softly, at last. “Once.”

They go on to discuss why he didn’t leave and Frank wonders out loud,

“...but you couldn’t see her (Bree) without thinking of him, could you?  Without that constant memory, I wonder__ would you have forgotten him, in time?”

“No.”….

Diana Gabaldon Voyager

The last straw had been reached for Frank, but it also served to let us see how impossible it has been for Claire to love anyone but Jamie and to live without him.  The show foreshadowed this with Breanna’s comments about her mother living in another world. She is present physically, but she left her heart in another time, another place. She is living a life she no longer wants, but tries for Bree’s sake.

The story will be best served by the show showing us how empty and difficult their lives were without the other. So, when the ‘voyage’ finally leads us back to the print shop, as viewers, we will be entirely invested in the reunion of these two lost souls.

The reuniting of these two characters gives birth to some of the most poignant scenes I’ve ever read. Claire’s trip to the printer’s shop is full of those scenes.  Her nervous look at her reflection in the shop window, his fainting dead away at her sudden appearance, their holding each other both trembling with,”…longing of twenty years streaming down our faces”.  They touch each other’s features in wonder. I believe I could barely breathe when I read this scene.  The intensity of their need of each other was palpable.  Not the intensity of lust, but of need. And the scene where Claire shows Jamie Bree’s pictures?  My favorite. When he turns and ‘falls to pieces” in her arms, I couldn’t help but think he had been needing to fall apart for twenty years, but her arms were the only place he could do that…be himself…without fear. And for Claire, loving and being loved by Jamie was like  “the turn of a great key, each small turn setting into play the intricate fall of tumblers within me.”

Lord knows, the sailing will never be smooth for these two, but at last they will be together and nothing else will matter.

“…to have you with me again_ to talk wi’ you, to know I can say anything, not guard my words or hide my thoughts_God Sassenach” he said, ” The Lord knows I’m as lust crazed as a lad and I canna keep my hands from you _ or anything else_ ” he added wryly, ” but I would count that all well lost, had I no more than the pleasure of havin’ ye by me, and to tell ye all my heart”.  And she replies, “ It was lonely without you, ” I whispered,” so lonely.”

Yeah,…we need to see the years without their hearts.

 

I promised him I would let him go…Outlander episode 2.1

Standard

by Beth Wesson

 

The past two weeks have seen an absolute glut of Outlander related news, articles, interviews, and images.  Which is soooo different from last season.  Back then we scoured the internet for anything about “our” show and anxiously read what few articles there were, hoping that critics and reviewers liked the series.  We dreamed that the world would find out about the wonderfulness that is Outlander.  It took awhile, but what we hoped would happen did happen.  In fact, there is so much Outlander stuff out here right now that I feel slightly overwhelmed!

image

The articles I’ve been reading this time around have been absolutely delightful.   They have been meaty, insightful, and VERY complimentary.  For the first time, I feel like the critics “get it”.  And, the outlets that are sitting up, taking notice, and writing about it are getting larger and more numerable.  I’d feel a little sad about the competition for readers except…THERE IS A COMPETITION FOR READERS!  It is everything we fans had hoped would happen for our beloved books and show.  They are getting the attention they deserve.  Despite the “Scotland’s answer to GOT”, “fifty shades of plaid”, “bodice-ripper’ labels  given to the show, people tuned in and …got hooked

When I went to bed after watching the Television Academy’s From Scotland to Paris: A Behind the Scenes Journey with Outlander, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vo0aWxwY2EA I dreamily fell asleep convinced that I had just witnessed something very special. The astonishing level of creativity, skill and …love demonstrated by all involved in the creation of this show was so evident that as a fan I felt proud and strangely emotional. So, after reading all the positive reviews, watching all the insightful interviews, and being gob smacked by the panel, I thought I was prepared to watch the premiere.

I wasn’t.

I’m sitting here trying to find words.  Searching for words that have even the slightest chance of expressing how I felt about this episode.  I’m not entirely confident that I can, but I’m going to give it a shot.

THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

image

I’ve always believed that no matter how great a movie or show is, if it is based on a book, the book is always better.  It makes sense.  An author has time and room to give us the details and let us see into what makes a character tick.  I have never seen anything that has caused me to doubt that belief…until now.

Just this week, I wrote an article for Outlander Online  http://wp.me/p57847-jFr that wondered how the beginning of the book would be handled.  How would the audience be told that Claire had returned?  I was concerned because despite our frustration (and downright pissed off at DGness), the fans I’ve talked with thought her opening with Claire in the 1960’s was powerfully discombobulating and kept us wanting to turn the page. As much as I admire Diana’s skills as a writer and adore her books, the TV adaptation told the story of Claire’s return to Frank better. This was so much more powerful and I can totally get why they did it.

As a reader of Diana Gabaldon’s books, I am as fascinated with what she doesn’t write, as much as with what she does.  What I’m trying to express is the idea that sometimes a writer doesn’t give us all the details and lets us try to figure out a characters’ motivation. Like a good author does.  It is often what is not explicitly explained that keeps us all talking about the books, speculating and theorizing. Ron and his writers have the enviable and monumental task of adapting Diana’s books into a visual medium.  They have explained that each episode has a story arc and that to tell the best story sometimes things have to be changed.  I finally get it.

 

HOW THEY TOLD THE STORY DIFFERENTLY, BUT STILL KEPT IT PLAUSIBLE

h

I’ve often said that the most controversial character in the book series isn’t Black Jack Randall, or Gellis, St.Germaine, or any other villian.  It’s Frank. Drop Frank’s name into a discussion of Outlander and watch the sparks fly. He is loved, pitied, and hated. But understood?  We have all wondered what Frank felt and thought, why he and Claire decided to stay together, why he got over his belief he couldn’t raise another man’s child, and if he still loved Claire or if he was just doing what he saw as his duty (cuz he’s not a cad). Did he believe her? Ron chose to answer some of those questions in his adaptation and I think the story is the more powerful for it.

  • THEY SHADOWED IT FROM THE BEGINNING

In the very first episode, we saw Frank accept the possibility of Claire being unfaithful. “It wouldn’t be unheard of. Understandable…comfort”.  And, we saw Claire’s indignation over the idea that he would think she could ever be unfaithful,.  “There is nothing you could do to make me stop loving you.”  They foreshadowed his acceptance of the child with Frank’s interest in his own genealogy and their renewed attempts to start a family and then there is… Jamie’s ghost.

  • THEY LET US SEE FRANK WORK THINGS OUT BEFORE OUR EYES

In the books, we never get to see or really know what Frank did when Claire disappeared or how he felt about losing her.  As readers, we became so engrossed in Jamie and Claire’s relationship that we soon forgot about poor Frank.  Diana has revealed more and more about Frank as her series of books has continued, but she is still keeping what Frank really knew and what he felt a bit of a mystery.  In my opinion, what Ron has done is very plausible and not a large departure from the Frank in the books.  Let’s look at the how it went down:

  • Frank does come to Claire after she has been missing for almost three years
  • he is told outside of our hearing that she is starved and pregnant
  • she tells him to leave and that she loves another man
  • she explains what happens and Frank gets angry over her explanation of being carried through the stones
  • he doesn’t leave and agrees to raise her child as his own
  • he moves them away for a fresh start

In the TV series, it happens a little differently, but the pieces are all there. Frank hears her story and although it is a “leap of faith” agrees to “accept’ it.  Knowing Frank, Claire doesn’t buy it and calls him out. He acknowledges that although he doesn’t understand her feelings for this other man, he believes her when she says she loved Jamie. But, he is now, he is there, Jamie is not. He only cares that she is back.  She then tells him she is pregnant and this is the catalyst that triggers his anger instead of when the anger is triggered in the books.  He still had a last straw moment.  She hit him where it hurt the most. Different yes, but, maybe better? Certainly, watching his joy and then devastation when he realized it was a mirage was powerful and echoed back to Wentworth and Jamie thinking he saw Claire and then realizing it was all an illusion. The pain and loss was real.

  • THEY LET US SEE CLAIRE’S STRUGGLE AND JAMIE’S GHOST

Claire’s voice-over set the tone for the episode.  If she could have died she would have. Her anguished screams and sobs let the audience know she has been ripped from Jamie’s side and all is lost. And, then we see Frank… hardly able to contain himself as he rushes into the hospital.

Diana has told her readers to remember that we see things from Claire’s perspective and that Claire has her own self-serving reasons for wanting to believe the worst of Frank. She needs to keep him at a distance, she has a need to feel loyal to Jamie her true love and yet, she loved Frank. I saw that struggle tonight.  Her guilt over what she had done to Frank. Frank’s points about her ring and how her story confirmed that she would never have willingly left him rang true and you could see Claire flinch in the face of it.  She grieves for her lost love and yet, as everyone reminds her he is a ghost. So, when Frank offers up his conditions she remembers her promise and in a last self-sacrificing gesture of love for Jamie she stiffens her spine, lifts her head and  lets him go.

The many symbolic gestures in this episode like the hands transitioning her past and her future, her reluctant hug so like the one Jamie gave her in the Abby, were wonderful. Everything reminded me of something that happened in season 1.  Jamie’s memory, his ghost if you will, continues to wander the streets of Inverness.

  • THEY KEPT IT REAL

I had the opportunity to use the books in a literature class.  The one thing that bothered my students the most about Claire returning to the future to live with Frank was how she could possibly ever look at Frank and not see Black Jack.  I had to agree that knowing that Frank isn’t Jack and that he is not responsible for his ancestor’s behavior might not be enough. I was glad to see the TV series addressed this issue right out of the box.  What I saw in episode one, maybe in part because it IS a visual representation of the story, felt more real to me; more believable.

  • ALL OF IT COULD HAVE HAPPENED

It might not have played out on the screen exactly as it did in the books, but it could have.  The show deliberately connected the dots and fleshed out Frank’s character.  I think it was a smart move.  It all makes more sense, especially for viewers who haven’t and won’t read the books.  This treatment, in my opinion, makes all of their choices more poignant, more honest, and more powerful.  For the first time, I understood Frank and their decision to stay together and why they both did what they did.  I felt his hope (yet, you still wear my ring) and her painful resignation (I promised him I would let him go).

4-8

Kudos to Caitroina Balfe and Tobias Menzies.  Emmy worthy performances right out of the gate. Kudos to Tallship Productions and Starz you’re keeping your word to the fans and …I can’t believe I’m saying this…making a great story better.

 

 

 

 

 

SPOILERS THROUGH VOYAGER! Frank’s wisdom… loving a special woman

Standard

images

It has been brought to my attention that I write about the characters in Outlander as if they were real people.  I’d like to acknowledge this truth and maybe explain…if I can.  First, I’m not delusional.  I’m aware they are not real and totally the creations of Diana Gabaldon’s prolific imagination.  Second, I think my ability to write about her characters as if they were real people could be seen as a tribute to her skill. She has written characters of such depth that she has made it possible to analyze their personalities.  I’ve read some of what she has said about her writing process and I know that she “listens” to her characters. To say I am jealous would be a bit of an understatement!   They speak to her and appear to act out of their own values and personalities.  The more I write about her writing the more I understand how truly gifted she is and the more intimidated I become!  It hasn’t stopped me from trying to write, but wow…just wow.

Diana posted an article I’d written about Claire and womanhood on her Facebook page (how totally freakin awesome is that?)  I wrote about Claire being a wonderful example of a woman of worth and substance. Her acceptance of herself and all that means to her life is what I’m still thinking about today. Specifically, I’m thinking of her knowing she was meant to heal and her decision to become a doctor in a time when women just didn’t do  that.

Anytime a women decides to do something as monumental and time-consuming as becoming a doctor they must consider the cost.  They just do.  Fair or not fair, women have biological clocks that have expiration dates. Many women who seek extremely time-consuming careers choose to delay starting a family or know their choice will leave them with precious little time to be with their loved ones. It’s a no-win situation for women, as both choices require a sacrifice.

I find when I read Diana’s stories it is easy to make parallels with real life.  I have a cousin who obtained her dream job of being a college Sociology professor. Her husband worked in the world of business and finance.  Like many of us they started a family and balanced parenthood with full-time jobs.  Their second child was born and it soon became obvious that their newest had special needs and would require full-time care.

May we ALL..find a partner in life… like my cousin’s husband.  I’m sure they had exhausted all options and had finally come to the conclusion that one of them needed to stay home with their child.  When the time came to have “the conversation”, my cousin’s husband told her that he would stay home because, “I  just have a job, but you have a job you love”.  He understood the sacrifice would be too great for his wife.  I can’t even imagine her relief and gratitude.   In a society where a man’s job often defines him, this man chose to be a father and husband first. His insight into his wife’s needs and then…his actions based on that knowledge showed him to be a very wise man indeed.

In Claire’s case, she already has a child and a husband when she chooses to pursue her passion. Throughout the books, Frank is portrayed as the stereotypical 1950’s man.  He has bought into the nuclear family status quo. He has every intention of bringing home the bacon and letting Claire fry it up in the pan. She is taking up a study of medicinal herbs as a hobby to fill the void of no longer nursing.  We aren’t privy to any conversation that lead to this decision; we just know that it is true. Can you imagine Claire as a housewife only? Me either.

Outlander 2014

Outlander 2014

In Voyager, Claire has returned to Frank, but she has not returned to being the little woman.  She knows she is meant to heal and this changes everything for her.  Claire isn’t cooperating with the role to which she had been assigned. Instead, she is breaking the gender mold, pushing the envelope, and is wholly unapologetic.  His wife has returned, but she is not the woman he went on a second honeymoon with to Scotland. Claire is there in the 1950’s, but she left her heart in the 1750’s.

Upon her return, Claire offers Frank a divorce, but they are Catholic and have a daughter (Frank gets mega bonus points from me for loving this child). Given the time period and Claire’s resignation to her loss of Jamie, and the fact that Frank isn’t a “Cad”, they stay together. I can only imagine Frank’s consternation and frustration.

Frank…I’m still not sure I’ve figured this man out. In my opinion, he is one of the most enigmatic characters in the series.  I’ve run the gamut of dislike to pity to admiration with this man. And,…just when I think I understand him, Diana throws in a moment like the moment my cousins must have had…things have come to a boil and Claire and Frank have “the conversation”…

Claire is late coming home from the hospital…again. Fed up, Brianna’s babysitter leaves the child alone and Brianna goes looking for her mother. She is hit by a car. Thankfully, her injuries are not severe, but this close call causes Claire to question (I’m sure not for the first time)  her decision to leave her child in the care of a yet another stranger while she pursues her medical degree. The cost has become too great and she tells Frank she is going to quit. He could have let her. He didn’t.

“I can’t stand leaving Bree, and not knowing if she’s well cared for-and knowing she isn’t happy.  You know she doesn’t really like any of the sitters we’ve tried.”

“I know that, yes.”… he said, “But I don’t think you should resign.”

…”You don’t?”

“Ah, Claire.” He spoke impatiently, but with a tinge of affection nonetheless.  “You’ve known forever who you are. Do you realize at all how unusual it is to know that?”

…”No, I suppose not,” he said.

…”I haven’t got that, ” he said quietly at last.  ‘I’m good, all right.  At what I do– the teaching, the writing.  Bloody splendid sometimes, in fact.  And I like it a good bit, enjoy what I do.  But the thing is–”  He hesitated,then looked at me straight on, hazel-eyed and earnest.  “I could do something else, and be as good.  Care as much, or as little. I haven’t got that absolute conviction that there’s something in life I’m meant to do — and you have.”

He goes on to tell her that having her kind of passion is very rare and wonders if some people are born with that passion or just find it along the way. He also  feels the need to warn her.

” But Claire–“…”They paid for it”…

Claire nods her head in agreement and feels the despair of failure.  She believes she has made a mess of everything; her career, motherhood, and her role as Frank’s wife.  And then, he does the last thing she expects, he says…

“I’ll take Bree.”

outlander-frank-randall

I’ve always been willing to give Jamie the benefit of a doubt. After all, he’s an 18th century man and we can’t expect him to have the same sensibilities as a modern man. So, when Jamie rises above his 18th century upbringing, we are in awe and love him for his open mind and heart.  Why I can’t seem to cut Frank the same break is something I might want to take a closer look at.  After all, Frank is a man of his time period as well. We admire Jamie for his ability to express what he feels.  However, I was recently reminded that MOST men are unable to express their feelings as poetically as Jamie.  That doesn’t mean they feel less. And, despite Frank’s stiff British upper lip and his 1950’s male perspective (remember when he thought Claire did nothing all day because she was home with the baby?) He seems to do the honorable thing…often.

I would love to say that his choice was made solely because of his love and understanding of Claire.  That isn’t exactly the feeling I get when I read this scene. His wisdom seems tempered with reality rather than love.  He knows Claire is meant to heal and recognizes that life will just be easier for them all if he just steps up to the plate…I think. But, there is another side of me that says no matter how the choice is presented, he still made the choice and allowed Claire to be exactly who she is.  He overcomes his own 1950’s gender expectations and sensibilities. He loves her even if he does think she’s a pain in the arse. (sounds pretty familiar to me!)   It’s not easy loving Claire!  There is a price to be paid for passion and for loving a special woman.  Frank’s wisdom in this situation should be a lesson to us all.

Frank and Claire, soul mates …..Episode 8

Standard

imageI couldn’t watch it through a second time.  I shut it off. I thought perhaps sleep would help my perspective. It has cooled my ire enough to write. I really wasn’t sure I would write anything about this episode because I felt too conflicted, too….angry.

First, let me say that if I DIDN’T know the rest of the story,  I’d think this was a great episode.  Lots of action and conflict for our heroine Claire. Beautifully acted. Beautifully filmed. But, I do know the rest of the story and this isn’t taking me there.

So, what is the big problem…Jamie…again.  Who is supposed to be Claire’s soul-mate?  Jamie or Frank? I understand Ron Moore wanted Claire’s decision to feel real, so he decided to put more about Frank into the story.  I was all for that decision, until now.  Once again I ask, “where’s Jamie?”.

In my humble opinion, as a reader and viewer, Both Sides Now should have been One Fine Day. I understand this is an adaptation and I know things must be changed and somethings left out.  However, I’m pretty sure what should not be left out is the growth in Jamie and Claire’s relationship.  Of all the wonderful tender and revealing moments that happened  the couple of days following the wedding we get “hoor-rocks”? I understand that it advanced the story…Jamie needed to leave Claire for the chance to change their future.  I get that….great.  But, why so much Frank and so little Jamie and Claire?  One of reasons I was so excited that this was a 16 episode series was that their would be time as Mr. Moore said to keep,” all the things people love about these books”.  The main thing I love about these books is the relationship between Jamie and Claire.

And my favorite lines….. “Does the wanting ever stop” was changed from awed and tender wonder to when will I stop being horny? Arrgh! Maybe my love for the books has made it impossible for me to enjoy this show?  As my husband was kind enough to point out this morning, ” You knew this was going to happen why are you surprised? The movie can never be as good as the book”…… Yeah….I know that….

Frank….what’s a man to do?….

Standard

image

Dear Readers, 

There has been a lot of discussion in the fandom this week in regards to the Starz’ series portrayal of Frank.  I wrote this back in 2014 and very quickly discovered that the most polarizing character in the series is not in fact the villain Black Jack Randall or even Leghaire, it’s Frank. I wish I would have saved some of the Facebook responses and discussions to this article. They were thought-provoking to say the least!  They were also very respectful.  There weren’t any team Jamie or team Frank discussions.  There were however, Friends of Frank, who very gently and intelligently pointed out that what Diana wrote of Frank might lead us to believe Frank was at the least cheating on Claire and most certainly hiding information from her, but that there was enough ambiguity to what she wrote to cast some doubt on both of those assumptions. I know that my eyes were opened by some of the things my readers pointed out to me. I still believe a lot of what I wrote in this article, but I’ve come to believe that there is enough written in the story (It’s hard not to take into account the things the author has said, but there are many who believe the author’s intent should have nothing to do with the reader’s interpretation) for me to believe there is more to Frank’s story than what Claire would have us believe.

The show’s portrayal of Frank seems to be a hot button topic.  Some fans are resentful of the time spent on his character. Other’s believe Frank is being portrayed as a more sympathetic character than they believe him to have been written.  Personally, I don’t believe that anything they have done is out of the realm of possibility and like Diana isn’t done writing his story they aren’t done telling their version of Frank’s story.  As I say in this article, time and pressure will leave us no gems in the tale of Claire and Frank.  This relationship is going to get messy and ugly and sad.

________________________________________________________________________________

Frank.  An enigma. I like him.  I dislike him.  But, do I understand him?  There is the challenge and I mean that literally.  Recently, one of my readers inspired me to take a closer look at Frank.  So, here I am trying to find some empathy. After all, to quote Jamie, if Claire loved him, “…he must have been a good man”.

Jamie has always been easy for me to understand.  I know what motivates him and sustains him.  We’ve had eight books and a lot of character revealing situations from which to draw that understanding.  I can write about Jamie, but Frank?  Up until this point, I just hadn’t thought too much about Frank and certainly hadn’t much to write about him.  I think it’s because Jamie and Claire seem to be meant for each other and that trumped everything for me including Frank. Actually, that might say something more about me than it does him.  But, why doesn’t Frank evoke the strong emotions I feel for some of the other characters?  Certainly some of his choices are to be admired; taking Claire back, loving Brianna….  but, he also might cheat and lie.  I’m not sure I’ve truly looked at the WHY of any of these actions!  Guess it’s about time I did.

Where to start? Hmmmmm. The beginning? No, makes too much sense.  That damn letter in the desk drawer?  It did help me understand why…naw.  Where did Diana reveal his character? What situation was so stress-filled that we saw the real Frank…..? Got it, …the night he died.  Not a very flattering portrayal that, but in his defense, what’s a man to do?  What’s a man to do with 20 years of knowing your wife loves someone else?

When I think of that particular icy night, warped things come to mind; intentions, plans, relationships, and love.  What started out straight and good and true becomes a twisted bumpy mess.  Frank and Claire chose to remain married in a situation ripe for a divorce. Their reasons? Complicated.  I wish I could say Frank stayed because he loved Claire too much to leave her.  I wish I could say Claire stayed because she still loved Frank.  I can’t.

You know what time and pressure do to a lump of coal, right?  A diamond.  Time and pressure left us no gems here.  What happens when feelings get suppressed? When time and pressure are applied to that suppression? Anger. Resentment.  Emotion doesn’t stay inside the skin.  Feelings can never be fully suppressed.  They find a way to come out and sometimes it’s sideways.  I think some sideways feelings got straightened out that night.

So, what did we learn about Frank the night he died? What did his behavior and words tell us about him as a man and a person? Well…I’M still troubled over the studied casualness in which Frank told Claire he was leaving her. They were spooning for God’s sake!  That seemed pretty cold.  Did he think she really wouldn’t care? Or, that she didn’t care and his being casual was a defense mechanism.  Claire’s response to this matter-of-fact announcement was very telling, “this one must be really special”.  And Frank’s response to her knowledge?  No apology. No remorse. Some surprise.  “I thought I’d been discreet”, he pronounced.  So, urbane.  He then laid all the cards on the table and announced he was taking “his” daughter with him.

This pronouncement resulted in a shouting match between Claire and Frank. I get the feeling that this was the first time in twenty years that they had truly communicated their feelings.  Frank reveals his bigotry and jealousy.  When Claire denies having an affair with Dr. Abernathy, Frank doesn’t argue.  Deep down, I think he knows she is still the honest woman he’s always known her to be.  I think he was looking for a reason to blame her for his choices.  Claire then reveals that Frank’s infidelity hurt and that it mattered.  Frank speaks aloud the truth of it all, ” … not enough”….Not enough…. And he’s had enough. He’s had enough of waiting for Claire’s love to return to him. He’s had enough of finding solace and maybe revenge in someone else’s arms. He’s had enough of being reminded there is another man and damns Claire’s face that shows everything she feels.  He’s taking the only thing left to him.  The daughter he loves and I believe he thinks he’s owed, “you’re hardly ever home anyway”.  The tipping point of the whole evening is when Frank allows himself to be vulnerable enough to ask Claire if she could have forgotten Jamie.  She simply answers, “no”.  Finally, unable to avoid the truth, Frank leaves. In Claire’s defense, she told him the truth from the beginning.

So, what motivated them to stay together?  At first, I think Frank believed that Claire had been traumatized and as Claire said, “he wasn’t a cad”.  He didn’t leave her then because she was alone and pregnant and still his wife.  His identity as a man wouldn’t allow him.  And, I think he still loved her.  On the surface it seems very admirable.  But, I can’t stop comparing Frank to Jamie.

What would Jamie have done if Claire told him some wild story about time-travel and standing stones?  Oh wait, she did. The reactions were very different.  Frank’s reaction was disbelief, anger and a smashed vase.  Jamie, probably not able to believe this story anymore than Frank, reacted with compassion and a willingness to try.  But, once again Claire hasn’t left Jamie without an explanation. Once it became evident that Claire was sane, Frank became curious and began to investigate her story. After two found letters, the reader knows that Frank believed Claire enough to prepare his daughter for a possible future in the past and leave a gravestone where he knows Claire “might” find it.  He believes her story, but he never tells her that.  He knows the man Claire loves survived Culloden and that she might be able to return to him.  But…he doesn’t tell her…he’s afraid she’ll leave.  When Jamie finds out Claire’s story is true and there is a husband with a prior claim, he lets her go.  Despite loving her with all his heart…he lets her go.  Frank’s reaction is totally understandable, but it seems I may have been right in the first place. Frank’s biggest sin is that he is not Jamie.

At first, Claire stays with Frank because she is too depressed to care.  Without Jamie nothing really matters.  But, then comes Bree.  It becomes obvious that Frank loves Brianna.  Jamie is gone and after all, Claire loved Frank …once.  So, she stays and tries.  With a shared love of Brianna between them Frank stays and tries.  He tries, but, Frank isn’t Jamie.  In fact, I’m not sure Claire would have ever have been truly happy in a relationship with Frank. In a way, a way that matters, I think Frank’s modern sensibilities were more archaic than Jamie’s.  Jamie’s view of Claire as a woman and wife was much more open-minded.  Frank had beliefs about marriage, a woman’s place in that marriage and a woman’s place in the world that seem geared to keep Claire in her place.  I guess I never felt Frank truly understood Claire.  He tolerated what he saw as idiosyncrasies.  Oh, every once in awhile he surprised me with his insight, like watching Brianna while Claire went to med school.  But, he didn’t make this “sacrifice” for her.  He made it despite her. He was a smart man, he knew it would just be easier to give in.  Jamie wanted Claire to feel happy and fullfilled.  He loved her because of all of her “idiosyncrasies” what made her unique.  He was proud of her, he fought for her right to be herself. Frank loved Claire, but wanted her to fill his expectations of her as the wife of a college professor.  I do have empathy for Frank. He wasn’t a bad guy. In fact, he was probably a great guy.  He certainly was a great father.  His intentions were good. None of what happened was Frank’s fault, he was a victim of fate. And after all, Claire did love him,… once.   I feel sad for Frank because he didn’t know that he never stood a chance against Claire’s love for Jamie.

Claire first cries over Frank the night he dies. She cries a second time for Frank in their bedroom on the cusp of returning to Jamie. Trying to make sense of the sadness that was their relationship, she tries to say goodbye.  She realizes that they had said goodbye… twenty years before on the green hill of Craig Na Dun.

P.S. The response to this post has been amazing. Lots of discussion! It was brought to my attention that Diana had a few things to say about the topic (pages).  The biggest thing I took away from reading her response to the Frank question was that we only see things from Claire’s perspective. Her bias and possibly self-serving reasons for viewing Frank and his behavior as she does should be considered when talking about Frank. She said Frank is an honorable man and that we don’t know the whole story. So….keep that in mind!