“May we all become diamonds”…A Reflection on Outlander 5.08 “Famous Last Words”

Standard

You simply cannot talk about Outlander 508 “Famous Last Words” without talking about the episode’s silent movie extended metaphor. So, let’s get it out of the way…I got it, I just didn’t care for it.  The horror was minimized rather than strengthened by the stylized effect. Juxtapositioned against Roger’s obvious trauma, it just didn’t feel serious enough. I kept waiting for Snidely Whiplash to show up (even though Tim Downie’s Gov. Tyron was a good substitute). I felt the flashbacks could have worked, seeing Roger’s eyes behind that mask was very powerful, but the flickering silent movie presentation took me out of the story.  Once again, I know what they tried to do, the silence, the movement from black and white to color, but this was ROGER hanging from a tree, not Penelope Pureheart tied to a railroad track. I needed to HEAR the commotion, panic, and anguish. So, having stated my opinion on the matter, as I’m sure many will, let me say I felt the rest of the episode was strong.  I always think Outlander shines when they focus on relationships, it is what makes it unique and watchable tv.

I know that the title of this episode “Famous Last Words” should be an obvious guide to what this episode was about.  Words said or left unsaid was definitely a theme worthy of delving into, but what stood out for me was how we all deal with the unimaginable, unexpected, and unfortunate.  I continue to be amazed by how timely these episodes are.  I can’t help but make comparisons with the unimaginable, unexpected, and unfortunate times we are currently experiencing.  The world as we know it has changed, probably forever.  How we will all deal with that is happening in real-time.  I find myself fluctuating between hope and despair sometimes hourly. The unimaginable, unexpected, and unfortunate has come to visit us all. Our plans, our dreams, our well-being, our safety are threatened and like Young Ian, many of us don’t know how to go on or if we even can.

Words

The episode opened with some lovely backstory.  Roger in his element was a joy to behold.  As a teacher, I felt the power of his words as he challenged young minds to think, to examine their response to the world around them, and to consider what legacy they might one day leave.  Words are indeed Roger’s stock and trade, his weapon.  He reminded us and his students that words are powerful and that they can wound and so, we must be careful how we use them.  Roger strives to make his words count and his deeds match.  He hopes that in the end, he will have lived a life worthy of those he loves. The irony that he was unable to have last words is not lost on me nor the fact that using his weapon to try to save Murtaugh and Morag led to the loss of a hugely significant part of his identity…his voice…his words. He is not the man he once was and as a result, like Clementine, he may be lost and gone forever.

Rik Rankin’s performance of a traumatized Roger was moving.  I’m always amazed when actors can communicate everything without saying anything.  His eyes were haunted, his demeanor subdued to the point of pain, and his attempts to use his voice excruciating to watch.  I felt the sharp needles when he swallowed and choked along with him when he tried to speak. I was moved to tears by his attempt to express his gratitude to Ian.  He is the shell of the man he once was.

Grief

How magical must Jamie think the future to be, full of cures for wee invisible beasties (don’t we wish) like the germs that make you sick and so, maybe they have a cure for something else invisible too…grief.  Claire assures him that no, the future has no cure for the heartache of losing someone, only time can cure such things.  When she said this, I was overwhelmed by how many people are grieving right now.  How raw and immediate is their grief, time hasn’t had a chance to cure them, however, I’m not sure we are ever truly cured of grief. We just find a new normal that includes our grief.

I found myself sadly smiling at Jamie self-medicating with whiskey because it is such a normal universal way to deal with things we can’t control. I think there are a lot of folks hoisting a drink right now.  Here in Ohio, our governor has a press conference every day at 2o’clock.  Folks have started calling it “Wine with DeWine” time (there are t-shirts).  The occasional need for whiskey aside, I have always admired Jamie’s emotional maturity.  He is allowing himself to feel and to share his grief with Claire and Jocasta.  With time, he will find a way to live without Murtagh.  Ian is another story.  We aren’t let in on the details of what happened to Ian in the Mowhawk village or the reason for his return, but it is obvious that something is wrong. Like Roger, he is no longer the man he once was, he isn’t the Ian we all knew and loved, but neither is he Mowhawk.  You can see the struggle he has to acclimate himself to life on the Ridge.  I was relieved to see John Bell play Ian with the same earnestness.  It is obvious he is now a man, but there are hints of the old wee Ian.  Lauren Lyle’s Marsali continues to be a revelation. She steals every scene she is in with her portrayal of our spunky Scottish lass.  Marsali has no idea how much her heartfelt admission of guilt means to Ian.  No, he reassures her, it is a good thing to feel you belong somewhere.  We all want Ian to feel he belongs in this family.

Fear

Roger being saved wasn’t enough.  His body is home, but HE isn’t and no amount of cojoling and patience will bring him back to the man Brianna loves.  Her fear is palpable.  She is losing him.  It all comes to a head when she walks in and finds Marsali picking up her tarot cards from the floor and Roger holding on to the Hanged Man card.  She tries to reassure him that she understands his loss and how, ultimately, it doesn’t matter to her how he sounds. This scene reminded me so much of Claire and Jamie in the Abbey. Bree loves him and will take him any way she can get him. Bravo to the actors for letting us see Bree’s fear and frustration and Roger’s pain at his inability to react the way he wants to, to give her what she needs from him. She needs to know that he is coming back and that he won’t forever be the hanged man. He cannot reassure her.

Soon after, she sends him off with some wisdom in the form of a piece of paper that is able to bend and fold and adapt.  Because it allows itself to be manipulated, it becomes a new creature, able to soar.  There is a reason paper, she says, is a gift for first wedding anniversaries and why diamonds are the gift for couples who have been married for 60 years.  She wants them to be like a precious diamond, the hardest substance on earth, able to withstand the pressures of life.  It was an excellent analogy and a heart-tugging hope.  Roger packs the plane and heads off to be useful, surveying the 5000 acres gifted as compensation from Governor Tyron.

Choice

Claire discovers missing hemlock and voices her fears to Jamie that maybe Roger is in so much pain he might want to end his life.  We then discover it is Roger’s traveling companion Ian who cannot live with the pain of losing his wife. He symbolically buries his weapon, his hatchet.  He will no longer fight.  He wants the peace death will bring him.  But, the fates intervene when Roger, who has had his own epiphany, kicks away the poison tea before Ian can drink it.  Roger picks up his weapon, he uses his words to save Ian. They ride home to …fight.

Sing us a song

Roger returns to Brianna.  He tells her even though he was saved, a part of him died that day.  She does understand, she too survived a dark time.  He thought he knew what his last words would be, what his life would be, but circumstances changed and changed him.  In the end, it wasn’t his words that mattered, it was the people in his life, specifically her.  He will always sing for her, even if she isn’t there or even when his voice is unable.  He has allowed himself to become the paper airplane, so that he can have the chance to become a diamond.

May we all become diamonds

Our lives have been hijacked by an invisible wee beastie.  Like Ian, we haven’t the words yet to express our fear and grief. Many of us have difficult decisions to make, life-altering decisions. Like Jamie and Jocasta, we have to find a new normal.  Like Marsali, we have to grab on to happiness and belonging where we can find it.  Like Bree, we must hold on to hope. Like Roger and Ian, we must pick up our weapons and fight.  May we all weather the storm and emerge knowing what truly matters, may we all become diamonds.

God Bless,

Beth

 

 

 

 

SPOILERS: Ian Fraser Murray…trouble magnet, mother’s curse and wolf’s brother…

Standard

 

ian-john-bell

John Bell is playing Ian Fraser Murray in Outlander

 

 

I have a friend who has to practice patience because her nature is in short supply.  She tries very hard not to frown or express her frustration, disapproval or downright anger because she is aware that she has a tendency to overreact and walking through life expecting to be pissed off at any moment doesn’t bring her much peace.  You would think the universe would repay her efforts by subjecting her to less motivation for pissed-offness.  But, no…if there is an inexperienced sales-person or cashier or bank-teller or person who could be called for all intensive and expedient purposes an idiot, they are completely attracted to her.  Watching her trying to practice patience amidst all the provocation is almost painful and yet, somewhat comical. After she has calmed down from the latest provocation, we often have a good laugh about her being a trouble magnet.

I was thinking about my friend today while thinking about how Outlander on Starz will be introducing us to one of my favorite characters, Ian Fraser Murray. Like my friend, Young Ian is a magnet for trouble and has been since the day he was born. I think it is only fitting that Jamie Fraser was there the day his nephew Ian arrived and that they would both get into trouble together almost immediately. 

If you remember, Jamie has come down from the cave to Lallybroch because he is concerned about Jenny giving birth while her husband is gone.  Superstitious Jamie sees three black corbies outside the house and shoots at the bad omens.  Reassuring everyone in the house that it was just an accident, Jamie goes upstairs to check on his sister who has just given birth to her new son, young Ian. Jenny always concerned for her brother’s lonely state, talks to him of the future and remarriage.  Jamie is holding his new-born nephew and becomes visibly agitated with his sister’s meddling and it is perhaps why he didn’t hear the redcoats until it was almost too late.  Upon hearing the soldiers, he jumps into the big wardrobe to hide, but he still has baby Ian in his arms.  Quick thinking by Jenny and Jamie’s tucking his thumb into the about to wail infant’s mouth saves them from certain discovery.

magnet

It won’t be the last time Ian and Jamie have a close call because if there is an unusual situation fraught with peril it is completely attracted to Young Ian and this causes no shortage of trouble for those who love him. Jamie explains to Claire that Ian is indeed one of those people whom things happen to through no real fault of their own…ie: trouble magnet.  And, like my friend who attracts the inept or idiotic, although not funny at the time, there is often a lot to chuckle about after the fact.  Some of the most heart warming and funny scenes in the books revolve around Ian and the unusual situations he gets into.  In fact, most of Voyager’s action revolves around trying to rescue the adorably awkward young Ian from one scrape or another, from the fire at the print shop to his kidnapping and rescue.  Diana’s description of Young Ian as a baby stork, nearly burnt and definitely singed, pink skinned, missing eyebrows and some hair, is definitely comical.   In Drums of Autumn, his sincere, but rushed proposal to Brianna, hair slicked back with bear grease in an attempt to look presentable…comical. His good bye to his uncle while wearing a newly plucked hairline and tattooed face? His revealing to Bree his reasons for returning home from the Mowhawk? Not amusing even upon restrospect, but instead some of the most deeply moving scenes I have ever read.  Kudos to Diana Gabaladon for creating such well developed and human characters and situations.

One of my favorite scenes between the two is when the prodigal sons return to Lallybroch to face rightfully angry parents, Ian and Jenny, who give Jamie a taste of what it must have been like for his own father.

“Well,” said Ian slowly, “as I’ve told the lad he’s going to be thrashed, and he kens verra well he’s earned it, I canna just go back on my word. But as for me doing it–no, I dinna think I will.” A faint gleam of humor showed in the soft brown eyes. He reached into a drawer of the sideboard, drew out a thick leather strap, and thrust it into Jamie’s hand. “You do it.”
“Me?” Jamie was horror-struck. He made a futile attempt to shove the strap back into Ian’s hand, but his brother-in-law ignored it. “I canna thrash the lad!”
“Oh, I think ye can,” Ian said calmly, folding his arms. “Ye’ve said often enough ye care for him as though he were your son.” He tilted his head to one side, and while his expression stayed mild, the brown eyes were implacable. “Well, I’ll tell ye, Jamie–it’s no that easy to be his Da; best ye go and find that out now, aye?”

mothers_curse_shot_glass

I’ve always mourned Jamie’s not being able to raise his own children. But, thank goodness Diana did not spare him or us the joy of watching him navigate the waters of parenthood, albeit through children not of his loins.  There are so many wonderful scenes between Jamie and Young Ian of the completely frustrating and irritating joys of parenthood. You all know the mother’s curse right? “Someday I hope you’ll have a child just like you”?  I love how Diana Gabaldon is constantly playing with expectations in her stories.  Young Jamie is more like the older Ian in temperament and young Ian is more like Jamie, a Fraser through and through.  I think Young Ian is Jamie’s mother’s curse, a child much like himself.  Ian isn’t as biddable as his other siblings and gives his parents a lot more trouble.  Ian doesn’t appear to be satisfied to stay home and farm, he possesses a lust for adventure and life beyond what can be offered at Lalleybroch.  Like Jamie, he is funny without meaning to be and a curious combination of wordly wise and wided eyed innocence. Like Jamie, Young Ian appears to understand the truth about the world and the people in it. Like his uncle, Young Ian seems to move effortlessly from one world to the other from Highland lad to Mowhawk and back again.  He is self-assured, but not arrogant. He is truthful and willing to admit his mistakes.  Like his uncle, Ian is fiercely loyal and protective of those whom he sees as his responsibility.  And, like his father, Young Ian is always there to protect Jamie’s weak side.

Unknown

Diana’s choice to have Young Ian’s identity so closely linked to the wolf is a brilliant and apt one.  Wolves have a high degree of adaptability.  They learn easily and retain their knowledge for a long period of time.  They form strong emotional attachments.  Ian, Wolf’s Brother, is indeed himself a tame wolf and all that entails.  He is gentle and affable, but can be become every bit the feral “wolf” when the need to protect his clan is called.  He loves unconditionally and ferociously.   I just got done re reading Written in My Hearts Own Blood and was struck by the man young Ian had become and his capacity to love unconditionally.  I especially love the relationship between Young Ian and William Ransom.  Ian is loyal to the prickly William and puts his life on the line for him just because William is part of his clan. He doesn’t expect anything in return.  Despite her rejection of him, he loves Works with Her Hands and even on the day of his marriage to another woman does her honor, but lays that love aside for Racheal, his peace loving Quaker, who is also pretty good at loving unconditionally.

“That dog is a wolf, is he not?’

‘Aye, well, mostly.’

A small flash of hazel told him not to quibble.

‘And yet he is thy boon companion, a creature of rare courage and affection, and altogether a worthy being?;

‘Oh, aye,’ he said with more confidence. ‘He is.”

She gave him an even look.

‘Thee is a wolf, too, and I know it. But thee is my wolf, and best thee know that.”

Diana Gabaldon  Echo in the Bone

 

Trouble Magnet, Mother’s Curse, Wolf”s Brother, I can’t wait to meet all three.

 

 

 

 

I