Get ready for sexy old folks……a reflection on Outlander season 3

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Caitriona Balfe just celebrated her 37th birthday on October 4th.  All day long, I saw well wishes for her flash across my social media sites.  Outlander’s fans, the cast, crew, and creators were all wishing her the happiest of days and thanking her for bringing Diana Gabaldon’s character the WWII nurse, Claire Randall Fraser, to life.  Her birthday fell in close proximity to a few casting and award announcements and the unveiling of a new EW cover (the cover was tweeted one day after I wrote this http://wp.me/p4mtBT-4BP coincidence?…I think I’m clairvoyant! LOL).  All of this news had me thinking about season 3 and I’ve got ideas jotted down and several articles in creation about Fergus and Ian and Marsali.  There has been lots of inspiration for an Outlander blog! Today, however, I find myself still thinking of Caitriona’s birthday.  She is 37 on the upward slope toward forty which often is the point of no return or should I say no role for most actresses. Have you seen Amy Schumer’s skit on the subject?  https://youtu.be/XPpsI8mWKmg

I know that Cait has said that she has no interest in being a starlet and so, I’m wondering  if she had any real idea how fortuitous it was she said yes to playing Claire? She has an opportunity to play a character that will not only continue to grow as a person, but she will get the chance to play a character who ages.  She is going to get to play a female character who still has an active sex life past forty.  In fact, her character still has a passionate sex life…until she’s…well, last time I checked Claire and her Jamie were grandparents who indulge their appetite for each other…often. Folks,…Outlander has the chance to once again break some ground in portraying sex on TV. Brace yourselves there is a chance we will see hot sex between two older monogamous married people who are passionately committed to each other.

First, let me say that the older I get the older still being young seems to get.  I can remember when  I thought 50 seemed the end of the line for everything including being sexy.  I recall reading a reflection Erma Bombeck wrote about turning 50. She was looking forward to being able to dress in loose pants and going to the grocery store without makeup.  She believed there would be less pressure to conform because nobody cared what you looked like when you turned fifty.  Evidently, Erma and I believed their was an expiration date on sexual attractiveness.

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I’ve been married to the same man going on 41 years.  We still hold hands and kiss…in front of people…like our children, which for some reason totally grosses them out.  We hear things like “Stop!  We get it, we get it, you still have sex , but just… STOP!”  LOL!  It’s not like we are groping each other and swallowing each other’s tongues and need to be told to get a room.  Usually, it’s just a “moment” when we feel affection or gratitude and lean in for a gentle kiss and a look into each other’s eyes.  I would think knowing your parents feel this way about each other would be a good thing, but evidently,…not so much. This leads me wonder how Outlander will portray sex between it’s two main characters who are rapidly approaching fifty.  I’m wondering if they know they have the chance to once again break the mold when it comes to how sex is portrayed on the screen, because believe or not, people over fifty do have sex lives.  One of the things that has kept me attracted to this book series is Diana Gabaldon’s decision to go beyond the falling in love stage in relationships.  She decided to write about love that lasts for fifty years.  I think that’s why some of the books that come later in the series like A Breath of Snow and Ashes are my favorites.  I read them and find myself nodding in recognition of the truth of what it is like to be in a committed relationship.  

I believe that our society has a very unrealistic view of being in love which Hollywood has tended to perpetuate.  We tend to believe it’s like the fairytale. Happy endings aren’t necessarily easy to obtain. Ms. Gabaldon’s books take the reader beyond falling in love and into the everyday realities of how people stay in love despite tragedy and hardship.  

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My husband once told me about a conversation he had with one of his young college football players.  The young man had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and was going to drop out of school. My husband told him our story which included my getting pregnant at 18 and his not dropping out of college.  He told him it could be done and he would help him find a way to make it happen if the young man wanted to stay in school.  My husband said he felt the need to tell the young man the truth about marriage, “Marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is the thing I am the most proud of”.  Diana’s books give us a portrait of the self-sacrifice, acceptance, loyalty, and sometimes the forgiving it takes to maintain a long-term relationship.  One of the reasons some fans lament the lack of sex in season 2 is that they miss the communication that happens when those two are in bed together.  Sex is an integral part of how they communicate with each other, it is often how they connect when words just aren’t sufficient or there are no words.  It rings true to me, sex is important for a variety of reasons in a marriage and I hope season three of Outlander will show us sex between this older couple that comes close to approximating real-life because for the most part Hollywood hasn’t.

I find myself more and more fascinated by the role film plays in our perceptions, particularly of women. In general, Hollywood has an abysmal record when it comes to representing women as real members of the human race and that includes representing aging women in film.

Men over 40 accounted for 53% of characters whereas women that age represented 30%. That has implications for the number of female authority figures onscreen.

Age is one issue among many that has endured in Hollywood. The study found that among actors over 40 in film and television, 74.3% of characters are male and only 25.7% are female.

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When they do put older women paired with an older man in a film the relationship still isn’t portrayed as sexy, but instead is “typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous”. It is about companionship rather than a real relationship.

If you watch a random assortment of Hollywood movies, you could be forgiven for believing that the only people who have sex are in their 20s and, occasionally, 30s. When people in their 50s and older engage in an on-screen romance, their relationship is typically portrayed as sweet, cute and humorous.

In other words, the message that film-makers send us is, “Sex is for when you are young. Companionship is for when you’re older.” While it’s true that most of us know more about relationships now than we did as teenagers, this certainly doesn’t mean that sex has left the building. Far from it! In real life, baby boomers are saying that sex gets better with age.  (read this great article with Dame Helen Mirren about sex after 60) http://sixtyandme.com/should-hollywood-embrace-sex-after-50/

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Curious, I began looking for information to read about older women and sex in film.  One article link that popped up on my screen was entitled “The Top Ten Sex Scenes of Actresses Over 50” on a webpage call MiddleSexy which promotes the idea that sex when we are older can be better than when we are younger “older/better/sexier”.  I was hopeful that what I would find was a list of films that showed women over fifty in “realistic” sexual relationships…not so much.  In this article, 9 out of 10 of the films listed involved older women having sex with younger men and one about incest.  Evidently, Hollywood and the author believe only “cougars” can be sexy or have hot sex.  http://middlesexy.com/2014/10/21/top-10-movie-sex-scenes-featuring-actresses-over-50/

Men, as Amy Shumer’s skit suggests, don’t have an expiration date and are still seen as f*able no matter how old they are.  Do you remember the fuss over Carrie Fisher’s not aging well in the new Star Wars movie? http://wp.me/p65lj4-2r Women are consistently told they are too old to play the love interest of men older than themselves.  https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/21/maggie-gyllenhaal-too-old-hollywood

I asked myself if I could remember a film that actually showed an older couple having hot sex. The only movie I could think of was The Thomas Crown Affair with Rene Russo and Pierce Brosnan.  It was definitely sexy, but missing a key component for me…the ever after part.  This was still just another falling in love story. However, it should still be considered ground-breaking for it’s portrayal of an older couple having passionate sex. I would have loved to have seen a sequel to that movie.  Were those two character able to make a relationship work?! 

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The good news is that there seems to be more attention being paid to Hollywood’s issues with women in general.  Outlander has been part of a movement that has shown that TV with a female protagonist can generate audiences and money.  One of the biggest reasons we don’t see more realistic portrayals of older couples on the screen is because there aren’t enough women behind the camera and enough good roles being written for older women.

You’ve got to go behind the camera to fix things in front of the camera.http://nymag.com/thecut/2016/09/youre-the-worsts-aya-cash-on-ageism-in-hollywood.html

But, here’s some even better news…Outlander has two seasons to show the world that sex between two older committed people can be hot and meaningful too.  

Fans and Creators…drawing a line of decency in the sand

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Sunday, I was made aware there was trouble brewing in the Outlander fandom over some edited footage from the final scenes of the episode “Faith”.   It’s been a couple of days and I’ve had a chance to see some interactions between fans, creators, author, and cast.  I’ve let my thoughts sit for awhile and I think I’m ready to put those thoughts to words today.  

I just watched the entire clip

http://outlanderbts.com/deleted-scene-season-2-episode-207-faith-beautiful-work-sam-h/

and what came to mind was how ironic and sad it is that love of such a wonderful story has engendered so much ugliness.

When “Faith” first aired I posted my reflection on the blog and was overwhelmed by the response and moved by my reader’s stories of tragedy and grief.  http://wp.me/p4mtBT-3zD  That episode dealt with a part of life spoken of mostly in whispers if spoken about at all.  The real and honest portrayal of the loss of a child generated thoughtful discussion and for some it created a desire to tell their own story maybe for the first time.  It was and remains an amazing episode of TV.

I am not nor have I ever been an expert on the creation of a TV show.  Despite my voicing from time to time my likes and dislikes about certain episodes, the truth is I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to adapt the books to screen.  Oh, the show has piqued my interest and I’ve done some reading , but I have no experience in the creation of a TV show.  Like most people, I just know what I like and don’t like and then watch or don’t watch a show accordingly.  I felt the need to place my qualification to be a bonafide tv critic right upfront because this whole thing is bothering the heck out of me and I need to talk about it, but I want to make sure everybody knows who I am…a fan.

I’ve heard Diana say before that she fought for a scene to be left in or left out of the production.  Sometimes she wins and sometimes she doesn’t.  She always makes sure to add that no one has to listen to or include her in the decision making, but she is glad that they do.  Overall, she seems very pleased with the adaptation.  I always try to remember this wasn’t the first time someone had an idea to make Outlander’s story into film and I then remember that only she really knows how wrong this could have all gone.  What is really confusing me with these edits is that nobody seems to know why the scenes were cut and they aren’t being shy about saying so.  It isn’t only fans expressing their displeasure or surprise, it’s Metyin, a director,  tweeting he thinks the scene was better in the edited footage, and Diana and Sam Heughan, lead actor, adding their two cents.  They aren’t blaming anyone, but they seem as puzzled as I am.

I agree with Metyin when he said the edited scenes tied together all that happened in the previous episodes. The last time edited scenes were released, I found myself able to see why each scene (except the one with Murtaugh on the beach with Claire) was cut.  I could easily see how each would affect the overall storyline, pacing and character development if left in. I remember thinking that having more time doesn’t necessarily mean the story will be better told.  Sometimes less is more.   But, this time…more looked and felt pretty good. I’d love to hear the reasoning behind the edit because…that scene was amazing.

I’m not sure I know exactly where the buck stops in this production, there appears to be a lot of thumbs in the pie and a new merger had to have some impact.  I do, however, know where the blame for fan displeasure has landed and that is squarely on the shoulders of Ron D. Moore, executive producer.  Here’s the thing, even if he did make the decision to cut this scene totally on his own, he doesn’t deserve the nastiness fans are spewing.  NO ONE DESERVES THE SHIT I’M SEEING .  He hasn’t destroyed or sabotaged the show, he isn’t disrespecting book fans, he doesn’t hate Jamie or Sam, he isn’t making decisions based on what his wife wants or overreacting to what fans say NEEDS to be in the show (thank God), there is no conspiracy or agenda (other than making the best show he knows how to make) …sigh…did I cover it all?  Oh, and, it isn’t personal.  But, the attacks sure are.  Some are thinly disguised as “concern” from fans who LOVE the show, but just want RDM to get with the program and deliver what they want which is more of “the core” of the story.  The truth is we may never see book Jamie and Claire, but I’m not buying the line that Jamie has been emasculated to make Claire look stronger, or that the relationship between the two main character’s has been altered beyond recognition.  This fandom seems to have as many shouting points and conspiracy theories as the presidential election and they get repeated about as often. 

Here is another thing I’m puzzled about. How do the same shit stirrers get access to and notice of the cast and creators?  I swear it’s the same dirty dozen that lie in wait for something negative to be said about the show and then pounce.  They sit in judgment of the show and its fans.  They feel it is their right to degrade the show, its stars and makers in the name of “critique”.  Translation… you didn’t make the show the way I wanted so you are wrong.  The meaner they are the funnier they think they are and the gloat-fest goes on for days and their infamy celebrated.  The dissatisfied jump on the bandwagon with “I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels that way”.

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Critique

Critique is one thing and being judgmental another, but some fans tend to use the two interchangeably.

Judgmental usually refers to people who have a fixed, negative attitude about something.  It carries a meaning of “passing judgment”, black or white, thumbs down or up, like a judge ruling whether someone is guilty or innocent.  It focuses on the negative result in that process. It also has a moral component.


Critical, at least by  tradition, carries the idea of a well-reasoned, expert, articulate, and in-depth examination of the ideas or quality of a thing, not the thing itself: something that a literary or movie critic might do.  Though it tends toward negative, it’s not necessarily so – a movie could receive critical approval.  Critical comes from critique.

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-being-critical-and-being-judgmental

  • Criticism finds fault. Critique looks at structure.
  • Criticism looks for what’s lacking. Critique finds what’s working.
  • Criticism condemns what it doesn’t understand. Critique asks for clarification.
  • Criticism is spoken with a cruel wit and sarcastic tongue. Critique’s voice is kind, honest, and objective.
  • Criticism is negative. Critique is positive.
  • Criticism is vague and general. Critique is concrete and specific.
  • Criticism has no sense of humor. Critique uses humor to soften the “blow” of the critique.
  • Criticism often looks for flaws in the writer as well as the writing. Critique addresses only what is on the page (screen my addition to the list) .https://chroniclesofharriet.com/2012/03/06/a-critic-critiques-criticism-critically/

 

Loved what this article had to say about the “vocal”fans.

It isn’t just Outlander dealing with fans who have crossed some sort of line of decency in the sand. Social media has given us access to creators and it has been a learning curve for them and frustrating to fans who aren’t the vocal minority.

This unfortunate behavior mostly comes from vocal minorities. But it’s an unfortunate truth that those who yell the loudest are usually the first to be heard, which is how you get TV writers blinking in panic at the idea of having to cater to fan whims. I wouldn’t be surprised if, despite saying otherwise, fan backlash results in far less communication between creators and fans, rather than more.

Creators and fans need to find middle ground before creators shut fans out completely   http://www.vox.com/2016/6/8/11885562/tv-fans-the-100-fandom

Make no mistake, this is what will happen…it already has…

 

But, …the fans lament, I can’t believe fans concerns aren’t LISTENED to (translation: why aren’t you doing what I want)

…And the amazing news, as far as creators are concerned, is that the explosion of social media might have opened up communication between the artists and their fans, but it’s by no means equalized it. Major studios and publishers, and the creators they’ve chosen to invest in, still have a bigger megaphone than any of their fans on Twitter. They just have less privilege, less complete protection from a dialogue with their audience, than before. Some still find ways to choose not to have that dialogue. That’s fine; it’s their right.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/are-fans-getting-too-entitled_us_5750ab2ce4b0ed593f13e893

 

Loved this too…lack of empathy…let’s insult the people the creators and cast care about and then act surprised when they get upset…smh…

Fan entitlement, or something like it, can be hurtful—especially for creators who work on beloved franchises like Doctor Who or Star Wars, where fans feel a strong sense of ownership of long-running characters. But fan entitlement is an attitude problem, brought on by a lack of thoughtfulness and empathy. It’s not an umbrella term for every fandom reaction, from death threats to hashtag activism.  http://www.dailydot.com/parsec/fandom-harassment-captain-america-ghostbusters-devin-faraci/

Critique (I just did. I told you I thought the scene was better before the edit and why without taking it personally or damning anyone to hell) can be productive when it is truly critique.

 

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I would not be surprised if Outlander’s folks are setting new boundaries as we speak….

With social media increasing consumers’ access to producers, fans and creators are still negotiating their boundaries online. Sometimes, a handful of fans will wildly overreact to a creative decision (the emphasis is mine) and behave like immature dicks. Sometimes, a creator will misinterpret a piece of constructive criticism as a personal attack and freak out. Occasionally, a hashtag campaign like #OscarsSoWhite or The 100‘s lesbian death backlash will start a productive conversation that might inspire real, positive change.

http://www.dailydot.com/parsec/fandom-harassment-captain-america-ghostbusters-devin-faraci/

 

 

Here is my point, we have NO idea what happened.  Maybe they made a poor choice maybe they didn’t have a choice.  Is the show ruined?  Are folks going to continue to beat the “Ron doesn’t get it” dead horse?  You don’t have to like every decision, but for God’s sake it’s a TV show and these are real people who work hard and take pride in their art.  I understand folks have been waiting a long time to see “their” story on the screen and are disappointed it wasn’t delivered exactly the way they hoped, but you might want to consider cutting the creators and cast a break …it isn’t personal.  And,  if I was a creator?  I’d be building a fence, an electric one…

 

Great insight… From someone who knows…Outlander from a scriptwriter’s perspective 

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I’ve said this before, but one of the great things about writing a blog is hearing from people from all walks of life. In the past,  I’ve posted comments from actors and producers because of their unique perspective.  This past week , I heard from someone who adapts books into scripts for TV.  We all would like to think we know how to adapt Outlander for the screen (just look anywhere the show is discussed on social media), but this person KNOWS.  She agreed to let me share her thoughts in a post.  

Thanks Lori! 



I am an avid Outlander fan. Been reading the books since they were each released. I remember being at the library for each subsequent release and waiting anxiously for them to catalog it so I could be the first to take it home. (LOL – it got to the point that they’d call me the second it came in – small town libraries are wonderful!) That said, I am now a screenwriter. It has been my job to adapt books and stories for the screen.

There’s a lot that goes into storytelling on the screen that is totally different from what’s on the page. The reason that the books are always better is that an author has no limitation whatsoever in what they imagine. It can all come to pass. But for the screen, a variety of things need to be considered. Budget. Pacing. How does the action happen from point A to point B” Would the carving of their initials slow down the overall pace or cause it to stutter. Would it add to the storyline in the future? Is it something easily done by the props department or could that one scene add a hefty amount to the budget? On that one specifically, it would add a bit of a headache for the makeup department – ANYTIME their hands would be shown in the future, the initials would need to be exact. precise, and there. It adds a bit of a headache for continuity purposes. Cause I promise the second they would be seen without it, there would be an uproar! Heck, fans are angry now because it isn’t the proper hand on Jamie that was injured by BJR. I have seen entire blog posts on it -and that’s a simple one to explain!

When adapting to for film, you need to take the book (whatever length it is – 300? 500?) and put it into about 90-120 pages. MAYBE 150 if you have a good budget and are able to put a longer version into theaters. For television, it’s usually 42 pages per episode. That isn’t a lot of space to get in all the good stuff. And sometimes you just need to switch things up a bit to make the story flow better.

This is, by far, the best adaptation I have seen from page to screen. They have been beautifully faithful to the books. Often, when buying or optioning the rights to books, the filmmakers love the story, but they want to tell it their own way. They see it more as an inspiration. I have been brought in often by authors because they know how much I love the source material and that I will usually remain faithful to it rather than try to change it to make it my own. I have had a couple of authors who have given me leave to run with their characters and build what I want from their universe (Jodi Thomas was beautiful about that – just want to give a shout out there!) but more often than not, it’s the other way around. And authors just aren’t as understanding of how storytelling goes on the screen because it’s so different.

I deeply admire the creative team and showrunners on Outlander. I watch each episode and come away utterly delighted from the fan perspective and blown away as a writer. I know the razor’s edge they walk in order to keep fans of the books happy AND reach out to new viewers who have never read the books. It’s a horrible balancing act and it’s rarely done as well as it has been here.
:) Thank you for highlighting some of the differences and showing perspective on this!:) Love your wraps/insight!  Lori Twichell (@Twichie)

 

 

My answer to the Outlander adaptation question…Episode 2×13

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My first reaction after seeing episode 13 Dragonfly in Amber was to think of some of the book lovers’ reactions to the adaptation.  I could literally hear the disappointment.  Where was the scene where they cut their initials into each other’s flesh?  Where was that final night together? But, then almost simultaneously, I thought, “but… it’s such a great story”.  There is always an element of review in my reflections, but usually I find something in an episode that stood out or lingers in my mind and I reflect and expound.  This week it was the idea of telling a good story and adaptation.

I had a Twitter friend recently send me a private message that disputed the term adaptation in regards to Outlander.

 …Your piece this week makes me want to discuss something. The difference between an adaptation of a book and something based on a book and something inspired by a book. All points on a line. There is probably a legal distinction in the entertainment industry, but with regards to Outlander, at what point should they stop calling it an adaptation and start calling it based on. I read the description that Matt Roberts gave of an adaptation as a child and the book as the parent. I don’t know if that is a fair analogy. Wouldn’t that be more of a reimagining of a book rather than an adaptation? I would love to see you write a piece pondering this…

I guess this feels like the right time to ponder this topic and so, I started looking for answers.  As an avid fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series, I have struggled with this whole adaptation thing.  I will say over time my understanding and feelings toward the changes from book to screen have changed.  I have become more accepting and find myself looking forward to seeing those changes.  However, I am not without sympathy for those who still struggle and certainly believe as fans we have every right to discuss what we liked and didn’t like and what we thought worked and didn’t work.  Critique is good. Discussion is good. After doing a bit of lite research and thinking about the past two seasons of Outlander, my answer to my Twitter friends question is…yes. Outlander is an adaptation and a good one.

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THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

In my lite research, I read articles on writing scripts, story-telling, and adaptation of books to screen. The one thing they all seemed to have in common was the belief that nailing down what makes a story good is very difficult and even harder to put into concrete terms.  Every author I read, who attempted to list steps or describe a formula for creating a good story,  made sure to include a caveat that said following their formula certainly didn’t guarantee that your script would move from plot to great story. There is a certain intangibility that we all seem to recognize, but find hard to define.

One of those folks that tried to describe what makes a story good was Chuck Wendig, novelist, screenwriter, and game designer;

…A story is interesting. A story lets us see ourselves in it — and it is in that way both a unique snowflake and a universal precept. Or, more to the point, the story is the unique delivery system by which we get to talk about universal concepts and problems. We can talk about a THING WE ALL UNDERSTAND by framing it around a narrative unique to the author — every character and setting and conflict is a potential lens through which we can look upon this universal problem. Story takes this lens and it helps us to see old problems in new ways. Stories make us feel and think. Stories have power. Stories move us, shape us, and do the same to the world. It does this in the way that a song can do it. It has rhythm, like a song — slow to fast, up and down and then up again. Pause, leap, wait, then run. Stories are not a manicured garden. They’re an unruly forest –

A tangle of thorns in which we find ourselves happily ensnared.

… story is a hard thing to understand. Writers put words to paper, but storytellers take those words — or images, in the case of film and TV and comics — and spin that dross into candy floss. Writers make horses. Storytellers fucking make unicorns, man.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/06/07/what-exactly-makes-a-damn-good-story/comment-page-2/

In my readings, I found a lot of academic articles for scriptwriters that further the idea that certain elements can be found in good story-telling, but by far the most interesting and applicable article I read was an AV Club article written as a conversation between two film critics.  Tasha Robinson and Scott Tobias’ article What Makes a Good Film-to-Book Adaptation? is well worth the read for anyone still struggling to get a hold on the adaptation process and what makes for a good story for both book lovers and those who have never read the source material.  They used their take on the movie Hunger Games to discuss the issues with movies adapted from books. http://www.avclub.com/article/what-makes-a-good-book-to-film-adaptation-71545  They both reference each others’ reviews of the movie and one written by the NPR critic Linda Holmes. This article was so full of great points that I had a hard time picking out which ones to share!  The main idea however is that adaptations have certain responsibilities to fans of the source material, but that following a book too closely has its own pitfalls.

Holmes: Odd to think that some fans — certainly not all or even most, but some — might, for all their constant desire to see a faithful adaptation, leave the film feeling like they’ve seen the book almost exactly, as if they didn’t need to see it at all. To be honest, this is the sense I had, as someone who really enjoyed the books. I felt like the film was very good, but not strictly necessary, precisely because it seemed to be made from a bit of a defensive stance, where the biggest worry was making sure fans didn’t get mad. Other than the appearance of the residents of the Capitol, it’s not particularly visually inventive, and while it’s comforting to see that an adaptation has respected the imagery of the book, in most cases, it’s faithful to the point of not adding anything you haven’t seen in your head when you read the book. The adaptation, in that sense, is skilled but not quite as special as it might have been.  http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2012/03/22/149145605/what-fans-will-love-and-what-they-might-not-in-the-hunger-games

Robinson: …One of your main points in that review was that the film hewed too closely to the book. You called it “stenography in light,” and said when a book-to-film adaptation sets out to be faithful to the source material, “the best result is a skillful abridgment.” Most painfully to me, you said this: “A book is a book and a movie is a movie, and whenever the latter merely sets about illustrating the former, it’s a failure of adaptation, to say nothing of imagination.”

Few things get me as tetchy as a film adaptation of an excellent book that doesn’t trust the material, and alters it to be more conventional and banal (like the ending of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, for instance), or alternately, more lurid and prurient (like the violence in Watchmen). All too often, it seems like even the biggest bestsellers are deemed not commercial enough in content

Tobias: …if book-to-film adaptations can fail by being too faithful or by being not faithful enough, what’s left?…doing right by a great book and being faithful to it are, to my mind, two separate issues. Skillful as it is, The Hunger Games suffers from all the pitfalls of faithfulness that I noted in my review and Linda Holmes addressed above: It hits all the expected plot points from a novel that offers a straightforward cinematic blueprint, but it feels thinned-out as a result…What I want is not faithfulness, but an active engagement with the material, which doesn’t have to preclude faithfulness…The question filmmakers should ask is not, “How can I bring this story to the screen without losing anything?,” but “What in this book do I want to emphasize?” If you’re reading a book, I think it’s natural to home in on themes, characters, and scenes that are most meaningful to you, but a good adaptation has to make choices about what’s truly important. And it also has to exist independently from the novel…

Robinson: …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. Whereas when I see the movie first, I go to the book looking not for the same story, but for a greater insight into the characters…

…Both book and film should be addressed as independent entities. …This means not going into an adaptation with a mental checklist of things that must be in the movie to make it good, and evaluating a film based on what’s on the screen, not what got left off. In that sense, a “good adaptation” may have to involve a good-faith effort from the viewers, who participate in the process by giving that story a chance on its own terms… But it takes two to tango. If viewers have a responsibility not to see a book as an unalterable outline for the film, then filmmakers have a responsibility to respect the book, to acknowledge that there’s a reason they’re telling this story, rather than another story altogether… Filmmakers should ask “What in this book do I want to emphasize?” The key words are “in this book.” Meaning, part of a good adaptation is knowing what to cut or revise, even if it makes the fans cry, but part of it is maintaining a meaningful relationship to the source material.

As you can see this is a great conversation that examines this issue from several perspectives.  I measured Outlander against the “standards” based on what I had learned about good adaptation.

 

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  • There is an overall theme not just a checklist of plot points from the books: a man and woman from vastly different backgrounds keeping their own integrity while caring about what is really important in life, providing for and protecting what is important; God, Family, Country and above all else love.
  • They knew why they were adapting THIS story : Ron, Maril, Matt, and Starz all knew why they wanted to tell this story.  They picked Outlander, they could have picked a show to produce with male-centric themes and familiar plots.  Instead, they chose to tell a different kind of story.  A story that was genre-bending and complex with a female protagonist.

“Diana has created an incredibly compelling heroine, thrust into a very complex world, not to mention, time.  The books weave a fascinating tapestry of history, spirituality, love and honor, not to mention plenty of time travel, sex and warfare.  With Diana’s stories guiding us and Ron’s mastery, we hope to bring Claire and Jamie to life for the millions of fans the world over.” Chris Albrecht, CEO Starz

  • It was a great mix of nods to the book readers and yet it was novel enough to give us all surprises. In this episode particularly, I was struck with how like Diana’s books the season was; everything and everyone they wrote had a role to play and everything got connected.  I loved the little bits of Jamie we saw in Brianna, “I don’t understand, but I believe you…Only the truth between us”, Gellis’ question “Why are you here?” and Roger’s “fucking barbecue”, and everything that happened when Claire visited Lallybroch including a lovely nod to the book lovers with the “thousand kisses’ poem, just to name a few.
  • They told an honest story about life’s truths.  My God, when I think about what they weren’t afraid to show us!  I didn’t always agree (the rape of Fergus), but I will defend their choices because no one can make me believe that the same group of people who took their time showing the aftermath of Jamie’s trauma and Claire’s loss of her child did not think carefully about every part of this story and how to show it to us. We witnessed amazing award worthy performances and ground-breaking TV.
  • The characters were interesting people who evolved. They took their time and let us watch these characters struggle and grow. The TV version of Jamie is more relatable, less funny IMHO, but less perfect. He was still being portrayed as a young man with “nice feelings” , emotional intelligence, a man who thinks on his feet.  However, he was also allowed to fumble a bit (Lallybroch comes to mind) just like any young man in his situation would.  He ISN’T perfect, but true to Jamie form he always gets it right in the end.  He is a wonderful example of what it means to be a man and that includes owning up when you’ve made a mistake and not being afraid to try a new way of thinking.  Those things I truly loved about book Jamie are still there loyalty, integrity, bravery, sensitivity, vulnerability, and the ability to love unselfishly.  How often have you seen a man portrayed like that on TV?  And Claire? Has a woman portrayed on TV ever been allowed to be as one critic said “a true superhero” ?  Claire has always made me proud to be a woman and TV Claire has just reinforced that I was right to feel this way.  The show has managed to show the world that a woman can be all things; strong , smart, compassionate, sexually confident, gentle, loving, and fiercely protective of those she loves.  “Remind me not to get on your bad side Sassenach”.  She hasn’t been portrayed as perfect either. Tell the truth, how many of you wanted to reach through the screen and shake her for not keeping her mouth shut! They even let Black Jack seem human at times which challenged our thinking.
  • It was a roller-coaster ride of conflicts and feelings.  At times, I worried that there wasn’t enough time between the shit-storms this couple constantly faced.  But, they kept us wondering how Jamie and Claire would find a way back to each other after all the myriad of crises and tragedies a marriage can face.
  • They suspended our disbelief and helped us believe this world and this story were real despite its fantastical nature.  This show was a wonder; a visual feast set to music, Paris and Scotland. The love, creativity, and talent that this show was created with continues to stagger.

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IMHO they did the things good adaptations do. They kept it their own vision while honoring the source material for book lovers.  They told a whole story not just the love story, but they did tell the love story too.  As Chuck Wendig said, “Story is all the stuff. All the fibrous material and intangible air surrounding the fiddly bits. The story is the whole beast. It’s the whole animal. And you have to use the whole animal”. They showed us the whole human story contained in  Outlander. They didn’t show us a horse, they showed us a “fucking unicorn”.

 

 

 

Marathons, Fan Art, and Adaptation…A look ahead to Outlander episode 2×13

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The new Outlandish Anticipation post is up!

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Beth-TopperI feel so out of the loop!  So, much has happened since the last time I wrote anything about Outlander!  Forgive me if I seem a bit uninformed, but there is no way I could get caught up.  I just got a chance to see my DVR’d episode 2×12 The Hail Mary this Sunday.  I’d do a review, but I’m pretty sure it was covered in a timely manner.  I haven’t read any recaps or reviews, but it has been pretty hard to avoid comments on social media the few times I’ve been on.  Sex or lack there of seems to be the topic of conversation. My guess is the conversation is surrounding the entire season rather than this last episode.  The perception is that fans have somehow been cheated and that the core of the story of  Jamie and Claire’s relationship diminished.  One of the comments I saw said…

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The Madonna Breaks…A Reflection on Outlander 2.7

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A BROKEN MADONNA

I remember the blood most of all. The blood that wasn’t supposed to be there. The blood that was too much. The blood that wouldn’t stop. I remember lying on a sterile table in a cold sterile room surrounded by strangers. I stared up at the operating room lights and tried not to feel as I heard their efforts to clean my womb. I remember the pain that did not result in joy and always the child that would only live in corners of my soul.

Last week, in my look ahead to episode 7, I discussed miscarriage http://wp.me/p57847-o0A.  I talked of statistics, grief, and guilt. My readers told me their stories of loss and lingering sorrow. My own story resulted in the decision to not have more children, but they told me of bravely trying again and as a result, finally experiencing the joy of motherhood. Others shared that they had tried and tried again…and again. I cannot fathom how they coped with that cycle of hope and despair.  All shared they had never forgotten the children they never knew. I was moved by their stories.  And, so, I hoped that Outlander would be able to show us a story that reflected the truth of expectancy miscarried.  They did. They showed us a broken Madonna.

This was storytelling at its best. They told a honest tale of how sometimes life breaks us and they did it with such astounding insight. Once again, Outlander has honored its subject matter by allowing the audience to see the full measure of the effects of an event like miscarrying a child. They didn’t gloss over, sensationalize or romanticize Claire’s trauma instead they chose to show us the depth of this woman’s suffering that then allowed the audience to experience empathy in a powerful way. This episode showed us the power of compassion and forgiveness.

THE STAGES OF GRIEF

I don’t know if the writers and producers decided to show us Claire navigating the stages of grief, but it is what I saw and I was able to respond to the story they were telling with connections to my own life and experiences with grief.

DENIAL

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My daughter is a photographer and especially gifted at capturing images of people’s beauty and personality.  She has volunteered to take pictures of servicemen in that moment they finally come home to their families and birthday parties for 95 year-old grandmas or grandpas who may not be here much longer, and Senior portraits for a girl who is confined to a wheelchair and disfigured from a car accident and needs to feel beautiful, and pictures of babies “born dead”.  She volunteered because she felt it was important, a way to help these grieving parents say goodbye.  But, she found she couldn’t despite a desire to help because it was just too much, too much grief, too much sadness.  She needed to stop for her own self-care.  

I don’t often write about the actual filming of the scenes, but, the way the camera closed in, panned out or gave us angles of perspective added so much to the telling of this story. We are first given a close up of Claire’s face her eyes swollen with crying, pale, expressionless and reminiscent of Jamie on the pallet at Wentworth. The camera pans out so that we may float on the ceiling looking down on the blood and the birth turned butchery. She later awakens and we see her try to make sense of where she is and what has happened. They kept it real and allowed Claire to be a woman whose body has been changed by her pregnancy instead of bowing to a sexier/less realistic representation. I knew what she felt when she touched that empty belly so recently vacated.  Her panic was a true indication that she knows something is wrong and yet,…denial, ” No, it isn’t possible”.  Her confusion and changing feelings were all expressed in rapid and yet moving succession. She demanded and pleaded for the baby she knew must be there. The flashback scenes of her holding and crooning her love to her dead baby were so poignant.  

A worried Mother Hildegarde calls in Louise to try and reach her friend who won’t surrender her dead baby. As Louise approaches Claire, we see her touch her own child and we feel her compassion for another mother.

“She is an angel.”

No metaphor was ever more true and Claire knows it is time to let go, but how? When she kissed her child goodbye, I took a ragged breath and said a small prayer for all those who must kiss their children goodbye.

ANGER

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When I was in eighth grade, my Uncle Chuck  finally came home from Vietnam and my grandmother finally got to take the placard of a star, that designated them the parents of a soldier, out of the parlor window. He seemed to be adjusting well and she was finally able to sleep at night without worrying that a uniformed soldier might come to her door with news. It wasn’t a soldier who came to her door it was a deputy sheriff.

I remember being woken in the middle of the night by my mother’s voice raised in anger. She was screaming “How could he!  How could he!”.  I wandered down the stairs and was confused by the tableau I saw in our dining room.  I couldn’t figure out why my Uncle Harry was there or why my step-father was hanging his head with tears in his eyes or why my mother was furious. My Uncle Chuck was home one month from his third tour in Vietnam and was killed in a car accident trying to avoid hitting a deer.  My mother was angry because he had gotten himself killed.  This was my first exposure to the different forms grief can take.  The anger isn’t always rational, but someone must be blamed for such an inconsolable loss.

Mother Hildegarde’s conversation with Claire was a brilliant example of what often happens in the case of miscarriage/still birth. Claire is grieving and she is filling in the “utter void” left by Faith with anger and blame directed at Jamie.  The dialogue here was so revealing of grief and the use of anger to cope.

“My husband betrayed me mother… a year of mercy is all I asked…Revenge mattered  more to him than me or his child.  He might as well have run his sword through me”.

“God bids us to revel in mercy, tread sins underfoot, and throw iniquities into the sea.”

“I’m not sure there is a sea deep enough”.

Many who experience such loss cope by wrapping themselves in blame, naming sins, and never find that sea.

BARGAINING

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I promise I’ll never…I promise I will…If you give me this…

Very few of us that grieve have not at least thought of a bargain with God or the universe. Like children we beg and offer to change or sacrifice if only this would not be true.  Claire doesn’t bargain for Faith and I was so moved by her expression of total loss, “My sins are all I have”.  Acknowledging she is still angry with Jamie, once she hears why he broke his promise she bargains for his life with her virtue, “I will count it among the things I’ve lost in Paris”.

DEPRESSION

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When bargaining doesn’t work and anger exhausts us, depression moves in.  Our loss colors everything.  We see the world through grey fog.  Life has beaten us and changed us.

Claire’s fragility was so piteous. We could tell by the troubled look on wee Fergus’ face and the offering of flowers he still held that the woman we were about to see was altered.  I was so moved by the servants waiting to welcome an obviously loved Milady home. I couldn’t help but feel those steps from the carriage to the house were some of the most difficult she has ever taken. Even in her weakened state she tries so hard to give these people what she can.  Her not allowing Magnus to bow to her and bowing to him instead was so Claire.  She is not a respecter of personage, she does not judge anyone by anything but their heart.  

We see her face devoid of emotion as Fergus brushes her hair,…a child caring for an adult is always so heart breaking.  It’s not supposed to be that way. Then when she is drawn to the spoons, I was reminded of unused baby clothes and a prepared nursery waiting for a child that will never come and I understood how this joyous gift now only serves as a reminder of her loss. She angrily pulls on her robe in the need to take some sort of action and quickly realizes she has nowhere to go and nothing she can do and falls apart.  

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Loss changes us.  But, life it goes on.  Acceptance is the bittersweet stage of the grieving process. It isn’t about suddenly being okay or “over it” because we are never okay with this kind of loss. It is rather about accepting a new reality.

The “will you make me beg”scene between Jamie and Claire was one of my favorites in the books and one of the three scenes I picked preseason as having the potential for award winning performances.  The scene was different from the books, but no less convincing in its portrayal of the power of acceptance, compassion and forgiveness.  

“The weight of what has happened here is too much for anyone of us to bear alone. The only way we can live with it is to carry it. Together.”

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In my opinion, Outlander has fulfilled its promise of being something different.  They continue to show us the story of two decent people who want to do the right thing and struggle with choices, people who admit their mistakes, make sacrifices for the sake of others, and choose to forgive. It is a rarity on TV to be sure. There was so much in this episode to write about and talk about, but I think for now, I’ll concentrate on this story-line of loss and how it affects everyone it touches. This breathtakingly wonderful adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s story of Jamie and Claire was able to capture the depth and wonder of this rich and complex story.  I would like to thank everyone who has so lovingly cared for this story, the actors who moved me, the writers who spoke to my heart, those who guided performances and filmed perspectives that added to our understanding, those that helped create the costumes and sets that helped suspend our disbelief and made these people and this world real.
This episode reminded me once again of how lucky we are to have had this story given over to such a serendipitous group of people. People who care.  I thought of all the complaining about shortened episodes, petty differences from the book, a heroine characterized as selfish, and a lack of sex in the former episodes and wondered how difficult it must have been for them all to stay silent knowing what was to come in this episode.  I wouldn’t have traded that moment of Claire’s self-awareness and Jamie’s compassion for all the hot sex in the world. There are wonderful lessons to be learned about what it means to be human here for those who care to look and I for one will have “faith” that Ron D. Moore and company will continue to do honor to the story of Jamie and Claire.  

The return of the King….of Men…my reflection on Outlander episode 2.5

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I’m sitting here in the early morning hours after having watched Outlander episode 5 and trying to give words to my impressions.  Although we were treated to The King of France in his caped and emblazoned uniform it was another King that caught my eye. “Untimely Resurrection” ?  Not for me.  James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, King of Men, was resurrected today.  We’ve come full circle.  Today, I saw the Jamie and Claire we have all been waiting for…

This episode was full of wonderful moments of character development (mark me Sandringham is no fool), irony, and subtle foreshadowing.

Jamie and Claire

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I was thrilled to see the show open with these quiet moments with Jamie and Claire. Their dialogue with each other was so natural.  There wasn’t any hesitancy, no carefully measured words.  They were totally and completely present with each other.  What ever wall stood between them has been broke down. They were once again two that are one. For me, the scene that most proved their unity was when Claire was finally able to be vulnerable. Her confessing her fears about motherhood to Jamie signaled that she no longer saw him as fragile.  When he was able to offer her reassurance and called her his “brown haired lass” once again?  I tearfully smiled along with Claire.  You got the sense that no matter what else happened they were going to be okay.

Jamie

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Annaliese was not the only one to recognize that Jamie is no longer a simple impulsive boy, I saw a man today, as well. I saw a Jamie who is rapidly gaining back his sense of self. There is a confidence in his speech and the way he carries himself.  He is able to give reassurance not only to Claire, but to Murtagh because he actually has something to give. He isn’t an empty shell anymore.  Like most of us, he has most certainly been changed by the things he experienced. I think we will always see the shadow of Wentworth on Jamie’s face, but I believe that there is some truth in the old adage that what does not kill us only makes us stronger. There is real power in knowing that you are a survivor, that you can come out the other side of something so inconceivable. It is difficult to imagine that this Jamie could be shaken by anything or anyone…except Claire.  Johnathan Randall was correct in assessing that the only true way to reach Jamie was through his love for Claire.

Black Jack

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As Black Jack approached they slowed the camera down… again…dammit…every time they do that I think …crap.  As the camera slows, we know something terrible is coming, something that will change things forever…things will never be the same.

The first thing I want to address is the way Tobias Menzies said Claire’s name. Aside from the fact that Jack feels intimately acquainted enough with them to call them Jamie and Claire, the sick rat bastard, did anyone else hear Frank!?!  I believe I said out loud “That wasn’t Black Jack that was Frank! No wonder she flinches.  How can she possibly not see BJR!”.  The exchange that follows between between Claire and Randall was was the stuff of nightmares.  The irony that it took place in the bright sun in a beautiful garden was brilliant literally and figuratively.  A waking nightmare.

Once again, I am so impressed with the subtle performances. How the frick did they make Claire’s face drain of color? And, the desirous inflection in “Jamie’s here…where?”  I wanted to vomit myself.  I think I could go on forever about how this was filmed and scripted.  The symbolism.  The irony.  They can’t escape him.  Their paths continue to cross.

“Unbelievable. The fates are toying with us now.  Setting our feet on seemingly divergent paths and yet, somehow converging…”

She tries escape.  He blocks her path.  She tries again and he grabs her.  She tells him to let her go, but he won’t.  Will they ever be rid of him?

And then, the King,…despite what has just went down they all still have a role to play. Claire, bless her glass face, struggles to get it in under control and I LOVE that about her! In fact, through out the episode we were treated to Claire showing her feelings on her face for all the world to see should they care to look.  She is such a moral, caring person and none of this sits very well with her, but she pushes down her feelings because the lives of so many hang in the balance.

I loved this scene with the King because well, who didn’t love seeing Jack on his knees?!   I loved that Claire continues to baffle him.  When the King kisses her hand and compliments her BJR just couldn’t keep from looking at her with puzzlement.  He just doesn’t seem to understand the power she wields.  Although I delighted in seeing Jack humiliated while Jamie watches (I loved the little jabs the two men couldn’t help but take at each other), I was struck by the fact that Randall is now the one in the position of begging for love of another.  He is a human after all , despite my doubts.

Claire thinks she has gotten them away from an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation.  But, Jamie will not we deterred.  I was watching the exchange between the two men as anxiously as Claire and felt her fear.  What the HELL was that touch on Jamie’s heart about?  And, why the hell didn’t Jamie rip his sadistic hand off his arm?!

And, …best delivered line ever….” He said he owed me a debt (death)” Good Lord, the images that brought to mind. (giving a wink of acknowledgement for that one Richard Kahan)

The Final Scene

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This scene was everything.  Preseason, I wrote about what scenes in the book I thought had potential to garner awards.  This scene was one of them,

The scene that follows when Jamie realizes what she has done is filled with feelings of betrayal, disbelief, and then outrage when she begs him to promise not to kill Black Jack for her sake.

“How can you ask it of me?  You of all people…”

How could she ask him? How could she not? This scene will ask the viewer the questions “What would you ask of or do for those you love?” and “What are you willing to risk to do the right thing?”  Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan will have the chance to show us.

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How could she ask him? Caitriona Balfe accurately and movingly portrayed Claire’s struggle.  She and Jamie have finally found each other again.  Despite all that has happened they are sharing their burdens and looking forward to their child, the miracle result of their love for one another.  She knows exactly what happened to Jamie at Wentworth.  She knows what it did to him and has watched him suffer for months.  She knows what news of BJR survival did for Jamie’s recovery.  She has to know that by asking him to spare Black Jack’s life she risks throwing her own happiness and future away.  Most importantly, she WILL be hurting Jamie, so newly come back to her and himself.  A shattering choice and decision yet,….how can she not ask him?  It is only a matter of time. A delay only.  A delay that makes all the difference for another man she loves.  A man who has done nothing, but be the wrong man in the wrong time.  An innocent man.

Like Jamie, Claire is a person of honor.  She also pays her debts.  She owes Frank. She owes her own integrity and the honesty she promised Jamie.  If she doesn’t ask Jamie to wait to exact his revenge, she believes she would be guilty of murder and that would always be between them. Either way she risks a ruined relationship and so,she must act on her conscience’s urging.  Claire is a brave woman worthy of emulation and admiration. She feels the fear and does the right thing anyway.

Jamie’s reaction and Sam’s performance; his disbelief, his anger and outrage, his feelings of betrayal, his struggle with his honor and love of Claire were all there.  My heart broke when I heard the break in his voice and my own eyes filled with his unshed tears. His warrior spirit rises to the challenge once again as his kisses the blade and pledges his oath to Claire once more.

And, he doesn’t leave…powerful…

I’m waiting to hear the inevitable complaints, but quite frankly, I thought the episode was perfection.  After having watched it for a third time this morning, I would be really hard pressed to identify anything to complain about. I really could write pages on this episode and all it developed and revealed.  There were departures from the book, but once again I felt they were all in keeping with what was plausible including Claire’s attempts to right things for Frank with Alex and Mary. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say. They have been trying to change the future the whole time they were in France why wouldn’t assuring Frank’s survival be part of that. Her confusion and regret only added to the angst of her later decision with Jamie.

Kudos to Richard Kahan , Douglas McKinnon, and well, just everybody who holds a camera, designed or sews a costume, designs or builds a set, just… everybody.  This is such a wonderful quality production. I can’t believe this was episode five already.  I don’t want to spoil this for myself by thinking of the end of the season, but the weeks are flying by and I know I will soon be without an episode of Outlander to look forward to.  So, I’m storing each precious gem of an episode in my DVR jewel box.  They aren’t my books, but what they are is a… wonder.