I’d like to believe that even the purest of source-material purists among us would agree that the small-screen adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander has benefited greatly from the increased presence of Claire’s left-behind-love Frank. After all, how tortured can a love triangle really be when the third party is missing in action? Ever since our heroine disappeared through the standing stones, we’ve been reminded—through both bittersweet flashbacks and pained present-day moments—what really is at stake if Claire decides to stay in 1743 Scotland with Jamie.
Note: Due to an editing gaffe, this recap was accidentally posted early. EW regrets the error.
This show is full of spectacular butts.
Sorry—I was struggling with how to start this recap. After all, “The Wedding” (alternate title: “9 1/2 Weeks in the Highlands”) is a big episode, and arguably the most anticipated of the season. So much pressure! So many things to say! So I just went with the first thing that popped to mind. (But seriously: If Caitriona Balfe’s personal trainer is reading this, please call me.)
Though we’re only six episodes deep into a 16-episode first season, I’d bet a dozen of the Laird’s finest horses that Outlander producers will submit “The Garrison Commander” for Emmy consideration. Indeed, it’s a quality hour of television: artful directing, strong writing, and rousing performances by both Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies. Especially Menzies, who’s so far only been able to showcase slivers of what he’s capable of.
There comes a moment in every young time-traveler’s journey when she must ask herself the question: “Will I use the knowledge I have of the future to affect past events?” And that moment for Claire Beauchamp is now. Sure, she’s been using her 20th-century skills to remedy 18th-century ails, but one could argue that the impact of those ministrations is minimal.
As the events of “The Gathering” unfolded, I couldn’t help but yearn for my very own 18th-century Emily Post (MacPost?) to explain the intricacies of Highland etiquette. After all, one misplaced oath could mean your head. (I can’t even begin to imagine the punishment for eating all of the Laird’s biscuits!) Our heroine could have used some customs training as well, seeing as it was Claire’s (understandable) naïvete that put Jamie in mortal peril (and after she spent weeks tending to his wounds).
Despite several juicy plot points—exorcism! clandestine makeouts! rescue missions!—Outlander’s third episode was the first to only negligibly drive the overall narrative forward. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if it didn’t feel as though “The Way Out” were hitting us about the head with The Great Bagpipes of Scottish History, going to great lengths to illuminate the customs and superstitions of the time. Two events specifically (one from Diana Gabaldon’s source material and one seemingly cooked up by executive producer-writer Ronald D.
A few fun facts about our be-kilted hero Jamie: He’s eaten grass (“It doesn’t taste bad, but it’s not very filling”), MacTavish isn’t his real surname (it’s a nom de guerre, if you will—and the reason no one ever seems to know who Claire is referring to as Mr. MacTavish), and he’s wanted for murder (which isn’t so much fun as potentially fatal, but let’s not start splitting hairs just yet).
“Yo, sh–, Outlander! You ever read this? Lady travels back in time to Scotland… Hooks up with this big sexy outlaw type, and they be gettin’ it day in and day out. Yo, it’s hot!”
The first of Diana Gabaldon’s eight-volume (so far) Outlander time-travel series hit shelves 23 years ago, giving plenty of time to amass millions of fans and build huge expectations. It’s an understatement to say that the sweeping saga of combat nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) — who travels from 1945 back to war-ravaged Scotland in 1743 — presented filming challenges. But Ronald D. Moore, the man behind the Battlestar Galactica reboot, wasn’t afraid to shake things up for the screen.
With a reputation for gratuitous flesh and boning, Starz is the last place you’d expect to find a mature love story. But the pleasantly surprising Outlander gives us a romance between adults that feels adult, that’s sexy and smart and stirring. The drama — adapted from Diana Gabaldon’s book series — comes from Ronald D. Moore, who commanded Syfy’s reboot of Battlestar Galactica. He and his team conjure up 18th-century Scotland with equally impressive verisimilitude.
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