Warning: Contains spoilers from Outlander, Season 3 Episode 1: A Battle Joined
Welcome to my Outlander blog and thanks for reading! I’ve read the novels and love the television series and just had too many thoughts so here I am. Please enjoy.
We open in the most brutal way possible showing the aftermath of Culloden and Jamie’s flashback memories of the battle. These scenes were beautifully done and visually gripping. I know some think they went on for too long but, in my opinion, the length demonstrates the true extent of Jamie’s suffering. As others on the internet have opined, I think showing the battle through a series of flashbacks was a smart emotional choice. A battle is a subjective experience and by focusing on Jaime’s experiences we get a very intimate POV.
And speaking of intimate…I have no doubt this was intentionally shot this way to show an intimacy between Jack Randall and Jaime. Rape and sexual intimacy should in no way be conflated and I’m not suggesting that in the least. But these two men have shared truly dark moments together and in that shared history there is a different kind of intimacy; death is intimate, too, so I think the way they shot this is was fitting and poignant. I wonder how Tobias Menzies feels about saying goodbye to this monster of a man? Constantly tapping into sadistic emotions must be exhausting so I would imagine there is a part of him that is relieved in letting go of a character that essentially has raped or has tried to rape everyone (Jamie, Claire, Jenny, Fergus).
Also, Bonny Prince Charles is like, “this is TOTES not going well.”
Jumping to 1948 Boston we have an obviously damaged Claire putting on her best game face and suffering with a beautiful home with its annoying modern appliances. I kid because I love, but I hope this home was kept in the family because houses in Cambridge currently go for over $700/sq foot. None of this stove and fireplace story were in the books but I think these scenes do well in ways of exposition to show that Claire is clearly longing for her old way of life and frustrated by twentieth century domestic gender roles. It also gives her a new friend in the way of Millie Nelson. Not sure if this new female confidante will play a prominent role in the series as she, too, is a deviation from the novel but I sort of hope so. She’s fun and does her job well as a sort of chorus to explain to Claire, and us, what now is expected of her.
I thought I would show this picture of Claire since I’d be willing to bet that almost all of us have an old photograph of our grandmothers in this exact getup.
So the show sort of beats us over the head with evil bow-tied sexist old guy, but this scene demonstrates pretty well how Claire has traded one patriarchy for another. For me it’s a toss-up which one is the lesser of two evils. An eighteenth century woman was considered property and major life choices were pretty much at the whims of her father or husband. But a hard life necessitated that women also did manual labor and were viewed as integral members of a farm or estate. Claire is given more autonomy in the twentieth century but her opinions and her body are dismissed and outright insulted. Evil Harvard dude insults her intelligence and belittles her wartime service. Evil obstetrician dude ignores her wishes for a drug-free delivery. Even her new girlfriend, although she is being super nice and helpful, essentially dismisses Claire’s insistence that she can carry the firewood herself. Frank is happy with whatever she makes for dinner but still expects her to make dinner.
And this makes me wonder if this new role for Claire is a bit more shocking since she missed three immediate post-war years. She essentially went straight from the battlefront to 1743 with only a few months of post-war life in between. Is it more jarring for her to find herself in this relegated domesticity than if she had seen the societal expectations of a return to the kitchen happen more gradually?
These scenes also do a good job of laying down exposition and plot. So now we know that Claire is not impressed with post-war gender roles and we have the first inklings of marital discord.
Gender biases not withstanding, I think Frank comes off as pretty sympathetic in this episode and the series deviates a bit from the novels in this regard. I like the change. Frank is generally patient with her emotions and diplomatically attempts to stick up for Claire during the sexist Harvard guy stuff. He is essentially a good guy dealing with some pretty major and crazy life events (war intelligence! a disappearing wife! who’s pregnant with another man’s child! a man from two hundred years ago!) and he obviously has a jerk of a boss so his outburst in this episode is expected and understandable. I also like how the series is making Claire more of a flawed character. She will always be our heroine and she is understandably grieving but she is also more self-focused and less empathetic than she could be.
So back over to Culloden where Jaime gets a moving goodbye scene with Rupert and we are treated to the psychological torture of watching these men know they are about to die. Again, I think these farmhouse scenes were done very well. Without getting too spoilerish, the casting of Hal was pretty spot on from how I envisioned him in the novels and it’s fun to be introduced to characters we’ve known and have been expecting.
And we leave our heroes with unknown futures. Jamie is home but what does that mean? It was assumed he would die en-route so he is still a wanted man; his homecoming is bittersweet to say the least, especially since he has a deep bayonet gash that has no doubt left him anemic and septic. Claire delivers a healthy baby girl but every happy moment with this little family will have the shadows of loss and jealousy hanging over them.
Until next week! And, if you have made it this far AND feel inclined to comment that would be so awesome but I’m going to try really hard to keep spoilers from the novels out of the blog. Stuff that has already happened in Outlander or Dragonfly in Amber is okay to discuss.