The last 11 months haven’t been so bad, have they? A thing worth having is a thing worth waiting for, right? But finally, Jamie and Claire have embarked on their new adventure, attempting to settle down in America.
This production has had changes from the start – large and small, important, delightful, baffling. I’m sure that this season will be no different – last year, we were given an alive Murtagh, with the expectation that we’ll see him again this season (although not in the premiere). The biggest change we got in this episode was that Lesley and Hayes, Jamie’s fellow prisoners and print shop employees, stuck with MacDubh into the new world. This was interesting – in the book, it was the same Gavin Hayes who was hung, but he had been in America since prison. This wasn’t at all as wrenching a death as either Angus or Rupert – we never got that invested in either Lesley or Hayes, but to have them both die in this episode was a little harsh!
And having them both out of the picture, without other familiar Highlanders to fill roles we expect to see, leaves a lot of questions. How far will this season veer from what those of us who have read the books are waiting for? How will those storylines be changed? Will the now-live Murtagh fill any of those roles? Or will he be as quickly in and out of the story as Lesley and Hayes were?
The caithris Lesley (Keith Fleming) sings in the tavern for his friend Hayes is beautiful – Fleming has a lovely voice. I did miss the bit from the books where Fergus passes the hat to make a few spare coins, though.
Another change, but one we’re used to now, is the thematic reworking of the show’s opening music. I’ve enjoyed hearing what Bear McCreary does to adapt this traditional Scottish piece to the episode locations. Ok, maybe I wasn’t 100% thrilled with the island version last season, but I loved the French version. And this season, I love the banjo and fiddle! As the Scots adapted themselves to the new world, so has our theme song. Out of all of the geographic versions, this is my favorite.
We got a little glimpse of some of our lovely characters, as well. Young Ian now has his Rollo, his faithful companion. And John Bell gave us just the right tone, when, answering Jamie’s pronouncement that they would stay in America and build a new life, he says, “That’s a FINE idea!” Absolutely terrific – Ian is, after all, someone that things happen to, and John lets us know that he too is ready to face any and all new challenges.
It was great to see Fergus and Marsali again, after all these months! (And, honestly, after meeting Cesar Domboy and Lauren Lyle – AND John Bell – in Kansas City last spring, I was very excited to say hello!) Fergus’ character is really different in tone than in the book – he’s quieter and sweeter than his paper counterpart. And in truth, it’s a little difficult to reconcile the tone that Cesar brings to the role with the young Fergus we first met, in the person of the sassy and spirited Romann Berruxx; difficult, but not impossible. And as much as I love Cesar, I’ll accept it and love him for his own portrayal.
One thing I can tell you that I REALLY didn’t like was the 2001: A Space Odyssey opening. Yes, I get that it’s a callback to Season 1’s druid dance through the stones; but this and the opening voiceover were just pushing circle mythology right in our faces; maybe Claire’s opening monologue with a different visual would have been better. Yes, the stone circles are likely prehistoric in nature; certainly ancient man didn’t understand any better than modern man what happened to people on those spots – but did we need this pushed at us? We already accept the mythology the books and show present, that this is a true thing that people step through the stones and reappear in a different century. We don’t need any more myth-building.
God Isn’t Dead, He’s Just Not Here
There’s been another fairly subtle change that’s been made throughout the series. Diana Gabaldon is, herself, a devout Catholic, and imbued the books, and Jamie, with a deep religious belief. The practice of religion during the 18th century was extremely important to the lives of everyday people – the church was a major influence. Your religion, whether you were Church of England, or Jewish, or, as Jamie was, a “Papist” (Catholic), was a determining factor frequently in your ability to rise in the ranks of certain professions, among other things. Jamie had prayers for every occasion, it seemed, from the simplest “Lord let her and the child be safe,” to a gralloch prayer said when killing animals. And in the transition to the New World, that religious requirement was still seen – the fact that Jamie was Catholic, and not Church of England, was an impediment to his being given a grant of land, although, as the governor said, “There is the law, and then there is what’s done.”
The series has, except in a few notable moments, eliminated much of this religious influence. Yes, there was the priest that married Jamie and Claire to get new windows, and the hell-and-damnation Father Bain; the “stinking Papist” moment with Willie – but no gralloch prayer, no other mention of religion’s importance in Jamie’s life. And in this season, the removal of that facet takes away one major concern Jamie has over accepting the land grant – the Governor can hold his religion over his head to make him do what he wants, or risk having his grant rescinded.
Why has this been stripped from show? I assume it’s to make the production more palatable to either the non-religious or the extremely devout, both of whom might possibly be offended by these moments; or to streamline dialogue and discussion. But – and personally, I am not a religious person – I’ve always felt that Jamie’s deeply held beliefs are part of what has held him together for the many years of Claire’s absence, part of the depth of his character.
Claire, of course, is not a religious person, having been raised by the agnostic Uncle Lamb, but I think she is attracted to Jamie’s faith, even if she doesn’t share it. She understands that it contributes to the code he lives by, to his decisions as a man leading others through the world. Maybe it’s not everyone’s belief, or important to everyone – or even acceptable to everyone – but it’s part of Jamie. And with the other ways this character has been stripped down, pushed to less of a leading and more of a supporting role behind Claire’s elevation, it’s just another piece of Jamie’s character that I sorely miss.
A Bee in this Bonnet
There are a few pivotal moments in the entire Outlander saga, moments without which major storylines never could have happened, plots that caused such earth-shattering repurcussions that without them, the story couldn’t possibly be the same. Jamie’s torture and rape by Jack Randall is one of these; the battle of Culloden is another. And this season, the attack and theft of Claire’s ring by Steven Bonnet causes ripples that widen and expand through several more books (or seasons, if you look at it that way). Compared to the other two events, the theft of one small ring doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal – but it is. It puts in motion consequences that carry many major characters with it, and creates situations that can’t be changed without fundamentally altering many of the things we expect to see. So in that, I’m glad that this event wasn’t tampered with too much from the books (unlike the awkward handling of how Jamie ended up being captured by the Redcoats – which dropped a 10-ton stone on the Rabbie McNab storyline).
If you haven’t read the books, I won’t spoil what’s coming up (although I’m pretty sure my readership is primarily book fans). Suffice it to say that this is not a passing event. On its face, this is a minor theft – one with great importance to Claire, but life should go on, right? Well, it does…. but with consequences. To several major characters, for a very long time. It can be argued that the moment we should be looking at is actually when Jamie lets Bonnet go, shortly after the hanging – but at that point, Bonnet has the choice to walk away, and honor the word he gave to Jamie not to bother him again, and then he’s a minor character, not nearly as important as even Minister of Finance M. Duverney.
But the turning point IS the robbery, the irresistible lure of the jewels that Bonnet overhears Jamie and Claire discussing before they know he’s there. For Bonnet, it’s just an opportunity for some quick and easy loot; for Claire and Jamie, those stones represent their ability to make their own choices in this new world. And Claire’s rings are her ties to her past and her present – not required for her continued well-being, but certainly extremely important to her.
And given their history, the theft of Claire’s ring represents to Jamie another instance where he couldn’t protect her, like when the deserters tried to rape her in Season 1, and Claire had to kill one of them. The loss of the gems, the loss of Jamie’s ability to support Claire and the rest of his family, is another blow to Jamie’s sense of his own ability to behave the way a man should, making him dependent on others again.
Ed Speleers is terrific as Steven Bonnet. This was an excellent bit of casting! His magnetism and charm are certainly on display as Claire fixes his wound in the wagon, and they talk about his nightmares about drowning. He seems interested in Claire, and seems vulnerable and open. She’s taken in, maybe not completely trusting given the fact that he’s a felon condemned to hang, but his confession about his drowning nightmares strikes a chord in her.
But when he comes back with his crew, the charm and magnetism are gone. This scene was done with little dialogue, to a Ray Charles version of America The Beautiful. Put me in the camp of “I didn’t like it.” Sorry, but I really didn’t. When 1940s music was used during some of the Castle Leoch scenes in Season 1, I understood and enjoyed that. But I didn’t get this, I didn’t think it did justice to the importance of this moment. In one sense, it made too much of a moment that won’t be understood as pivotal for many people, leaving them wondering why it had such a strange treatment; and in another, it didn’t give ENOUGH importance to it for those of us who understand its ripples and consequences.
Perhaps doing it in a similar fashion, but with a different piece of music? The contrast between the horror of this scene, with Lesley’s death, Jamie’s beating, Claire’s humiliation, and the hopefulness and glorification of the country that this song brings – maybe that was the point? That even when you think you’ve found a new beginning, and you’re starting to feel like things could look up for you, that there’s someone waiting to bring you down and back to the squalid reality of life? I just didn’t get it.
This season should be terrific – I hope that they don’t shy away from the supernatural bits that are included in the books. How slavery, and Claire’s reaction to it, is handled, should be interesting – they’ve already set up the premise, both through her words and actions in Season 3, and her disgust when she thinks that the riverboat operator, Eutroclus, is a slave. I’m excited to see the growth of the relationship of Brianna and Roger – and thrilled that one of my favorite book scenes involving this couple seems to have been filmed for the season. I’m definitely looking forward to all of it!
And Don’t Forget – Radio TIBS!
Join us Tuesday night, Nov. 6, in between voting results, for the debut of the Outlander Gab on the Air! Go to our Live Radio page, and click on the Listen Now link (I think that’s what it will say, since it’s not yet live) at 9 pm Eastern/8 Central every Tuesday to hear special guests, news, and chat about the most recent episode, and then have a chance to call in and give your opinions and visit with me, Samantha Kraupner, and Alyson Bailey! The call-in phone number is on the page. We hope to hear from you!
Follow me on Twitter: @ErinConrad2 and @threeifbyspace
Join our Facebook group – Outlandishly Three If By Space!
Subscribe to get instant notice of new posts
Share this article using our Social Share buttons above!