This week, Outlander took us “Down the Rabbit Hole” – a reference to Alice in Wonderland, where nothing is what it seems, and the most amazing things can happen. Like many episodes of Outlander, fans seem to be really divided on this one. We had a couple of great (in my opinion) episodes recently – did this one continue the streak or make a turn as it looked for the right rabbit hole?
While there were things I liked with this episode, there were more parts that truly annoyed me. I will say, I didn’t think it was the worst episode of the season, but I definitely wasn’t thrilled with most of it. Want the good news or the bad news first? (Ha, guess that doesn’t matter – you’re not here, and I’ll do it the way I want….)
Run Through the Jungle… Er, Highlands
I’m not going to go in-depth on the things I wasn’t crazy about. But Bree’s ill-planned visit to the 18th century – underdressed for Scotland in the winter, with an open cloak, no hat of any kind, and a thin dress – just didn’t make sense. She may be young, but she’s smarter than that, and she saw her mother plan for the same trip. And haven’t we already seen the damsel in distress running through an unpopulated landscape, rescued by strangers? Yes, we have – most recently last season, in Claire’s run through the jungle, only to be found, assaulted by the elements, by Father Fogden. (Oh, and that episode was written by the same writer who did this one – is this all she knows?) Did we need to do that again? Did the writers think this was “like mother, like daughter”? Do we really need another woman that makes bad decisions, or at least underplans? (And don’t tell me you thought it was a good idea for Claire to jump ship, risking drowning and lack of GPS.)
I understand, to some extent, why Laoghaire was brought in – when Laura Donnelly was unavailable for the season, the writers needed to find a way to get Bree to Lallybroch, and thus to the passage to the New World. But the amount of time that was spent on rehashing Laoghaire’s delusions about Jamie, watching her seem fairly normal and then in a split second turn into the deluded monster we knew she was, was time that could have been spent better on something – almost anything – else. It’s not that the story here was different from the book – there was much that was the same, but in a different setting. And I don’t have a problem with many of the additions and changes that the TV show is making – I’ve said many times that changes are inevitable and can be interesting, as long as they’re part of a good story, and true to the tone of Diana’s books. But there were so many other ways this could have gone, and so much other ground that could have been covered.
For example, Brianna’s meeting with Lizzie Wemyss was shortened and shortchanged. If you haven’t read the books, Brianna’s new servant is an important ongoing character. Her father becomes an ongoing character. It was odd how he just approached her without any hint that maybe she was looking for a servant girl to accompany her.
And we didn’t see any of Brianna’s wonder or interest in things that would have been so very different for her – beyond her momentary fascination with the bedwarmer. Even her exchange with Ian Sr. was cursory – and I would have LOVED to have seen more of that – this is her uncle, her family – wouldn’t she have wanted to know more about her father, about his home, his childhood, while she had the chance? Any moment of Steven Cree onscreen is valuable, and we get so little!!
But I’d rather talk about other things….
So, What Did Frank Really Know?
I’m not anti-Frank. Frank’s presence in the series has been important – why else would Claire have been so conflicted in Season 1, if not for her love for her first husband? We wouldn’t have had all the drama about waiting a year to kill Black Jack without her genuine feelings for him. No matter what problems they had between them, Claire always valued the way he took Brianna into his heart immediately, without reservation. He was without a doubt a wonderful father to her. And he will always be an important figure to Brianna, even after she meets her still-unknown biological father Jamie.
But what did Frank know about what would happen to Claire and Brianna? From the books, we know that he taught Bree to ride and shoot, even though they weren’t things he had an interest in. Obviously he was preparing her for something. So it was interesting to see that he had come across the obituary that will eventually send Brianna – and Roger – through the stones. And read the letter sent to him by the Rev. Wakefield, below – he obviously knew he had a heart condition as well, which was probably the cause of the car accident that fateful night.
I didn’t have trouble with the time devoted to the Frank and Brianna scenes – it highlighted the role that Brianna may be looking to Jamie to fill, and gave us some clues as to what he knew and what he may have been planning to do with that information. In the books, and in the show up until this point, Frank was written all from Claire’s point of view, so we haven’t seen any of him away from her. This is a different viewpoint – yes, we heard Frank and Claire arguing, but didn’t see them at all, only how it affected Brianna. It was kind of interesting to see his tenderness toward her, especially since he had told Claire early in the series that he didn’t want to consider adoption, that he didn’t think he would be able to completely accept a child that wasn’t his. These scenes were a departure, maybe not necessary, and maybe a tad too long, but interesting in the overall picture of Brianna.
I was touched by the final scene, with Brianna seeing Frank instead of Lizzie’s father as they looked back – as if Frank were saying, “I got you this far, I approve, I knew this was where you were headed, and I love you.” Brianna felt that he was giving her his blessing on her errand to save her mother, and it was a sweet moment. Her moment at Frank’s graveside was touching as well, but coupled with the scene on the dock, it was just a little too much – again, screen time is limited. When I watched the short Matt/Maril (and Toni) piece after the episode, I wasn’t quite sure how to take them saying “fans always talk about Frank” – as in “WHY IS THERE SO MUCH FRANK?” And why are you giving us EVEN MORE? A little bit goes a long way.
On the Good Ship Psychopath
Besides the Lallybroch scenes, though, I truly felt that the scenes with Bonnet and Roger aboard the Gloriana were shortchanged. These were the best scenes of the episode, and still could have benefitted from more time. Ed Speleers is a wonderful villain, and again demonstrated his turn-on-a-dime ability. He had a rough charm, a definite sense of command to him, that quickly flipped to cold and ruthless. It was obvious that his passengers feared him – they shrank back when he approached, even when he went to hold the little crying Jemmy McKenzie, and easily got him to settle. (And just like Lizzie, if you haven’t read the books, Jemmy’s mother, Morag, may – if the show holds to the book’s storyline – become important in the future. Well, more her husband, but without her, we won’t get to him.)
I absolutely loved Bonnet telling Roger about the way he narrowly escaped becoming a sacrifice in a building’s foundation. This was one of those small scenes I was looking forward to seeing – and it didn’t at all disappoint. Roger’s horror at the potential outcome of the flip of the coin, and his learning that it was HIS life that was literally up in the air was very well done.
And LOOK!!! He’s wearing Claire’s key ring on his pinkie! The man likes his jewelry. And everyone else’s, apparently.
And as awful as it was, the way Bonnet pushed the child out the window (porthole?), what else should he have done? We saw the fear of pox on ships when Jamie and Claire got to France at the beginning of Season 2 – the Compte’s ship was destroyed because Claire confirmed that a crew member died of pox. To give everyone else any chance, pox carriers had to be removed from the ship. But it was the absolute lack of feeling in the way he did it that was so awful – no regrets, no hesitation, no nothing. And then to have the mother jump overboard after her daughter doubled the terrible moment. No wonder the passengers shrank from him.
One thing struck me a little odd, though. Bonnet tells Roger, “A wise man leaves things beyond his power to the gods. And then he prays that Danu will be with him.” However, In Irish mythology, she is mother of the earth, the gods, fertility, wisdom, wind and of all the Celtic people. Ler is the Irish, or Celtic, god of the sea. You would think that Bonnet would trust that the god of the sea would watch over him?
One note – does anyone else feel that this show is a little dark? Not in tone, but literally, DARK. Look at the pictures above.
Roger is one of my favorite characters in the series – yes, I love Jamie, as do most of us, I think, but if I were playing “kiss marry kill,” I’d probably pick Roger to marry. He’s steady, deep, and brave. And while I hadn’t been convinced by Rik Rankin in previous seasons – probably because we didn’t see him enough – I think I’m likely to get there, especially after this episode. (Alas, I’m not sure I can say the same about Sophie…. she’s delightful in person, but – and remember this is my opinion, I’m entitled to it, if you’re a Sophie lover – I’m having a harder time seeing her in this role. She’s just not doing it for me. Not that I have a choice.)
We’re approaching a much-awaited moment – the meeting of Brianna and Jamie. I’m excited, and nervous, for this – how about you? Are you ready?
The Outlander Gab on the Air!
Tuesday, 9 pm Eastern, 8 Central – Join hosts Erin Conrad, Sam Kraupner and Alyson Bailey for news, interviews, and calls about Outlander and the most recent episode of Season 4. Call in and chat with us! Discussion is fast and furious on Twitter and Facebook – we’ll talk about what we liked and didn’t like, if Sophie and Rick are killing their roles or just killing us, what Frank knew, Bonnet’s, er, tricorn, how the changes this season are sitting with fans, and what you’re doing for the holidays. Call us and let us know what you think! No guest this week – there’s plenty to talk about! (And there will be no episode next week – Tuesday is Christmas Day! Still pondering the week after…)
Huge thank you to Outlander.Online for allowing me to use their screencaps! Check them out here.
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