This week’s episode, Perpetual Adoration, was a time twister in more ways than one. This season has been generally a new start for the show, which has had its ups and downs. For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed the first several episodes of Season 5; and then we come to this episode.
This outing was full of time jumps, from Claire’s last days as a doctor in Boston in the 1960s, and rapidly back to the 1770s; and grabbed book dialogue and plot points from several different books in the series. It was voice-over heavy, which isn’t always my personal favorite, although sometimes there’s no other way to get the information across. And while I am almost always a huge fan of Bear McCreary’s score – I can’t remember another time when I had even a minor critique – I think the tone of this week’s music lent a foreboding, nearly sinister feeling to scenes that didn’t need that emotion. HOWEVER, before you think this review is going to be completely negative, I’ll head you off and tell you that I was OK – not in love with, but at least OK – with one major storyline this week.
I try to limit my exposure to comments from the show’s fans, Facebook group members, and Twitterers, before I write my reviews. This week, I couldn’t help but see some of the comments, and I was a little surprised to see so many people really love this episode. Yes, I got the gist of the Claire part of the story – after years of living a half-life and yearning for Jamie, telling Brianna a lie for so long, she has the opportunity to tell her the truth without breaking her vow to Frank. Mr. Menzies reminds her of Jamie in more than one way – his obvious love and total adoration of his late wife echoes the love that she and Jamie had for each other, as well as the obvious – who doesn’t love a Scot? His death, even though she really had no responsibility for it, causes her to question what she’s doing and how she’s managing her emotions (which really is not managing, it’s more like totally bottling them up).
Could she now take Brianna to England, perhaps give her a tour of the sights that meant so much to her many years ago, and use that as a way to bring up the truth, as crazy as she knows it will sound? At that point, she has no thought that she can find Jamie again, since she believes he died at Culloden, but to have the truth back again, to have the only other person that it truly affects understand and accept – the pull of that must have been nearly irresistible. And from there, the universe – or God – puts step after step in front of her, leading her to the final leap.
STILL… there was too much that disturbed me about the storytelling. Perhaps it was the hammer-headed voiceover. We haven’t had this much VO since the first season. Most of this – all except the first two sentences – is the prologue to book 6, A Breath of Snow and Ashes.
How many times have I put my hopes my fears, my secret longings into the hands of a being I can’t see, I can’t hear, can’t even feel? And how many times have my prayers been answered? Time is a lot of the things people say God is. There’s the preexisting and having no end. There’s the notion of being all powerful. Because nothing can stand against time – not mountains, nor armies. Give anything enough time and everything is taken care of. All pain encompassed, all hardship erased, all love subsumed. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Remember, man, thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return. And if time is anything akin to God, I suppose that memory must be the devil.
And all the talk of spiders and webs, the faintest vibration…. it was too much. Show, not tell. Show me the consequences, let me see the aftereffects of memory and action. Claire is, by her own telling, closer to agnostic than a believer. She feels the power of God, and interprets in her own version of spirituality, but has never quite understood Jamie’s faith in Church and God.
Perhaps here is some of my disquiet with this episode. Claire never disagrees with Jamie’s faith and trust in God, but she never quite understands it either. She accepts the power he feels in his belief, and is often awed by the way it works within him, but between her upbringing with Uncle Lamb, and her scientific nature, she hasn’t developed that same belief. The Perpetual Adoration, first seen in Outlander when Jamie is recovering at the Abbey in France, is one of my favorite passages in the entire book (chapter 39, To Ransom a Man’s Soul). Claire feels this spiritual power in a way she never has before, and never sought, but recognizes that she sorely needed it. It still isn’t a belief in God, or an acceptance of traditional religious values, not a “rebirth in Christ.”
Despite this, having felt the power of the Adoration during Jamie’s recovery, throughout her life with Frank, she sits for the Adoration, not as a devout Catholic, but as a questioner accepting the peace and strength that hour gives her. In Voyager, she discusses this with Frank. Frank asks, “Why go in for this Perpetual Adoration business? You’ve never been the least devout, no more than I have. And you don’t go to Mass or anything; Father Beggs asks me every week where you are.” I shook my head. “I can’t really say, Frank. It’s just something… I need to do.” I looked at him helpless to explain adequately. “It’s… peaceful there,” I said finally. Yet in this episode, her voiceover gives the impression of faith and belief, and in her discussion with the priest at Mr. Menzies’ church, there’s no sign that she’s ever done this before.
Both sides of this feel wrong to me. And before you mutter under your breath, “the book is the book, and the show is the show,” I fell in love with Outlander for many reasons, and one of them was Claire – this small bit of her, turned as inside-out as it is, just feels wrong. Combined with the string-heavy, foreboding score, where you just KNOW something bad is about to happen, it feels weighted. Heavy and manipulative. In many respects, I can separate the show from the book, and I often enjoy the changes, or at a minimum understand why they’ve been made. Here – this is the essence of Claire, and not for the first time, I feel like the writers don’t really get the depth of her, or of Jamie.
And… Roger rants at Bree. My first thought is to say, “poor Roger, stuck somewhere you don’t want to be,” but you know, sorry, Roger was just a jerk. She’s married YOU. She loves YOU. She didn’t marry you for safety for herself or her child – she had other options if that was all she wanted. She was raped too soon after YOU had sex with her to distinguish who really is the father. Sure, she was probably overly tenderhearted and downright kinda stupid to tell Steven Bonnet, even if she expected him to die right after, that he was the father.
But yes, Roger, words have consequences, and yours might too, in how well she trusts you to understand her and trust her and have faith that she will always try to do the right thing with and for you. So rather than have any idea how traumatic this has all been for her, you make it sound like maybe she wanted it, maybe at the least she didn’t discourage it. She accepted a “gift”? More like reparations. How much good will a diamond do a dead man? She’s not wearing it on her finger, you dolt. Not sure where I’m going with this…. it just made me mad. Which, most likely, it was supposed to do.
And we come to the one part of this episode that made sense to me, even if I’m not crazy about the storyline that made it necessary. You knew this was going to catch up with him, didn’t you? Despite all his tapdancing and word mincing around “justice” and “all for the best,” it was only a matter of time before, somehow, Tryon and/or Knox realized that Jamie was slowrolling his hunt for Murtagh because, really, he didn’t want to find him. Obfuscation, delay, misdirection – oh, what a tangled web…
I loved the look on Jamie’s face – the near relief, but not quite – when Knox tells him that Tryon has decided on mercy and has offered to pardon the Regulators. Could this sham hunt be over? Could he go back home, and get back to the life he had begun to build, stop having worry for Murtagh be on the top of his mind? Let go the weight of responsibility for all of the men in his company, and focus on his own family? Oh, ha, nope. Everyone EXCEPT Murtagh. Leadership has its price, and so sorry, the price would be paid with Murtagh’s head.
Have you ever had a person really want to be your friend, someone you couldn’t avoid because your kids were in the same class, or because you worked together, so that you had have a veneer of friendship? When really, they were probably a reasonably fine person, but something about them made your skin crawl and your feet want to turn the other way? I think that’s how Jamie felt about Knox. Knox sees in Jamie the man he thinks he wants to be – a leader, looked up to and respected, easy with other men, noble and fair and loyal…. “I’d want to fight by your side. I consider you a friend.” Ho, big boy, you’re an oppressor, a Redcoat, you and your ilk wiped out the Scots, stole their land, treated them worse than dogs, and Jamie is tolerating you for the greater good of his family and the families under his protection.
You can see it in the side eye, the slight smirk, the knife deliberately missing the wanted poster. Jamie tolerates Knox because he doesn’t have much choice, because he believes that for a while at least, he can steer him in a different direction. But when Knox does the unexpected, gets information from a source Jamie hadn’t considered (and really, how did that happen so fast? Or did Knox send off for the info a lot longer ago than it looked like?), and the information implicates Jamie and points to what he’s really been doing – now he’s out of choices. The only option is to eliminate Knox. Traitor? No.
Just like when Jamie had no choice but to kill Dougal, it was because he was caught up in a scheme he wouldn’t have chosen because a sense of responsibility toward a cause he didn’t believe in. In both cases, it was kill or be killed – and not only could Jamie have lost his life, but it could have had consequences for all of the people he loved. And so, he did what was necessary – eliminate the threat, destroy the evidence, add it to his list of sins that he would have to ask forgiveness for. Jamie is a self-described “bloody man,” and accepts that part of him that, because of his position and training, he would not be allowed to live a violence-free, responsibility-free life.
And so, he can go back to the woman who loves him, who accepts him in all of the facets of his life – the God-fearing yet violent man that he is. And he can find sanctuary in her, bringing her small gifts, like the “wee cheetie,” and large gifts, like laying his heart at her feet. I loved the way we were shown all of Jamie in this episode – the bone-weary warrior, the man who puts his oath to his family first, the lover. This, I think, the writers did well in this episode.
Cozy on up with the Fraser’s. ♥️
— Sony Pictures TV (@SPTV) March 16, 2020
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