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Outlander Season 6 2022

“Echoes” From the Past Reach Into the Future – Outlander S6 Premiere Review

We have successfully survived Droughtlander! While our reprieve may be short, a brief 8-episode season, we have high expectations based on the word from Diana Gabaldon and the cast (although, what are they going to say? “No, it’s really awful, don’t bother”?). The first episode of the season wasn’t the brilliant, genius outing many of us were hoping for – but it fell in only a few areas, and has set us up for some truly exciting conflicts and storylines over the next two months.

Christies, Meet the Christies

Even if you haven’t read the books and have little idea of what may be coming, you could certainly tell that the arrival of the Christies heralds something deep and possibly dark. The over-long intro (nearly 20 minutes), setting up the conflict between Jamie and Protestant prisoner leader Tom Christie, nonetheless gave us two strong-willed men, both believing that they know the right path not only for themselves, but for those they lead.

Tom’s position within the prison – guest of the Governor, spiritual leader of half of the men – is threatened by the more calm and inclusive path favored by Jamie. It’s not that Jamie by nature is a calming influence – he just doesn’t want trouble. He understands that the road must be free from invented conflict, and finds a way to lower the temperature. While certainly some of this is in the service of the men who follow him, he mostly wants to avoid the actions that bring body-and-soul-destroying attention, so he can get through these years. And Tom, for as much as he preaches endlessly about obeying God and the hellbound nature of Catholicism, seems to thrive on the conflict – as long as he continues to be seen as the top dog. Of course, once Jamie enters the picture, nobody else is top dog, not even the Governor, who reveals his fear of this new prisoner when he takes a near-panicked two steps back when Jamie takes two forward.

Where this intro falls is in the details. Why have a prisoner who believes he is Prince Charlie? The bit of tartan found on the tragic young James McCready could have been handled without that device. In the book, there was no such death – it was merely another young and not quite so hapless prisoner caught out with the tartan. In this version, the scene is used as a way for Christie to see Jamie’s previous flogging scars, not for much other reason; in the books, it was used as a step to Jamie’s ascendance into prisoner leadership, as he once again takes someone else’s punishment rather than let it fall up on lesser beings (echoes of Laoghaire’s punishment at Leoch).

 

Were you sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear or see Murtagh? I certainly was, but of course, we don’t know when he came to Ardsmuir. I appreciated the presence of season 3 & 4 characters Lesley and Hayes, showing their history with their “MacDubh,” (and of course, we don’t know if they knew him prior to Culloden – I think we have to assume they did know him at that point), but it seems a missed opportunity to not have Murtagh there. Or would he have been a distraction?

Another picky issue I have with this 20-minute prison sequence is the inconsistency of Jamie’s chains. Why unchain him around his captors, when he might be the most dangerous, especially with loyal men to help him in any escape plan, and keep him chained up at night, when the chance of escape and mayhem toward guards would be much lower? In Season 3, the chains were on all the time – one of the bargaining chips Lord John used to gain Jamie’s cooperation was to tell him that he would have his chains struck off. That’s not so important if they’re only on half the time.

Back At The Ridge

But now that we’ve been bludgeoned with the setup of a Christie/Fraser rivalry, we move on.

What we saw of the re-stoked rivalry was very well done! The raised eyebrows, the burns that you couldn’t help laughing at – as Claire told Jamie, “you’re like wild rams, butting heads to see who’s the strongest.” The pokes were pretty equal, even when you realize that Jamie will always come out on top. When Jamie sees that Tom faints at the sight of blood, he stays while Claire stitches up Christie’s wound. “He didn’t like me watching him sweat, I expect.” But Tom got his own in – referring obliquely to the remembered view of Jamie’s flogged back, Tom tosses off, “At least it will be an honorable scar, won’t it, MacDubh?” And the repeated “my land, my way” vs. “God’s law, God first” – who comes out on top?

 

And while Tom Christie spars with Jamie to see who the, ahem, bigger … man is, he lets Jamie know, if grudgingly, that he admires how far he’s come in the world and how much he appreciates Jamie and Claire’s “gracious” hospitality. Still, he can’t help but get a little dig in about the “blessings” he observes. “All this land… impressive,” he says to Jamie. “Aye, we’re fortunate. Although we’ve faced our share of hardships,” Jamie responds. “Oh, more than fortune, I think. Seems the Great Architect of the Universe has seen fit to put some blessings your way.” And in this we hear not just “gee, I’m happy for you,” but “how did you deserve this? What promises and favors did you have to give, while I, a man of GOD, have to come begging….” And you can be sure Jamie heard every word, said and unsaid.

 

More honestly, and less sarcastically, Allan voices the same sentiment. “You live like a king, Mr. Fraser!” To me, though, this is a BIG continuing problem. The house is too opulent, too wealthy to be a scrounging settler’s home. The leaded windows, extensive decoration, oak paneled walls are much too fancy. Are they making regular trips to Jocasta’s? Has she decided to give them half of her wealth? Roger and Brianna’s cabin is much closer to what I would expect.

Tom’s daughter Malva is beautiful, intelligent, curious, flirtatious, delicate. But there’s something else behind her eyes – has she experienced her father’s holy wrath? Tom’s comments about his wife don’t give you the impression that he’s a great admirer of women in general. And Allan certainly has something in him that’s not as holy as his father would like. We get the impression that he’s weak, lacking faith, and is certainly a thief. He submits to the punishment that Jamie is pushed to mete out personally without fighting back at all, which in itself feels like this isn’t new to him. Of course, Jamie with his history can’t whip Allan for his crime as Richard Brown suggests, and opts instead to take his belt to him (echoes of the beatings Brian used to give Jamie, that he remembers almost fondly).

We’ve seen photos of the three actors playing the Christies for months. Alex Vlahos, who plays Allan, has been particularly fun on Twitter with fans and other cast members. All of them are fantastic in their roles, and I have no trouble with the casting for any of these characters.

There are several lovely little moments – LIzzie flirting with Josiah and/or Kezzie. Lizzie and the Bugs engaging in domestic top dogsmanship, moving the dishes around on the table. Claire and Brianna talking about Bree’s concerns that her ideas not frighten the residents of the Ridge by being too far from their rustic experience. Major MacDonald was pleasant and friendly, but I SO wanted Adso to play with his wig…

Speaking of wigs – quick little comment – look at Jamie’s hair from the back when he’s talking to Claire about the ether, then look at it when he’s driving Claire to visit Marsali – there’s a view where he turns to look at Claire. I sure wish they’d settle on a length. That really bugged me.

Not Quite Right

Still, there were two more troublesome storylines. I can understand Fergus’s obvious depression. What CAN a man with one hand do on a farm? Marsali is very competent, and probably overcompensates for his disability (echoes of Jenny, telling Jamie to take Ian with him for the Watch – “I’ll have a whole man, or none at all”). But the attack on the Ridge, and Fergus’ guilt over not being there to protect his wife and his adopted mother, weighs heavy on him, and he drinks way too much. OK, I’ll accept that, and hope that he finds his way out… but there’s NO way I can believe that he would ever hurt Marsali. Fergus isn’t an abuser. He doesn’t have that mindset. He adores his wife and children, even when he’s blackout drunk. Absent, inattentive, sullen, depressed – all of the above. But a wife-beater? No.

 

And the biggest issue with the hints of storylines presented – Claire as drug addict. Again, we understand. She went through hell. She has nightmares. Reminders come regularly, when Richard Brown and his Committee of Safety come to her home. But Claire as physician and scientist wouldn’t use the unproven ether on her own. How could it give her what she obviously is seeking – oblivion – for long enough to matter, without someone administering it (not that that’s a good idea either)? I think none of us would have trouble believing Claire would drink too much – we’ve seen that before – but this feels weird and out of character.

I’ve seen several people bemoan what they think is the lack of a crucial storyline from the books (if you haven’t read the book, skip to the next paragraph right now) – the Bugs and the gold. But I strongly believe this is coming – and there have been clues, both in the show and in comments from the London premiere. Why else would they have started an episode in season 5 with Jocasta and husband Hector transporting a box of gold? That never went anywhere in season 5, so it is still likely to come up. And Sarah Collier, who plays Mrs. Bug, answered our reporter Koko’s request for three words to describe her character with “secretive.” We haven’t seen that yet – but she knows better than we do what’s coming. So what I’ll say is – trust. It’s too important to events later, possibly this season, but definitely by or in the next. You can see that bit of video here. (And be sure to watch our London Premiere video interviews – all links are in the mentioned post.)

I’ve never been afraid of ghosts. I live with them daily. When I look into a mirror, my mother’s eyes look back at me. My mouth curls with the smile that lured my great grandfather into the fate that was me. Of course, it isn’t these holy ghosts that trouble sleep and curdle wakefulness. Look back. hold a torch to light the recesses of the dark. Listen to the footsteps that echo behind when you walk alone. All the time, ghosts float past and through us, hiding in the future. By blood and by choice, we make our ghosts. We haunt ourselves.

 

We’ve restored the comment ability – leave me a note telling me what you liked and disliked about this episode! Do you agree with my hits and misses? I’d love to hear from you! (Or just leave an emoji comment! Those are fun! — or…. both!)


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