***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Outlander through Season 3, Episode 3, and Book Spoilers through Diana Gabaldon’s Voyager follow. Spoilers***
There are showrunners and then there are showrunners … and then there is Ronald D. Moore, who has proven time and again how meticulously he crafts series. With this particular cast and crew, Starz, and the story and characters crafted by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander has far surpassed expectations — and hopes. From actors to writers to production, costumery and camera work, this series should (must) be the envy of its every peer, what any show would strive for. From the slow crawl of its opening season beginnings to its progressively broad (yet easily followable) time jumps, to the characters it lures us to love despite their failings or cruelties ( then kills off as quickly as Game of Thrones though often with much more thought and care), each week of Outlander is a sumptuous feast.
It feels as if we’re only just appreciating a whiff of that celebratory apéritif with freshly graduated Dr. Claire Randall (Fraser) when a crushing loss closes out “All Debts Paid”, time flying faster than the speed of onscreen medical school … a little redheaded lass seemingly not far behind her graduated mother. There’s barely a moment to breathe in between Frank’s homemade English Breakfast (Boston 1956) before we’re off to Ardsmuir Prison 1755, making the lovely discovery that Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser didn’t (unlike his book alter) die; he’s with Jamie, for a time, at least. Catching up both hither and yon, Claire and Frank’s arrangement to stay together hasn’t exactly been bump-free; including his “discreet” (though still apparently surprising to Claire) affairs, and perhaps even a teensy bit of hurt or jealousy on her part.
The dynamic here is extremely interesting; after all, Claire’s falling for Jamie — albeit in another century — is the knife that sliced her bond with Frank, her unbreakable emotional connection was the impetus for the agreement with Frank. And yet, it’s clear that Claire suffers mixed feelings when she understand Frank isn’t content to stay in the background with only her detached presence for company. The mere expressions traded in those early scenes between Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies as the Randalls work through their mutual anguish are gold enough, and as the episode carries on, we’re rewarded over and again with outstanding performances by both. Claire has fought to make the best of the her situation, accepted Frank’s offer to raise Jamie’s child as his own. Rather than lose his wife completely and forever, Frank tried to blind himself to another man, despite Claire’s inability to (“I think our bedroom was far too crowded, already”); he fully loved Brianna and when it was clear he and Claire couldn’t be what they once were, the couple made an open agreement. It’s impossible not to feel for both sides. As years fly by onscreen, hurt morphs into anger, but in Menzies and Balfe’s faces, their shared and separate pain remains.
In another time and place, flashbacks to a funny scene with young John Grey alternate with Jamie’s recollections about his new prison governor; Lord John Grey, played to perfection by Season 3 newcomer, David Berry — jumps, all in. His twinkling and teary eyes allow for a quick connection between audience and his charge, with whom Grey is advised to carry on a previous dining arrangement. After a quick brush off, and when Jamie’s translating skills become necessary, the two gentlemen fall into an easy rapport, sharing food, stories and chess, until — insert very loud record screech here — Grey makes the mistake of caressing Jamie’s hand, which obviously triggers very specific trauma in Fraser. While Sam Heughan often quickly and easily veers between lighthearted and serious, the nuances in his expression were sublime here, and Jamie’s quite calm but ferocious threat can leave no doubt in Grey’s mind that he has crossed a line and broken down any goodwill built between the two men.
With an easy escape (not too difficult to pull one over on these guards), Jamie’s next fruitless attempt to have himself offed, and the quick news that the prison will be shutting down, Jamie is suddenly separated from his mates, taken and released by Grey at Helwater estate. Viewers’ minds must be spinning nearly as fast as Jamie’s; compared with Voyager, we’re at breakneck speed, galloping through storyline. And suddenly, time slows to a crawl as we find ourselves gulping that digestif far too quickly, spying an apprehensive look on Claire’s face, as Joe approaches to give her — and us — the worst unexpected news. In these final moments, all the unexpressed regrets play across Balfe’s countenance, the emotions Claire could never give Frank when he was alive spill from the corners of her eyes onto Frank’s lifeless face. She says the words he must’ve longed for so many years, now — “If you’re still close enough to hear me, I did love you. Very much. You were my first love” — and with that, we’re left broken and crushed as Frank Wolverton Randall, may he rest in peace.
I’ve gone on and on about Tobias Menzies, and I’ll say it again: The man is a flawless actor, one of the best in the world. That he landed on two of our favorite series is unbelievable, and that we lost him in two brilliant, different roles on this one show — unfathomably heartbreaking. It was entirely too fast, though. My one wish is that they’d have strung along his relationship with Claire just a bit longer, and that we’d have seen him interacting with little Bree more, because Menzies’ presence will be so very missed. The tiniest of his is expressions is enough to gut …
And since we know Claire still won’t get back to Jamie for a few more episodes, I’ll just keep crying “Too soon!” into the dark void. I can’t wait to see what Tobias does next (AMC’s The Terror). Moore has said there’s always the possibility for another flashback, but I suppose we shouldn’t hope for that any time soon.
Ditto, everything that happened in the prison and between Lord Grey and Jamie — SO FAST. Next week, it looks as if we’ll get right down to business with the Dunsanys … Geneva, etc. Regardless, David Berry is excellent as Grey, and since he did mention a quarterly visit, he’ll presumably appear again.
Both The Searchers and Carousel — the 1956 movies Claire suggests to Frank that they go see — involve great loves lost, and tragedy.
That “Goodbye … wonder if we’ll ever see each other again” between Jamie and Murtagh was palpable. I’m so glad Duncan Lacroix will still be around, and as confirmed by Ron Moore, we’ll see him again.
Claire’s basically saving people in both timelines; in her own, she’s a surgeon, and in Jamie’s, he’s using her knowledge to help heal his friends and keep himself healthy.
Is that all we’re getting of Claire and Joe’s relationship? I’d have hoped for more of their friendship to be seen.
Loved the little aside Frank relates to Claire in the open, Bree asking for Eggo toaster waffles made him decide she needed to be “more English” … and later (when she’s grown), he wants to take her back to England with him for the full experience.
I’m going to have to watch again with subtitles, because the mush-mouthed dying man Jamie translated was still impossible to understand; the scene was done so quietly, some of the dialogue got past me.
Production continues to amaze, and Claire’s clothing is simply breathtaking.
Book readers know about a — without getting too Spoilerish — situation coming up with Jamie, and I do wonder, though we know Claire will become aware, will she ever find out about his time (a choice) in the cave last week? People are quick to forgive Claire and to condemn Frank; how is what Jamie did (find connection with someone, however brief) any different?
With Frank passed in her time, and Lord Grey and Jamie having settled their promises, the couple’s debts are paid. They are free to be with each other now … if only they can get to each other. Of course, Spoiler!, there would be no series if they couldn’t.
Grey to Jamie about the rats: “I’m sure the prisoners don’t eat them.”
Jamie: “Only if they’re lucky enough to catch one.”
Frank responding to Claire accusing him of wanting to hurt her: “Maybe I did, maybe I wanted to give you a taste of your own medicine.”
Claire: “Have you fucked her in our bedroom? Have you?”
Frank: “There is a reason we are so terribly bad at charades, my darling.”
Jamie to Grey: “Eating green plants will stop you getting scurvy.”
Grey: “Where did you get that notion?”
Jamie: “My wife. ”
Grey: “Some people you grieve over forever.”
Frank to Claire: “You couldn’t look at Brianna without seeing him, could you? Without a constant reminder, you might have forgotten him.”
Claire: “That amount of time doesn’t exist.”