***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Outlander through Season 4, Episode 7, and Book Spoilers through Diana Gabaldon’s Drums of Autumn follow. Spoilers***
Who’d have thought an opening on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would turn out the season’s best (so far) episode? After a relatively slow and steady round of six, this seventh Outlander hour was an eventful trip through multiple timelines and settings, with twists and turns we never saw coming. Changing the narrative just enough to set readers on edge, the series writers put Brianna Randall on a familiar, yet slightly different path, sending us all on an emotional journey that finally gave Sophie Skelton her time to shine.
Veering more than slightly off the Gabaldon-set course, Bree enters the 1760s and promptly trips down a hill, injuring her ankle badly enough to cause dizzying dreams of her father — Frank, that is — as she finds herself smack dab in the middle of a Wonderland that really isn’t so wonderful. Against any odds, not only does Brianna end up quite near her alterna-Lallybroch home, she also lands in the bed of a woman who once shared her other father’s (Jamie, that is) sheets, leading to one of the most awkward discoveries (and that’s saying something) about dear old dad (number two) imaginable. If you’re confused, so was poor Bree; not long after a bite of “the best chicken” she’s ever had and bonding with her (unbeknownst) stepsister, Joanie (Layla Burns), Laoghaire (Nell Hudson) realizes and informs Brianna of their strange connection, and twists the knife with a tall tale of rejection.
While Bree’s getting the lay of her new land, Roger quickly pops off to Craigh na Dun himself, following his love despite her written request. Compressing his book journey back in time, Wakefield quickly runs into that dastardly Stephen Bonnett, securing a job on the not-so-good ship, Gloriana, where smallpox infected kids are quickly and horrifyingly tossed overboard. Hiding a mother and her newborn away earns Roger a harrowing coin toss for his life, though it doesn’t pack nearly the punch of his novel scene. No matter, though, our gut-wrenching stomach-drops will all come about in a wonderfully unexpected way …
Through the magic of flashback and as reminder there’s no more masterfully versatile (playing polar opposite roles in a single series) actor than Tobias Menzies, this particular rabbit hole brings back Outlander favorite, Frank Randall, to handily haunt us for the foreseeable future. In a series of Brianna’s dreamlike memories, her first father’s anguish over Claire echo Laoghaire’s unrequited love for daddy number two (Jamie, that is). With his every tip of a glass to melancholy smiles; from facial tic to quivering jaw muscle, Menzies captivates his every onscreen second, and elevates everyone around him — evidenced by Skelton’s breakout episode. Having discovered that same obituary Roger saw, Frank realizes Claire will leave him again and after informing his daughter of an impending divorce, Randall heads off to fulfill his dark date with destiny. Alternately crushed and spurred by her heartbreaking recollections, Brianna parallels her hero’s deep breath, and books passage on the Phillip Alonzo.
All hail and triumphantly cheer Frank Randall’s return!
It was so very wonderful to see Tobias Menzies back on the show; whether as Frank or Jack, this incredible actor thrills. From the top of his head down, Menzies is an impeccable, talented-beyond-belief- master who incorporates every fibre of his being into his roles. Here’s hoping the writers bring him around one way or another every single season.
Finally! Sophie Skelton really upped her game — whether it was the “Menzies effect”, I don’t know, but she was better than I’ve ever seen. If this is the kickoff to her truly feeling at home in the role of Brianna, I look forward to more.
Poor Bree never said “I love you” back to Frank … and then he had his accident. Gah!
The whole scene with introducing Lizzie Wemyss (Caitlin O’Ryan) felt rushed (it felt odd to have no context for her being a servant to Bree), and I can’t say I have any opinion about the character or the actress yet. If they follow the book, we’ll get to know her better soon.
There were quite a few changes from book scenes, mostly compacting events — like Roger’s trip through the stones, and events on the Gloriana — but we got the gist. In the biggest departure, Brianna’s arrival at Lallybroch was markedly different — no Jenny, and very little interaction with the rest of the family. It was nice to see Uncle Ian (Steven Cree) again, though I wish his appearance hadn’t been reduced to only servicing Bree’s part of the story. That said, the emotional impact of the hour leaves little room for complaints …
(I didn’t say no complaints!) At the least, shouldn’t a girl pack an aspirin or two with her single sandwich? I’m sure Brianna had room in her bag — speaking of — when she tripped and fell, spewing her purse contents everywhere, did anyone else get the feeling she probably lost something? Maybe we won’t discover until a later time just what she missed picking up, but that seemed too key a moment to not be telegraphing something.
There are no words for how inappropriate Brianna’s question to poor Joanie were; “Is it your father who doesn’t send the money?” Who says that to a kid?
I know Stephen Bonnet is supposed to be the new big bad, and tossing a kid overboard was damned cold. That said, there wasn’t the same emotional resonance as we’ve had with Captain Jack Randall (and as mentioned, Menzies is near impossible to top), so for me it felt more like “Hey, here’s this new bad guy, and look how bad he is!” I’m looking forward to a little more character development. That said, Ed Speeler is an excellent actor, and I enjoy his enthusiasm.
Totally digging Roger with longer hair.
I will say that I giggled a little bit when Bree dramatically leaned on the tree and promptly passed out because of her hurt ankle. Not to make light of her injury; it was just a little over the top for me.
Nell Hudson continues to be great as the spurned Laoghaire, and little Layla Burns was an adorable Joanie.
I enjoyed the way they handled the scene with Frank having (and attempting to hide) Jamie and Claire’s obituary.
More fabulous Frank gifs for your enjoyment:
Songs This Hour:
Sophie Skelton covering (Scott McKenzie’s) San Francisco
Complicated is a relative term. Depends on your perspective.
You don’t just get a divorce. We love each other, you don’t throw that away. We’re a family.
It’s not your fault your mother’s a witch.
Your mother is a thieving whore.
You’re my hero, Daddy.