With the Outlander mid-season slump upon us, I thought I’d take the time to slow down and look back over the highlights and surprises of the first 8 episodes. This is by no means a substitute for the postmortem I’m planning. But that requires much more time to collect my thoughts, and perhaps the thoughts of others, to compose a thorough and hopefully entertaining examination.
Executive Producer Ron Moore‘s adaptation of Diana Gabaldon‘s epic novel has certainly taken us on a roller coaster ride. Even knowing, for the most part, what happens in the story has not dissipated the suspenseful, dramatic or exciting experience of watching characters we love come to life. Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies, Graham McTavish, Gary Lewis, Lotte Verbeek, Duncan Lacroix and the rest of the cast have brought a flesh and bone depth to their characters surpassing all expectations. The second half of the season promises to deliver even more 0-calorie deliciousness.
Keeping with form, I’ve composed a list of Outlander’s Season 1 Part 1 Top 30 Highlights. Each highlight of the show easily deserves its own in-depth spotlight, but I’ve attempted to cover everything with a respectable amount of brevity. I’m sure you all have your own favorites, but I hope you have fun perusing through my personal selections. As usual, this list is not without SPOILERS.
30: Outlander’s Men and Women Behind The Curtain
One of the main responsibilities of visual effects in any production is to be transparent, meaning – if they do their job right – you won’t notice the set extension isn’t real or the smoke is cg or the skyline is really a matte painting or that Gary Lewis was not suddenly struck with Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome.
Double Negative is the studio providing the digital effects for Outlander through their one-year-old DNegTV division. They’re a well-established house based in London and have worked on several vfx-laden projects as well as a number of period pieces, including Harry Potter, Batman Begins, Pride & Prejudice, and The Duchess just to name a very few. They have one Academy Award under their belt for Inception and two BAFTA awards for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Inception. Needless to say, Outlander is in good hands.
Doune Castle, located 8-miles outside Stirling, is the location used for Castle Leoch. It’s a beautiful, fairly well preserved medieval stronghold dating back to the late 14th Century. Because of its remarkable condition, several changes have to be made both digitally and practically to make it look like a ruin during Claire and Frank’s visit in 1945. Below, witness the amazing transformation.
One of the biggest challenges, besides removing modern landmarks throughout the Scottish countryside, is replacing Gary Lewis’ legs with Colum MacKenzie’s Toulouse-Lautrec Syndrome limbs. Double Negative does a fantastic job as you can see below.
Take an Inside Look with Ron Moore at how the vfx team tackled the challenge.
29: Outlander’s Got The Look
Outlander’s Production Designer Jon Gary Steele has a massive job establishing the look of the show. Normally, a production designer works with the director and cinematographer, but Outlander had several directors and the series was shot in blocks of two episodes at a time in different locales. I suspect Mr. Steele and Ron Moore were the primaries who established the essential style of the show.
The production designer works closely with all departments effecting the look and feel of the show, including hair & make-up, costume design, special & visual effects and especially locations. The art department is where the look is first developed through concept drawings and mood boards, much like what Costume Designer Terry Dresbach uses to develop her looks.
Obviously, I can’t go into descriptions for every set or location used in the show. Hopefully, we’ll see a book on the subject some day soon. Until then, I include a few images of my favorite set designs and locations.
28: Outlander’s God’s Own Country
It’s been said more than once and by Ron Moore Himself that one of the characters in Outlander is Scotland. It’s a relatively small country with a rich history and heavenly landscape. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Alba twice in my lifetime and am making a third trip within the coming week.
I’ve been to several countries in the world but none feel like Scotland. It seems to retain a unique perspective, as if shielded from the modern world without being left behind. It’s a land proud of its people and its history. I don’t believe Claire falls only in love with Jamie.
27: Outlander’s Saturday Night Feature
Outlander’s music is a significant story element, setting the spirit and tone of each scene it graces. Composer Bear McCreary has been very open, sharing his thought processes and challenges for all the episodes on his website in great detail. His insights give the viewer an even greater appreciation for every note and instrument he selects to create the perfect mood for each scene and each character.
THE GATHERING adds a special touch in the form of 1940s music against the 18th Century backdrop. Claire has escape forefront in her mind. Preparations are in place. Confidence level is high. And hometown music is prevalent in her wake.
From scene to scene, the somber tones follow Claire, reminding us – as if we need the reminder – she does not belong here. The music is perfectly out of place, just like our heroine, and exactly what should be playing in her head.
The opening title track includes adapted Skye Boat Song lyrics by Bear McCreary with the voice of his lovely songbird wife, Raya Yarbrough. Below is an excerpt from Mr. McCreary’s website explaining the lengths he’s gone to make the introduction more spectacular each week:
One thing I hope has become obvious to fans by now is a prominent difference from week to week: the Main Title music changes every week! Ron and I were excited to custom-tailor the music each week to match the tone of the episode it precedes. The majority of every title sequence remains unchanged: vocalist Raya Yarbrough sings “The Skye Boat Song,” and is always joined by a warm string orchestra, bagpipe band and Scottish marching drums. The ending, however, changes from week to week. In the first episode, Uilleann pipes quote a final refrain of the melody before fading out. In the second episode, a penny whistle states the melody, and is joined by bodhrán, and they extended the theme well into the first scene, bridging the title and the first score cue. In the third episode, the main title ends with a solo Celtic harp, to foreshadow the musical performance that will end the episode. In the fourth episode, we hear a solo fiddle and in the fifth we hear a seventeenth-century instrument called a viola da gamba. This means there will exist sixteen unique variations of the Main Title theme by the time the first season concludes!
26: Outlander’s Ciamar A Chanas Sibh . . . Ann An Gàdhlig?
The story of Outlander takes place in a foreign land – unless you live in Scotland, of course. To add to Claire’s misfit status being in the wrong place at the wrong time, she is surrounded by a language she doesn’t understand. In the novel, Gàidhlig words and phrases are peppered throughout the dialogue. But the televised adaptation fully embraces the endangered Celtic language.
Àdhamh Ó Broin – ambassador, tutor and translator to the stars – brings an authenticity to the show, enabling the actors to deliver and sound as if Gàidhlig is honestly their first language.
Not having subtitles to accompany the scenes showcasing the r-rolling, guttural dialect may be part of the reason interest in learning the language has increased among non-Scots. One of those to embrace the Gàidhlig culture is my friend Mandy Tidwell. She has an entire website dedicated to all things of Scottish culture from the language to its music. Go to Great Scot! Cultural Musings of an Outlandish Nature to read about her adventures and maybe even pick up a little Gàidhlig.
25: Outlander’s Two Highlanders And An Englishman Walk Into A Bar . . .
Two minor book characters and one new character burst onto the small screen and into our hearts. Two make us laugh and one made us ask, “Who’s that handsome young chap with the impeccable manners?”
Tom Brittney‘s introduction as Lt. Tom Foster in RENT is a nice little surprise. He’s a minor character but makes a big impact, especially to Dougal MacKenzie’s ego. I doubt Angus would have been so cocky if it had been just the two of them, but then again – Angus is a rascal with a blade of any size and length, able to handle anything long and heavy.
I don’t know if we’ll see Lt. Foster again, most likely not, but it’s been lovely to meet at least one gentleman among the English ranks.
Grant O’Rourke embodies the character of Rupert MacKenzie, Jamie’s cousin n-number of times removed, in a larger than life way. Together with Angus Mohr, an Outlander character expanded upon and played by Stephen Walters, we’re given several chuckles. The two of them play off each other much like Laurel and Hardy, only Laurel is the grouchy one.
Both of them are Highlanders to the core but eventually turn into softies. Aren’t all Highlanders really gooey in the middle, except for Dougal?
24: Outlander’s Shush Heard Round The World in THE GATHERING
Author Diana Gabaldon Herself makes a cameo appearance in THE GATHERING as Iona MacTavish. And there is much rejoicing.
How exciting is it to see our favorite author take her place inside the world she created?
<————– T – h – i – s M – u – c – h ————–>
Not only does she receive a few snippy words from Mrs. I-knew-she-was-a-b!tch Fitz, but she delivers her own b!tchy “shush” to the magnificent Murtagh who is minding his own business w – a – y down at the other end of the gallery, translating the goings on to Claire and us. Of course, we all know Ms. Gabaldon would n-e-v-e-r shush any of us in real life. She’d probably just give us one of her looks.
Take a Look Inside with Ms. Gabaldon Herself at her small screen debut:
23: Outlander’s Cultural Awareness Scenes
Given Outlander is based on a historical fiction novel, I wanted to include a bit of 18th Century culture on this list. While there’s much from which to choose, I limited myself to four disparate social practices.
An Evening’s Entertainment
Scottish musician Gillebrìde MacMillan plays Gwyllyn the Welsh Bard in THE WAY OUT. He treats the guests of Colum’s hall and the home audience with an ensemble of Celtic tunes. Composer Bear McCreary discusses in great detail on his blog the multiple challenges he faced in the scenes where Master MacMillian is featured.
Through medieval to 18th Century Gàidhlig and Welsh societies, bards were professional poets hired by nobility and royalty to sing the praises of their patrons. A talented bard reflected highly on the nobleman supporting him. Then as now, talent came at a price. The most sought after bards received royal compensation or left for another house, most likely not before leaving with a parting satirical piece unflattering to his former patron. In this episode, Jamie tells Claire that Colum wisely pays Gwyllyn his just compensation for an evening’s entertainment.
For your sing-along pleasure, I include the Gàidhlig lyrics and English translations for two of the songs featured in THE WAY OUT.
An Fhideag Airgeid | The Silver Whistle
Gràdh Geal Mo Chridh’ | My Heart’s Fair LoveThis Is The Way We Waulk The Wool
It doesn’t get much more Scottish than the wool waulking scene in RENT. This creative addition to the television series is specifically written to give us a taste of 18th Century Scottish labor culture through Claire’s eyes.
Waulking or luadh (loo-ugh) in Gàidhlig, to keep things Scottish, is the ancient process of fulling and cleansing wool. As shown in the scene Claire comes upon, the material is doused with human urine then pounded and slapped against a wood surface.
To assist in their manual labor, waulking songs known as orain luaidh (or-ine loo-ie) were sung by the ladies to help keep a steady rhythm harmonizing their efforts.
Magic On The Fairy Hill
One of the most breathtaking scenes in the entire series is the witches dancing around the stones of Craigh na Dun in SASSENACH. This is the meeting point between Claire’s two worlds, two lives, two loves. It deserves a grand introduction and receives one in the form of stunning cinematography, musical score and choreography.
Superstition . . . witches . . . ghosts . . . magic stones are all concepts dismissed by modern intellectuals, except in Scotland. I’ve often wondered if there’s more to Claire’s DNA enabling her to time travel. Some think you have to believe in ghosts to see them. Do you have to believe in time travel to pass through the stones? I don’t mean wish, all you wanna-be Sassenachs. I mean, really believe?
Claire seems more like Skully than Mulder in the opening episode of Outlander. She’s very down to earth but also connected to it through her interest in herbs and plants. Do the stones reach for her as much as she’s drawn to them?
There’s a magical science to this method of time travel. Even if you have the right genes, you’re not guaranteed success. Like any scientific experiment, belief and luck go hand-in-hand.
Crime & Punishment
There’s a lot of punishment in Outlander. As far as I can tell, very little of it is deserved – at least not to the level it’s taken. Certainly, Jamie’s flogging is unjust from the Scottish perspective. From Randall’s twisted point-of-view, it’s a necessary lesson to all those Scots who don’t like being locked up and mistreated for trying to protect their home and family. The penal system is, to put it mildly, warped and corrupt. Yes, I’m talking about the 18th Century.
“Colum’s Court” in CASTLE LEOCH seems a bit more humane, depending on the accusation. In the case of a land dispute, why not let the two farmer’s duke it out? Because that would be barbaric. A girl kisses a boy not her husband, let’s beat her! Okay, spank her. Would Rupert have been assigned the task of spanking her naked butt? How in the world is that not sexual assault? Oh, yeah. There was no such thing as sexual assault back then. There was sex with a yes or a no, still ending in sex.
And then we have the nailing of a young boy’s ear to a post in THE WAY OUT. Claire takes time out of her busy schedule trying to save a boy’s life to be appalled at the sentencing of another. It’s a theory that harsh sentencing prevents crime. <insert cricket sounds> I guess it works in Singapore where gum chewing is illegal. No one gets hurt, but you can get slapped with a huge fine. Can’t fine poor people though. Life in the 18th Century sucks if you’re hungry. Steal a bannock. Lose an ear. Now, you’re hungry and have no ear. You’re still poor and have to go out and steal another bannock.
So basically, the crimes in this show are being Scottish, poor or a hoor. Corporal punishment all around!
22: Outlander’s . . . And The Award For Best Costumes Goes To OUTLANDER
Terry Dresbach is not only a dedicated and gifted costume designer, she is also an Outlander fan with her love of the series adding a special touch to her creations. I’m sure as she read the novels years ago, her mind whirled around the possibilities. What a dream come true to execute what she’d only ever imagined.
In addition, Ms. Dresbach generously and enthusiastically enjoys interacting with other fans, sharing her passion for Scotland and her insights into the design process for several of her pieces through her website – An 18th Century Life.
It’s difficult to single out my favorite designs of the season, but Claire’s stylish traveling duds in RENT do spring to mind.
Beyond that, I’ll simply link you to the incomplete list of mini-costume galleries I have posted on my blog to view Ms. Dresbach’s other creations for yourself.
Here’s also an Inside Look at the making of Claire’s fairy tale wedding gown.
21: Outlander’s A Man Living On Borrowed Time
One of the most vital characters in the series is Colum MacKenzie, brought to colorful life by actor Gary Lewis. He’s instilled in the clan MacKenzie Laird a blunt power. Born to be a leader but crippled by his condition, he relies on his younger brother, Dougal, for more than he’d like.
Mr. Lewis plays Colum with a scrupulous and self-serving hand. Claire starts out thinking very little of her 18th Century opponent. She’s from the 20th Century, thus has the advantage. Silly Claire always thinking she has the advantage. Through the story, her feelings range from animosity toward him to pity for his condition to fear for Jamie’s life and finally turn into respect.
The symbiotic relationship between Colum and Dougal is the lynch pin in Mr. Lewis’ performance. Even towered over by the commanding and stalwart Graham McTavish doesn’t diminish the strength he exudes. He may have been born with a degenerative disease, but his strong will carries him tall.
In this scene Colum makes clear as long as he holds a dagger, there is no room for political incorrectness in his castle:
20: Outlander’s She’s Just That Into You Scene from THE WAY OUT
Claire and Jamie establish an early friendship upon her arrival in the 18th Century, followed by several are they flirting? scenes. Claire’s drinking problem makes the answer a bit fuzzy. But Jamie does a lot of checking out Mrs. Robinson, er, Beauchamp, although she never seems to notice.
From the beginning, he takes a protective stance regarding the Sassenach. It’s difficult to say whether he’s really worried about her safety or wants her for himself . . . probably a bit of both. In this particular episode, he follows her around like a puppy dog, eventually turning into a dog when Claire spots him making out with Laoghaire MacKenzie in a fairly common area. Seems to me he wants to be caught. Maybe he hopes to show Claire early on his non-monk kissing skills.
One evening, Jamie escorts Claire to her surgery under the pretense of checking his bandages. That’s code for “I want to get you alone so I can get myself all hot and bothered before I retire to the stables by myself.”
This isn’t the first time sparks sizzle then fizzle between them, but it is the first time Claire doesn’t remind herself she’s a married woman.
In this clip, preceding the above scene, Jamie makes known how much more of his past he’s shared with Claire over others he’s known longer in his life.
19: Outlander’s Crash Boom Bang Scene from SASSENACH
For all the references to Claire being a WWII combat nurse, it’s a thrill and a joy to see our heroine in action on the front lines. SASSENACH takes us into the operating theater and lets us watch Claire up to her elbows in blood and guts.
After seeing her yell orders and wipe blood from her face, we know who this woman is, and we’re ready to follow her wherever she goes.
18: Outlander’s A Moment Of Silence Scene from RENT
“You can see how flat and open and boggy it is. The Highland army was completely exposed. And they then charged into the teeth of musket fire, cannons, mortars with nothing more than their broadswords for the most part.”
“Well, it was very, very quick and very bloody. And the whole thing took less than an hour.”
“How many were killed?”
“The Jocobites lost something in the region of 2000 men. But the interesting thing is that in the years following Culloden, the estates of the clan chieftains were plundered, sold. The government banned the wearing of tartans. They banned their kind of swords, even the Gàidhlig language. In effect, Culloden marked the end of the clans . . . the end of the Highlander way of life.”
“1746 . . . three years from now. And what of these MacKenzie men? How many of them were doomed to die on that wretched battlefield?”
In this scene of Claire reflecting back on her visit to Culloden Moor in RENT, the story is made very real. She’s always known the MacKenzie clan’s future to a certain extent, but the reminder of how close the end is geographically and temporally makes it poignant for Claire and the audience.
17: Outlander’s Jamie Takes a Wallop Scene from CASTLE LEOCH
In CASTLE LEOCH Jamie shows his mettle by stepping forward to accept the punishment for Laoghaire MacKenzie. Just how closely related are they, anyway?
We already know he’s brave and funny. Now, we witness his strength of character. And we learn the MacKenzie’s are just like a modern family – spiteful, dubious, and ruthless. In this scene, Jamie becomes the evening’s entertainment and Dougal plays the part of the a$$.
16: Outlander’s Cutest Introduction in BOTH SIDES NOW
BOTH SIDES NOW says “hello” to Roger “Wee Roger Mac” Wakefield, played by the adorable Rory Burns. The introduction of this little guy is most likely the only glimpse we’ll have of him, but he is a very welcome sight to Outlander fans around the world.
For those of you who do not know who is, I’ll just say he’s a major character beginning next season – in adult sized proportions – and is sure to become a fan favorite.
15. Outlander’s The Dark Side Of Frank Randall in BOTH SIDES NOW
Tobias Menzies’ performance as Good and Bad in BOTH SIDES NOW is an exploration into the dark side of Frank Randall. He expresses a kaleidoscopic range of emotions from rage to utter despair. The only emotion he doesn’t experience is happiness. Well, he may have gotten a small thrill while beating his would-be assailants with his black jack in the alley.
In a clever reversal of roles, Black Jack has a splendid time with Claire in his office, charming her then turning the table on her before pinning her to it. His final expression is priceless when he sees Jamie in the window and learns Claire is Mrs. Fraser.
This episode marks an exit for Frank’s character from Season 1, and I, for one, offer my gratitude and respect to Mr. Menzies for his singular performance. I go into greater detail in my review for Ep108.
14: Outlander’s Resident Witches
Move over Claire, Outlander already has at least one witch and her name is Geillis Duncan played by the lovely and talented Lotte Verbeek. She brings to the character a mischievous charm and underlying craftiness. Well, it’s not too underlying, but Claire doesn’t seem to detect it . . . much.
Like Laoghaire MacKenzie, played by the exuberant Nell Hudson, we’re not supposed to know early on that either of them are villains. It may be a bit harsh characterizing Leery as a villain, but what else do you call a young woman who puts her rival’s life in danger then doesn’t lift a finger to say, “Oops.” The rivalry is over, kid. Claire wins.
As they say, blonds – and I think redheads, too – have more fun, so I’m sure Ms. Verbeek and Ms. Hudson are having a blast playing Claire’s BFFs. The expansion of both their characters is an appreciated addition to the series. It allows us to get to know them better so we can hate and fear them even more later. Just don’t forget to hate the characters and not the wonderful actresses playing the parts.
From Geillis’ introduction of herself as a possible witch to Leery’s supposition that Claire is a witch, we are reminded life in the 18th Century is dangerous enough without girlfriends like these women.
13: Outlander’s I’ll Thank You To Take Your Hands Off My Wife Scene from BOTH SIDES NOW
From beginning to end, this scene is a pleasure to watch. Black Jack and Claire play a little mind chess, but she is outmatched before the game even begins. Black Jack lies and schemes for a living where the stakes are life and death. The fact she is able to make him dribble his Chianti is a miracle. For a fleeting second, he underestimates her.
What a way to end the season, er, mid-season. Can’t wait to find out how they leave us hanging at the end of the second half.
12: Outlander’s How Long Does It Take To Change A Dressing? Scene from CASTLE LEOCH
Claire and Jamie alone in front of a fireplace? Are you kidding me? Even Claire seeing Jamie’s scars for the first time doesn’t ruin the mood. Of course, neither does the oozing bullet wound.
In the scene above a rudimentary trust has already been established, but this is where the friendship begins. Jamie reads an early strength in Claire that enables him to share his most painful past with her. His tale of Black Jack Randall at Lallybroch exposes another layer of the young Highlander’s character. As we follow nurse Claire from the battlefields of WWII to the 18th Century, so will we follow Jamie.
From Jamie’s shared vulnerability, Claire shares her own pain and fear with her captor-turned-protector. It’s an emotional and pivotal scene between virtual strangers which serves to bind them together.
The following clip is Claire’s reaction to Jamie’s mention of her husband Frank, not by name.
11: Outlander’s Godfather
Duncan Lacroix as Murtagh FitzGibbons Fraser has turned in a standout performance. Always at Jamie’s side, there’s nothing Murtagh won’t do for his godson. His loyalty goes beyond blood. He would follow Jamie through fire.
Mr. Lacroix embodies Murtagh with the all the laconic ferocity we expect. But he also brings a tenderness to the character through his glittering eyes and shy smile, adding a lovable intensity that’s garnered him a large fan following. A dark horse he may be, but a bright star does he shine.
The following two clips show Murtagh at his best and most loquacious.
10: Outlander’s A Beautiful Creation Scene from THE GARRISON COMMANDER
Many may find the scene of Black Jack flogging Jamie unwatchable, but that’s a good thing. It means the filmmakers are doing their job well. I find it to be a fascinating study of both human and animal nature. The power struggle between these two opposing personalities is what grips us. The line between good and evil is very clear, though Black Jack thinks his part is that of right.
While I don’t enjoy watching Jamie suffer, I do cheer for his bravery in the face of tyranny, his strength of endurance, and his stubbornness not to please his aggressor. All are admirable qualities in a boyfriend, except when he refuses to take you shopping.
Black Jack playing with Jamie like a wounded bird, poking and hitting him before the flogging, is the epitome of someone you do not want taking care of your pets. Having no regard for human suffering, I’d hate to see what he does to Jamie in private. Oh, wait . . .
Not included below are pictures of Jamie’s back. I know how sensitive some viewers are so chose to leave out the more gratuitous angles. But I do want to applaud the special effects make up artists and sound technicians for their contributions to this scene, making it a realistic and horrific portrayal of man at his worst and a man at his best.
9: Outlander’s I Guess You’re Coming With Me Scene from SASSENACH
At this point in the story, we already like Claire and are perhaps rooting for her to get back to the stones. It’s during this scene of Jamie tracking her down in the grove where we first say “Wait a second now . . .”
This is where Jamie and Claire transition from patient-nurse to warrior-damsel to man-woman with a spike in their pheromones. It’s a playful scene that endears Jamie to us immediately – if he hasn’t already taken over your heart. He challenges her without the threat of violence as she expects. If Claire wasn’t so preoccupied with getting back to the stones, she might enjoy this heated interaction as much as we do.
Who ever thought blood could be so sexy?
8: Outlander’s Jamie Shows His Stuff Scene from THE GATHERING
In this scene at the MacKenzie Gathering, we receive a huge data dump on Jamie. Hiding out during most of the festivities, he is unfortunately and unwittingly coaxed out in the open by Claire.
Joining Murtagh in Leoch’s hall, she learns all about Jamie’s family connections and his reasons for keeping out of sight. It’s a large puzzle piece turning the horse whisperer into lordship material. Murtagh’s dialogue over Jamie’s guarded movements through the hall is an especially compelling method to reveal the tale.
7: Outlander’s The Jacobite
Graham McTavish as Dougal MacKenzie is a riot to watch. For most of the show, he wears a “F#@* you” face when looking at everyone, especially Jamie – his Lairdly nemesis. Hamish seems to be the only one who gets off the hook, putting a laugh on Uncle Dougal’s face when he needs it most.
When we first meet Dougal in SASSENACH, he cuts an imposing figure. Mr. McTavish is everything we want the war chieftain to be – handsome, powerful, and surprisingly a non-advocate of rape – that rule being more for others than himself.
In CASTLE LEOCH and THE GATHERING, he perfects his stern glare from beside his brother and seems always to be quiet unless asked a question. Claire introduces a bit of excitement to the castle environment, one Dougal is unable to resist.
It’s not until RENT we see him come alive as a jokester, schmoozer, and politician. He still plays a bastard, too, but at least has a noble cause. It doesn’t make his use of Jamie any better though.
Finally, in THE GARRISON COMMANDER, his chivalric side takes over without any expected payment from Claire – at least not until her honeymoon.
But before he walks her down the aisle, he thinks about plunging his dagger in her – a real dagger, not his corn grinding one.
I can’t wait to see what sides Mr. McTavish shows in the second half of the season. They’re sure to be just as entertaining as the first half.
6: Outlander’s . . . And That’s How You Write A Script for THE GARRISON COMMANDER
While all of the scripts this season have had their special moments and memorable scenes, Ira Stephen Behr’s script for THE GARRISON COMMANDER stands out as a masterful piece of writing from beginning to end.
“I dwell in darkness, madam, and darkness is where I belong. I need no sympathy from you, and you will receive none from me.”
This script dares to take us into the mind of Black Jack Randall. What we find is a man so far removed from the light, I’m surprised he’s able to function around others without more blood-letting. The drawn out scene between Claire and Black Jack leads us to the telling of Jamie’s flogging through the eyes of the man who wielded the instrument of pain. What ensues is an operatic production of tragedy and love.
From fear and loathing to marriage and virginity, the story ends on a musical high note with Jamie and Claire exchanging more than telephone numbers. Together with Brian Kelly’s direction and exceptional performances by Tobias Menzies, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, this episode is simply Bloody Brilliant.
5: Outlander’s Claire and Jamie Finally Do It in THE WEDDING
All kidding and sex aside, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan put in two realistic and lovely portrayals as Claire and James Fraser in THE WEDDING. That the scenes are romantic, sensual, and titillating goes without saying. The way Ms. Balfe and Mr. Heughan interact and build on their relationship throughout the episode is blissful to watch. There’s an open honesty to their dual performance, some of which I can’t help but wonder is genuine. Chemistry between actors is essential whether making love or arguing. Without that and trust, we wouldn’t have what we witness in the honeymoon suite.
In my review of Ep107, I describe one of my favorite scenes between Jamie and Claire which happens not to involve sex – not directly. In it, Jamie plays with Claire’s hair, caresses the back of her neck with his fingertips and fondles her shoulder. Even though they’ve already consummated the marriage, they still treat each other with a shy curiosity.
The passage of time and the sharing of their perspectives on the wedding ceremony bring down what remains of their shyness and uncertainty. Without a doubt, Jamie has been ready to resume his sexual education all evening, but catering to Claire’s schedule makes their coming together the second time an even better experience for him than he would have otherwise known.
I look forward to the development of their relationship in the second half of the season. From the bit of intimacy we’ve seen, we’re sure to be blown away as their feelings evolve into true love.
Here’s an Inside Look at THE WEDDING episode.
4: Outlander’s James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Sam Heughan as James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser? Not much.
Mr. Heughan has embraced the character of Jamie with his heart, mind and soul. It shows in his performance on and off the screen. Putting aside his physical characteristics, which happen to match the vision for at least 99.9% of the Outlander fandom, I believe it’s his approach and attitude making him personify Jamie as well as he does. His incarnation is so accurate, from his finger tapping to his Jamie smile, he has women believing in literary reincarnation.
Several of his most memorable scenes so far this season have already been mentioned. In THE GATHERING, he has one additional knock-out performance when we meet the real JAMMF for the first time. If you need a reminder, here’s the clip:
In THE GARRISON COMMANDER and to a certain extent in CASTLE LEOCH, we behold the heart of the man. Each time Jamie is forced into a face-to-face confrontation with Black Jack Randall, he bares himself to the audience.
In THE WEDDING we meet the most vulnerable parts of him – parts he keeps well-protected from Black Jack despite the man’s pitiless prodding.
The success of Outlander rests primarily on two shoulders. Sam Heughan takes up the mantle on the right with his perfectly cast screen partner holding up the other side.
3: Outlander’s A Star Sassenach Is Born
And we come to the star of the show – Caitriona Balfe as Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser. Just as Claire is the woman we all want to be, so has Ms. Balfe stolen our hearts.
Taking on the role of such an iconic and well-known character must have its intimidating challenges. But Ms. Balfe has met every demand with professionalism, courage and poise. It shows in her performance every week. The strength, intelligence, and humor she exudes onscreen is what carries the show.
In SASSENACH, we meet a modern 20th Century woman forged by the riptide of war. Thrown into a maelstrom of danger, she fights her fear and stands her ground.
Through each episode she adapts to survive and eventually to thrive. Going off the reservation in RENT advances Claire’s relationship with Dougal and the rest of the MacKenzies, including Jamie.
Unfortunately, being on the road also reunites her with Black Jack Randall in THE GARRISON COMMANDER.
In THE WEDDING Claire returns to the confused and frightened woman she was in SASSENACH with much of the same expressions – until the honeymoon and lots of whiskey later.
In BOTH SIDES NOW, Ms. Balfe takes Claire into new territory, letting loose her emotions for Jamie and facing her fear of Black Jack.
There’s not a single emotion not expressed by Ms. Balfe as Claire Randall, now Fraser, in this first half of the season. The second half can only intensify her feelings as she becomes attached to Jamie and her new life in the 18th Century. I look forward to Ms. Balfe’s continued rising star.
2: Outlander’s True Nature
With stellar performances from all the actors in this series, singling out Tobias Menzies comes down to two factors. His portrayal of Captain Jonathan Wolverton Randall in THE GARRISON COMMANDER is both a highlight and a surprise.
In SASSENACH we are given only the briefest taste of Black Jack Randall.
In CASTLE LEOCH his true nature comes into focus.
In THE GARRISON COMMANDER it comes to full life.
Black Jack is the kind of character created to steal the spotlight, and I cannot imagine anyone doing a more fabulous job than Tobias Menzies. Perhaps his transformation from Frank to Black Jack is part of the reason for my total fascination with his character. But even without the juxtaposition, the mannerisms and dark spirit Mr. Menzies gives Black Jack is truly frightening.
To say Tobias Menzies’ performance is a surprise is not an insult. Having never seen him in anything else, I was unprepared for how freaking talented he is. Whenever he’s onscreen, my eyes are on him. He is simply mesmerizing.
1: Outlander’s Scottish Pearls Scene from THE WEDDING
You may wonder how I am able to select one scene from the entire first half of the series as my favorite. Well, I simplified matters. I selected my favorites from each episode and numbered them accordingly. It should be no surprise this scene between Claire and Jamie on their honeymoon would rank high. Most of you might prefer the earlier scene of Claire instructing Jamie to take his shirt off, and that is a doozy.
But the pearl scene evokes so much more emotion with very little dialogue; Claire has none. They speak to each other with their hands, lips, eyes and other body parts. Claire’s guard is down for the very first time, and Jamie experiences something more powerful than sex. They come together no longer strangers and as something more than lovers.
The natural lighting from the fireplace and candles create the perfect romantic setting, making Claire and Jamie’s skin shimmer. The pearls around her neck tie them together, and the addition of Claire draping Jamie’s kilt around his shoulders is a beautiful touch.
The producers and writers have drawn a lot of attention to hand holding in almost every episode, more so in THE WEDDING as you may recall from my review. Since the first time Claire extended her hand to Jamie on the side of the road in SASSENACH, I have payed particular attention. Needless to say, this is my favorite clasping of their hands in a tender and loving embrace. This is the beginning of their mutual love story – minus a few hiccups.
Call this last one . . .
#0: Outlander’s Dream Team
I’ve listed all my favorite sights and sounds of the season so far, but I can’t leave without giving a big nod to the big cheeses: Ron Moore, Maril Davis, and Diana Gabaldon. Having the show helmed by admirers of the novel with positive reinforcement from the creator Herself are what make Outlander an extraordinary series. With the production for Season 2 on the horizon, we have exciting times ahead.
I hope you enjoyed my walk down memory lane. This will be my last post on this side of the Atlantic. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be kissing the soil of Scotland. I hope to meet several of you in Wigtown!