One of the many things you’ll notice about Ron D. Moore‘s scripted Outlander Episode 301: THE BATTLE JOINED is the silence. Though it’s not without battle scenes on Culloden Moor and in Boston, silence is the name of the game.
Firstly, they’ll be no juicy spoilers in this glimpse of Episode 301. My lips are sealed out of respect for the show and its fans.
Secondly, there is no Claire or Jamie voiceover, nor any “Look Who’s Talking” voiceover from baby Bree. Nope. No voiceover from Frank, either.
Thirdly, the battle scenes are quite intense. (I don’t believe I’m introducing a spoiler here. It’s common knowledge the Season 3 premiere takes up where the Season 2 finale left off.) Though intense, the decision not to drown out the sounds of battle with loud action music is greatly appreciated by this fan. This isn’t a Hollywood blockbuster sci-fi movie. This is Outlander where the music by Bear McCreary is written and orchestrated with his personal and emotional connection to the material in the books and on the screen. (No offense to other composers.) The key battle sounds are made more poignant by this arrangement as well.
Fourthly, Claire is isolated … again. The tense silence between her and Frank is felt as much as heard. When they do speak to each other, it’s with strained politeness – almost as if we’re back in Season 1, episode 1. They are getting to know each other again after a long separation, only this time – a baby (elephant) is in the room. Sex is not the fixer here.
Fifthly, Frank is a reticent man. The war changed him. Claire’s disappearance changed him. He’s a man leading a post-war, post-Claire life doing his “thing” while having to adjust to a new life with a distant Claire. Pins and needles, folks. Pins and needles.
Sixthly, Jamie is a man of quiet and violent action rather than words in this episode. When he does speak, grunt or wheeze, it’s with brevity and loneliness. I believe book fans will be especially pleased.
Lastly, the ticking of a clock is featured in one scene, and to me, represents everyone’s emotions perfectly – the characters and ours. Fans cannot wait for the moment Claire and Jamie reunite. Even non-readers know it’s going to happen. This entire episode is a countdown of sorts – not toward the reunion – but toward its own conclusion. I knew what was going to happen and yet the simmering tension kept me riveted. Frank is a patient man. He did, after all, wait for Claire when all hope seemed lost, but every man has a breaking point. The clock clicks down. Jamie is a dead man. He does, after all, give up hope when Claire leaves and seems resolved to die. The clock clicks down. Claire is a pregnant woman. She does, after all, have a promise to keep to both men and a baby reminding her at all moments. The clock clicks down. What a pickle for all three of them!
The pickle(s) unfold through flashes between Claire and Frank’s stuffy life in Boston and Jamie’s sucky life in Scotland, much like the Season 2 final episode splitting the story between Claire and Jamie’s sucky life just prior to Culloden and Claire’s furtive life with grown up Bree. Then and now. Back and forth.
Tobias Menzies‘ always mesmerizing performances are a welcome addition to any episode. [Pooh pooh to the naysayers.] He brings a breadth and life to both Frank and Jonathan not present in the book series. And he does it again in Episode 301. One side of the coin has more to say than the other, but we’re completely aware of what the other guy is thinking and feeling through Tobias’ marvelous expressions.
Caitriona Balfe makes us feel her frustration, pain and loss. Claire is safely back in the 20th century, but it feels more foreign to her than the 18th century ever did. That’s what happens when you leave part of yourself behind. She’s at odds with Frank, his colleagues and society in general. In Episode 301 Caitriona continues to embody Claire in a way which makes it difficult to imagine anyone else personifying the character so perfectly.
Sam Heughan seems to know Jamie as well as he does himself. As we enter the third season, actor Sam continues to evolve with red Jamie – never boring, always impressive. How does a man live knowing death is upon him? Jamie shows the way while Sam makes us root then breaks our heart with a little help from his friends.
Given Voyager is perhaps my favorite novel of the Outlander series, on which this season is based, it’s easy to understand how much I enjoy Jamie and Claire’s character arcs. What’s special about the beginning parts of the storyline in this season is watching Jamie truly develop on his own in the past while Claire forges a life for herself in the future. They each grow in ways they couldn’t have in each other’s company. In Claire’s case, both the 18th and 20th century present her with obstacles she must conquer on her own. Jamie’s existence is harrowing and empty at times, but enriched in other life-changing ways.
Diana Gabaldon commented during the panel discussion prior to the screening she did not write an episode for season 3 because, after all, she wrote the book. Some of Jamie’s scenes, in particular, are ripped straight from those pages. Other scenes bring life to my imagination. Claire and Frank’s scenes are whipped cream with cherries and sprinkles, showing us their life in old-fashioned technicolor. Frank and Claire’s life is soaked in 1940s Boston from their beautiful house to other locales. It very much feels like watching an old movie with your favorite silver screen stars.
We all have to wait until September 10 to see this episode again or to see it for the first time, but you can feast your eyes on this thrilling, three-minute series recap shared by Outlander STARZ prior to the screening.
From the very beginning to the bittersweet end, I devoured the story in a way I don’t think I ever did in Season 1 or Season 2. Episode 301: THE BATTLE JOINED has a sublime combination of action, drama, lightness, sadness and just the right amount of comedy. Perhaps I’m more invested. Perhaps I was overloaded and awestruck by the surprise screening. Perhaps it was just that good. More than likely, it was a combination of the three. After all …
this is Outlander.