With it being summer, I’ve found time to play catch-up on “new” shows and if one thing is for certain it’s I am drawn to shows that take place at least 100 years ago.
Earlier this summer, I finished season one of Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” and now I’m watching season two. I loved the show but seeing as I’m now at the point where I have to wait for the new episode each week (or until the new season starts), I had to find a new show to binge.
This is where Starz’s “Outlander” comes into play.
I searched different Starz and Showtime series and I was drawn to “Outlander” for a few reasons. The first was the time period, or least the time period most of the show takes place in. The second was the time traveling aspect of going from 1945 to 1743. The third was the beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
I started watching not realizing the show was based on a book series by Diana Gabaldon and honestly it didn’t effect my viewing. You know how sometimes when either a show or a movie is adapted from a book you are left feeling like you’re missing something? “Outlander” hasn’t made me feel like I need to read the books in order to understand what’s going on so there’s a huge plus.
The show starts off in 1945 post WWII Scotland as an English woman, Claire Randall, and her husband, Frank Randall, are taking a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands. Unfortunately for Claire, she visits some old standing stones named Craigh na Dun and is transported to 1743. She encounters her husband’s ancestor, Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall, who turns out to be the season’s villain. She is rescued from Black Jack by a group of Scots, taken to Castle Leoch and kept under the orders of Colum MacKenzie to stay as the castle healer. Eventually, Claire is forced to marry Jaime Fraser, nephew of Colum and Dougal MacKenzie, in order to protect her from Black Jack under Scottish law. Through many ups, downs and extreme downs, the season ends with Claire, Jamie and Murtagh Fraser sailing to France in order to seek safety.
That’s the extreme short version of the story. Here are some details about the characters and why I’ve come to love this show.
Claire is one of the strongest female characters in a show I have ever seen. She was a nurse during WWII and seen plenty of gruesome war injuries. Being a woman of the 20th century, she is not used to being “put in her place” by her husband. When she’s thrown into the 18th century, she acts and speaks differently than the women of the time. One of the funniest parts of the show is watching the men react to some of the things she says and does. Because she is from the future, she also knows what is going to happen and where they will take place.
Jamie is a bit of a mystery that slowly reveals his past. You know his back is severely scarred and know it was Black Jack who did it but you don’t get the whole story until later. Claire has tended to Jamie since she first landed in 1743 due to an injury from a battle with the “Redcoats” and we see the connection early on between the two characters. Jamie is considered an outlaw because he escaped from prison and anytime the British army comes into contact Jamie is forced to hide. Though Jamie’s uncle Dougal MacKenzie forces Jamie and Claire to marry in order for Claire to be protected under Scottish law, Jamie isn’t exactly angry about the situation they’ve been put into.
Black Jack is nothing short of a villain. He is the first person Claire runs into in 1743 and he attempts to rape her before the Scots take her. Your opinion of him just continues to drop from there. He takes pleasure in the pain he inflicts on others and views Jamie’s scarred back as a “masterpiece.” The truly messed up part? He mentally injures Jamie far worse toward the end of the season due to his sexual obsession with breaking Jamie.
Which is where the controversy surrounding the season finale of “Outlander” comes up.
There is an intense, physically and mentally, rape scene between Jamie and Black Jack. It’s made know earlier in the season that Black Jack gave Jamie a choice: take the lashings or give me your body. Jamie chose the lashings and he eventually escaped Black Jack’s clutches. The Redcoats catch Jamie again and Black Jack saves him from execution moments before he was to be hanged. After a terrible round of torture and a threat to Claire, who had tried to free him, Jamie surrenders himself to Black Jack and the rape scene is shown in flashback after Jamie is rescued.
The funny, and not funny as in humor, part is not much media coverage was given to the scene. I am a huge “Game of Thrones” fan and with the latest rape in the show, so many people were outraged and many media outlets took stands against the scene and asked “has ‘Game of Thrones’ gone too far?” That particular rape scene was not visible but you could hear the actions and the camera zoomed in on Theon Greyjoy who was forced to watch it happen. The “Outlander” scene was much more graphic and the exploited psychological damage done to Jamie was much more intense yet not many stories popped up. Is this because the show isn’t as popular as “Game of Thrones” or is it because it was a male raped and not a female?
I know it seems like I absolutely love the show and can see no wrong with it but that would be false. I have one problem; the Gaelic. I’m not saying it’s aggravating that the Scottish characters will speak Gaelic at length or just a few words here or there because I think that adds to the authenticity of the characters. I hate not knowing what they are saying though. Usually when you’re watching a movie or show where a different language is used there are subtitles telling you what they are saying so you, as the viewer, can be in on the secret. There are no subtitles in “Outlander.” It drives me crazy that I don’t know what the characters are saying back and forth but I think I know why they’ve been left out. Claire doesn’t know Gaelic and as the narrator of the show, she brings up how those around her will speak in Gaelic in order to keep something from her or to exclude her. I feel like the audience is supposed to get the same feeling in order to sympathize with Claire’s plight.
I’m excited for season two! I haven’t read the books and I don’t know that I will get around to it therefore I’m not sure what’s ahead for Jamie and Claire but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the two in France.