Weekend Binge Watch: Outlander

About a month ago, a friend forwarded a list of upcoming Writer’s Guild panels to our writing group, and I noticed that one of the names on a panel was my undergrad TV writing teacher. I haven’t seen her since then, [mumble] years ago, but this seemed like the perfect opportunity to stalk her say hi and also the perfect excuse to finally watch a show I’ve been told for years I should watch. Last week I finally upgraded my cable package to include Starz and I spent this weekend catching up On Demand. I’ll note right now that two episodes – The Way Out (103) and The Wedding (107) – are missing from On Demand. I may note this frequently, because it pisses me off.

This show has been described as a feminist Game of Thrones, which I think does a disservice to both shows. First, it puts Outlander under a type of microscope that it cannot possibly withstand (the number of times rape or attempted rape are used as plot points is seriously disturbing) and second, it absolves Game of Thrones of the responsibility to be better than gratuitous sex. But there is something to be said for a female character that owns her own sexuality and a camera that follows the female gaze, both of which Outlander excel at.

For those who are unaware, the show follows Claire, an English woman in 1945. WWII has just ended, and Claire, who was a nurse, and her husband Frank, who worked with MI6, have decided to take a “second honeymoon” in Scotland to reconnect and rediscover each other. Unfortunately, Claire also discovers some magic standing stones that send her to 1743, where she is promptly almost raped by Frank’s identical ancestor (same actor, very different character) and saved by men who take her to the savory Jamie.

The pilot was slow and heavy on the exposition, but I think that’s actually a good thing. It’s the only way they can transform this from a ~~ love triangle ~~ to a genuine, serious emotional conflict. All that setup in the pilot goes to establish why Claire would be genuinely desperate to get home, to the point of recklessness. And they’ve got to bring the chemistry with Jamie to a boil slowly, because we don’t want to think she’d just throw her perfectly lovely husband over for an 18th century Scotsman (no matter how hunky). [read whole article here]

Through a series of plot devices I won’t get into here, Claire and Jamie get married, have passionate sex, and fall in love. (In that order.) But the main goal of season 1 is for Claire to get home. Twice, she is within striking distance of the stones that will transport her back to 1945. The first time, she doesn’t hesitate before running for them, and many internet commenters felt betrayed that she was so quick to leave Jamie. Even though she’d just survived her 4th attempted rape in two weeks (possibly more, since I missed two episodes), and maybe wanted to go back to where that would at least be considered illegal? The second time, she has confessed to Jamie who she is and where she’s from, and he delivers her to the stones so she can make a choice. Now, this is more of a dilemma. She and we have gotten to know Jamie better, and the emotions are there. Plus it’s been almost two days since she was nearly burned at the stake as a witch. I was telling one of my friends this and she was like, “But true love!” and I responded, “But indoor plumbing!” Seriously, the love of my life is and forever will be hot showers. (This is why I’m single.) And it’s not like her marriage is perfect.

This entire scene stressed me out because the spanking was clearly non consensual, the show handled the scene really weirdly and a bit irresponsibly, but I would let Jamie spank me among many other things.
Being a feminist is hard. [read whole article here]

In the first half of the second season, Claire and Jamie decide that if Claire’s going to stay in the past, she’s going to make the most of her future-knowledge and try to quell a rebellion that didn’t go well and resulted in the occupying English force basically outlawing Highland culture. To do this, they’ll go to France and infiltrate the rebel group and basically reverse-psychology them into not putting their money where their mouth is. What could go wrong? Also, Frank’s ancestor who looks like Frank (Black Jack) is back and, even though his favorite thing is to rape literally everyone including Jamie and small children, Claire won’t let anyone kill him until he has a child so that Frank can live, or some time-travel nonsense that will make your ears bleed if you think about it too hard.

Like, really Claire? Ugh. We’re not seeing the best of Claire a lot this season. There’s this blindness that she has with the mission where she is blindly going at any cost to try and keep certain things the same and change other things in history. It’s not necessarily the actions of the intelligent Claire that we have come to know as an audience. [read whole article here]

I actually really liked this part, because there was a clearly defined goal that made sense to me, and also the costumes and set design were AMAZING. I mean, the costumes and set design are always amazing, it’s just that they’re usually pretty drab by design. This is full-on, indulgent French aristocracy, and not a single gold thread shall be spared.

In the second half of the season, Claire and Jamie have decided that they’ve failed at Plan A, so on to Plan B, using Claire’s future-knowledge to try to win the rebellion. Unfortunately, it’s not like Claire studied for this, so she doesn’t know much more than names and dates of important battles that were lost. She doesn’t know the how or why or who. And we’re just kind of leading up to what promises to be a very depressing season finale.

This is a show that’s bonkers. And yet, it’s very well thought-out bonkers. I was trying to figure out why Claire was from 1945 and not our present, and I realized people today would be useless. Claire knows how to wash clothes without a washing machine. She’s familiar with the rigid class structures that defined manor life. She’s put time into studying which plants and herbs have medicinal uses because that’s actually useful information for her. She has personally amputated limbs using a saw and no anesthetic. Plus there’s room for her story to move forward. And, being based on a series of novels, there’s so much plot. So, so much happens in every episode, they tend to feel three times longer than they are, which I think makes them time well spent. I watched 23 hours of this show between Friday night and Monday night, and yet I could tell you exactly which episode you were talking about at any given time. That’s rather amazing. And I do want to know what happens next. Depressing as it may be.

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About Generation Coax

I am an aspiring TV writer, amateur photographer, and craft hobbyist.
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