Outlander (TV Show, 2014- )
Adult Romance | Historical Fiction
Starring: Caitriona Balfe (Claire Randall), Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser), Tobias Menzies (Jack Randall/Frank Randall)
Blurb: “After serving as a British Army nurse in World War II, Claire Randall is enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland with husband Frank, an MI6 officer looking forward to a new career as an Oxford historian. Suddenly, Claire is transported to 1743 and into a mysterious world where her freedom and life are threatened. To survive, she marries Jamie Fraser, a strapping Scots warrior with a complicated past and a disarming sense of humor. A passionate relationship ensues, and Claire is caught between two vastly different men in two inharmonious lives. “Outlander” is adapted from the best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon.”
Season One Trailer
pooled ink Review
So I heard about this series from some of my aunts who are really into it. It sounded interesting so I figured I ought to watch it, at least to know what they’re talking about haha. Then a few months later we were at the Highland Games in North Carolina and happened across actor Graham McTavish (“Dougal MacKenzie”). I wasn’t particularly impressed at the time because I had no idea who he was, but now that I’ve actually seen the show if I ran into him again I admit it would be pretty cool. Then almost a year after that, I discovered that the library happened to have the first season on DVD so I went for it and here are my thoughts:
I absolutely loved the history, the setting, and even most of the characters. I haven’t read the books so I can’t give you a comparison of that sort but as far as the TV show stands it was written pretty well and filled with more than a fair share of action. The costumes were excellent, as was the music and the beautiful landscapes.
There are three main players (although there are actually several major characters throughout the first season, these three are locked in the central game of unrelenting revenge, enmity, and sick twisted fate): Claire, Captain Jack Randall, and Jamie Fraser. Overall I liked Claire, I appreciated how she was useful as a WWII British army nurse and therefore as a healer in her new life in 18th C. Scotland. Jack Randall I absolutely loathed. It’s pure hatred that I feel when it comes to him. Total hideous hatred. You can’t even redeem him by saying that at least he’s clever or cunning because he’s not, he’s just basic evil. Now Jamie, okay, I admit I completely fell for him. I couldn’t help but swoon for the valiant kilt-wearing Scotsman. He’s pretty perfect in most regards. Definitely not in all, but most.
I’d like to focus on my favorite part of this series for a moment: the history. It made me want to daydream. It sets its sights on one of the major Scottish rebellions, the British occupation of Scotland, female subjugation, witch trials, and more. I truly loved how the show did not shy away from infusing its English script with Gaelic. Whether it was a challenge for the actors and scriptwriters or not, it was one they took up readily and it really paid off by giving the show an impressive dose of reality and setting (not to mention it’s a beautiful lyrical language). I’m such a nerd for certain topics in history and this series happened to choose one of those sweet spots. Although that being said, after watching this show I never want to find myself stuck in 18th century Scotland. No thank you.
So if you read the show’s description you might be wondering about how Claire ended up married to two different men. Was it forced? Does she love either of them? Both of them? Etc. Well, odd though it may be, it does come to make a strange sort of sense in the story. Claire begins married to Frank Randall in the 1940s and ends up marrying Jamie Fraser in the 1740s to protect herself from the English. Although while she agreed to the marriage to save herself from being dragged back into Jack Randall’s clutches, she does inevitably find herself falling in love with Jamie.
Personally I find Jamie far more attractive (both in appearance and personality) than Frank, but there is quite the understandable emotional conflict warring within Claire. Her inner turmoil between her two husbands makes complete sense for a while but not for as long as the show insists. Jamie is too swoon-worthy and we get to spend hardly enough time with Frank to form much of an opinion of him (plus she mentions how the end of the war reunited them almost as strangers) so it’s not too long before her conflict, no matter how realistic and understandable, becomes a bit tiresome.
Warning: I will be rambling a bit extra for a brief moment. SO, I know that in the second season Claire is reunited with Frank in the 1940s, but I honestly don’t know how she could ever stay with him after her experiences with Jack Randall, Frank’s ancestor, when he resembles Frank so closely (in real life they’re both played by the same actor). Even though they are two very different people it would surely be incredibly traumatizing to wake up to what at first might appear as Jack’s face in her bed, a Redcoat who kidnapped her multiple times, has attempted to rape her multiple times, has raped her husband (Jamie), tore apart Jamie’s back with a whipping I could barely stomach to watch, and more.
Jack Randall is truly awful and it would be beyond surprising if that face didn’t haunt her for the rest of her life. Although she can miss and mourn the time before her life in Scotland, I don’t quite see how she could ever return to it wholly. Perhaps this issue is addressed in the second season/in the books but I haven’t watched it/read them so I wouldn’t know. These are just my rambling thoughts.
Back to the review!
The premise of this show was so interesting and I really fell in love with it. I won’t drag this post on longer than I already have by diving into secondary characters, epic rescues, sacrifices, and some other really great scenes, but overall it was quite an interesting show with twisting events ready to attack at every bend in the tale. I do admit that I did not watch the last couple of episodes. I just…I know what happens in them and I just didn’t feel quite up to watching these characters be forced through that.
Some negatives for me: There was simply too much nudity, gore, rape, torture, sex, etc. for my taste. Sometimes it was rushed or brushed over but other times they really dug deep and no matter the arguable realism of these events I’d just rather not weigh myself down with it. (Side note: they spent hardly a thought on what trauma Claire might be feeling after being raped, which bothered me).
I also felt that the plot became rather repetitive. Claire and Jamie were always getting captured, imprisoned, raped, interrogated, tortured, etc. and I just wanted a rest from it all. I feel that there are more than enough cultural and historical differences between 1940s England and 1740s Scotland to write interesting episodes full of conflict and intrigue without resorting to rape and capture every damn time. I wanted time to just watch life unfold in the 1740s, time to watch Claire explore this new world around her, time to watch Claire and Jamie grow closer, etc. Instead every episode had me wide-eyed, jaw-locked, and feeling very very sorry for Claire who seems to have drawn the shortest stick in history.
Overall I suppose I rather enjoyed the first season of Outlander (not including those last couple of episodes which I chose to forego), but I don’t think I will be continuing with the series. It had me intrigued enough to watch the first six episodes in one day (and the full thirteen episodes less than three days to finish) but although it contained several elements that I loved, it just wasn’t quite for me. Oh it definitely drew me in despite any hang-ups but…it’s not quite what I was hoping or looking for.
I do happen to have the first book on my Nook because it was on sale a while back for $1.99 or something and while I’m curious to give the book a try, it’s not at the top of my TBR list at the moment.
Do let me know if you’ve seen the show or read the books and if so, should I continue?
The Book Series
Series: 9 Books
Genre: Historical Romance
Author: Diana Gabaldon
“The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.”
Diana Jean Gabaldon Watkins grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona and is of Mexican-American and English descent. She has earned three degrees: a B.S. in Zoology, a M.S. in Marine Biology, and a Ph.D in Ecology.
She currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.