We’ve reached the end of another season of Outlander, a season of high highs and low lows, a season where, at times, the show broke mercifully away from the books, and yet in so many important things, it stuck very close to the source material, for better or o worse.
You know, except for the ONE THING I WISH THEY’D KEPT FROM THE BOOKS, THAT THEY CHANGED.
I’ve always been a book purist. A few years ago I would have argued till I was blue in the face that staying close to the source material is always, always the right call. I’ve changed my mind about this. Sometimes, books – like any medium of entertainment, miss the mark. Sometimes there are just practical possibilities that make it impossible to adapt as is. All changes aren’t good, and this shouldn’t be used as a blanket statement, but there are times where shows are better off straying from the books they’re based on.
Outlander did in some ways, and didn’t in some big ways, and that’s why the season has been a mixed bag for me. Well, that and the unfortunate pacing of the last few episodes, though the whole pacing issue is somewhat corrected in “Man of Worth,” an episode that flows and hits some high emotional points, even if it leaves us wanting more.
That’s a good thing, and a bad thing. You always want a season finale to leave you wanting more, but you don’t want it to leave you wanting more of the immediate story – not unless you end in a monstrous cliffhanger, which Outlander didn’t. But this is what happens when your pacing is off, when you have two episodes that don’t really advance the plot that much: you’re forced to cram everything into the last episode and then WE DON’T GET THE REUNIONS/CONVERSATIONS WE DESERVE.
So, for the last time this season, let’s go into “Man of Worth,” as we discuss the good, the bad and the WTF of the season finale of Outlander.
Thankfully, after two entertaining, but slow episodes, Outlander picks up the pace in the finale. Also, thankfully, there’s more good than bad to be had in this episode, with Roger and Brianna finally reuniting at last, Roger accepting the baby is his, despite his doubts, and Jamie and Roger finally getting to, ahem, air out their issues.
And of course, there’s also Ian, making the sacrifice to save Roger, but mostly, making the sacrifice for Brianna, for his family. Ian has always wanted to emulate Jamie, and what Jamie is, above all things, is the kind of man who would do anything for his family – which is exactly what Ian does.
He doesn’t do it because he thinks he’s expendable, though. He doesn’t do it because he wants out of the family. He does it because that’s his way of honoring Jamie and Claire, and also, because it’s his way of starting his life, not cutting them off for good, but moving on, on his own.
It’s almost like a kid leaving home, except in this case he’s months away and living with strangers. But this is Outlander, so of course, as much as it pains us to see him go, we know this isn’t the last we’ll see of Ian. He’ll be back, because if there’s one thing we know about this family is that they always find a way back to each other.
As much as Ian is the highlight of the episode, though, he isn’t the only thing to mention in this section. Murtagh and Jocasta make the list as well, because the show allows what they have to feel real, to progress, because it isn’t about filling a void, but about finding something that fits. Murtagh being there has thrown a wrench in the storyline the books set for us, but how can we feel bad about anything that gives us more Murtagh?
Finally, the last few moments of the episodes, the reunion between mother and daughter, father and daughter, deserve a mention, as brief as they were, because family is at the center of this show, and the ending finds them the way we’ve always wanted them: together.
Well, at least, it ends that way, with Brianna and Roger in each other’s arms, with the promise of a better future, with the image of the two of them running into each other’s arms, that imperfect love that still needs a lot of work, but that would still sacrifice everything, bringing them together, and ready to finally, finally, face life as a family.
Which doesn’t mean I don’t have a ton of issues with …well, Roger. Or, less Roger and more the writer’s insistence of drama for the sake of drama, even when this drama detracts from the characters, even when it contradicts who the characters have been established to be.
Roger’s crisis of faith while in captivity was understandable. Roger’s anger when Jamie and Claire rescue him was, as well, even if I wish he would have found a more constructive way to express his feelings. Roger’s pain and rage and doubts when he learns what happened to Brianna, still with you there. It’s not easy, and needing a moment or five doesn’t make him a bad person.
But not showing up with Jamie and Claire after months of travel, which leads Brianna to suffer and think he doesn’t want her? Showing up and then, still looking like he doubts if he can really see Brianna’s child as his? That was completely unnecessary, it really was. I know the reasoning, I’ve read the books, and this is one of those instances where I wish the show had just done away with every little vestige of the source material and made Roger into the kind of person who, at least once the decision is made, is sure.
Alas, that was not to be, and the problem isn’t that this is impossible to believe, the problem, once again, is that the show has given his POV very little attention, and by showing us everything from Brianna, and to an extent, Jamie and Claire’s POV, Roger’s fears, and his anger, feel not just hollow, but misplaced. Rationally, we can sorta of understand, but again, as before, we can’t feel, and that makes him less sympathetic.
Even though I haven’t loved any part of his storyline this season, though, I still want to give kudos to Richard Rankin, who has, in so many ways, made Roger into someone I want to root for, in ways the book never did. Hopefully, next season, the show will help this wonderful actor take me to a point where I can love Roger.
And hopefully next season will take me to a point where I can love Roger and Brianna together, as well. Because right now, I think I love the idea of them more than the reality, and that means something is missing.
What I do love, though, and what I got very little of this season, in general, and especially the last few episodes of the season, is Jamie and Claire. We started this journey with them, and for better, or worse, we’ve stayed on this journey because of them. Pushing them so far to the background that they don’t even get scenes alone together for episodes on end is a grave mistake, especially when the other storylines are handled less than perfectly.
If we’re still watching, if we’ll tune into season 5, it’s for Jamie and Claire. Outlander would do well to remember that, and give fans more of what they truly want.
When you have two straight episodes where little happens, plot wise, you end with a final episode where too much needs to happen, plot wise, and predictably, some things are left on the cutting block. The problem with that, of course, is that some of the things that didn’t make the cut are things that were so heavily set up that the fact that they’re not there seems like a huge oversight.
For example, Jamie and Brianna. We don’t need Brianna to tell Murtagh she forgives Jamie, and a letter can’t come close to giving us the words Jamie needed to say to Brianna, but we have to make due with that, because the episode doesn’t have time. We also don’t get to see Roger hold the son he’s doubting if he can love or not, or hell, come face to face with Jamie and Claire once again, because meh, who needs the family who is at the center of this whole show to be together once again?
Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.
Fanfic can fill some voids. It, however, shouldn’t have to deliver payoff. That’s on the show. And on this season finale, I was left with a lot of dangling storylines that didn’t really get the conclusion they needed, the one we deserved.
WTF was up with that?
Things I think I think:
- I quite liked the image of the Native man watching white kids playing at being native.
- Now, if only the show could manage that level of nuance in everything else.
- Oh, wow, theyr’e there.
- I mean, obviously, last episode and all, but I’m used to this shit being slow, what can I say?
- Sure, let’s walk in. No biggie.
- Young Ian, I need you to shut up.
- So, the stone is …bad?
- I ship Jocasta and Murtagh.
- “Kill the white man, or the white man will kill you.”
- Not wrong.
- But what message was the ghost trying to send Claire? Does anyone else feel like this being the payoff for that is just …disappointing?
- You don’t look peaceful, Brianna.
- Murtagh loves Jamie so much that I’m getting feelings again.
- Again, I love how Jamie – and Young Ian, by extension, never treat Claire as anything less than capable.
- Apologies between men involve very few words.
- Claire is literally carrying Roger.
- Jamie volunteering to stay is so on brand, I can’t see how anyone was surprised, and that includes Claire.
- It was still hella emotional, though.
- “I will return to you.”
- As much as this show loves drama for the sake of drama, I’m glad they didn’t go down this path.
- Oh, Ian.
- You get to drop the Young. You’re Ian now, okay?
- Just Ian.
- I weeped like a baby at the goodbyes, I’ll admit it.
- What’s the ship name for Murtagh and Jocasta?
- I KNEW IIIIIIIIIIIIIT.
- Murtagh, you sexy beast.
- One of the things this show does best is not shying away from physical expressions of love, even for mature couples.
- You don’t stop wanting sex because you’re older.
- Roger really needs to beat the shit out of Jamie to feel better?
- *rolls eyes*
- I mean, it’s not like he doesn’t have reasons to be angry AF.
- But let’s not forget he’s not exactly a saint.
- Claire’s look is all women looking at men doing basically anything.
- Though I will admit my heart constricted a bit when Roger admits he thought Brianna had sent her father.
- “Having me beat nearly to death and sold into slavery seemed a trife extreme, even or a woman with her temper.”
- This family conversation, dear God.
- I have no issues with Roger feeling guilty about leaving the way he did.
- He was an asshole.
- Look, Jamie, that last one was for free. You can start returning his blows now.
- “I left because she told me to go.”
- You left because you were angry and you let your anger rule you. Let’s not turn this on Brianna.
- Honestly, at least they had this awful conversation alone in the woods.
- *rolls eyes*
- I don’t begrudge Roger from needing a moment, but I kinda wish the show had gone another direction with this storyline.
- She got raped? That’s not her fault! She might have gotten pregnant from that rape? Oh, I need to think about whether I can accept that.
- Not exactly romantic hero material.
- “This is our daughter, so you better be sure.”
- Confusion, and whatever else Roger is feeling is normal, but if he’s considering leaving because of something that was done to her, is that really love?
- Jamie wouldn’t have hesitated.
- Just saying.
- Fuck you, Roger. Even if you come back.
- He didn’t really need a grand entrance, I swear. The show has already changed so much, why not change this?
- Family dinner for the WIN.
- There’s absolutely no payoff to the Jamie/Brianna fight, and that’s extremely disappointing. We deserved at least a conversation.
- Again, fuck you Roger.
- This would all be so much more emotional if I didn’t want to strangle Roger.
- “I may be stubborn, but I’m not a fool.”
- You’ve had MONTHS.
- “Take me to see my son.”
- Did I really need to see him hesitate, even at the end? Was that necessary, Outlander? Was it?
- Claire and Jamie looking at Jocasta and Murtagh is the content I deserve.
- Oh, yay Jamie. Like you didn’t see this coming.
- That’s the end?
- WHERE IS ROGER SEEING THE BABY? JAMIE AND BRIANNA TALKING? JAMIE AND CLAIRE SEEING ROGER? WHEREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE?
Agree? Disagree? Share with us in the comments below!
Outlander airs Sundays at 9/8c on Starz.