This is probably going to be both a deeply emotional and yet ragey review for Outlander‘s “Down the Rabbit Hole.” And no – in case you’re a book reader – nothing has happened to Brianna to make you avoid this review, or this episode for. I’ll make sure to put warnings if they’re needed. This is the more nuanced kinda rage I’m feeling, the one that, at times, makes you feel like you can truly understand both sides.
People are complicated, after all. Emotions are complicated. Nothing truly is black and white.
And yet, despite that, or maybe because of it, I find it incredibly hard to look at Frank Randall with anything resembling impartiality. He is, of course, not Black Jack Randall, not the man who was truly and totally a villain; and that caused Jamie and Claire so much pain. He’s also, in so many ways, the reason Brianna grew up happy and loved and the confident, driven woman we know and love.
But he isn’t a saint, and maybe, in accepting that he isn’t one, and he isn’t a villain, I can finally start to appreciate him as what he is – a deeply flawed man who loved, yes, who lost, yes, and who tried to hang onto to the things he’d lost (namely Claire) for way too long.
He’s Brianna’s hero, as she tells us this episode, but he isn’t, in truth, a hero. Brianna will come to know his flaws, but in the end, that will probably change nothing for her. We don’t love people because they’re perfect, after all, we love them because they’re them.
So let’s look back at Frank Randall, as Brianna does at the end of the episode, as we look ahead to the journey Brianna and Roger are embarking on, and as we discuss Outlander‘s “Down the Rabbit Hole.”
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
I want you all to think about the beginning of the episode, about Bree after she’d walked through the stones, about finding yourself in such a strange inhospitable place, and what that entails. And then, I want you to imagine that you get injured, just like Bree does, and yet you don’t consider, not for one second, turning back.
Someone might call that duty – these are Bree’s parents she’s trying to save, after all, but she’s not walking towards duty, and she’s not doing it because she has a responsibility. No one embarks on the kind of journey she’s embarking on because they have to. You do it because you want to.
And this is where we must go back to Frank, who I promise I have plenty to criticize about later, the man who helped shape who Brianna is. Upbringing plays a big role in the person you become, and we already know Claire and Brianna were never as close as they could have been, because a part of Claire always stayed with Jamie, so there is credit to be given here, to Frank, for how strong-willed and resourceful and kind Bree is.
He helped do that. Because he loved her. He truly did.
In fact, he loved her so much he tried to mold her, to make her more like himself and less like Jamie, and yet, when he couldn’t manage that, he continued to love her anyway, despite the fact that she was a constant reminder of why his wife would never truly be his.
And that’s why Bree remembers him so much this episode, that’s why, at the end, she’s sorta getting his blessing and, at the same time, saying goodbye to him. She’s going off to meet the man who never got a chance to be her father, and she’s doing that, in a way, because of the things the man who raised her taught her. Jamie and Frank wouldn’t have liked each other, but they both loved Bree, and that’s a bond that stretches through time.
I’ve spent so long on the Fraser family I’ve dedicated way less time to Roger than he deserved. So let me correct that right now, because this story, the story of the Frasers from now on, includes him (to be fair, it did a long time ago, but he almost made it official by walking through those stones), and it’s way past time to delve into who he is.
The thing about Roger that has to be pointed out at this point, is not just that he’s the kind of man who, indeed, believes six impossible things before breakfast, but the kind of man who doesn’t think twice about following his heart – even if that costs him everything.
We knew he loved Brianna before, or at least, we knew he thought he loved Brianna, but has that ever been a bigger proof of love that what he did this episode? No one asked him to do it, no one expected it of him. He’s traveling to an uncertain time and he isn’t even sure he will actually find Brianna. And yet, he, like Brianna, doesn’t hesitate.
She’s his family now, and he can’t not try.
And the kind of love he displays in “Down the Rabbit Hole” parallels the Jamie Fraser who gave up everything and sent his wife and unborn child to the future to give them their best chance.
Could this love, we’d wondered, the kind developing between Brianna and Roger ever rival the one Jamie and Claire have felt for each other all these years? Could we possibly have two OTPS to root for in one show?
The answer is clearly yes. And that’s a good thing, not just for this show in general, and for a TV landscape that has very few OTPs that really and truly are about mutual respect and trust, but for all the people who will, somehow, cross Roger’s path as he travels on in search of Brianna. Because to know Roger MacKenzie is to be better. That’s the kind of person he is.
As for the romantic aspects? Well, since we’re in an Alice in Wonderland theme, one of its most famous quotes asks, “How long is forever? Sometimes just one second.” And that’s the way it is. One second without Brianna is forever for Roger, just as every second without each other was forever for Jamie and Claire.
That’s why he’s there. That’s what he’s fighting for.
WE’RE ALL MAD HERE
Ah, it’s rage time! Buckle up, fellows.
Outlander drew very clear parallels between Frank and Laoghaire this episode, and it doesn’t take much deep thinking to see why. They are both the ‘could have beens’ and the people Jamie and Claire might have fallen in love with, had they not crossed paths. But cross paths they did, and their lives were altered forever.
They could love no one else but each other. Nothing else came close. And though both, when they thought each other lost, did their best to go on, their lives apart were never truly happy, never truly complete.
Frank and Laoghaire can’t be blamed for this, of course. The feelings of others are not on them, but their reactions to the truth of those feelings are. The fact that people have a reason to act the way they do is never a justification, it’s just life. We are responsible for our actions, no matter the reasons behind those.
And, in this particular regard, Frank is way worse than Laoghaire, though Laoghaire proved that, had she possessed the information Frank had, she would have acted the same way. In fact, she does her best to hurt Brianna, to prevent her from getting to Jamie and Claire, because she knows how happy that would make him, and she’s so bitter about what she can’t have that she doesn’t want Jamie and Claire to have one iota of happiness.
Which leads us to Frank. His reasoning isn’t exactly the same, but its close enough. By the time he discovers that Jamie is alive, that Claire will one day leave him, travel to the past, and perish, he’s so filled with anger that he can’t find it within himself to be as generous as he was when Claire came back pregnant. His rage overrules him.
But like with Laoghaire, that’s no justification for the fact that he actively acted to ensure that it would take Claire as long as possible to find out that Jamie was alive – despite the fact that the two of them weren’t even in good terms at that point, and their relationship wasn’t going to work out, Jamie or no Jamie. And there’s certainly no justification for the fact that his final act was to try to hold onto Brianna, to take her with him so she could never find out about her real father.
Moreover, his choice implies an active decision to let Claire die, even when he holds in his hands the information that could help save her.
Villains are rarely ever black and white. The man Frank Randall descended from, Black Jack Randall was one of those villains. Frank isn’t. But nuance or no nuance, can we call him anything but one? What about Laoghaire? Do they deserve another epithet?
One thing is certain, despite what Bree might have said, and despite the good intentions he might have had at one point, Frank Randall is no hero.
Not even close.
BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING
This is an episode about Brianna’s fathers, first and foremost, about her beginnings, and about making the choice to start over again. But, despite what Brianna thought all her life, her beginning isn’t Frank Randall, it’s Jamie Fraser. And she will never truly understand who she is and where she comes from until she can, not just come to terms with that, but understand what made these two men that loved her act the way they did.
Because Frank loved her, he truly did, but his love was in many ways, selfish. He wanted her to be his, and only his. Claire couldn’t have her, and the ghost of a man who’d perished so many years before couldn’t have her either.
Of course, Brianna doesn’t see that yet, she only sees the father who loved her, the one who was always there for her. But this journey she’s on is just beginning, and I’m confident by the end of it she’ll see that, as much as Frank did love her, Jamie did too, and he did so in a much more selfless way.
Love is, after all, putting others above yourself. Love is patient. Love is kind.
And as Brianna will find out when she finally comes face to face with Jamie – and this applies to both her fathers equally – love never ends.
Things I think I think:
- Keeping it Alice in Wonderland themed. I like my themes.
- Oh, so this is Bree time. I guess that makes sense, though I would have rather they found a way to intersperse the stories than go one full episode without Bree/Roger and now one episode without Claire/Jamie.
- Your last PB&J. Enjoy it.
- Reading old maps, yay. My worst nightmares are coming back to me.
- At least she sorta dressed properly.
- She probably did as well as she could, under the circumstances of no one selling authentic clothing from, you know, 200 years ago.
- I’m surprised it took her THIS long to fall. I would have fallen waaaay before.
- OMG ROGER WHERE IS YOUR BEARD?
- I can’t even look at you.
- The definition of good friend, driving you so you can, you know, travel to the past through these magical stones.
- I would have made more than one sandwich, just saying.
- This scene of Bree walking is so long that I was starting to physically feel her pain.
- Which hey, kudos Starz! Or maybe it’s kudos Jennifer Getzinger, the director.
- Traveling to the past is a terrible idea. THE END.
- NOO, FRANK.
- I mean hi, Frank.
- OMG is that Laoghaire?
- So close, Brianna. So close. SO CLOSE.
- Funny, how Brianna ended up there. Small world.
- Claire HAS done the same and more for Marsali.
- Just when you think you can’t dislike Frank Randall more, he rises.
- Goddamnit it, Frank. You knew?
- All along.
- You knew.
- Knew she’d go back.
- And die.
- Knew she’d find Jamie.
- Knew Jamie was alive.
- Damn it, Frank.
- DAMN IT.
- You should have told someone.
- Brianna and Joannie are, in a way, sisters.
- Roger, I love you, but what are you wearing? Seriously?
- I knew we’d see Stephen Bonnet again, but that didn’t mean I wanted to see him.
- Smart, Roger. I like that you’re willing to do whatever.
- But fuck Bonnet.
- SHE IS WORTH IT, OKAY? SHE IS.
- Gah, if you only knew what I know, Roger. If you only knew.
- Laoghire’s face is a POEM.
- Frank did a lot of things wrong – a LOT – but loving Brianna was the one thing he did right.
- Fuck you, Laoghire.
- FUCK YOU.
- Jamie loves her.
- But, though a part of Brianna recognizes this is said in anger and can’t be trusted, you just hit her where it hurts the most and I hate you for it.
- At least you showed your true colors, so it’s easier for Bree.
- Sadly, fears have a way of lingering.
- “You’re too old to get a divorce.”
- Ah, to be that naïve.
- “You are my family.”
- I think I was supposed to feel something, but all I feel for you right now, Frank, is rage.
- Despite the fact that I don’t like Frank, I do appreciate that the last thing he told her was that he loved her.
- That stays with you.
- But, so does guilt, and boy, does Brianna carry a lot of it.
- Of course Frank is her hero – no one ever pointed out his faults. And I’m not saying his faults would have necessarily changed that completely, he was a good father to Brianna, but he wasn’t the perfect man she thought he was.
- That stunt with the baby makes me sick, Bonnet.
- YOU AREN’T CONVINCING ANYONE WITH YOUR GOOD GUY SHIT.
- And there it goes, like 2.5 seconds later, throwing a child overboard.
- It broke my heart to see the mother jump in after her.
- Roger, PRETEND.
- I don’t want you to die.
- We already knew he was the worst, but hey, thanks for the reminder.
- “I’m a MacKenzie as well.”
- I’M FINE, NO FEELINGS HERE.
- Jamie MacKenzie, talk about ironies.
- Joannie, I like you.
- Fuck Bonnet, again.
- Chance, my ass.
- Roger, let me hug you.
- I’m even starting to appreciate your clean shaven look.
- LOL, yes, Brianna, tell Ian to write more often.
- That’s what cousins are for.
- “Your father is going to be so happy to meet you.”
- He is. He might even faint again.
- Better to become a servant or to go across the world than to be dishonored?
- Gah, I hate the past.
- Despite all he did, I truly believe, that now that he’s gone, Frank would be glad she is where she is.
- No matter what, he truly did love Brianna.
Agree? Disagree? Share with us in the comments below!
Outlander airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.