There are plenty of times where, despite the fact that we are watching a show set in the past – a show that even when it was set in the present, it was more than half a century removed from us – we expect Outlander to be the kind of forward thinking, feminist show we deserve.
Sometimes, it falls short of those expectations.
Not because it wants to, but because the show is too centered in reality to play around with historical accuracy in some cases. And though I’d be the first one to say that I wouldn’t really mind it if they do, a part of me understands why they don’t, even if the bigger part of me ends up wanting to strangle both Jamie and Roger from time to time because of this show’s commitment to the time period.
To how people thought back then.
Let’s be absolutely clear, Jamie Fraser is a really modern man for his time. He might be as modern as Roger, and they were born around two hundred years apart. But Jamie Fraser is not the feminist ideal we make him out to be sometimes, even if he does try. He’s, like most people, a work in progress, and in many ways, the expectations we’ve placed on him are impossible, considering despite all the things we have yet to fix, we do live in more enlightened times.
All of this to say – I’m going to be hard on Jamie this review. He deserves it. Not necessarily for what he did, but for what he said, for the way he lost his mind and lashed out at Brianna. Now, does that mean he can’t be forgiven? No, of course not. But it does mean it’d be good for all of us to look at this show, and at these characters, with the necessary perspective. After all, we weren’t so happy with Roger an episode ago, and now after a solid hour of suffering we’re feeling much better about him, aren’t we?
So, let’s talk about those backward times, making mistakes, and the complications of family.
BACKWARDS TIMES INDEED
As I said before, it’s hard, sometimes, to remember that this show isn’t set in the present, and that everything we’re looking at has to be viewed through a different lens, because that’s how the characters we know and love will look at it.
In that respect, though, Jamie, especially in the scene at the beginning of the episode (though I will forever argue there was no need to “show” Brianna anything), does a hell of a job at saying the right things. We really didn’t expect anything different from him, a rape victim himself, and the fact that he can talk to Brianna about it, that he doesn’t run, says a lot about him.
Of course, because we had to twist the knife of the guilt he already feels at having beaten up the wrong man, he gets to say the wrong thing before in a fit of rage and defensiveness, and then, after that, he gets a double dose of anger when he finds out who truly hurt Brianna: Stephen Bonnet.
Now, let me be clear, Jamie doesn’t get to be angrier than Brianna about this, just as she told him. Her anger at the lack of communication and assumptions that led to Roger’s misfortunes is understandable, and warranted. And though Jamie might feel his anger is warranted too, the way he expressed that anger, the way he lashed at Brianna, never is.
Also as bad as that, of course, is that he hasn’t yet learned the lesson he himself preached about when he talked about Black Jack Randall, at the beginning of the episode. Maybe killing Bonnet won’t make Brianna feel better, but that’s not for Jamie to decide, it’s for Brianna. And in lashing out at her daughter, and then, attempting to make this choice for her, Jamie is effectively taking away her agency.
But the thing about Jamie Fraser that has captivated us has never been that he’s a perfect man, no. The thing we love about Jamie Fraser is that he stops, he listens and he usually learns. So let’s hope this is just another instance of that – not just for him, but for Brianna, because she really, really needs her family. Her whole family.
IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED
Because, at this point, everyone’s story-lines are so intertwined, this applies to not just Roger, who never gives up on the daring escape, but to Jamie, who won’t give up on earning his daughter’s forgiveness.
I have a lot of love for this show, and I also have a lot of issues. Some of them stem from my interpretation of the books as less than feminist at times; the others come from how the adaptation hasn’t always known how to make that translate to a world that’s increasingly more progressive by the second.
But one thing I’ll give the show is that it continues to try. I’d been dreading this episode because I remembered how, in the books, this part painted Jamie in a less than flattering light, to say the least. The show somehow managed to do that without crossing the line of no return, which I forever appreciate. It’d be almost impossible to watch this show if we weren’t rooting for Jamie Fraser.
Jamie is a flawed character. Roger is a flawed character. And yes, Brianna and Claire, and Murtagh and Young Ian, and Lizzie, they’re all flawed characters. They make mistakes, and they fail to communicate and they act rashly and they hurt each other at times. That’s the way of the world. That’s the way of life.
What matter is that these characters keep trying. What matters is what happens after you fall down. What matters is learning the lesson and moving forward.
FAMILY IS MESSY
And yet, a family like the Frasers, the mess doesn’t come from a lack of affection – it comes from a place of tremendous love.
Love can sometimes make us blind, in the good ways, and the bad ways. It’s not an excuse; of course, we all need to own up to our actions, no matter the reasons that made us act one way or the other. Roger was an asshole, not once, but twice. Jamie has fucked up as many, if not more times.
But it does matter, in the end, if that comes from a place of wanting to hurt you or not. It matters because there’s no way to fix something that comes from a place of wanting to hurt the other person. If you’re trying to hurt someone, and you hurt them, is that a mistake? I’d say no. If you’re not trying to do, and you do, however, that’s different.
Accountability is not just important, but necessary. TV often brushes off serious shit for the sake of moving along. Thankfully, in this episode, both Claire and Brianna hold Jamie accountable. The narrative sort of holds Roger accountable. That’s important. Neither of them are saints.
But they’re not villains either. They’re just people, on a journey. People who will, hopefully, learn from their mistakes.
We’ll be here.
Things I think I think:
- “Why would I think less of you for something you didn’t do, but was done to you?”
- Even that is a modern thought.
- I’ve heard way more backward things than this in the year of our Lord 2018.
- Thankfully, not yet in 2019, but the year is young.
- “If he’s an honorable, decent man, he’ll want you. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t deserve you.”
- My issues with this scene where Jamie “shows” Brianna she couldn’t have fought back can be summed up with: more violence, pretend or otherwise, more shame, pretend or otherwise, is never a good way to “help” a victim.
- Jamie should know better.
- But, more importantly, the writers should know better.
- In the books this scene was way worse, so there is that.
- The part of the scene where they talk about Black Jack Randall is incredibly touching, though.
- I feel bad for Roger, I do. That doesn’t mean I can’t be mad at him.
- Brianna had to seriously consider abortion. There was just no other way this could go that would be believable.
- Glad they brought up that the baby could be Roger’s!
- Happy montages are a harbinger of doom.
- Lizzie gets the least of the anger, and I know she didn’t meant to cause any harm, but I still feel like she got off easy.
- Shut up, Jamie. Shut up.
- I really, really don’t think we needed to add Jamie’s accusations to the whole list of reasons Brianna is mad at him, and we really didn’t need the contrast to Frank, so now Frank looks even MORE like a saint, when we all know he wasn’t.
- Jamie and Brianna can just love each other.
- “You do not get to be angrier than me.”
- TELL HIM, BRIANNA.
- Everyone’s mad at you, Jamie, and you kinda deserve it. Shutting your mouth would have helped you greatly.
- Bring him to me in secret? SERIOUSLY? Talk about not learning from your mistakes.
- Not that I don’t want Bonnet skinned alive, but it’s like you’ve forgotten every word that came out of your own damn mouth.
- Young Ian, I’m mad at you too.
- “I’ll hold you to that wow.”
- Claire not trying to make excuses for Jamie is my favorite thing in this episode. She’s all like you messed up, now you deal with the consequences.
- Never have I wanted someone to escape less. The wilderness worries me. Roger, you can’t survive by yourself.
- Well, some good had to come out of the Jocasta storyline.
- Ah, those stones again.
- He’s not going to do it, who are we kidding?
Agree? Disagree? Share with us in the comments below!
Outlander airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.