Liking a show doesn’t mean being blind to it’s faults, and reviewing a show often means having to look at it from a place of nitpicking instead of a place of just enjoying it. As such, I’m often noticing tiny things that could have been done better, and, of course, taking note of things like pace and balance.
I sort of implied it in my last review, but now I have to say it: Outlander has absolutely botched the last few episodes of the season, and now we’re here, with one episode left and so MUCH to resolve that I’m kinda wondering if their intention is to leave us in a cliffhanger.
Dear God, don’t leave us in a cliffhanger.
This was always going to be a tricky part of the season, because as hard as it is to give screen time to varying story-lines where the characters are in different places, it’s even harder when so much of the struggles these characters going through are internal, and require some actual time and care.
As it stands, the only character whose struggles we truly understand at this point, it’s Brianna. She’s hurt, she’s coping, or trying to cope the best way she can, alone, and she doesn’t want to hang onto the anger. It does her no well. She wants to let go, and she wants to put Stephen Bonnet in the past, because that’s the only way SHE can move forward. It’s not about him, it’s about her.
As for the rest of the characters, there’s little to say. We’ve seen so little of Jamie and Claire the last few episodes that it’s almost like they’re supporting characters in their own story, and Roger’s storyline has been so up and down that it’s hard to care as much as the show wants us to.
Part of it it’s that they skipped around, but there’s also that we don’t truly understand his mindset, because they haven’t really shown us Roger’s emotions through his captivity. Sure, we’re smart, and we can sort of figure out why he says the things he says, why he thinks the things he thinks, but we can’t feel what he does. And that’s a problem when most of the emotional conflict of an episode rests on him.
The rest, well, the rest is about Murtagh – who we never truly expected to die, not THIS way, not after everything – and our dear Fergus and Marsali, who were truly the highlight in a very Jamie and Claire light episode. It’s easy to see how these two have learned from Jamie and Claire, how they try to emulate them, and how they conduct their marriage the same way Jamie and Claire conduct theirs: as total and equal partners.
Lord John Grey was also around, of course, but my problem with him has always been that he’s conveniently around when we need them the most, that he’s objectively a good guy who does good things, and helps, and as such, he feels much more like a plot device than an actual flesh and blood character most days. It’s hard to dislike him, as Brianna herself remarks, but when the narrative treats him the way it does, it’s also hard to truly fall for him.
Which leaves us in a limbo.
It’s not a bad limbo, per se, but it’s a limbo, and that’s been the whole feeling of this episode, that of expecting something to happen, and then just never getting that payoff. Now, of course, we know some payoff is coming this episode, but did we really have to leave everything for the finale?
One final note about this episode, and it needs to be said, not just because of the times we live in, but because this is a common narrative issue that, for many years, no one has tried to correct: Outlander does very little to give the natives any sort of nuance. It’s like they accepted what Claire said last episode about being hard to know what was real and what was not. That’s not just on the show, of course, but also on the books, but the end result is the same.
Roger’s story is being told from the perspective of a white man, and you could say, of course, it’s Roger’s story, and that would be fair, and yet, in other instances in this very same season, the show has known when to get it’s white privileged characters out of the way of story-lines that should not be told from their POV. The show hasn’t done that in this case, and worst of all, it hasn’t even tried for nuance.
Like so many of us, I grew up with stories where the natives were the ‘bad guys’ and violent and the only way to survive was to avoid them. Those stories are everywhere, or they were everywhere. The world has, thankfully, learned so much. And yet, Outlander remains stuck to that kind of thinking, in a way, or, at the very least, it refuses to be the one show to try a new way, tell a different story. And for a show that has, at times, shown it can stand apart, this is just another case of same old, same old.
It won’t be their last chance, though, and I hope they learn not just from this, but from their pacing problems. I hope we get an amazing season finale. I hope. I still do.
Things I think I think:
- Fergus, I loved you when you were a kid, and if possible, I love you more now.
- “It would be of no consequence.”
- Sometimes, most times, Brianna is as hotheaded as her father – her real father.
- She makes me feel like what I assume my mother felt when she was forever raging at me that when I was older I’d understand.
- “You don’t know what my feelings are.”
- Jamie, this letter is the height of irony.
- Like, seriously, I know you’re giving like serious and important advice here, but considering what you sent Murtagh to do, this is super duper ironic.
- But of course, NOW Brianna is ready to listen to her father.
- Roger and I have had our issues, we have, but I guess the whole point of this is to make me feel bad for him?
- Mission accomplished.
- Marsali and Fergus are the best part of this episode, FIGHT ME.
- And the parallels to Jamie and Claire and what they’ve learned from them are beautiful and I’m absolutely not emotional, nope.
- I’m so bored right now.
- Even Roger’s crisis of faith is doing nothing for me.
- And like, I get it, the faith was starting to make no sense. It’s human to doubt.
- Isn’t it refreshing that I still haven’t gone an episode without thinking: Roger, you idiot!
- I’m gonna be honest, this crisis of faith would have been better last episode, or the one before that. IT’S EPISODE 12 FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.
- One thing I am going to say about Stephen Bonnet, we hate him because the acting is on point.
- Also, the level of tension in that confrontation between Bonnet and Brianna was off the charts.
- FERGUS FOR THE WIN.
- No, wait, MARSALI FOR THE WIN.
- Aw, Roger, you went back.
- Despite the fact that even YOU know that was a bad idea.
- The thing about that ending is that it isn’t really surprising.
Outlander airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.