Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Outlander: The Reckoning

Lots of premieres happening on cable right now, and I plan to get to Mad Men and Wolf Hall in the next couple days, but let's start with the show with the most sex, kilts, and brogues.

Outlander, of course! This post has some spoilers for the most recent episode, but I won't discuss any book-related future plot spoilers. Pinkie swear.

I'm not sure how I feel about the latest trend of networks splitting up a show's season into 6 or 7 episode long stints and then making the audience wait more than half a year for the rest. It's annoying as a fan and audience-member, but it also seems kind of disingenuous. But I can't get too worked up about it now that we actually have our new Outlander episodes. It's been a long wait though, so Starz better make it worth it.

I'm happy to report the mid-season premiere episode, not only delivered the goods, but then some. There were some big changes, most notably, that the point of view of our story switched from Claire to Jamie. I'm pleased that Claire still remains the clear focus and hero of our story, but the change in perspective, while a bit jarring, was also necessary from a storytelling perspective. There were plot events, including how Jamie ended up on the window ledge of Jack Randall right in time to save his wife from rape and torture, that simply cannot be told without changing the voice of the show.

I can't say that I found Jamie's voice-overs or character insights as interesting as Claire's, but the plot development during this episode was certainly solid. Jamie and the other highlanders whisk Clare away from Captain Randall and Fort William just in the nick of time, they have an epic fight ending in a spanking (hello spousal abuse!), Jamie returns to Castle Leoch and deftly negotiates a truce between the brothers MacKenzie, and Claire and Jamie figure out pretty quickly they need to keep an eye on Jamie's ex who has a first class ticket on the express train to Crazy Town.

Oh, and there was a pretty epic sex scene at the end that included Claire riding Jamie while holding a dirk to his throat and threatening to cut out his heart and eat it if he ever raises a hand against her again.

Daenery's is all, "you go, girl." 

So let's talk about that scene. You know the one I mean--the spanking heard round the internet. When Jamie left Claire in a grove outside Craigh nu Dun, he explicitly told her to stay put. She, of course, made a break for it in an attempt to reach the stone circle and get back to the 20th century and her husband, Frank. 

Her "disobeying" her husband resulted in her capture, assault by Captain Randall, and Jamie and the other Scotsman storming Fort William and springing her. At great risk to themselves and the MacKenzie clan as a whole, of course. As such, they felt she needed to be punished. Hence, the spanking. With a belt. On the bum. 

To the show's credit, they made Jamie seem as progressive as they could. You know, so far as someone can "progressively" beat their wife. He made it clear he was doing it because he had to, at least according to the expectations of the other Scotsmen. And it was for Clarire's "own good," so she would truly understand the potential ramifications of her actions. Is it still gross? Uh, hell yes. 

But here's the thing--this happened. Well, not in the sense that a time-traveler from the 1940s who was stuck in 1700s Scotland would make an attempt to touch magic stones and act against the wishes of her husband, but if a wife acted contrary to something her husband told her in 1743 Scotland he would likely hit her. Women were property. And their husbands would beat them. Does that make it excusable? Absolutely not. Does it make sense within the story we are being told? Absolutely yes. Especially since it opens the door for a lot of drama between the characters. I'll wager the effect of this on Claire will be far-reaching. 

And it made for some really crazy angry sex. Though I confess I found it disturbing that Jamie still ended up on top. This is, however, a good example of non-gratuitous sex that is used to actually further a story and show something about the characters. Also, it was really hot. 

All in all, The Reckoning was an excellent episode that set a lot of new plots in motion, had some great character moments, and left the audience slathering for more. And of course yelling at one another on the internet, which let's face it, is one of the criteria by which we measure the popularity television programs these days. I am declaring it a win!

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