I didn’t do a blog for the first episode, thanks to those of you who missed me. Honestly, I was one of the lucky ones who attended the premiere in Savannah and when it got to the point where I could do a blog and not spoil the heck out of things, I’d moved on creatively. Us writers can be and odd bunch sometimes. But I can’t let the first episode go by without saying two words:
I wasn’t sure how Ed Speelers would do as this season’s baddie. The only experience I had with him was Downton Abbey and while he played an absolute douche on Abbey, it takes a lot of subtleties to pull off a psychopath like Bonnet. Ed Speelers owned it. He was the perfect amounts of charm and smarm. As a book reader I knew he was a bad guy, yet I couldn’t help the catch in my breath and the shiver that went down my spine every time he hit the screen. I do love the bad boys!
Now on to episode two….
In the aftermath of Bonnet’s attack, I found it odd that while Jamie lamented not being able to give his friend a proper burial, neither he nor Claire mentioned her missing ring. In fact, the stolen trinket wasn’t alluded to at all in the episode. Perhaps it was a scene left on the cutting room floor or the writers decided not to dwell on it, but to this viewer it was a very noticeable faux pas, especially after Claire’s words last episode. Jamie’s really taking the blame for all this Bonnet stuff, my guess is that the writers are laying in the groundwork for him to be beside himself when he finds out about one of Bonnet’s later deeds.
I know a lot of people ooh and aah over Terry Dresbach’s costumes, but my favorite behind the scenes artist is Jon Gary Steele. From the boat meandering up the river to the long approach shot as they arrived at River Run, the sets are perfection, with not a detail out of place. Hell, even the birds chirping sound like early morning at my house.
Meeting Jocasta was a wonderful moment and kudos to Sam for the expression of delight that played on his face recognizing his aunt’s resemblance to his mother, so startling that it stands in for Claire meeting his mother.
Our introduction to Jocasta was great, but I thought the show’s use of the “skunk incident” for brevity was poorly done. John Bell is precious and I LOVE Rollo, but the scene would have played much better had the incident been played out and not recanted.
Now…and this is something I swear I thought I’d never say about Outlander, but the casting of John Quincy Myers is God-awful. Instead of an American born and bred hillbilly, we get a dude that looks like he’s on sabbatical from his professorship at Oxford. We’re supposed to believe that Ulysses speaks perfect non-accented English, but instead of “growing an extry” we’ll have to hear John Quincy lament about “having an odd addition to his undercarriage”. Note to Outlander writers…by this period of time, there were 3rd and 4th generations of America’s original colonists and not all of them spoke with an accent. John Quincy was one of my favorite secondary characters in the book, not so for the show, not at all.
Again, with casting, Farquad was a much older man, a contemporary of Jocasta’s and a life-long friend. The show’s Farquad, gave me the inkling that he would end up being in league with Lieutenant Wolf. It seemed Jocasta wanted Jamie to act as buffer for both men. Perhaps they cast a younger Farquad to make him more of an equal to Jamie. It was an odd change in the character I thought and I’m curious where it might go.
I made two predictions regarding season four. I suspected that to ramp up the drama, the writers would make slavery more of an issue and make the Indians more dangerous. Based on this episode looks like I was right. In the book, Claire was against slavery of course, but she didn’t act like being at River Run made her skin crawl. In fact, she would have stayed had Jamie wanted to bend to Jocasta’s wishes. Also, in the book, Claire held affection for Jocasta, despite the use of slaves at the plantation. In the show, Claire was polite, but she mostly acted like she thought Jocasta was the devil himself. I understand that in every slave’s face Claire sees her friend Joe Abernathy, but she was far more adaptable to the times in which she lived in the books. I did love Jocasta’s little dig when she said Clair seemed “fair”-the 18th century’s version of calling her a dumb blonde.
It was a good move when Jocasta announced at the party that Jamie would be her heir. In the book, when Jamie got wind of her intentions thanks to machinations from Ulysses, he and Claire went on a midnight boat ride to prevent the announcement. I understand the writer’s motives, by having Jocasta make the announcement, it makes Jocasta and everyone else at River Run at risk of suffering from Jamie and Claire’s bad decisions.
Speaking of Claire’s bad decisions, did anyone doubt she’d tried to save the slave’s life. She’s a doctor, its her calling after all. In the story, having her work so hard to save his life only makes the latter decision to euthanize more poignant and heart-wrenching. It was a heart-breaking scene, Jamie and Claire are trapped, trying to make the best of a horrible situation that despite their wishes, neither had the power to change. I’ll admit I shed a tear or two, especially when Jamie hit his knees, praying not only for Rufus’s soul but that of his wife as well, whose hands hastened the slave’s soul onward.
This was a rough episode tacking a heinous subject. All in all, I thought it was a pretty good episode, even though the moment when trying to save Rufus’s life had Claire screaming at the slaves as good as any overseer. Her over the top hatred of slavery made Claire seem a tad hypocritical when she was ordering about the slaves, even if she was trying to save a life.
There’s a thing that happens to students in their fourth year both in high school and college, it’s called the “senior slump”. It happens in TV shows too. Like being a senior can make a young man or woman complacent, thinking they know everything, success can breed complacency and a mind-set that show-runners know best making them overlook the fan’s feedback and wishes. Such a scenario nearly killed the Walking Dead and I can see hints that Outlander might be stricken with the same problem. I read somewhere that most of the new scriptwriters haven’t read the book series. I’m sorry, but if I was Ron Moore, it was be a contingency of employment. The innate humor that draws us to Jamie and Claire was on full display in season one, not so much any longer. Granted I know they’re older, but you don’t forget to laugh when you’re over forty! Older Jamie and Claire’s ease and comfort with each other should yield more playful moments, hopefully we’ll see more as the season goes on.
One last thing…I see a lot of people upset at the show for saying it makes “America” look bad. Little news flash for you folks. At the time Jamie and Claire have come to America, the colonies are STILL under British rule and subject to British law. After the Revolution, several laws passed abolishing English slavery laws, but we’ll have to wait till seasons 9 or 10 to see how it the show handles that. The British are still the big baddies for now and from the looks of things, that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.