On The D/L – Outlander
Season 1 Episode 8 – “Both Sides Now”
Outlander is back on air this week and for whatever reason I never managed to get around to reviewing the midseason finale. I’m not sure if there’s any appetite to look at it now but all the same I’m going to do it for the purposes of completeness.
I found this episode to be really compelling throughout and it represents a departure from the format the series has taken up to this point. It seems that Claire and Jamie’s wedding has been an engine of change within the series and from what I’ve seen so far that change is a good one.
Claire’s life is very different now and she seems to be gaining a greater level of acceptance within Clan MacKenzie. It’s soimething that has been building over the past few episodes but there’s a definite sense that she is beginning to be trusted and, more importantly, those around her are treating her like one of their own. We see that when she is being taught how to use a knife and the general banter between them. She is casually and affectionately insulted like anyone else.
The show constantly reinforces Claire’s non judgemental attitude and general kindness as seen here through the way she treats the man with no tongue. It doesn’t bother her in the slightest and she gives him the benefit of her attention. As a nurse she would have seen similar things quite often and we have repeated examples of this throughout most of the episodes but it is an important part of her character so it’s good that it remains an important part of the DNA of the show.
Something major did happen in this episode relating to the development of Claire. This is the first time that she is forced to kill another human being. She does so in self defence to prevent her from being raped but still it’s a very profound experience for her. I really liked how she presented the symptoms of going into shock while knowing that was happening and being completely unable to stop it. Catriona Balfe played Claire in shock really believably. I could tell by watching that she had done something that she felt she would never do. I do wonder what the wider implications of this will be for her in the subsequent episodes.
Claire’s capture by Black Jack Randall and her subsequent interrogation was really nicely done. The scene that they shared basically amounted to a battle of wits where each of them tried to constantly one up the other. It was really well done with some very strong dialogue. Claire more than holds her own despite being at a distinct disadvantage in her situation. Randall seems to relish the idea of having her under his control and Tobias Menzies plays the scene with an impressive level of menace and comes across as really sinister. He has something of an obsession with Claire and never believes a word she says. Randall’s stance on the conversation is that Claire is always lying and for the most part he is always going to be right.
One issue I had with this scene is that a lot of work gets done to make Claire out to be strong and independent but the episode ends with her needing to be saved by Jamie. I think if she had managed to talk herself out of the situation completely it might have been stronger. Either that or have her escape under her own power. It was still well done but a bit typical to have her become the damsel that needs saving.
The biggest reason for this episode feeling different was the shift in perspective to seeing Claire’s husband in the original timeline. He’s angry and frustrated at her disappearance and the apparent incompetence of the police who are unable to find the man that he assumes must have kidnapped her.
I liked how these scenes built on the mythology of the show with the repetition of the idea of folk tales signifying similar experiences to the one Claire is having. Obviously Franks is dismissive of them at first but a part of him is starting to come around to the idea thanks to a reminder of the famous Sherlock Holmes quote “if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains however improbable must be the truth.” There is no rational reason behind Claire’s disappearance so he must start thinking along the lines of the irrational.
Frank’s character was developed in some interesting ways here as well. I found it interesting that he has shades of his ancestor in him when he mercilessly beats the mugger. He’s not quite as bad but there’s definitely a connection there. I wonder what he could end up being pushed to if things get desperate enough.
He returns to Craigh na Dun to see for himself if it could be true and the episode gives us an incredible sequence that cuts seamlessly between the two time periods as Claire runs towards the stones. There’s a great sense of urgency building in this scene as the cutting gets more rapid the closer she gets. Frank hearing her shout for him adds a sense of hope to the scene as it seems all but certain that she is about to return home. Seeing it ripped away from her at the last second is really powerful and it presents an interesting question as to how Frank will see things after this