Outlander – Season 1 Episode 12
Outlander takes viewers to Lallybroch, the place that Jamie grew up and where he will take his place as Laird (or Lord for those who don’t understand Scots).
This marks another location change for Outlander and with it comes a change in pacing and tone. Fiddling about with the style is something this show does really well. So far there have been a number of changes in setting, tone and even genre with none of it seeming the least big jarring. It’s quite impressive how this show has so far managed to believably be a jack of all trades.
As with everything returning to Lallybroch brings a new set of complications for the challenged couple. This episode allows Claire -and the audience- to learn more about Jamie’s past in a similar way to him learning more about her last week.
Jamie’s return to Lallybroch isn’t met with the warm welcome that he’s expecting though it’s largely his fault. His sister Jenny (Laura Donnelly) is immediately accused of having “Black Jack” Randall’s child and insulting Jamie by naming it after him. This is the first example we’ve ever seen of Jamie jumping to conclusions and acting completely unreasonably. He’s normally so open minded and rational but apparently not when it comes to his family. It’s a really jarring change to see in his character and definitely acts as a slap in the face to the audience.
His reaction represents how much Randall has gotten to everyone on this show. As the villain of the piece he really needs to seem like a formidable threat and this definitely comes across. He has everyone he encounters living in fear and hatred of him which I suspect is exactly what he was after. He has physically scarred Jamie but his treatment of his sister indicates emotional scarring on top of that. He sees what he believes to be the living embodiment of what Randall has done to his family and is disgusted that this would be named after him. I love how this show keeps the characters feeling real and gives them so many character flaws, it stops people seeming too self righteous or villainous and settles them somewhere in a more realistic middle ground.
Laura Donnelly is fantastic as Jenny who puts Jamie right in his place immediately. He is warned against jumping to conclusions but does so anyway. He immediately assumes that he is in charge and can treat people however he wants which is of course not correct. Laura and her husband Ian (Steven Cree) have been running things in his absence and aren’t quite ready to just let him stroll in and assume he runs the place.
I love how strong willed and independent Jenny is characterised. Her story about what happened with Randall was great and showed how much power she managed to have over the poor impotent man. I really like her fearless attitude and hope there’s much more of her as the show progresses.
He does run the place but he’s also been gone a long time so Jenny and Ian have certain expectations of him. He needs to take the time to get to know the place again and find out exactly how things have been running in his absence. Not to mention the fact that the way he just accuses his sister of raising Randall’s child and the names he calls her is just plain rude.
I like how Jenny takes her anger with Jamie out on Claire as well by assuming that they are essentially one in the same. Claire is sticking up for Jenny but she is hostile towards her anyway. It’s a nice subtle way of reminding the audience what assumptions are made in a marital relationship in these times.
It was interesting to learn more about Jamie’s past and how much he looks up to his father. His feud with Randall extends back to his father who was also treated poorly by him. The fondness in Jamie’s voice as he remembers his father tells us more about their relationship than the actual content of the stories. It’s clear that he had a very strong relationship with his father and sees him as something he needs to aspire to. It’s fairly typical but it’s handled with so much sincerity that it works wonderfully.
We see some examples of Jamie trying to be his father and it doesn’t go as smoothly as he planned. He refuses to take rent from the people in order to cut them some slack but as Jenny points out that the rent exists for a reason and because of Jamie’s generosity they will now have trouble making ends meet.
On a more emotional level Jamie manages to screw things up when he violently reacts to an abusive father who chooses to abandon his son after Jamie intervenes. Jenny explains that she has been working on getting this boy to safety with a more carefully considered plan that he has now messed up. This is as much Claire’s fault though as she encourages him to something. Both of them have to learn the most effective way of doing things otherwise they will never manage the place properly.
I also found it interesting when Jamie talks to Claire about Colum’s wife Letita while specifically pointing out how well respected that woman is. He also points out that she never publically challenges her husband but manages to gain respect and subvert gender roles in other ways. As Jamie points out it’s his family, land and time so Claire needs to play by the rules in some fashion but that doesn’t mean she can’t be a respected figure. I love how complex the gender roles are in this show and how richly the characters manage to be developed beyond the expectations that will be placed upon them.
On a down note I felt that the ending having Jamie in danger felt a little tacked on. There was enough dramatic meat to the events of this episode that a cliffhanger ending wasn’t necessary. I would think some more time spent developing the politics of Lallybroch rather than jeopardy would be plenty.
An impressive episode that changes the tone and location of the show in a very real and natural way.
It’s interesting to see Jamie’s life at Lallybroch and have his arrival met with a welcome that isn’t the warmest. He immediately leaps to accusing his sister when it appears that “Black Jack” Randall’s love child has been named after him. Of course he is jumping to conclusions and the reality of the situation is far different.
This is just one of the poor decisions that Jamie has in this episode. His desire to cut the residents some slack by letting them not pay rent for a while has the knock on effect of causing issues for the overall running of the place. Something his sister Jenny is all to quick to point out. Also, Jamie mishandles a situation involving a young abused boy that turns out to be well in hand. It all shows that Jamie is not ready to just take over and really needs to learn how things work.
I felt that the jeopardy filled ending was a little tacked on and unnecessary as I was more than happy to continue dealing with the internal politics at Lallybroch instead of suffer another danger filled cliffhanger ending.