On the D/L – Outlander
Season 1 Episode 5 – “Rent”
There’s an interesting sense of foreboding with this outing of Outlander; it is strongly hinted from the opening minutes that events are heading towards something very significant. Claire’s conversation with Ned Gowan complete with John Dunn quotes highlights the importance of the events that are building up. I like their relationship because it seems to be built from an intellectual understanding as well as genuine shared interests and personalities that just mesh together very well, I hope to see more of Ned as he’s an interesting character who clearly has lots of depth that we’ve barely scratched the surface of so far.
Claire -and subsequently the audience- get a different look at the MacKenzie clan in this episode while gaining a better understanding of how they operate when outside the castle as well as learning about their code of honour. There’s certainly an element of “laddishness” to coin a colloquial term about how they interact mostly through sexually charged jokes and stories. Some of that stuff dragged a little but there was a natural flair to it all, it’s also a testament to good writing that none of it is translated but we can get the basic idea. Claire’s narration helps in that regard. I liked her point about mistrust from those around her where no attempt is made to hide the fact that they’re excluding her by speaking primarily in Gaelic. It all helps to make us as the audience feel like an outsider observing these people rather than being part of their group, I thought this was an effective way to get to know this group of people. That being said, there is a clear sense that the clan feels responsible for her shown when Anghus stands up for her despite his attitude towards her prior to that. There’s also some indication that Dougal and Claire are gaining a sense of respect for one another. The show continues to be from Claire’s perspective on an emotional level as well as anything else and this is a very good thing when trying to present different sides to people since Claire is privy to that information by virtue of her lack of inclusion.
This perspective allows us to get to know the villagers that Claire encounters as well, we see them struggling for money and food because of the rent imposed upon them which initially seems unfair since the obvious emotional strings are pulled when a hungry baby is presented. As the plot continues we learn that Dougal is raising money for a Jacobite uprising -explained with some handy historical context given by a flashback- so that Scotland can fight for their freedom against King George II. It’s worthy of note that all of this patriotism is coming just over a week before Scotland’s independence referendum.
In general the episode handled the political side of the story really well, I really liked how Claire understood the politics of the situation and that Dougal wasn’t threatening the villagers but was encouraging them to follow him with patriotic words and using Jamie as an example of what the English can do if left unchallenged. Dougal comes across very well in this episode proving to be very intelligent and ruthless which makes him a naturally effective leader. He’s intimidating yet seems approachable and personable when he wants to be which is the perfect mix for him when dealing with the villagers.
Jamie and Claire’s relationship continues to build here now that they’re alone without the interference of the third piece of the love triangle. Jamie isn’t afraid to challenge her and tell her when she’s acting out of turn, something that can get her injured or worse in this time period. I like the natural friendship that they have established and there’s a hit that Jamie doesn’t quite trust everything she says as well as the painfully obvious attraction that neither of them are compelled to talk about. The flashbacks to Claire’s past -or the show’s future depending on the perspective- perhaps show that Claire is always thinking of her husband which forces her to hold back when around Jamie. It’s obvious that something will happen between them but I’m kind of enjoying the slow burn.
Music was nicely used here to present more foreshadowing. When Claire discovers Dougal’s intentions pieces of the Bear McCreary variation of “The Skye Boat Song” are used to deliver a strong hint at what follows. For those not in the know the song is about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape to the Isle of Skye after the battle of Culloden so we have a strong suggestion that we’re due to see the lead up to this important battle because historically, that’s where this pretty much ends for the Jacobite uprising. I liked that Claire seemed torn over whether to warn them or not, clearly she is beginning to care for and respect those around her so the inevitability upsets her quite a bit. It’s unlikely that we’ll see this battle anytime soon given the time period currently displayed but I find the attention the event itself is receiving interesting.
After last week’s hiccup this episode returns to form with a tight focus on Claire’s experiences and how she relates to those around her. We get to see the MacKenzie clan interacting outwith the castle walls and an interesting new side to Dougal showing him as a natural leader. This episode cleverly foreshadows the battle of Culloden and suggests this event is in the show’s future and we are going to start building towards it from now as well as featuring the Jacobite uprising in general. The camaraderie of the troops drags somewhat but it was nevertheless effectively portrayed. Another solid episode that furthers the story and characters wonderfully.