Outlander – Season 3 Episode 2
Outlander deals with Jamie’s return to Lallybroch as Claire continues to adjust to motherhood while living with Frank in 1949.
I’ll say one thing for Outlander this season, it’s brave. Jamie and Claire’s relationship has been the core of this show since it began thanks in large part to the excellent chemistry between Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. Separating Jamie and Claire is a really brave thing to do as it relies on the other aspects of the show being strong enough to make up for something that has defined it for so long.
For the moment the episodes have binary structures with two distinct narratives playing alongside one another. One belongs to Jamie and the other belongs to Claire. As I mentioned last week they aren’t connected on a narrative level but they share the root narrative of learning to live without the other. It’s a love story separated by time and the sense of longing on both sides is palpable.
Jamie’s return to Lallybroch doesn’t bring the safety that was suggested in the previous episode. He is still a fugitive and still noted as missing by the Redcoats so Lallybroch is being watched very carefully in case he returns. The lack of safety is established very quickly by showing Jenny being questioned by a group of soldiers as to her brother’s whereabouts. Jenny maintains her outwardly confident demeanour and assures them that Jamie hasn’t been anywhere near Lallybroch since before he went to join the Jacobite rebellion but it’s clear that she isn’t believed and that they will be constantly plagued by random appearances.
To protect his family Jamie lives in a nearby cave only returning to Lallybroch periodically with food and to check up on the others. He remains a morbidly stoic figure throughout the bulk of the episode and doesn’t even speak until fairly late on. It’s a clear indication of the guilt that he carries with him being let go when the men he fought with were put to death. It also shows how his heart is broken after losing Claire. Jamie is going through the motions but he is far from being free and has lost a huge part of himself now that Claire is no longer with him.
Jamie’s part of the story is the exploration of a broken man. His interactions with the rest of his family feel forced and he clearly feels somewhat useless since he can’t he the lord of his land any more. He is constantly on his guard because the Redcoats are constantly on the lookout for him. The episode establishes this existence as being a difficult one and it certainly comes across clearly.
The most prominent exploration is Jamie’s broken heart. Losing Claire has devastated him and he is fully determined to remain loyal to her despite the fact that he believes he will never see her again. Jenny is concerned for Jamie’s happiness and wants to see him move on with another woman. Jamie says that he will never marry again because he is devoted to Claire. Jenny tries to point him in the direction of Mary Macnab (Emma Campbell-Jones) but Jamie is completely uninterested.
His conversation with Ian Murray (Steven Cree) brilliantly outlines how it is that Jamie feels. It follows Fergus losing his hand and can be seen on one level as Ian giving advice about the fact that people who have lost limbs can sometimes feel them hurting even though they are no longer attached. Phantom Pain is fairly well known as a concept and this scene allows it to apply on a metaphorical level. Jamie has lost Claire and she was his heart so he frequently feels the pain of that loss even though she isn’t there any more. It says a lot about how broken Jamie is and expertly highlights what that feeling compares to.
Jamie changes his mind about moving on with another woman when Mary tenderly tries to get through to him and they share an intimate moment. Whether this is a sign that he is starting to move on from the loss of Claire or if he fears me might die a few days later and wants to leave the world with some physical pleasure is up for debate but I had issues with this scene. I can understand what the writers were going for in terms of establishing Jamie as someone who feels very lonely and needed the intimacy that Mary was offering but it goes against all of the claims he made that he would never move on from Claire. It would have made more sense had he turned Mary down.
Despite that this scene was really effective with Sam Heughan’s performance excellently portraying Jamie’s internal conflict. His attempt at resisting the obvious temptation and the single tear streaming down his face once he started to come to terms with the loss of Claire was perfect. Mary’s reaction was in keeping with the emotion of the scene and it’s a good example of how Outlander is a show that realises how important emotional moments are over the spectacle attached to a love scene. This particular scene was about what the characters were feeling rather than the superficial nature of them making love.
The constant threat hanging over Lallybroch is helped by the fact that the Redcoats aren’t portrayed as being incompetent. They are fierce in their treatment of the Scottish and believe none of what they are told. The best example of this is their appearance following Fergus discharging a pistol to kill a Raven. Jenny tries to be as convincing as possible but the Redcoats tear through her come with no consideration of any of the sentiment that surrounds it. This is best shown by them damaging the tapestry as it clearly establishes the level of disrespect they have for Lallybroch and the Fraser family in general. This treatment is one of the reasons Jamie decides to turn himself in.
The other is what happens to Fergus who loses a hand thanks to the Redcoats. In fairness Fergus taunted them to the point where they wanted to take action against him but it was still really brutal and very difficult to watch. Fergus calls the Scottish Redcoats traitors and generally goads them to the point of wanting to punish him. Jamie can’t do anything but hide nearby and watch because he would be vastly outnumbered should he intervene. Luckily him being nearby is enough to ensure Fergus survives but he will be forever changed by what happened. Jamie feels especially guilty because he promised to protect Fergus and has failed to do so.
His decision to turn himself over comes after Fergus is hurt and he sees the damage being done to Lallybroch as a result of hiding him. His decision includes having his sister turn him in and making it seem like she has betrayed him so that the Redcoats see that Jenny isn’t a traitor to the Crown as well as making her eligible for the reward that has been marked against him. The scene where Jamie is arrested is really powerfully acted by Sam Heughan and Laura Donnelly who have to make it seem genuine for the sake of appearances. Laura Donnelly’s facial expression suggests that she is barely holding it together while her brother is hauled of to possibly face his death. Sam Heughan fully commits to the fake betrayal that Jamie experiences as he is taken into custody.
As good as these scenes were they didn’t quite manage to convey the passage of time as well as they could have. According to dialogue six years have passed since Claire left but I don’t really feel that from watching the episode. Fergus doesn’t appear to be six years older than when we last saw him for one thing and the level of fatigue on the characters after being constantly questioned by the Redcoats suggests that a few months have passed at most. The episode could have done more to establish that such a long time had passed though it was perhaps more appropriate to explore this over more episodes. The plotting didn’t feel rushed but what was seen doesn’t match up with the alleged passage of time.
Claire’s portion of the story takes place in 1949. She is settling into her role as mother and has gotten to the point where she will let Frank touch her intimately. The major difference is that she is imagining Jamie the entire time which disturbs Frank greatly. It doesn’t take him long to realise and it drives a further wedge between them. As always Frank reacts to everything rationally and is fully committed to raising the daughter that isn’t is. He clearly loves Claire when she doesn’t love him and this is something that greatly upsets him. Claire doesn’t come off the best here as she is essentially stringing Frank along so that she can take physical pleasure from him while shutting herself off emotionally. It’s dishonest and unfair to someone who has given her so much.
I understand that the show needs to establish the “lovers separated by time” angle to make Claire and Jamie’s reunion more impactful when it does happen but I have issues with the portrayal of Claire as a character. I find it interesting that Frank is consistently characterised as a fair minded and patient man who will do anything for the family that he has chosen to protect as it makes it all the more apparent that Claire is being unfair to him. Taking away the time travel aspect of the show makes this a story about a woman being emotionally unfaithful to a man who is completely devoted to her and willing to put up with it so that the daughter that isn’t his can have a good life.
My expectation is that the coming episodes will show Claire and Frank drift further and further apart and the erosion of their connection will have a part to play in his eventual death that we know happens from it being mentioned in last season’s finale. The image of them sleeping in single beds with a gap separating them says a lot about how phony their marriage is at this point.
Outside of this the show is managing to find ways to deal with how Claire fits into her time period. She decides to learn how to be a Doctor and finds out that she is the only woman in her class. Her professor, Dr. Simms (Geoff McGivern) says “A woman and a Negro, how very modern of us” in a very dismissive way suggesting that there is a lot of intolerance still to be defeated. Joe (Wil Johnson) enters the classroom and immediately introduces himself to Claire as the other outcast in the class suggesting that they will help one another deal with the lack of fair treatment that will surely be directed at them.
An impressive episode that continues with the binary story structure keeping Claire and Jamie physically apart but thematically connected. More focus is given to Jamie’s story which deals with his reaction to losing Claire as well as the constant danger his presence represents to those who live in Lallybroch. His arc involves him getting to the point where he can turn himself in as well as move on from Claire in some way. His decision to turn himself in for the good of his people worked really well but I didn’t buy into him moving on from Claire despite the strong performances in the scene itself. The passage of time isn’t all that well established either.
Claire’s adjustment to 1949 brings up some interesting points as well. She isn’t painted in the best light as she uses Frank for physical gratification while picturing Jamie. Frank is a sympathetic character sacrificing everything to ensure that the child he didn’t father is provided for and has a stable family unit. Claire isn’t being fair to him and the wedge driven between them is growing. This is best shown by them sleeping in single beds separated by a gap. Claire’s decision to train as a Doctor should be a fascinating story as she is already established as one of the outcasts of the class mainly populated by white men.
- strong performances throughout
- the metaphoric Phantom Pain that Jamie is dealing with
- Claire being established as the class outcast
- well written emotional moment
- the passage of 6 years not being well established
- Claire’s mistreatment of Frank going unchallenged
- Jamie moving on from Claire with another woman
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