Outlander – Season 4 Episode 8
Outlander continues Roger and Brianna’s journey to find Fraser’s Ridge as they reunite in Wilmington and take their relationship to the next level.
Giving Brianna and Roger a narrative this season has widened the scope of Outlander considerably. Instead of having one temporally displaced romance it now has two. This is a welcome addition as far as I’m concerned as it allows a different perspective on a relationship with the complexities of time travel attached as well as providing a contrast to Claire and Jamie’s more stable connection.
It’s fair to say that Brianna and Roger are far from on the same page when it comes to what they want out of life. That fact is part of what makes them so interesting to watch. Brianna appears to be so caught up in the passion and romance associated with the realisation that Roger followed her through time as well as across the globe just to find her that she makes a decision not entirely thought out. After her rejection of Roger’s proposal it was clear that they both needed time to grow before they would be ready to be married to one another. There’s no real time limit on something like that but it’s clear that it wouldn’t be a simple fix. This seems to be countered by Brianna telling Roger that she loves him and wants to be his wife in this episode though there is a reading that suggests she doesn’t actually mean that despite how sincere she seems. She puts it best when she says “how could I say no to a man who pursued me for 200 years?” which suggests that the romantic notion of what Roger did for her is somewhat overpowering.
That’s not to say that Brianna is entirely governed by her emotions as it’s very clear that she cares deeply for Roger but she is also young and a little naive so seems prone to making impulsive decisions that end up having far reaching consequences. In this case her decision to marry Roger seems like the right thing for her to do on the surface because they have such a tender and passionate night together following their handfasting that celebrates how much they love one another and unites them through Roger taking Brianna’s virginity. Their scenes together are so strong as they take advantage of the clear chemistry that exists between the actors while building on the work that has been done to develop the relationship before this point.
Their happiness only lasts so long because of a slip of the tongue on Roger’s part when he reveals that he knew about the obituary detailing Claire and Jamie’s death. This is a problem because he didn’t tell Brianna that he knew which upsets her because she feels that he withheld necessary information from her. What follows is a really interesting argument that covers a lot of ground such as secrecy within relationships and the ethics of time travel. It works because both sides of the argument are valid in terms of the logic used to reach that conclusion. Brianna feels betrayed because Roger kept the death of her parents a secret from her. To her this means that she might have been denied the opportunity to save them with the added heft of the man she loves not being entirely honest with her.
Roger’s point of view is that he didn’t want to burden her with that knowledge and upset her. As far as he’s concerned Claire and Jamie have been dead for 200 years regardless of what caused them to meet their end so knowing how that happened wouldn’t really change anything. It’s a valid point and easy to see how he would reach that conclusion. He adds that they shouldn’t be able to decide who lives and who dies through their knowledge of the future and their ability to travel through time. This is a direct contrast to Claire’s efforts to prevent Culloden earlier in the life of the show and ties into Roger’s role as a historian who respects the events as they happened. I wonder if this will transition into something that has been bubbling in the background but has never been directly addressed. Evidence suggests that the timeline of this show can’t be changed and that the characters who travel through time are merely fulfilling the role they always had in those events. This doesn’t remove choice from the equation as characters often have no idea what role they have to play in events so behave in the way they always would. If I’m right then that means the fire won’t be prevented but I’m fairly sure that events will play out to have Claire and Jamie fake their deaths in order to escape a larger problem. Time will tell but that’s my theory.
In terms of the argument in this episode, Brianna sees it as Roger taking the choice away from her and making decisions on her behalf. Brianna always had the option to go back in time to visit Claire and Jamie but has been motivated by the knowledge that they are fated to die to save their lives. Roger’s view that they have no right to try to change events isn’t her view and she is less than pleased that Roger has elected to make that decision on her behalf. It quickly becomes clear that they will never see eye to eye on this topic so Roger offers to leave almost as a test of Brianna’s commitment to him. He points out that this echoes pushing Frank away right before he died and suggests that she will come to regret this in the same way. That strikes a nerve for her as she continues to carry that regret with her. Roger suggests that this is a persistent character flaw for her and that she has a lot of growing up to do. They are harsh words but once again Roger is prone to thoughtless outbursts during arguments and likely says those things to provoke a reaction similar to how Brianna is making him feel. There’s something petty about it but it makes sense in the context of an argument where emotions are running high. There is no resolution to this as Roger leaves with Brianna’s blessing.
Things get worse for Brianna when she happens upon Stephen Bonnett who has stakes Claire’s stolen wedding ring in a game of cards. She recognises this and looks to get it back from him which leads to her being raped by way of an exchange. It goes without saying that any depiction of rape is really brutal. The only way such a thing can be admired is through analysing whether the effect on the character being raped is portrayed well. Rape and sexual abuse is fairly common in this show and has been handled fairly well in the past, particularly in the aftermath. One such example is the conversation between Jamie and Ian in the first episode of the season where the weight of the experience is discussed. In this case the rape itself is barely depicted other than the beginning and ending of it. Instead the ordeal plays out through the perspective of Stephen Bonnett’s companions who continue their game and do nothing to help Brianna. Their inaction makes them complicit in the violation as well as showing that this is something that happens very frequently and it’s something they have chosen not to care about. It’s harsh and effective.
Sophie Skelton’s performance enhances the brutality of the moment. She plays the aftermath in such a subdued way suggesting that Brianna has made an attempt to completely divorce her rational mind from the experience in order to endure it. Her cries for help as she is being violated are desperate but that fire is gone once the experience is over. It’s a haunting performance and feels perfect in the moment. This makes for a stark contrast to the clear happiness and love earlier in the episode where Brianna experiences one of the best days of her life as well as one of the worst in the same day. This will definitely have a profound effect on her from now on and change her in ways that can’t yet be quantified.
The oncoming American Revolution receives some attention through Claire and Jamie’s role in the story. On a basic level they are simply attending a play attended by none other than George Washington (Simon Harrison) but beneath the surface attention is given to the unrest that exists among the people because of the unfair taxes they have to pay. Jamie as always has to tow the line between his duties as a land owner in debt to the gentry and his sympathy for the plight of the common man. His role as a land owner means that he’s privy to inside information that he has to decide whether or not to act on. In this case he hears about a trap set for Murtagh and the other dissidents and wrestles with a sense of helplessness. This is clearly shown through Jamie being distracted during the play looking for a way to get out of the situation and send word to Murtagh. He does this by exploiting a hernia and forcing Claire to operate on him while he slips away unnoticed. It’s another example of Jamie’s resourcefulness and creative thinking in a tough situation. I doubt it’ll be long before he runs out of luck in this regard which I suspect will lead to the fire that is supposed to claim his life.
Outside of this narrative there’s some great opportunities for some much needed levity. My personal favourite example was Claire bringing up the myth of the cherry tree around George Washington and having to call it a figure of speech because she doesn’t realise that Washington wouldn’t know about it since it isn’t true. It’s good to see the show taking advantage of the time period and the historical celebrities that the characters could bump into on their travels. George Washington’s historical significance is mentioned but his portrayal here is very much just a man unaware of the greatness he would be known for in the future.
The attempted heist of the coach to reclaim the tax money was the weakest part of the episode as there wasn’t enough urgency attached to it. Dialogue would suggest that Murtagh is in imminent danger but too much time passes between that and the point he almost walks into the trap to sell that. It ended up being such a non event in order to allow Murtagh to continue on knowing that there’s a spy in his midst and that those in charge are onto him. Perhaps condensing the timeline or not having Murtagh appearing until towards the end would have sold the danger more effectively.
A strong episode that continues to build on the compelling Brianna and Roger episode by focussing on how they differ. Brianna agreeing to marry Roger is really complex as it comes across as entirely sincere in the moment and leads to a really tender yet passionate moment between the two characters that shows how much they care for one another. The argument they have afterwards works really well as it shows that they have a long way to go before being on the same page. Both sides of it are entirely valid while touching on the idea of secrecy within a relationship as well as the ethics of time travel. Once again both parties are overtaken by their emotions and say things they perhaps don’t mean which leads to Roger leaving at least for the time being. Brianna ends up getting herself raped by Stephen Bonnett following this in an attempt to get Claire’s ring back from him. It’s a brutal sequence though the focus on those outside the room says a lot about how often this happens as well as how those people have chosen to not get themselves involved. Sophie Skelton’s performance is excellent particularly in the aftermath.
Claire and Jamie’s part of the episode furthers the oncoming American Revolution plot through Jamie being torn between his duties as a landlord and his sympathy for those affected. His unique position means that he privy to information that can help those opposing the authorities. Hearing that Murtagh is in danger distracts him from the play and has him exploit a hernia so that he can slip away unnoticed to solve the problem. It’s another example of Jamie’s ability to think quickly and creatively though I suspect he won’t always be so lucky. The attempted heist on the coach is the weakest part of the episode as a lot of the urgency is lost because too much time passes between the introduction of the trap and Murtagh almost falling into it.
- the tender yet passionate Brianna/Roger engagement/marriage moments
- Brianna and Roger’s argument feeling real
- touching on the ethics of time travel
- an effective and brutal rape sequence
- Sophie Skelton’s haunting performance in the aftermath of her rape
- a loss of urgency in the heist portion of the episode
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