Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 11

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 411: “If Not For Hope”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie, Claire and Young Ian embark on a long uncertain journey to rescue Roger, while Brianna forges a friendship with one of Jamie’s old friends as she fends off Aunt Jocasta’s attempts to secure a husband.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Brianna is staying at River Run with Aunt Jocasta while Claire and Jamie search for Roger.
  • Jocasta is trying to find a suitable husband for Brianna.
  • Lord John visits River Run and begins a friendship with Brianna.
  • Claire, Jamie, and Young Ian continue to follow Roger’s trail.
  • Claire and Jamie soothe their hurt feelings and end the distance between them.
  • Roger is still captive, and finally arrives at the Mohawk village.

Insta-reaction:

Gotta admit it — I didn’t love this episode. I didn’t hate it either. I guess this is more of a move-the-story-along episode, where events proceed but there’s not a huge impact.

Okay, so what happened?

The bulk of the episode is spent on Brianna. She’s settled in at River Run, drawing portraits and worrying about poor Roger. Aunt Jocasta is not one to just let things be. She’s aware that Brianna is pregnant, and having an illegitimate child is not something she wants for her niece. So, she takes it upon herself to round up a bunch of eligible bachelors and invite them to a dinner party, hoping one of the gentlemen will be a suitable match for Brianna. Brianna, obviously, wants nothing to do with her scheming aunt’s matchmaking.

Lord John is one of the guests, and is most chivalrous toward Brianna. Later that night, she stumbles upon John in an intimate encounter with another of the male guests. (Dude, why are you doing it in the pantry? Couldn’t you at least have found a hidden place outside the house or something?) The next morning, Phaedre informs Brianna that her aunt wants her downstairs because Mr. Forbes, yet another of the party guests, is going to ask her to marry him. Brianna slips outside, asks John to join her, and basically tries to blackmail him into marrying her.

Although John’s not willing to marry her, his heart melts a bit when Brianna tells him about Stephen Bonnet, the rape, and that she doesn’t know who the baby’s father is. She wants to wait for Roger to return, but she can’t be sure he’ll still want her when he learns that she may be carrying another man’s baby. (Clearly, Brianna doesn’t know Roger as well as she should!) Lord John talks to Brianna about his feelings for Jamie, and also about his admiration for Claire. Ultimately, he saves her from Jocasta and Forbes’s plans by announcing that he and Brianna are engaged.

Let’s see, what else? There are some random scenes of Marsali, Fergus, and Murtagh, and I’m sorry, but the Regulator business is too boring for words. Murtagh and Fergus do manage to track down Stephen Bonnet, but Murtagh himself is arrested before they can get away with Bonnet.

Maybe this was only a “meh” episode for me because of the limited Claire and Jamie time. Yes, Brianna’s story is the most dramatic at the moment, but there’s only so much time I want to spend with her at the expense of our true power couple. Claire and Jamie are at odds, each carrying around a ton of hurt and guilt. Ian tries to get them to patch things up, and eventually, they do. Claire reassures Jamie that he is a good father, that he is a good man, and that she loves him. They both are blaming themselves for the mistakes they’ve made that led to this point, but at least they’ve reestablished their bond and will continue on their hunt for Roger together.

Roger only gets a couple of scenes at the beginning and end of the episode. He ends up at the Mohawk’s village after weeks (months?) of travel, and is immediately put through some sort of gauntlet where everyone gets to take a swing at him. Welcome to your new home, Roger!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Like I said, I was fairly underwhelmed. I didn’t appreciate the attempted fake-out at the beginning, as the episode opens with Roger in a hot shower. Aha, he went back to the 20th century after all! Like anyone would really think that — not at all convincing. Of course, the shower is just a fantasy, and he didn’t go anywhere. I’m a little annoyed that the show didn’t let us know whether he walked away from the stones himself or was captured before he could attempt to time-travel. I hope they make this clear later on — it’s an important distinction that shows Roger’s frame of mind, and I believe it should not have been left so ambiguous.

I’m not clear on why Jocasta felt such a need to marry Brianna off. If they need a suitable cover story for the sake of her social position (and that of the baby), why not just say she’s a widow? Or that her husband was lost on a perilous voyage, so if he shows up later, it’s all good. Bree doesn’t need a husband to care for her — she has her parents, and for that matter, she could have a home at River Run for as long as needed. Why the rush, Auntie?

And ugh, that dinner party “game” Brianna invents, invoking psychology and the interpretation of dreams. I mean, what the hell was that? I was afraid for a moment that they would actually go around the table and make us listen to each individual person’s response to Bree’s question, which could have taken up the rest of the episode and then some. So weird. So unnecessary.

Ah, Lord John. Always a lovely man. It’s fun to see him with Brianna. As I mentioned before, he was being AWFULLY indiscreet, which is tremendously out of character for him. BUT, at least this is an improvement over the presentation in the book, where Brianna catches him sneaking back to the house from the plantation slave quarters where, it is implied, he had a tryst with one of Jocasta’s slaves. Thank goodness the show didn’t go down that problematic path.

It’s nice to see Fergus and Marsali, but I wish they had something to actually do.

The Jamie/Claire reconciliation was sweet and emotional (oh, the tears in Jamie’s eyes!), but there just wasn’t enough of them to satisfy me. They’re still the main characters of this show, and episodes that are light on Jamie and Claire feel like a cheat.

And furthermore…

I do like how Young Ian’s attire keeps getting little bits of ornamentation that show how much he’s been interacting with the Cherokee and becoming comfortable with them. Between the armband, the fringed boots, and the hanging knife sheath around his neck, he’s really picking up bits and pieces, which I think show that he’s developed a friendship with the Cherokee near Fraser’s Ridge. And now we learn that he speaks some Mohawk too. That’s not going to be important down the road, is it?

Only two episodes left! Here’s hoping the remaining too have a little more oomph that this one.

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 10

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 410: “The Deep Heart’s Core”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Jamie and Claire keep secrets from one another as they try to help Brianna process her recent trauma. But the secrets they keep cause a bigger familial rift once they are revealed.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Brianna and Jamie develop a deeper understanding of one another.
  • Claire offers Brianna a choice about whether to keep or end the pregnancy.
  • POOR ROGER is dragged around for the entire episode by a group of Mohawk.
  • The truth comes out — Brianna finds out what Jamie did to Roger, and is PISSED.
  • Jamie, Claire, and Ian set out to find Roger.
  • Brianna tells Claire that she’s keeping the baby and staying in the 18th century.
  • Murtagh takes Brianna to River Run to stay with Aunt Jocasta while the rest of the family searches for Roger.

Insta-reaction:

Kudos to Sophie Skelton, who gives a powerful performance as Brianna, really selling Bree’s emotional reactions as they run the gamut from despair to the first hint of healing, then rage and a step into the unknown.

First off, the early scene between Jamie and Bree is lovely. Jamie lets Bree know that he knows about the rape. She blames herself for not fighting harder, and despite Jamie stating over and over that it’s not her fault, she really can’t let go of her guilt — until Jamie physically restrains her to show her that she could not have prevented what happened, no matter how hard she struggled, and that she likely could have ended up dead if she’d tried to fight. Bree then surprises Jamie by asking him about the aftermath of his rape. Claire had told Brianna about all that happened at Wentworth. Bree wants to know if killing his rapist helped Jamie heal. He assures her that time, not revenge, is the key.

Life seems to be settling down to normal at the Ridge, with the family spending time together and enjoying the beauty of living there. Claire offers Brianna a choice — she can terminate the pregnancy by surgical abortion if that’s Bree’s wish. She doesn’t want Brianna to be forced into anything, but lets her know that if she wants to end the pregnancy, they need to do it soon. On the other hand, if Bree wants to go back to her own time, she can do that as well — but again, would have to leave now. Claire knows that it’s possible to travel through time while pregnant, but they don’t know if it’s possible to go with a baby. What if Brianna tried to travel but the baby got left behind, or even worse, got lost somewhere in time? If Brianna hopes to go back, it’s got to be now.

The truth about Roger finally comes out, when Lizzie tells Brianna that she knows what happened, and Brianna, horrified, realizes that Lizzie believes Roger is the man who raped her. When she learns that Jamie beat the man he believed to be her rapist, all hell breaks loose. Brianna is righteously furious. Jamie is upset by his anxious, but upset as well that Claire knew that Bonnet was the rapist and didn’t tell him. After Jamie beat Roger, Ian sold him to the Mohawk. They were just traveling through, probably headed back to their lands in upstate New York. Who knows where Roger could be by then, after a week has already gone by?

POOR ROGER. He spends most of this episode being dragged behind a horse, walking all day, every day, at first alongside another prisoner who eventually dies on the road. Roger’s face looks awful. Oh, Jamie, you are a scary man when you’re angry. Roger eventually gets a chance to escape his captors, and runs right into a buzzing circle of stones. At the episode’s end, we see him holding the gems he got from Stephen Bonnet, debating whether to go through the stones, or stay and try to find his way back to Brianna.

Meanwhile, back on the Ridge, Jamie and Ian vow to find Roger for Brianna. Brianna insists that Claire go with them, which makes sense. If he saw Jamie and Ian coming, he’d probably run and never look back! Claire is a familiar face, and what’s more, there’s a good chance he’ll need a doctor. Claire doesn’t want to leave Bree. It may be months before they return. She may not be back in time to deliver the baby. Bree is determined, so they come up with a different plan: Murtagh will take Brianna to River Run, to stay with Aunt Jocasta, who’ll care for her and keep her safe.

Jamie vows to Brianna that he won’t return without Roger. Yikes. That’s a big promise to make.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

A really powerful episode. The father-daughter scene between Jamie and Claire, in which they discuss her rape and Jamie helps her in a very Jamie way, is just full of beauty and emotion. You really feel that these two have a connection, that there’s a growing trust and love between them… which makes it all the harder later on when Bree, in her fury over Roger’s treatment, basically tells Jamie that her REAL father (Frank) was a good man, and Jamie is just a brute. Ouch.

I mean, yes, he did do something terrible to the man she loves, but in Jamie’s defense, he really had no idea. A sucky situation all around, fed by terrible communication (which is a recurring theme in this particular book in the Outlander series.)

Every one was just so good in this episode. Claire didn’t have as many flashy moments, but I did love how we got to see Claire’s determination to give Brianna a choice, and how she presented her with the option to go back to her own time, even though it would break Claire’s heart.

And furthermore…

The scene between Aunt Jocasta and Murtagh made me wonder if all the fan speculation about the two of them ending up together might really be correct! Either that, or the show is just playing with us all.

And how adorable was Ian getting down on one knee to offer to marry Brianna? Gotta love Young Ian.

Claire and Brianna reciting a list of 20th century foods and conveniences they miss was pretty great too. Peanut butter and jelly! And of course, aspirin per the doctor’s orders.

ARGH. Only three episodes left this season! Where did the time go?

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 9

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 409: “The Birds & the Bees”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

As Brianna struggles to compartmentalize the trauma she’s suffered in the wake of the tragedy that befell her in Wilmington, she refocuses on finding her parents.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Brianna deals with the aftermath of her rape.
  • Brianna finds Jamie and Claire!
  • The family spends time together at Fraser’s Ridge. Jamie and Brianna start to bond as father and daughter.
  • Roger is forced to sail further with Stephen Bonnet’s crew before he’s able to return to Brianna.
  • Brianna is pregnant, and tell Claire about the rape.
  • Jamie beats Roger to a bloody pulp, believing he’s the rapist.

Insta-reaction:

The first meeting between Jamie and Brianna is all we could have hoped for! But first, we deal with the aftermath of the rape that occurred at the end of the previous episode.

Brianna returns to her room, stunned and bloody, but refuses Lizzie’s attempts to assist her. While she won’t tell Lizzie what happened, Lizzie sees Brianna’s bruises and her bloody petticoats, and draws her own conclusions.

Roger comes to look for Brianna, but is intercepted by Bonnet, who reminds him that he signed on to be part of Bonnet’s crew for the entire voyage, and they’re not done yet. It would cost Roger a limb or his life to try to run off, so he reluctantly leaves to sail onward with the Gloriana to Philadelphia.

Brianna hears that Roger came looking for her in the morning and left with the Gloriana’s crew, so she rushes to the waterfront, only to find that the ship has already sailed. She believes that Roger is sailing back to Scotland, to return through the stones to the 20th century. Lizzie rushes up with big news — apparently, a Scot’s wife performed surgery on a man at the theater the night before! Sure sounds like something Claire would do, right?

Brianna finds Jamie, and the meeting is lovely and *sniff* there may have been some off-screen tears *in my living room* to go with the tears in Jamie and Brianna’s eyes. Claire is stunned to see Brianna as well. Man, it’s beautiful seeing the three of them together!

Bree meets her cousin Ian, and they all travel back to Fraser’s Ridge together (along with a smitten Lizzie). Murtagh is staying at the Ridge for a while, laying low to avoid capture as a Regulator, so it’s a happy time for the family to be together (and for Murtagh to share embarrassing stories about Jamie’s youth.)

Jamie and Brianna get time to bond and get to know one another. He acknowledges that Frank was a good man who loved Brianna, and tells her that he doesn’t want to take Frank’s place. Brianna starts calling Jamie “Da”. *sniff* *dammit, eyes, stop that!*

Time passes. Eventually, Claire uses her mommy super power to guess that Brianna is pregnant. She’s about two months along, says Brianna, but doesn’t know who the father is. She tells Claire about the rape, but not who did it. Claire shares the news with Jamie. Later, Claire finds her missing wedding ring among Brianna’s belongings, and realizes that Stephen Bonnet is the man who raped her daughter. Brianna confirms this, but makes Claire promise not to tell Jamie — she’s afraid that Jamie would try to find Bonnet to get revenge and would end up getting killed himself.

And we end with yet another “Poor Roger!!” moment. Roger finds his way to Fraser’s Ridge. Lizzie sees him coming, and identifies him to Ian as the man she saw man-handling Brianna in the street. Ian brings her to Jamie, where she tells more of the story, including what Brianna looked like when she returned to the room in the inn after being raped. Jamie goes off in a fury and pounds Roger until he’s a bloody, unconscious mess. He then throws him over a horse and tells Ian to get rid of him.

All together now — poor Roger!

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

The episode feels very true to the book, down to the details of Jamie and Brianna’s meeting, as well as the ending with Jamie and Roger. True, some elements are altered or embellished, but the overall story flows from the source material, and it’s quite effective.

I can’t say enough good things about the acting here. Caitriona Balfe has one of the most beautifully expressive faces on television, and she’s stunning here as Claire experiences both the joy of reuniting with the daughter she never expected to see again, and the horrified pain of a mother who learns about the suffering of her child.

Not to shortchange the rest of the cast — Jamie and Brianna’s initial scene together is lovely and emotional, and their subsequent conversations are just the right mix of nervousness, hesitation, love, and joy. They look wonderful together as well – such a terrific father/daughter pairing.

Oh, Roger… We never actually believed that he’d leave after storming off like that last episode, did we? Of course not! His beating is brutal and horrible to watch, as Jamie takes out his fury on the face of the man he believes hurt his beloved daughter. It’s scary seeing Jamie like that, and Roger’s life is hanging in the balance.

And furthermore…

Just a beautifully created and performed episode, capturing the small moments as well as the big ones. Kudos to the show — so well done.

I can’t wait for next week! Although I’m already getting in some pre-Droughtlander mourning, knowing there are only four episodes left in the season. How did season 4 go by so quickly?

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Further thoughts on Outlander episode 408, “Wilmington”

I watched the newest Outlander episode (#408, “Wilmington”) yesterday evening, then posted my weekly Insta-Reaction post… and since then, haven’t been able to stop thinking about the episode and why it bothered me so much.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I’m going to be talking about specifics from the episode as well as the book series, including future developments in the books. You have been warned!

There are two key parts of the episode that I have issues with, and both center on Brianna.

Brianna and Roger

Let’s start with what most of the episode focused on — Brianna’s reunion with Roger. Having both traveled through the stones and 200 years back in time, Brianna and Roger separately made their way to the Colonies and end up in Wilmington, North Carolina. Roger searches for Brianna, and finally finds her. She goes from happy to mad to happy again, and Roger — well, much as I usually like him, he comes across as a jerk.

He’s immediately aggressive with Brianna, yanking her outside by the arm so they can talk about time travel away from the nosy people in the tavern. Out in the street, they both do their share of yelling, but Roger is the one looming over Brianna, in her face, being what an outsider would interpret as physically threatening. And as we see, Lizzie does see all this, and is rightfully worried about her mistress. If you didn’t know who this man was, it would appear that a stranger just grabbed Brianna, threatened her, and then took her off somewhere.

So then the two of them admit that they love one another, start kissing — and stop again when Brianna asks Roger if he’s changed his mind about having sex with her without being engaged first. Oh yeah, that… is what Roger’s face is saying. He hasn’t. So all of a sudden, after not seeing Roger for months and only just now reuniting with him, Brianna is willing to marry him, so they marry each other via Scottish handfasting, then get on with their wedding night.

(In a barn. That isn’t theirs. Where for all they know, the owner is going to come in any second. But I digress.)

(Oh, and Brianna gives him credit for pursuing her for 200 years — but she specifically didn’t want him to follow her! He follows her because he’s worried something will happen to her without him. Overbearing much? I love Roger (especially in the books), but somehow seeing this all on screen drives home for me how condescending some of his actions are. He’s doing what he’s doing because he’s sure that he knows best and Brianna can’t handle her own business.)

We then get one of the most awkward sex scenes I’ve seen in a while. Why is it that Jamie and Claire sex scenes are sexy, and Roger and Brianna’s isn’t? For starters, we’re not all that invested in Roger and Brianna. The show and the books are positioning them as couple #2, the next generation’s power couple, but in the show anyway, they’re not there yet. I think too that we’ve been viewing Brianna as Claire and Jamie’s daughter for the little that we’ve seen of her. Maybe I’m reaching here, but perhaps it’s this view of Brianna through a maternal lens that made the scene so uncomfortable to watch. Jamie and Claire’s scenes are always sensual and loving and steamy. This scene had no sense of physical chemistry, was too long, and simply felt voyeuristic to me.

Okay, so after blissful lovemaking (or so they say), once again the arguments start. It’s ugly. I don’t care all that much about the issue at hand (the obituary) — it’s about control, and it’s not good. Roger had information that he chose not to give to Brianna. First he claims he did this because she was happy, but really, he was taking away her ability to choose to go to her parents, and he knows it. The angrier Bree gets, the angrier Roger gets, and he basically asserts that he knows best and now that he’s her husband, she should listen to him.

And so quickly it could make your head spin, they sound like bickering children. Well, maybe I should leave. Well, maybe you should. Look me in the eye and tell me to leave. Leave if you want to. Ugh. This was ridiculous. Yes, they need to separate in order for what happens next to happen… but it’s so nonsensical for Roger to walk out like that, and reinforces the idea that these two had no business talking marriage when they’re not mature enough to actually deal with disagreements like adults. Roger just traveled back in time and risked his life (of which he reminds her a couple of times) to follow her, then is going to leave just like that? And if he was so motivated by concern for her safety, then he’d stay with her or at least remain nearby until he knew she was safe with her parents. Who would just walk out like that? It’s idiotic.

(And not much better in the book, where they argue and part, but without it seeming like quite so definite a break-up. Although, Roger still leaves to try to steal some gemstones for their journey back through the stones. Again, not very smart. They’re not leaving yet, they still want to find Claire and Jamie — what’s the rush?)

It feels extra manipulative watching it unfold on the screen, but it has to be that way so we can get to the terrible thing that happens next.

Brianna and Stephen Bonnet

And here’s where I’m going to declare that the show does itself no favors by following the books too closely.

In my reaction post, I talk about the rape scene and how awful it is, but I also stated that the repercussions of the rape ripple through the rest of the book and the next two after that. In other words, it’s so important to the plot that there’s no way the show could omit it.

And then I spent all night thinking about it some more, and I’ve completely changed my mind.

Look, the books have a lot of rape in them. There’s really no getting around that. And I say this as a huge fan of the series, but it’s a lot. Too much. Rape should not be a plot device, and that’s exactly what Brianna’s rape feels like.

Plot-wise, this has to happen, because Brianna ends up pregnant and doesn’t know who the father is. On top of that, when Roger finally finds Brianna again at Fraser’s Ridge, Lizzie identifies him as Brianna’s rapist (remember her watching the argument through the window?), and before he can introduce himself to the Frasers, Jamie and Ian beat him senseless and then sell him to the Iroquois.

Eesh. That’s a lot. And the ripple effects of not knowing the baby’s father continue through book #6, as does Stephen Bonnet’s continuing, looming and threatening presence in their lives.

But still, did the show have to honor this part of the plot? I’m ready to argue that it didn’t.

If we assume that we need a similar outcome in order for the rest of the plot to work — Brianna being traumatized, Brianna being pregnant, Roger’s being beaten and sold — I’m sure the show could have found a way to make that happen. What if Brianna doesn’t tell her parents that she’s pregnant right away? What if she refuses to talk about how she ended up pregnant because it’s all too upsetting, so they’re left to draw their own conclusions? What if Lizzie confides what she thinks she knows, so when Roger shows up, Jamie and Ian jump to the same conclusion? It could work, that’s all I’m saying.

Meanwhile, the show does not need more rape. Brianna did not have to by assaulted by Stephen Bonnet. It was a brutal scene. And does it make sense that a tavern full of people chose to ignore or be amused by the screams from the next room? This is the inn where Brianna is lodging — did no one recognize her or consider that she might need help? Not one shred of concern? In the book, this happens on board Bonnet’s ship, where he is the captain and the undisputed lord and ruler. His crew would never stand up to him, even if they thought a woman was being abused, although as I recall, they assumed it was Bonnet engaging in some sex play, not necessarily a young woman being raped. In the episode, while it’s horrifying to see all these men sitting around doing nothing, just drinking and gambling, I’m not convinced that it was realistic, especially if we assume that this is at least a semi-respectable inn at the center of a growing town. Again, is the show going for shock value? If so, they found it, but it just adds to my sense that this scene and the entire rape-as-plot-device ploy was unnecessary.

I find myself agreeing with the New York Times recapper’s comments:

This scene serves no immediate purpose. We didn’t need the reminder Bonnet is a villain. The show did not need another sexual assault to prove the past was dangerous (Roger seems proof that men can be horrible in any era). In fact, the scene is so otherwise disconnected from the episode that it suggests a chilling, unspoken conclusion: This is Brianna’s comeuppance. She gets victimized as proof that she’s vulnerable. Bonnet’s attack is more violent than Roger’s lying, and therefore Roger looks better. Brianna gets raped, in effect, because she told Roger to leave, and “Outlander” apparently wants her to regret it.

 

Final thoughts

Because I’ve read all the books, I’ve seen how Roger and Brianna work through their differences, establish a relationship that’s an equal partnership, and build a family and a life together. But if I were basing my thoughts strictly on what I’ve seen of them on TV so far, I’d think that this pair was ill-suited and not a good fit. Brianna is headstrong and independent; Roger is traditional and conservative. He wants to protect and guide; she wants to make her own decisions and set her own path. Because I know him from the books, I know that Roger has a very good heart and is truly devoted to Brianna, but on the show, he’s coming across more and more as a controlling male who wants his woman to toe the line. As I mentioned earlier, Roger and Brianna are being built up as the show’s next-gen romantic lead couple, but so far at least, their chemistry and dynamic just aren’t working for me.

As for the Bonnet plotline, I think I’ve made my point clear. I don’t care what’s in the book (shocking, I know) — the show didn’t need to go there. Rape isn’t a convenient plot device. Surely, a creative writers’ room could have come up with some other plot twist to get us to the same or a similar point, without inflicting sexual assault on yet another female character.

For a show that has gained so much praise for its female gaze, it’s a disappointment to see it falling back on rape as a way to move a story forward.

Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 8

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 408: “Wilmington”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Roger’s diligent search for Brianna pays off when he finds her in Wilmington, but their romantic reunion comes to an abrupt halt when she discovers pertinent information that he intentionally kept from her.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Everyone is in Wilmington!
  • Claire and Jamie visit Fergus, Marsali, and their new baby Germain, then go to the theater with Governor Tryon.
  • Jamie keeps Murtagh from being arrested.
  • Brianna and Roger are reunited, spend a blissful night together, fight, and part.
  • Brianna has a horrific encounter with the despicable Stephen Bonnet.

Insta-reaction:

The end of this episode is so upsetting that I don’t really feel like writing a reaction post at all… but for the sake of being complete, I’ll go ahead — but it’ll likely be a short one. I’ll talk about all the other stuff first, before getting to Brianna and Roger.

Episode 408, “Wilmington”, brings all the main characters to the same place, although they don’t all cross paths at this point. Claire and Jamie are in town to visit new parents Fergus and Marsali. Marsali is overwhelmed by her love for their baby boy, Germain, and she and Claire share a sweet moment discussing the joy and pain of motherhood.

Jamie and Claire have been invited by the governor to attend the theater and meet more of North Carolina’s bigwigs. It’s fun to see Jamie’s Paris clothing back in action, and Claire looks lovely as always in her fancy clothes from Aunt Jocasta. At the theater, Claire notices that one of Tryon’s associates seems to be in pain. Doctor Claire wants to jump in and offer treatment, but is basically told to stick to lady stuff and let menfolk deal with doctoring. Okay… but later, when Claire performs surgery on the man’s hernia in the theater lobby, with an audience looking on, she definitely gets some respect. And applause.

Meanwhile, Jamie learns from Tryon that a trap has been set for a bunch of the Regulators, and…

Oops, sorry, fell asleep for a moment there. Ugh, the Regulators. That piece of the plot is just not interesting. (My apologies, Murtagh — even you can’t make it exciting to watch a gang of people being pissed about taxes.)

So anyway — Jamie learns that this trap planned by the governor will lead to the capture of a bunch of insurgents, along with their leader, Murgh Fitzgibbons. While Claire is performing surgical heroics, Jamie slips away for a moment and sends Fergus to intercept Murtagh just in the nick of time, enabling him to avoid capture after all.

Moving on…

Who would have thought that the highest drama in an Outlander episode would have nothing to do with Claire and Jamie? Once again, we have an episode where the truly important elements belong to Roger and Brianna. After searching and searching, Roger finally finds Brianna in a tavern, where she’s inquiring about how to get to Cross Creek. She turns and sees Roger. They have a lovely moment, before she realizes that he followed her back through time — that wasn’t the plan!

They argue, both in the tavern and out on the street, and Brianna’s maid Lizzie watches through the window. From Lizzie’s perspective, it looks like Roger is some rando who dragged her mistress outside, yelled at her in the street, and then pulled her off somewhere. That’s not going to be a problem later on, is it?

Bree and Roger soon admit how happy they are to see one another, and Brianna finally tells Roger that she loves him. They find a conveniently empty barn nearby where they can smooch. One things leads to another and… no, they’re not quite tearing off each other’s clothes just yet — they’re getting married! There’s a Scottish tradition called handfasting, kind of an informal way for them to marry one another, and so they do. It’s a sweet, romantic moment as they pledge their love, declare themselves man and wife, and then proceed with having a wedding night. It’s Brianna’s first time, and she enjoys it, as does Roger.

Unfortunately for Roger, his post-coital pillow talk gives away the fact that he knew about the obituary describing the Fraser’s Ridge fire, and that he knew about it before Brianna had left to find her way to her mother. Brianna is furious that Roger withheld this information from her. He yells that he just wanted her to be happy, and what could she have done anyway? This, Brianna tells him. She would have done exactly what’s she doing — find her mother and try to warn her. Their fight escalates, Roger seems to be saying that she needs to listen to him because she’s his wife now, Brianna overreacts to his having discussed their business with Fiona, and before we can take more than a few breaths, Roger storms off. (To be fair, Bree tells him to go. But he goes! He shouldn’t have gone.)

In tears, Brianna makes her way back to the inn where she and Lizzie are staying, and her night goes from bad to the worst. Because of course Stephen Bonnet is there gambling, with Claire’s ring in his hand, and when Brianna asks to buy it back from him, he drags her into an adjoining room, beats her, and rapes her. It’s a terrible scene, which doesn’t get shown on screen; instead, we see the men continuing to drink and play cards even as Brianna’s screams can be heard from the other room. When he’s done, Bonnet gives Bree the ring as “payment”, and Brianna shuffles off in shock.

Like I said, just a horrifying conclusion to the episode.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

It’s hard to criticize the show for the plot in this episode, because while events are slightly altered, it’s really at heart all from the book. The reunion, the hand-fasting, the wedding night, the argument and separation, and then Bree’s rape — maybe they happen with different timing and slightly different context in the book, but it’s all there.

Does it make sense for Roger to leave Brianna like that, even while she’s telling him to? Not at all. He just traveled 200 years and crossed an ocean to find her. Is he really going to just leave the love of his life, to whom he just pledged himself til death do them part, to figure things out all alone in a time not her own? It’s a plot point that has to happen, because it drives so much of what’s still to come, but I kind of hate it. They’re both hotheads and neither backs down when they’re angry, and the show has done a good job of showing us this in earlier episodes.. but it still is hard to believe that Roger would walk out like that. And, let’s give him a little credit, that Brianna would push him to go.

The Bonnet business… well, the least said, the better. It’s ugly and awful, and again, critical to future plot developments, but still a disgusting thing to have to watch. At least here the show has an improvement over the book, in which Brianna goes to Stephen Bonnet’s ship to retrieve her mother’s ring, basically walking right into danger. Not that what happens is her fault in any way, but her innocence and lack of judgment in the situation feel out of character for a savvy 20th century city girl. Here in the episode, Brianna doesn’t seek out Stephen Bonnet, simply has the misfortune to cross paths with him.

My overwhelming feeling after watching this episode is a mix of sorrow and anger. The Brianna and Roger storylines end in such an upsetting way that it’s hard to focus on Claire and Jamie’s parts of the story or to feel at all good about what I’ve just watched.

And furthermore…

Okay, all that said, I’ll end on a more upbeat note. First off, here comes the General! (Sorry, Hamil-geeking out for a second…) No, he’s not a general yet, but it’s still quite fun to see George Washington, and to see Claire trying to keep cool around the future father of the nation.

A few episodes ago, I mentioned that Claire’s medical treatment of Rufus on Jocasta’s dining room table was probably meant to replace the hernia surgery she did there in the books. Well, here we get the hernia surgery, performed for an audience as in the book, with Claire putting all those doubting men in their place by saving a man’s life through her amazing skills (and without ruining her glorious white fancy dress). Claire rocks. If I ever go through the stones and travel back in time, remind me to take Claire along!

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 4, Episode 7

Season 4 is here! My intention is to write an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 407: “Down the Rabbit Hole”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Brianna follows in her mother’s footsteps and travels through the stones back in time to 18th century Scotland where she struggles to make her way to the Colonies to find her parents.

My take:

Major plot points:

  • Roger follows Brianna through the stones at Craigh na Dun.
  • Brianna sets off on foot across the Highlands to get to a harbor and try to find passage to the Colonies.
  • She becomes injured, and is taken in and cared for by Laoghaire and her daughter Joan.
  • Laoghaire is not pleased to discover that Brianna is Claire’s daughter.
  • Brianna meets Ian Sr. at Lallybroch, who helps her on her journey.
  • Meanwhile, Roger secures passage on board the Gloriana, captained by Stephen Bonnet, who is just as cruel as we expect.

Insta-reaction:

Episode 407, “Down the Rabbit Hole”, is (as far as I recall) the only Outlander episode so far without Jamie or Claire appearing at all — and yet, it’s quite a strong episode, filled with important plot developments as well as great character moments.

Three cheers for the Outlander casting team, for giving us the treat of seeing Frank Randall and Ian Murray again, and for introducing us to two characters who’ll be a regular part of the Fraser family’s lives for years to come — Joseph and Lizzie Wemyss. And, well, I’m too much of a Laoghaire hater to say it was a treat, but yes, it was a good surprise to see her back on the show again too.

First off, Brianna’s journey. She made it through the stones safely, and is now walking across the snowy Highlands towards a harbor, where she plans to secure passage to America so she can find Claire and Jamie. Her mission, as she sees it, is to warn them about the fire that lies in their future, hoping to save their lives. I’m not sold on her plan here, though — wouldn’t it be smarter (and faster) to find transportation, rather than walking the whole way? It certainly would have been safer, since Brianna stumbles down a hillside and severely bruises her ankle, making it almost impossible to walk. Finally, she passes out from exhaustion, and wakes up in a snug bed, cared for than none other than the (evil, conniving ) Laoghaire.

At first, it’s kind of hard to hate Laoghaire. She’s sweet and kind toward Brianna, making her welcome and caring for her while her ankle heals, giving her warm clothes, a place to sleep, and good company. Little Joan is delighted to have Brianna there, and the two are quite sweet together. Brianna even sings “San Francisco (Flowers In Your Hair)” to her, which is a cute little anachronism. When Brianna overhears an argument one night between Ian Murray and Laoghaire, she learns that Laoghaire’s deadbeat former husband is short on his alimony payment yet again. Brianna hears the sad story of Laoghaire’s true love being bewitched and stolen away from her. Oh, Bree, if only you knew.

Eventually, of course, the truth comes out, and Laoghaire is horrified to learn that Brianna is the daughter of the whore/witch Claire. Bree attempts to leave, but is locked in by Laoghaire, who decides to report Brianna as a witch as well. Little Joan saves the day, rescuing Bree and taking her to Lallybroch, where she’s welcomed by her uncle Ian. The two are soon parted, as Brianna books passage to America, along with a servant girl (Lizzie*), whose father begs Brianna to take her in order to keep her safe from a man who wants to defile her.

*Side note: Anyone else startled by Lizzie’s appearance? In the books, she comes across as frail and delicate and always sickly, but here’s she’s taller than Brianna and looks pretty robust! I’m sure she’ll be fine, but it’s one of those book vs TV moments that’s kind of startling.

Throughout the episode, we see Brianna’s memories of Frank Randall, the man who raised her and loved her. Brianna feels a certain amount of guilt toward Frank, since on the night of his fatal car accident, he’d told her that he and Claire were planning to divorce, and he asked her to come to England with him. Brianna had been so upset that she left him without saying “I love you” back to him, and has been carrying that memory ever since. Over the course of the episode, she seems to have come to terms with her relationship with Frank, so that finally, she sees a vision of him (in what I thought was a pretty corny moment) smiling at her on the docks, as if giving his blessing to her journey.

And now let’s return to poor Roger.

Poor Roger! My familiar refrain. What that man suffers! He pursues Brianna through the stones, dressed in period clothing (and wearing some very silly looking trousery/gaucho/breeches type thing). And whoa, he even shaved his beard! Why, though? We’ve seen plenty of Highlanders with facial hair, right?

Beards are glorious, aye?

Roger makes it through the stones and goes straight to the harbor (as Brianna should have done), and is directed to the captain of a ship about to sail for the Colonies — and of course, it’s Stephen Bonnet, and we know he’s a bad’un even if Roger doesn’t. Bonnet tells Roger that he’s not taking any more passengers, but Roger is persistent, and finally convinces Bonnet to take him on as a crew member.

During the voyage, there’s a smallpox outbreak, and here’s where Roger first sees Bonnet’s true colors. Bonnet orders that anyone with signs of smallpox be thrown overboard, since the disease may otherwise spread throughout the ship. The first victim is a little girl, whom Roger tries desperately to save. But Bonnet does as he wishes, and has an awful Jamie Lannister moment.

Not quite the Outlander scene, but pretty darn close

On board his own ship, Stephen Bonnet is the law, and everything and everyone is under his power. Roger hides a woman with a baby — the baby has a rash and the woman is afraid that the crew will throw the baby overboard, even though she’s sure it’s just a normal baby rash. The woman’s name is Morag Mackenzie — and book readers know that her child Jemmy is in the direct line of Roger’s ancestors. By saving the baby, he’s ensuring his own existence a couple hundred years later. Bonnet discovers the child, and threatens to kill Roger as punishment, but a flip of a coin saves Roger’s life. Bonnet is the worst.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

For an episode without Jamie and Claire, “Down the Rabbit Hole” really rocked. Brianna and Roger’s story is in many ways the heart of Drums of Autumn, and it’s great to see their TV journey kicking into higher gear. We know things won’t be easy for these two, but it’s good to see them on their way. Poor Roger! I can’t help it saying it over and over again, since it always ends up feeling appropriate. So far, we’ve seen him give up his 20th century life, his career, his well-being, and his beard to chase after a woman who doesn’t want him to chase her. She specifically said in her letter now to follow her, so of course that’s exactly what he decides to do. Not that they’re not meant to be, but he really does go through all sorts of torments of hell because of this decision.

Bonnet is despicable, and his easy ability to flip from smiles and friendliness to deadly, amoral murder is a big part of what makes him so scary.

I loved seeing Ian and Lallybroch once again, although I wish Jenny had been home! And I was almost charmed by Laoghaire, who comes across in her first several scenes as sweet, maternal, and caring, a woman deserving of compassion… until she launches into one of her anti-Claire crazypants tirades and loses my goodwill completely.

I suppose the show needed to keep the Brianna and Roger stories in balance throughout the episode, but I did start to feel that the “hanging out with Laoghaire” story stretched out longer than was needed. Thankfully, we’re done there, and can pick back up with Brianna in America in the next episode.

And furthermore…

Hurray for Brianna’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Wonder bread! In Voyager, Claire brings the same kind of sandwich through the stones with her and eats it in Edinburgh before seeing Jamie for the first time, but that was omitted from the show in season 3. It’s not particularly important, just a fun little detail to throw in for a bit of color and yet another nod to the source material.

And — hold up! — it was hard to get a good look… but was that Claire’s ring on Bonnet’s hand?

And a final word:

Is anyone else already getting sad over the fact that we’ve passed the half-way point of the season? It seems like season 4 just started, and now suddenly there are only six episodes left!

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