My review of “The Way Out”, Outlander Episode 1 Season 1. If you haven’t read the books, then this is full of spoilers and if you don’t want to know anything about the show before seeing it, then don’t read it!!!!

!!!!!OUTLANDER SPOILERS!!!!!!

 

Before I get into what happened, I wanted to note that I just can’t say enough about the quality of the cinematography, the scenery, the costumes and even props. Like Claire’s medicine box–it’s looks like a real antique and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. Okay, enough with the gushing.

"Woe betide the man who stands between you and what you set your mind upon." Frank

“Woe betide the man who stands between you and what you set your mind upon.” Frank

The episode opened with a 1940’s scene with Frank and Claire. He’s sending her off to the Front in France at the train station. I liked this addition. It demonstrates, again, their love, what she’s missing, and her determination to get home. It also reveals a VERY important personality characteristic of Claire–she’s makes mules look positively submissive. Frank loves this part of her and we know Jaime will too. After all in the previous episode didn’t Jaime say (about the white mare Claire startled in the paddock) that ‘she’s just spirited and that’s no a bad thing’.We’re treated again to the insane dressing procedures of the 17th Century–copious amounts of cold water being poured over your head in a cold ass room while you’re standing there butt naked. But that’s a side note really.  We see here that Mrs. Fitz has been growing fond of Claire. So the next bit threw me a bit.

They showed a weird little vignette of Claire imagining what it would be like if she told Mrs. Fitz the truth because in this reverie, Mrs. Fitz accuses Claire of being a witch and basically freaks out. Claire comes to her senses though and realizes there is no way she can tell anyone, not even Mrs. Fitz, about her trip through the stones.

Claire settles into her new surgery in hopes of making a good impression on the McKenzie brothers in hopes of getting out of Castle Leoch. I loved seeing the medical box that Claire discovers that the late and not so great Beaton left behind. As a book reader you might remember that Claire will keep this with her for years to come. I always imagined it to be quite utilitarian looking but when it’s all closed up it looks quite appealing–like a finely made piece of furniture.

Claire's wee case

Claire’s wee case

Inside detail of case lid

Inside detail of case lid

Anyway, with everything being so unfamiliar, working with medicines and healing people is familiar to Claire so it’s a great comfort to her. The ONLY thing I didn’t like about this scene is that I still don’t like the way she says “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ”. I don’t know if it’s because she’s saying “roohsevelt” instead of “rosevelt” or if it’s where she puts the emphasis. In any case, it pulls me out of the story every time I hear it. I know, I know, it’s a nitpick.

The guards, Rupert and Angus, have begun to let down their guard and Claire notices. She’s gearing up to leave. But Claire can’t help getting involved when people fall ill. So she gets caught up in trying to figure out the death of a young boy and the illness of another (Mrs. Fitz’ own nephew). Her curiosity and modern sensibility become inflamed whe she hears the story of how the boys went to the “Black Kirk” and became possessed .

After talking to Mrs. Fitz she is summoned to Colum’s study where he asks her to massage his legs to ease his pain. Claire, once again, shows her superior knowledge by offerring to massage the base of his spine instead and she does indeed help him a great deal. We get our first good butt shot and it’s Colum hairy arse. Nothing sexual about it at all. LOL Claire notices while talking to Colum that even he, a well read man and presumably educated, also believes the boys illnesses are the Devil’s work. As a result of her helping Colum, he invites her to Hall that night to hear the Welsh bard he’s employed.

So later as she is entering the Hall, Dougal catches her at the entrance to the Hall and basically says he knows what she’s up to, being all nice and helpful all of a sudden.

"Seems the feral cat we picked up on the road is trying to pull in her claws" Dougal

“Seems the feral cat we picked up on the road is trying to pull in her claws” Dougal

Dougal could learn something from Claire–you get more flies with honey than vinegar. Next comes a very memorable scene from the first book. This is where Laoghaire sits nexts to Claire and they exchange friendly words. And then Jaime comes in and sits in between them and proceeds to hurt Laoghaire’s feelings. Jaime comes across in the show (and it’s this way in the books as well) as being unaware of how he affects women, naive almost. Jaime’s comments are meant to be self-deprecatory but end up offending Laoghaire. Jaime then escorts Claire back to her room under the pretense of her changing his dressing leaving a jealous Laoghaire behind. Instead he reveals that he wanted to help Claire since she was clearly tipsy (more of Colum’s wine) and make sure she got back to the surgery okay. Then we get their first overt verbal flirting, which is cute. But the cutesy talk turns serious when he reveals that he doesn’t mind her seeing his back and why that’s important–it’s a very personal and intimate thing to know what he’s been through. This soon turns into romance novel smoldering when she opens his shirt to examine the bullet wound in his trapezius. Claire’s fighting the attraction hard as evidenced as the big sigh she lets out after Jaime leaves the room.

Rupert provides comic relief before and after Claire meets Geillis in the garden to harvest herbs and berries. While discussing the boys’ illness Claire doesn’t give in to Geillis hints about magic and things happening beyond their ken. Geillis is being really conniving trying to get information out of Claire and as book readers we know why. I think Geillis’ questionning of Claire comes across much clearer on the show than it did in the books. Of course, the book has the leisure to be more circumspect about such things whereas a one hour tv show does not. Anyway, Geillis tells Claire to stay away from the remaining sick boy but remember my comparison to mules earlier? Well, she tromps off right away to get a look at Mrs. Fitz’ sick nephew. Claire still doesn’t understand what she’s about to put her foot into.

She examines the boy in Mrs. Fitz’ sister’s house and determines that it’s probably poisoning and not illness at all. Claire gets to meet Father Bain, a frothing at the mouth Catholic priest, who starts to excorcise the poor boy. The actor who plays Bain is a little too over the top for my tastes but he certainly comes across as villanous, which is exactly how we need to see him. Claire is then very disappointed that Mrs. Fitz will let her take over the boy’s care instead of the priest. She still hasn’t got it. Claire can’t understand why her logic can’t overcome their superstitions.

Back at the castle she sees Jamie snogging with Laoghaire and it makes her feel bad, as least insofar as we can tell by her expression So later that night Claire teases Jaime at the table and he doesn’t take it well. He spills his drink on Murtagh sitting next to him. In the book Auld Alec was there and he got on Jaime’s case really bad about being klutzy and working with the wrong horse, etc. But he was cut out of the dinner scene and there is only Jaime, Murtagh and Claire with a bunch of non-named people around them. Jaime leaves in a bit of a huff and Murtagh scolds Clair.

Is this jealousy, longing, or wee bit of both?

Is this jealousy, longing, or wee bit of both?

"He needs a woman, not a lassie. And Laoghaire will be a girl until she's fifty. I've been around long enough to ken the difference very well. And so do you....Mistress."  Murtagh

“He needs a woman, not a lassie. And Laoghaire will be a girl until she’s fifty. I’ve been around long enough to ken the difference very well. And so do you….Mistress.” Murtagh

Claire admits to herself that she’s jealous but she says it’s because she misses her husband. Truth be told, she misses her husband AND she’s also jealous of Laoghaire. She’s just not ready to admit it yet.

The flatulent fiscal, Geillis' husband

The flatulent fiscal, Geillis’ husband

The next day Dougal escorts Claire to Geillis’ house in town where Geillis continues to probe how much Claire believes in magic and how much she knows about herbal cures. She does, however, do Claire the favor of warning her about Father Bain and his disturbingly extreme interpretation of Original Sin. Geillis’ conversational interrogation of Claire gets interrupted, quite fortuitously a few times. First by a ruckus outside, then by the entrance of her flatulant husband and then by more ruckus outside where a young boy is having his ear nailed to the pillory for stealing two bannocks (equivalent of stealing two biscuits). Father Bain wanted the boy’s hand chopped off but by 1700 standards, the child got off lightly.Claire is, of course, properly disgusted with such justice and doesn’t hesitate to express that to Geillis. Finally, just as Geillis is going to ply Claire with drink Jaime arrives to escort her back to the castle. The fiscal’s farting was gross but funny.
Although I’ve read other reviews where they decidedly didn’t like it. It’s in the books so at least it’s true to the story–funny or not. The other thing about this scene is we notice for the first time the develpment of non-verbal communication between Jaime and Claire. She gives him a look that says please get me out of Geillis clutches and Jaime obliges. Geillis is not best pleased about losing another opportunity to find out more information about Claire. Non-book readers are surely wondering why she’s pressing Claire so much. Before they leave the village Claire engages his assistance again and again with little verbal communication. All she has to do is ask him, “Your fingers, they’re quite strong I suppose?” (aye) She gets Jaime to rescue the boy by pulling the nail out of the boy’s ear so he won’t have to rip it off himself.Claire, as we will see throughout the series, asks a lot of Jaime.

"Ye wouldna expect me to be less bold than a wee sassanach lassie, would ye?" Jaime

“Ye wouldna expect me to be less bold than a wee sassanach lassie, would ye?” Jaime

"I smell the vapors of Hell on you" Father Bain

“I smell the vapors of Hell on you” Father Bain

Right after “rescuing” the boy, she asks him to help her by taking her to the Black Kirk.  This is another good scene that IIRC was not in the books. Claire slips up when she mentions Germany, which didn’t exist at the time. Jaime knew it as “Prussia”. This scene serves to once again remind Claire that education and logic cannot completely overcome superstition, not even someone with as an open mind as Jaime has. Claire rushes off to save the sick boy and makes a lifelong friend in Mrs. Fitz but makes a very dangerous enemy of Father Bain.
This story is made to replace a story that did occur in the books where Claire warned Father Bain that if he didn’t let her treat his own injured leg that it would fester. It did later fester and Father Bain later claimed she cursed him causing it to fester. Anyway, this new storyline fits perfectly and serves the same purpose. Plus it gives us a couple of bonus scenes between Jaime and Claire, which is always good! Another scene that follows is Jaime and Claire discussing the not-so-good Father. Jaime shows that while he doesn’t share the Father’s beliefs he understands why the man thinks the way he does. This goes to show that Jaime is smarter than the average bear (which they’ve shown time and again in lots of subtle ways) and that he is probably a bit wiser and empathic than Claire is in some ways.Claire is depressed to find that her saving the boy has actually made her more valuable to the McKenzie brothers so they were even less likely to let her go. Once again, Claire resorts to Colum’s Rhenish wine to drown her sorrows (I’m sensing a trend here that I didn’t when I read the books–when stressed, sad, or depressed Claire tends to drink and retreat). Fortunately for her, she appears in Hall to hear the bard sing. Jaime is there and drags her to a saved seat beside him.

Fun Fact: Sam Heughan (Jaime) likes the horses he rides in the show a lot. I think the horse in this scene is his favorite--"Sleepy". He has mentioned him in interviews and on his Twitter account. Another horse that he rides in the show is a bit more energetic and tends to drool on him and bite him. The nippy horse's name is Pinocchio

Fun Fact: Sam Heughan (Jaime) likes the horses he rides in the show a lot. I think the horse in this scene is his favorite–“Sleepy”. He has mentioned him in interviews and on his Twitter account. Another horse that he rides in the show is a bit more energetic and tends to drool on him and bite him. The nippy horse’s name is Pinocchio

He’s cute in this scene, child-like in his enthusiasm. While the bard sings, Jaime interprets for her. It’s an old folk song that talks about a woman who went through the stones to a different place where she lived for a time. And then the woman was able to come back through the stones to her original home. This helps Claire’s mood tremendously and she decides that it may be possible to return to Frank after all. So she decides she’s going to try to escape the castle or die trying.

This really sets up next week’s pivotal episode nicely. When she tries to escape next week, Jaime’s loyalty to his uncles and feelings for her will come into direct conflict.  There will be a lot more action and tension next week and I can’t wait!!!!

Overall, another great episode and the series is meeting and exceeding my expectations.

UPDATE:  The shooting range involved is now closed indefinitely.  I’m seeing various reports saying it is closed pending an OSHA investigation and other’s showing that it was simply closed at the owner’s discretion.

Oh, the stoopid it hurts.  Sometimes though it kills.  A 9 year old girl accidentally shot and killed a shooting instructor at an outdoor range in northern Arizona.  Her family was on vacation and decided they’d stop and let her their little darling shoot an Uzi.  From the picture she looks like she weighs 90 lbs at most so handling the recoil of a weapon like that is NOT going to happen.  Her parents are the biggest idiots on the planet except for perhaps the firearms instructor who took one to the head.   What they did was equivalent to allowing a child to ride a motorcycle before they’ve even learned to ride a bicycle.

Now the instructor’s family is missing a father/brother/uncle/cousin etc, the range has lost a friend and employee, and the little girl will be traumatized for the rest of her life.  This is what comes from the American obsession with guns and the push by the NRA to remove any and all common sense rules and regulations about their possession and use.  According to them guns don’t kill, people do.  Except guns are specifically made to kill things.   Would you give Anthrax to a child of 9?  How about a grenade?  An RPG?  A tank?  A nuclear weapon?  No?  I didn’t think so.  So why would you give a gun, particularly one you KNOW that many adults can’t even handle?

But ya know, Liberty!  It’s the answer to everything apparently.    Don’t want to live with the nasty stain of the social contract any more?  Is it getting in the way of your freedom?  Just add a touch of NRA Liberty and it will wash it all away!

My review of Outlander Season 1, Episode 2 “Castle Leoch”.  If you haven’t read the books, you won’t want to read this.  But if you don’t care, go head.  I dare ya!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!OUTLANDER SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

First off, I love the opening song. I find myself humming it all the time.

That opening sequence….mud.  Thank goodness for modern amenities like concrete and asphalt.  Poor Claire terrified and taking it all in. If she needed more proof that she wasn’t in the 1940’s any more, she’s certainly getting it.

Claire arrives at Castle Leoch

Claire arrives at Castle Leoch

I liked the intro of Auld Alec, the Master of Horse at the Castle, and enjoyed his ribbing of Rupert. We’ll be seeing more of these scenes because the story is obviously taking it’s time to introduce the characters so that we will come to care for them, even the ones who aren’t necessarily on Claire’s side. We’re seeing what she’s seeing.  So her perspective of them as three dimensional people is important.  Real people aren’t cookie cutters and neither are these.  It’s one of the things that made Diane Gabaldon’s books so popular in the first place and that’s become evident in the show as well.

And oh Mrs. FitzGibbons!

whatdowehavehere

“And what do we have here?!”

Look at how Claire lifts her chin just daring Mrs. Fitz to judge her and refusing to be ashamed of herself. Makes me love Claire all the more. Of course, Claire doesn’t understand just how close to naked she is in that modern dress.

Next comes the scene where Claire first sees Jaime’s scars and he recounts how he got them.

scairt

“Ye need not be scairt of me”

scars

“ye seem to have a knack for letting me know you’re sorry for it, without makin’ me feel pitiful about it”

The flashback is a nice device here to show just how menacing Black Jack is and how much he enjoys hurting people. And just like in the books, it shows some of Jaime’s most important personality characteristics–his courage and his selflessness. After hearing such an intimate story from Jaime, Claire feels more comfortable with him and she cries in his arms for the loss of Frank.  Much later in the story (who knows what book?), there’s a bit where Jaime tells Claire the exact point where he fell in love with her. Jaime says something like, “I wanted you the first time I ever saw you, but I loved you when you let me comfort you”.   This is the scene he was referring to.  IIRC in the books, Claire notices that Jaime is aroused when he is holding her but in the show, obviously they can’t show that. However, the two actors manage to communicate that attraction VERY well.

Good Lord, I hate the process of making myself beautiful. If I had to go through all that women had to do back then, I’d have sweated to death.  I also would have chosen to bound my chest, cut my hair short and pretend to be a man. And that bumper thing they put around Claire’s waist is ridiculous! My arse would look huge if I had to wear it.   And Mrs. Fitz’ reaction to the brassiere! As if Claire saying it’s French explains it’s lewd nature perfectly.  Too funny.

And we finally meet Himself, Colum. His legs were CGI’d and they’re much worse than I imagined them. Of course, I’d never seen Toulouse Lautrec Syndrome before. And again, Claire shows her tough side.

"Is there ever a good reason for rape, Master McKenzie?"

“Is there ever a good reason for rape, Master McKenzie?”

The other thing that’s noteworthy about this scene is how they show Colum giving credence to Black Jack. Notice how he said, “he’s an officer, a gentleman” even though he knows Black Jack’s reputation already. Black Jack’s status protects him and Claire will run up against this again and again as the story continues.

Later that evening Claire is pressured to sit at the head table and given some very strong Rhenish wine that only Colum drinks.  Apparently he’s got quite the tolerance because it helps him with the pain in his legs. Claire learns some very difficult and important lessons while at the head table. 1) Jaime’s real last name isn’t McTavish. 2) Dougal and Colum have conflict between them. 3) Claire correctly surmised that Hamish is actually Dougal’s biological son because she knows that Colum is infertile due to his condition. However, she didn’t know that they were passing off Hamish as Colum’s and making him the heir. Now that they know she knows, she’s even a bigger danger to them than before. 4) Colum and Dougal are excellent schemers and she has to be much more careful in future.

The next day Jaime calls Claire “sassenach” again during the stable scene….sigh.

He can call me sassanach any time he wants!

He can call me sassanach any time he wants!

I hate acting like the typical girly girl fan sighing over a handsome leading man, but well, I canna help meself. This was followed by a funny exchange between Rupert and Claire. I don’t believe that dialog is from the books but it sets up Rupert’s personality nicely.

Claire learns another lesson right after that. Dougal is a VERY dangerous man but she doesn’t know just how dangerous yet. I’m not so sure she’s clever to play on the conflict between Dougal and Colum and I don’t remember if it’s in the books.  It’s good drama though and I have to remind myself constantly that it’s an adaptation–TV is an entirely different medium.

Geillis introduction is done well. She is more likeable than she was in the book IMO.

thebeguilingGeillis

Geillis Duncan, deals in herbs, sexuality and other “nefarious” things

There’s something kind of weird about her too. Chalk that up to the way in which the actress is interpreting the character–a high voice and a sing-song delivery. So far, I like it. I especially like the way Geillis is there to translate the goings on in Hall (again, it wasn’t in the books but it works nicely).

The Hall scene is important for several reasons. It shows just how isolated Claire is, underlining that “stranger in a strange land” feeling.  It also emphasizes the way in which women were treated at that time, which is an issue that will come to the forefront in the coming episodes.   I’m sure you did not fail to note that Laoghaire is the only one being punished and not the boy she was caught snogging with. It emphasizes Jaime’s gallantry again and just how different his thinking is from others in his own time. Jaime knows it’s unfair and he feels sorry for Laoghaire. And probably the most important thing that it demonstrates is the undercurrents of hostility between Jaime and his uncles. Dougal allows the punishment to go on much longer than was necessary to teach Jaime a lesson about who is really in charge.

Jaime takes a beating for someone else all the while having a staring contest with Dougal

Jaime takes a beating for someone else all the while having a staring contest with Dougal

 

It seems silly to an outsider that Colum and particularly Dougal would feel threatened by Jaime. However, Claire knows (probably as does Colum and Dougal) that Colum will probably not live much longer. That would leave a power struggle between Dougal and the only other legitimate adult heir, Jaime (Hamish being too young).  Jaime is in the prime of his life, well liked, well educated, smart, tough, honorable and kind. It’s conceivable that the clan would choose Jaime over Dougal in such a situation. So Jaime needs to be wary of Dougal but Claire hasn’t grasped all this yet but she will and in the worst way possible for Jaime.

The end was cruel for Claire. IIRC it didn’t happen this way in the books (but please correct me if I am wrong here). She was never given the false hope that she would leave. However, I understand why they added it as it makes for a much better TV this way.

Claire's new prison

Claire’s new prison

Overall, I really liked this episode even better than the Premiere and I have a feeling it’s just going to get better and better. Again, the pacing may not play with American audiences but if that’s the case, the fault lies with the viewers and not the show. Americans need to be reminded of what good drama is really about and it ain’t explosions, car chases and catch-phrase dialog.  It’s character development. It’s subtle interaction and undercurrents–the appreciation of an actor’s expressions and gestures as much as their words.  It’s characters you can empathize with, even when they are vastly different from yourself.  So far, Outlander has that in spades.

ht to John Cole over at Balloon Juice for writing about the modern practice of punishing people for crimes they haven’t yet committed

From the source article they cite at the NY Times:

“…risk scores are not based on the defendant’s crime. They are primarily or wholly based on prior characteristics: criminal history (a legitimate criterion), but also factors unrelated to conduct. Specifics vary across states, but common factors include unemployment, marital status, age, education, finances, neighborhood, and family background, including family members’ criminal history.”

In a way we’ve been doing this kind of things for decades but now they’re calling it “evidenced based sentencing”.  I’m gonna call BS on this and here’s why.

20+ years ago when I was a probation officer for the state of FL, I did both pre and post conviction sentencing reports–basically risk assessments. Back then the two biggest factors in recidivism for those on community supervision were known to be employment and positive family support. The inclusion of these things was actually a reform, meant to help offenders by putting them in the situation that would most likely lead to more positive results. Unfortunately, the “why” of it got lost in the implementation. It became a factor in how they were punished instead of how they were helped. And this came about during the Reagan and Clinton years with the resurgence of conservative politics and the “get tough on crime” wave of nonsense that swept the nation.

So judges would often sentence someone with a job and/or a stable home to live in to serve their sentence under community supervision and of course that meant that the poor would be more likely to go to jail. And the ability of a person who has been incarcerated to recover their lives was and still is infinitely more difficult than that of a person who was lucky enough to serve their sentence in the community. Basically it was always unfair.

It did get better over time in some jurisdictions but this was due only to 1) the progressive nature and quality of the judges 2) the quality and quantity of community resources (e.g., semi-independent living for the mentally ill, advocacy organizations that helped people coming out of the system to find jobs and homes, drug treatment programs with living spaces, etc) and 3) the progressive nature and quality of the officers doing the risk assessment. An officer could shade and characterize things to suit their own bias against the offender or they could choose to help.

For instance when we did a psi report one of the things we had to do was investigate the home address they proposed to live in.  We also had to interview family members.  If they didn’t have a home to live in or if the one they listed fell through, the officer was not required to but could contact family members–often people who cared about the offender but were not informed as to what was going on in their case would want to help. I don’t know how many times I was able to find a family member who was willing to take an offender into their homes but it was only because I put forth extra effort. Or if they were mentally ill and their family wouldn’t or couldn’t take them, I’d try to find a bed in a group home for them somewhere*. 99% of officers just left it at “they’ve got no place” so they aren’t suitable for community supervision.

That bias is now being given steroids by adding in things that the offender has no control over whatsoever. If their parents or siblings are assholes, how is that their fault? If you were born and raised in the ghetto and that’s where your family lives, how the hell are you supposed to be able to control that?  You’re in jail awaiting sentencing and you’re supposed to just pull a nice apartment in SoHo out of your ass?

As I mentioned earlier, the problem is that these things should never have been a part of the sentencing equation in the first place. The ONLY thing they should have EVER been considered for was in how to treat and help offenders. Unfortunately this country is so wed to being “tough on crime” that they’ve lost sight of the ultimate goal which is not only equality before the law but also reducing recidivism not just for society’s sake but for the individual’s sake as well.

Add on to this trend of incarcerating the poor and disadvantaged for simply being so, the use of blatantly biased drug laws, three strikes laws and the push to incarcerate non-violent offenders and voila you have the clusterfuck that is the American Correctional System.  We incarcerate more people than China, which has a population four times larger than ours.  Next time you hear a stupid bumper sticker talking point from a politician about being tough on crime.  Tell him to STFU because you’re not buying it any more.  Tell them you want to hear a detailed plan for reducing prison overcrowding, increasing the fairness in our justice system AND reducing recidivism.  I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it–You can’t reduce recidivism without treating the underlying causes and treating the underlying causes does not mean throwing everyone in prison.

___________

 

* Thanks again Ronnie Reagan for destroying the nation’s mental health institutions….you screwed the mentally ill for many generations……

I’ve decided to review Season 1 episodes of Outlander, a new series on Starz. The first episode, entitled “Sassanach”, was made available this past weekend for free online for anyone to view on the Starz website or via OnDemand for their cable subscribers. The true premiere is set for this Saturday, August 9th for Starz subscribers only.

I started reading these books by Diane Gabaldon almost 20 years ago and have been waiting all this time for someone to attempt to put the story on screen–any screen. So I’m thrilled to have this opportunity at last. Since I’ve read the books, there will be book spoilers in my reviews. So be forewarned!

OUTLANDER SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!

clairejamie

Outlander is the story of an Englishwoman, named Claire who is on her second honeymoon with her husband Frank in the Scottish Highlands just after WWII. She accidentally travels through time and ends up in the 1740’s where she meets a young Highlander by the name of Jamie and adventure, naturally, unfolds. If this story sounds trite and silly, it isn’t. It’s just very difficult to describe a book that is historical fiction, action, science fiction and romance all rolled into one very entertaining story.  Now imagine the difficulty of bringing that to the screen and you’ll understand why it took 20+ years for someone to adapt it to film.

First things first…I really enjoyed the cinematography. Something about the colors and lighting is so appealing. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with just how beautiful Scotland is.  Beyond the beauty of the landscapes, some other things caught my notice.  It seemed that the 1940’s scenes were shot differently. The colors are more muted as if they’re using a sepia filter and the clothes and other things have dulled down colors except perahps for the blue in Claire’s coat, the vases in the store window, and the forget-me-nots (ironic that, eh?). The diffuse lighting used in the 1940’s scene makes Claire’s skin virtually glow.

Muted colors and appearance of 1940's

Muted colors and appearance of 1940’s

Jamie

Jamie–coming through loud and clear in the 1740’s. (Can I have a handsome Scotsman in a kilt for Christmas? With or without blood and dirt is fine)

Contrast the muted presentation of the 1940’s to the clear and gritty scenes of the 1700’s.  Perhaps they’ve done this on purpose because it helps us to understand from Claire’s perspective how it must feel. What is supposed to be the present seems like a memory of the past and the past comes through so clear, it seems to be more like the present.

Whether you agree with my theory of the difference in how they shot the two time periods, I don’t think anyone would disagree that it is very visually appealing.  I knew going in that the network wanted to up their production quality and it shows. So Moore and company have certainly hit the visuals of the show out of the park.

Now to the story.  It stays pretty true to the books, which brings me to my first slightly negative comment. The pace of the first episode is not what most American’s are probably used to. First episodes are supposed to grab our interest and hold us. But for non-book readers I’m not sure this premiere episode will do that. I knew it would and should be slow because the beginning of the first book is that way. And it’s necessary because you have to see her relationship with Frank to understand what kind of loss it is and it’s also necessary to establish Claire’s core personality and perspective.

They do a nice job of showing you who Claire, played by Caitriona Balfe, is. The opening sequence illustrates just how tough Claire is and that she is, most likely, traumatized by the War but at the same time, they don’t beat you over the head with it.  Too many modern dramas portray the effect of war as some kind of stereotype making the characters seem like nothing more than walking textbook cases of PTSD.  Here her war experience it’s just one aspect, albeit an important aspect, of her very multi-dimensional character. They included some other background such as how she was raised by her itinerant archaeologist uncle after her parent’s death. So it’s pretty clear going into the story that Claire knows how to live rough.  Later in the series, when she adjusts to life in the 1700’s it will be believable because of this set up.

The other characters are well drawn too.  Tobias Menzies does a good job of being Frank and his ancestor, Black Jack.  Menzies was deadly boring at a recent appearance for the show at this year’s San Diego Comic Con and I was concerned that his lack of enthusiasm might mean a lack of investment and effort into the roles.  But he does very well in Episode 1 to the point that we like Frank and we feel sorry for him when Claire disappears.  Jamie, the other main character, played by Sam Heughan, also hasn’t impressed me in interviews.  He just didn’t come across as rugged enough.  But once you see him kilted up, using that full-on Highland burr, and putting on some attitude, he is perfect as Jamie.  And the chemistry between Claire/Caitriona and Jamie/Sam is good…they don’t burst into flames and the show will slow burn it…but you can definitely see the hints that it’s there.

'Oh, shite, those are real bullets!'

‘Oh, shite, those are real bullets!’

The camera certainly loves Claire…she’s simply beautiful. I wasn’t sure if I’d like her in the role either but this premiere cemented for me that she can portray Claire as fierce, brave, stubborn, smart, and rational but also incredibly sexy, feminine, and vulnerable. Which brings me to another positive….Claire’s sexuality is important because she is a sensuous woman, who is not afraid to express her desires but the show doesn’t exploit that aspect of her. In other words, the show is from her distinctly feminine viewpoint. She isn’t treated as a sex object (i.e., for the male gaze). I’m worried that a female protagonist who isn’t portrayed as a Victoria’s Secret model will not attract many male viewers.  I wish that wasn’t the case. This show isn’t tea, crumpets and needlework. One would think the opening sequence with arterial spray and a very visible and badly broken femur would be sufficient to prove to male viewers that there is some serious adventure gonna happen. Maybe, just maybe, the audience will grow over time like the GOT audience has.

The other things that concern me are the fact that they speak Gaelic without any subtitles and that Claire narrates quite a bit. The producer, Rondald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame, says they wanted the audience to experience the dislocation and foreignness the same way Claire does and not understanding what her captors are saying does have that effect. But it remains to be seen how confusing this will make the story over several episodes.

This scene where the local "Druids" perform a dance in the stone circle to celebrate Halloween or Samhainn/Samhuin (pronounced Sow-ween) was better than I imagined it

This scene where the local “Druids” perform a dance in the stone circle to celebrate Halloween or Samhainn/ Samhuin (pronounced Sow-ween) was better than I imagined it

As for the narration, it makes sense because the premiere has so much detail that needs to be communicated. But narration creates a kind of separation–it can pull one out of a story and make the viewer feel a bit disconnected from the characters.  And if overused, it’s just lazy storytelling.  The object is to show us what is going on in their heads, not tell us.  Again, we’ll have to wait and see how much they use it and how it works over time.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first episode in part because it’s been so long in coming. However, it remains to be seen if non-readers will take to it as well.

UPDATE:   During a re-read of Outlander I realized that there is a scene where Frank and Claire have sex and it’s at Craig Na Dun just after they’d witnessed the Druid ceremony.   In the book Claire also had not worn her underwear and Frank expressed surprise. So Moore, the Executive Producer, decided to do the scene inside the decrepit Castle Leoch instead and I think it was a brilliant idea.  It makes her turning up at Leoch and her memories from that place all that much more eerie.  The difference other than the location of the scene was that the show had her show more agency by letting her direct the action and showed him pleasuring her.  That’s the biggest difference IMHO. 

Fun trivia:

The Cock’s blood ritual to honor St. Oran in the show is slightly different than how it was presented in the books but the meaning is the same. IIRC in the books St. Oran wasn’t even mentioned. Instead it was explained something like this: the blood was to “hallow” the ground for a new house and was supposed to be done when the building was new. However, if the foundation was not blessed when it was new, they rectified it later by smearing Cock’s blood over the lintel of the front door. The author indicated that it wasn’t always an animal that was sacrificed–in the past, they might use a person. And that is one of the stories about St. Oran in Scotland. They say that he volunteered to be buried in the new foundations of the monastery on the island of Iona. In other words, he offered himself up as a sacrifice to hallow the ground. Hence the use of a blood sacrifice in remembrance of the Saint. As Frank notes in the show, it’s really a pagan thing and definitely predates the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Kids say the darnedest things

Posted: July 21, 2014 in Family, Personal
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Children have such wonderful, unadulterated minds and that often means they have no filter–much to our chagrin.  About three years ago I took both of my kids back to visit family in Pennsylvania.  It was a long, hectic day.  As we were getting ready to land at the Harrisburg Airport, I began putting on some makeup.  I hadn’t seen my family in ages and I wanted to look less like a harried, beset single mother and more like the happier, younger self my family probably remembered me as.  I was trying to be discreet about it because it’s kind of weird, I guess, to be putting make-up on a plane (at least it seemed weird to me).  There was this handsome man sitting across the aisle from me with whom I had exchanged smiles and maybe a joke.  Nothing more than simple “strangers in tight quarters” interaction as I am rather standoffish by nature.   I was, however, aware of his presence and cognizant of the fact that I did not want to look or act like an eedjit in front of him.  Behaving in a dignified and proper manner had been drilled into me by my mother to such a degree that it doesn’t take much to embarrass me.

My daughter, who was 7 years old at the time, was oblivious to all such considerations, of course.   My daughter also seems to be missing the gene that governs the ability to whisper.  She is legendary, far and wide, for what we like to call her “shout whisper”, which most people once having heard her would equate to a normal speaking voice.  Let me also add that she has a voice that can cut through white noise like a knife through butter.  With her natural noise cutting “shout whisper”, her age and lack of a filter and the presence of an attractive member of the opposite sex what happened was probably inevitable.  While the plane was descending she began to pester me  about my make-up.  She expressed her displeasure.   I ignored her.  When that had no effect she began to liken my eyes to a raccoon.  I tried to explain to her that it was the “smoky look” but she apparently disagreed.  She speculated that it was more of a “raccoon” or “badger look”.  People began to look at me, particularly the guy in 36D, because they wanted to see if I did indeed look like a small hairy mammal of the weasel or coon variety with characteristic dark stripes around the eyes. I gave them a smile that was halfway between a grimace and an apology, trying to communicate silently the universally understood feeling of “what are you gonna do….kids say the darnedest things”.

To my daughter though, I gave the evil eye but she was oblivious and continued her speculation.  I began to blush, my ears turning quite an ugly shade of puce because what if she was right?  I started to take some of it off with a tissue.  She then proceeded to question why my ears had changed colors and began to give me tips as to how I should apply my make-up.  The redness moved to my face and my neck.  I tried shushing her to no avail.  She suggested that I go to the restroom and splash water on my face as it had become awfully red.   Needless to say at that point I gave up on the make-up because my entire face was the color of a female baboon’s ass in mating season.  There is not enough make-up in the entire world that was going to cover up my extreme mortification.

Alas, my daughter had become obsessed.  She made periodic comments as the plane rolled to the gate, as we disembarked from the plane, as we walked through the airport to the baggage area.    People from the plane continued to be amused all the way there including Mr. 36D.   At that point we spotted my sister and nephew.  Thanking all the gods that are and ever will be, I realized that seeing her cousin had distracted my daughter from what had apparently become her “cause du jour”.  Having a moment alone with my sister the first thing out of my mouth wasn’t, “So happy to see you!” or “Give me a hug”…it was instead, “Quick!  Do I look like a raccoon?”

This is the kind of effect our children and their unfiltered minds have on those of us who have a low tolerance for mortification.  Yet, there is another, more positive, side to their deficit.   The same unfiltered minds can produce simple statements of profundity and beauty that express what we as adults cannot.

My 3 year old son spent this weekend with his father.  These weekends are fun but tiring so that when I get him, he can be grumpy and whiny.   I had spent the weekend up near Flagstaff celebrating my Celtic roots and enjoying a break from the hell that is Phoenix in the summer.    As usual when I picked him up from his Dad he was quiet and withdrawn, wanting nothing more than to be left alone as we drove home.  I on the other hand, although tired myself, was happy to see him.  When he is gone on the weekends, I miss him in a way that is not easily explained.  It’s like there is a hole in my heart and when I see him again it is relief mixed with joy to see his face and a hunger to hold him close.   So I showered attention and affection on him as much as I could while driving but was rebuffed.  I believe his exact words to me were “Weev me awone.  I want to weed my book”.

Knowing that this state of affairs would likely last into Monday night, I did not anticipate much affection from him this morning and I expected that he would be slow to rise.  And he was.  I let him sleep in as much as possible, not just for his sake but for mine too.  By 6:40 am I knew I had to get us both moving or I would be inordinately late for work.  I went into his room where he slumbered, head under  the pillow and one long elegant foot stuck out off the edge of the bed.  I turned on his small lamp, sat down at the end of his bed and began stroking his foot.  He turned, stretched and then curled up, with his head down in my lap, butt up in the air, clutching his blankey.  I let him stay like that for another minute or two.  Then I rubbed his back and said, “Time to get up”.  He sat up and moved toward me for a hug.  As he fell into my arms he said, “I wuv you Mommy”, which was, as I just explained, unexpected.  I said with my heart full of affection and gratitude, “I love you too”.  He placed his head on my shoulder and relaxed into boneless contentment.

When I hold him like that, it is a sublime feeling of comfort, love, physical connection, and beauty.  I feel like I’m floating outside of time with him in this pure stream of peace and love.  This is not something I’ve ever expressed in words because even re-reading it now it sounds like a doped up hippy explaining how they feel about a rainbow.   It is so much more than that and my words fail. Just about every parent on the planet has probably felt this.  As adults, some of us are lucky enough to feel this way in the arms of a lover.  But do our children feel this way too?  I honestly didn’t know.  I certainly hope that they do.  And that’s precisely what I was thinking when I heard my son sleepily and quietly say, almost to himself, “Perfect”.

I was speechless and moved to tears.  There was my answer.  My three year old did feel the same way.  And he was able to express the inexpressible with one word.  Unwilling to let him or the moment go, I hugged him a little tighter.  I knew that he would move soon and it would be over and I wanted to let him decide when to end that feeling of perfection.  So he did and we got on with our day.

In the end, I’d endure a hundred embarrassments to hear them express one such transcendent thing.   Thank all the gods that are and ever will be that our children can share their thoughts with us without the filters that imprison us as adults.

 

 

 

 

Made it just in time again!  Here’s my recap/review of Episode 9, The Watchers on the Wall.  As always, there are probably spoilers in this video if you haven’t watched all of the episodes this far or read all of the books released to date.

 

!!!!GOT SPOILERS!!!!