I would first like to admit that I had no idea what Outlander was a few weeks ago. Last week, I saw a trailer for the Starz series based on the book by Diana Gabaldon and I was intrigued. It looked like sci-fi meets Game of Thrones meets historical fiction love story meets Braveheart. I have a sweet spot in my heart for all of those things, so I thought it was a definite match made in Scottish heaven. I decided give it a try by watching the first episode AND reading the book and let me tell you, I am about a heartbeat away from giving up my life of writing and moving to the Scottish Highlands to search for my very own chivalrous and brave, though emotionally and physically scarred Jamie (Sam Heughan)..but more on him later.
There are currently 8 books in the Outlander series, so I have a feeling that Starz will have a firm audience base for the show when it premieres on August 9. Probably in effort to create even more interest in watching, Starz released the first episode early online, which anyone in the US can watch. They won’t be doing this for all the episodes, just the first one to get you hooked and have you call up your cable provider and get yourself some Starz…which I will not be doing, no matter how badly I want to.
This review is chock-full of spoilery spoilers, but the book did come out in 1991 and the first episode is already online, so deal with it!
The first half of the episode takes place in 1945 and then jumps back to the 18th century, where I assume it will remain for the rest of the season. We are introduced to Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) and her husband Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies aka Edmure Tully in GOT) who are rekindling their marriage with a visit to the Scottish Highlands, in a town called Inverness which we are told keeps to old Scottish superstitions. They were split apart for so many years due to the war; Frank was off doing spy things for MI6 and Claire worked as a combat nurse. Frank, a historian and Oxford professor, is interested in learning about his family from that area, in particular a English Dragoon Captain by the name of Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall.
This whole episode is like a commercial for visiting Scotland. It’s green, lush, and gorgeous with just the right amount of beautiful mystery that tells you anything can happen within those rolling hills.
While I was anxious for the episode to get the point (aka time travel and KILTS) the beginning showing Claire and Frank’s relationship is super necessary. First it serves to show that Claire is very in love with Frank. They have a very sexual relationship, and Claire is in charge of her sexuality, as you’ll be able to tell from a certain scene in a castle ruin. Girl knows what she wants and she gets it, and her husband is more than willing to comply. Second, the beginning is all about finding out about the history of that particular areas. The names, places, and battles help Claire to come to terms with her time traveler status once it happens.
Thank goodness that when the time traveling actually occurs at a ring of mystical giant stones we are not subjected to a ridiculous falling through time and space segment a la Doctor Who. There’s a big rock, battle sounds, a cut to black, and Claire is thrown the ground. This is where the episode gets really interesting. She soon encounters Jack Randall, who’s extremely terrible and looks exactly like Frank. She’s saved by a Scot and then promptly knocked out.
When she’s taken back to the rest of the Scots we see Claire resemble her present-day self. She thrives in a combat setting, so she’s well suited to tend to Jamie, a young redheaded man, who has dislocated shoulder while barking orders at the other men. She’s very good at what she does and isn’t used to be denied by men in her company. She’s an outgoing and demanding figure who would most likely be looked at with some scorn in her own time, though better tolerated by men in the 20th century than in the 18th. After helping Jamie again on the road, Claire’s going to have to nurse him back to health and change his dressings isn’t she? More chances to bond! So much bonding!
Sassenech is what the men call Claire, meaning Outlander or English. Her position as a Sassenech is a big deal considering that the Scottish and the English have a pretty strained relationship at this time in history. They regard her as a spy or at least as someone that cannot be trusted completely until they figure out her story, which will probably be awkward since she’s a time traveling nurse from the future.
This episode serves as an introduction to Claire, the world she leaves behind and the confusing old one she now finds herself in. Aided with tons of voice-over exposition that gives us a look into Claire’s head, we get to see her confusion, her thoughts and her pains as she starts coming to terms with where she is now and what she must do to try to get back home to Frank. At the end of the episode, I wanted to know more. I wanted to see what was going to happen in the castle she’s brought to and I wanted to know how her life would intertwine with the lives of those living in that time period.
I’m calling it now, you’re going to get addicted to this show. It’s the perfect blend of historical fiction and medieval fantasy that got us all hooked on Game of Thrones. And like the HBO show, we get a dose of leading lady realness. Claire isn’t an empty headed character. She’s bright and demanding, speaking up when she should hold her tongue and has the constant urge to act as a healer. It’s Claire that we’re all going to care for as the heart and soul of the show, though I have a feeling that Jamie is the one we’re going to swoon over.
Since I have read the book, I won’t spoil you with too many details of what’s to come. I will however give you the brief overview that I gave my best friend when she asked me what the book was about after I stayed in my room reading it for 6 hours:
“It’s so good and interesting and sexy, like sexy love, love and then sex, and Scottish men, and emotions, and pain, and honor, and kilts, AND KILTS.”
Love and sex, fighting and kilts, honor and family, sex and more sex. I have a feeling
all the sex this show is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
Outlander premieres on August 9 at 9:OO on Starz.