Outlander is a literal blood bath in Episode 11 and 12
The problem with the fantasy genre in general is after years of good episodes, it’s hard to maintain suspense without resorting to ridiculous plot contrivances. As a reader and viewer, we are torn. We want to see our heroes settled and happy. But we also want to be entertained! This poses a major problem to the success of our characters and the series.
Episode 11: Uncharted
Episode 11 is ridiculous. Basically the premise is: “What if Claire had a crossover episode with the Swiss Family Robinson?” Or “What if there was an Outlander Castaway edition?”
If you remember in the last episode Claire jumped off a ship, into the ocean and luckily makes it to land. The shots of her drifting at sea are beautiful and remind me of earlier in the season of Claire jumping into the puddle through time. Here, Outlander excels in carrying the motif that Claire is adrift. The moving water is a metaphor for her life, Claire has followed the tide where it takes her and she never seems to land in the same place twice.
Once she makes landfall though, the story gets crazy. Claire wanders through the forest on a seemingly deserted island in hopes of finding a port on the other side. This is pretty positive thinking since she doesn’t even know what island she’s on. Along the way, Outlander makes a bold choice to make Claire ugly (which I really like!). She is covered in mosquito bites, dehydrated, sun burnt, and then a snake crawls over her. In the span of a few minutes, they make me certain that I never want to get stuck in a jungle.
Luckily, she stumbles upon a hut with a preacher who is holding a service for goats (in the book, it’s sheep). Mamacita ministers her back to health and Father Fogden at first seems kind. But it quickly becomes apparent that Father Fogden is somewhat deranged, he loves getting high and talking to his coconut friend (again — Outlander Castaway edition).
Claire’s time is running out to get to Jamaica and save Jamie because Father Fogden won’t take her to port. Luckily one of the prized sheep/goats are eaten by chinese man and Claire rightly surmises this could only be Mr. Willoughby. She runs to the beach and manages to signal to Jamie. The day is saved and once again our lovers are back together.
But the best moments of this episode are offered by another pair of lovers. Fergus and Marsali are wed by Father Fogden. Their wedding is sweet, and beautiful, and funny. In the books, I found Marsali to be tedious, but in the TV show I enjoy her outspoken and upfront nature. The most heartwarming part is when Jamie gives Fergus his surname (which will chose to see as cute instead of weird since Marsali and Fergus are both Jamie’s sort-of adopted children).
Episode 12: The Bakra
Hey Episode 12, I totally forgot that the whole point of Jamie and Claire’s sea voyage was to free young Ian and not a honeymoon! Episode 12 picks up with Ian’s capture from the beach. On the boat, they take the treasure from Ian and he is thrown in the caverns of the ship for “the bakra.” Fast forward to Jamaica where he’s thrown in more dark quarters and some other young men inform him that the bakra likes young boys — ewwww creepy.
The bakra has an awesome introduction. We catch a glimpse of a pale leg rising from a blood bath and we hear Gaelis Duncan before we see her. It’s a spectacularly over-the-top entrance for her. Gaelis/Mrs. Abernathy. She makes Ian — who is both terrified and aroused — drink a truth tea and asks him about her missing sapphire. She also discovers he’s related to Jamie Fraser.
Claire and Jamie have also arrived on Jamaica and their first visit is to the slave market to try to find young Ian. It would be strange if they chose not to show the slave trade, but the way they portray it feels rushed and Claire borders on having a white savior complex. In their super fast trip to the slave market, Claire quickly loses and tries to intervene to save a slave. Jamie ends up buying him.
It’s a plotline that could work and to some extent does in the book. Given the time period and Claire and Jamie’s class, it would be odd to ignore slavery. But the way their acquire, use, and rapidly free the slave doesn’t work. There is no emotional weight added to Temeraire’s presence. He is used by Claire and Jamie to find out where Ian is. Once he serves his plot function, he is conveniently disposed of. I expect more from Outlander, this is sloppy writing.
I do love the party scene. As the grandiose ball brings back dresses and visions of Claire and Jamie’s time in Paris, it also brings back a reoccuring theme from Season 2 — what role does fate play in the world of Outlander? One of the best moments from the show is Jamie’s surprising encounter with Black Jack Randall at Versailles. Black Jack tells Claire “the fates are toying with us.”
Here, Jamie and Claire re-encounter Lord John Grey, another dashing English soldier with a passion for Jamie. In the same evening, we are reintroduced to Archibald and Margaret Campbell and a ghost, Gaelis Duncan. In addition, Lord (now Governor) Grey has the missing sapphire. The entire season has been leading to this moment in the ballroom, fate brought them all there. Just as fate appears to take Jamie away in the form of the young and aspirating, Captain Leonard.
For a show about time travel, I feel that the plot line excels the most when Jamie and Claire ask what is the point of being able to travel? What does that mean we can do? What is our role in the larger picture? When Jamie and Claire are simply directionless and literally stranded at sea for part of the season, the story suffers. The two need some direction that is not simply about their burning passion for each other. When they make decision just for each other, they are reckless to the point where they become unlikable. When Outlander looks at the larger picture and asks what is the point? It excels. The problem of course is that the point of it all used to be stopping the Battle of Culloden — since that moment has come and gone, Outlander has not been able to find a clear trajectory. The next episode is called “The Eye of the Storm.” Even though I have been consistently disappointed with this season, I hope this promised storm shakes things up and gives Outlander new life.
- I could write a lot on the problematic way Outlander deals will its non-white characters. Look for an essay on Mamacita, Temeraire, and Mr. Willoughby at the end of the season.
- Gaelis and Joe Abernathy now share a last name. Since there are no coincidences in Outlander, I’m sure the reasoning behind this will be revealed at some point hopefully soon!
- It’s explained in the books, but not in the show. Jamie wears a wig to cover up his red hair, so he isn’t recognized at the ball.
- Gaelis and Claire’s reunion is disappointing. They have a very complex relationship. They used to be friends. Then they weren’t. But Claire still thought Gaelis was tragically burned at the stake. Then Claire found out Gaelis murdered a husband or two (possibly three if we count the late Mr. Abernathy). So why is their reunion so stilted? It used for mainly exposition and explanation of how Gaelis survived her tragic fate. Shouldn’t they at least talk about how they are both time travelers? Come on Outlander, get it together!
- Since I love cosplaying Outlander, I’m have to comment on the clothes. I love that they brought back the gowns from Paris. They are so beautiful. I would love to live in one of those.