Outlander, Episode 13 — The Past and Future Collide in a Superb Season Finale

There is so much going on in this special, hour and half season finale of Outlander that I had to divide the episode into pieces. These pieces were skillfully woven together as one narrative in the show, but in order to speak about them all, I felt the need to break them into discrete parts. So without further ado, let’s talk Outlander!

Past: The clock is counting down on Culloden in the past. It’s a jarring yet effective to use the time updates in the past. This is tool has been used in 24 and other action-oriented shows to build tension, but it works here as well. Much of the Scottish highland life up to now has been peaceful and time matters very little. But now every minute counts. In fact, the entire plotline of this season has been counting down to this day. It sets the perfect rushed and ominous tones.

Murder: Was I the only one yelling “Oh, Shit!” when Claire and Jamie murder Dougal. It is a crazy scene and it all plays out so quickly. Dougal overhears Claire and Jamie plotting to kill the King behind a Shakespearean curtain. He confronts them. They must silence him. The struggle ensues. It’s agonizingly slow as Claire and Jamie drive the blade into Dougal. It’s shocking and yet it feels like a long time coming. All of Jamie’s interactions with Dougal have been leading to this moment. At some point, their disputes were bound to result in this moment. Fate seems to be winning this episode.

Future: In the future timeline, Claire returns to Scotland, presumably for the first time since Frank took her to Boston. She goes to pay her respects at the Reverend’s funeral and encounters his adopted son. Roger is dashing in an academic sort of way and immediately hits it off with Brianna, Claire’s daughter. In a beautiful sequence, Claire visits places she knew with Jamie — Lallybroch and Culloden Moor. She also attempts to track down evidence that Jamie may have survived.

In a parallel sequence, Roger and Brianna visit Fort William where Jamie was brutally whipped by Black Jack Randall. The two go on their own fact-finding mission to find out what is going on with Claire through the Reverend’s journals. Brianna is shocked and disturbed to realize that her mother was missing for several years and returned pregnant.

The confrontation scene with Claire is unpleasant. Brianna wants to know who her father was and Claire tells all. She is accused of being delusional, but for some reason Roger begins to believe her. And they begin unraveling her tale, attempting to determine whether it’s true, false, or somewhere in between.

The Witch: It’s really fun to see Geillis Duncan as a young sixties protester (AKA Gillian Edgars). Brianna and Roger meet her at the university where she is preaching Scottish nationalism. Brianna seems fascinated by her, much in the same was Claire was fascinated by her when she first met her in the highlands. Something about Geillis is magical, people are drawn to her for better or for worse. Later, Claire tries to visit her at home. Only to find Geillis’ husband hopelessly drunk, wishing his wife would return home.

Farewell: Outlander is a show that believes in true love — all that cheesy romance comedy/romance novel stuff. Usually, the notion of true love makes me cringe and gag simultaneously. But, Outlander makes me weep as Claire and Jamie bid farewell. The way they clutch at one another while standing before the stones, the frantic, passionate, and heart-wrenching sex on the grass as cannons fire in the distance; it hurts to see them part. The final reveal that Jamie knows Claire is pregnant and has been tracking her cycle throughout the rebellion is the final straw that made me weep. Even Claire doesn’t want to admit or believe she’s pregnant. Once the stones begin buzzing, I too am reluctant to say goodbye. And yet, Claire slips through to the future anyways.

End: There are a lot of days when the world feels particularly awful — from senseless acts of violence to rampant discrimination, some days I’m convinced humanity is the worst. Television, in turn, reflects this. For the last 15 years, darkness on television has reigned supreme. Take Game of Thrones, the finale ended with Cersei blowing up hundreds of people in a Septsplosion. In another example, one of my favorite shows, True Detective spent an entire season reveling in the darkness of Louisiana and the madness of the King in Yellow.

By contrast, Outlander offers a break from what feels like a daily onslaught of tragedy in the real world and the small screen. When Claire sees Geillis pass through the stones, we know it is possible for Claire to travel back as well, intentionally this time. The sun is rising and it illuminates the standing stones offering Claire hope that she may see Jamie again. The show runners’ could have withheld this reveal until the next season, but instead they leave us hopeful and aching for more. Yet another reason why Outlander is a stand out show.

Feminist Rating:

This show wins all the feminism awards. I love how Claire and Jamie are equal partners. I love how it looks like Brianna and Roger may become equal partners. I love Geillis. Most of all, I love how Jamie is the only male character on television to speak about periods as something other than gross, or an inconvenience, or a joke. Are there awards for this? Because Outlander wins. To quote Notorious RBG, “If you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it.” Five out of five Ruth Bader Ginsburgs.

Stray Observations:

  • The standing stones make a buzzing noise that can be heard by people who are able to pass through. Characters we know can hear the buzzing: Claire, Brianna, and Roger. Characters who can’t: Jamie. Characters who might be able to: Frank. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about who may be doing some travelling in the future.
  • Like Geillis, I have been trying to figure out the mechanics of time travel in this show. I’m not sure how it’s possible for Geillis to be leaving 20 years after Claire and end up in the same time. Comment if you think your know Diana Gabaldon’s secret formula for time travel. My best guess is, time is ruled by Fate.
  • Poor Rupert. He’s had a tough season! But at least he got a great speech when he told off Jamie and Claire for murdering Dougal.
  • I really love the sixties tunes. It adds the perfect vibe to the episode.
  • I’m not sure that Claire in the TV show exhibits the same well-earned uneasiness with Geillis as Book Claire. She is a two time husband killer after all.
  • I cosplay Outlander so I have to take a minute to comment on the costumes. I love Claire’s swinging sixties looks. Congrats to the Outlander team on a well earned Emmy nomination for costume design. Although, I think they were snubbed in some other categories.
  • I’ve had a blast reviewing this season. Since I now have an Outlander hangover, I’m going to go finish reading the books.
This is me cosplaying Claire’s wedding look. See you all next season!
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