Saturday, September 27, 2014

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Claire Returns to the Stones at Craigh na Dun While Frank Searches for Answers in 'Both Sides Now'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 1.08 "Both Sides Now"

While Frank searches for his missing wife, a life-changing opportunity arises for Claire as she attempts to come to terms with her marriage to Jamie.

Last week's wedding and honeymoon episode was all about Outlander embracing its sensual side. It worked marvelously because it was a strong depiction of male and female sexuality without any kind of snickering. All of those qualities are still apparent in "Both Sides Now." Jamie wonders if how he feels now will always be true while he's with Claire. She in turn is continuing to embrace his love and this new life in a time she doesn't come from. But the midseason finale also has a sweeping grandiosity to it. The bagpipes are playing and Claire and Frank are separately running up the hill to the stones at Craigh na Dun. It's a big moment. Returning to the stones that brought her to the 18th century has been Claire's main objective ever since landing in this foreign land. She has found love and friendship. Anghus teaches her how to protect herself and this group of clansmen are no longer saying things behind her back or in Gaelic.

And then, Claire's whole world changes on a deep personal level when she is forced to kill a British deserter who attempts to rape her with Jamie watching. She has seen people die before but this is the first time she has ever killed someone out of self-preservation. That sends her into shock but more importantly alters her perspective and how far she has fallen from her mission. She still wears Frank's wedding ring but she has allowed herself to be happy with Jamie. Through circumstances, she is left alone and miraculously comes across the stones at Craigh na Dun again. It's wonderful. Everything she has done so far has been leading up to this moment. She is finally back and all she needs to do is touch the stones and hopefully will be returned to Frank.

Speaking of Frank, so much of the series so far has been told specifically from Claire's point-of-view but "Both Sides Now" shows what has been happening in Frank's life since she disappeared. He's not willing to accept that she left with a lover. The drawing of the highlander looks somewhat like Jamie, doesn't it? I'm intrigued to see how that will play into this narrative later. But right now, Frank is defeated. The police have exhausted all their options. Villagers are trying to just steal the reward money now. Even his host - the town historian - says that he should just go back home to Oxford. He is finally told about the mystical properties of the stones and that's enough to send him up to them one last time.

So Claire and Frank are both within the circle of stones crying out for each other. And they can hear each other. That's enough to build up hope within each of them. But it's also what makes it so tragic once the hour cuts to black and then returns with Claire being dragged away by British soldiers. She is a prisoner yet again. But this time we know it's not going to be a pleasant experience. Black Jack has been hungry to interrogate her and unravel all of her secrets. She's defeated but she can't stay in that mentality for too long. If she doesn't think of something, she will be tortured and likely killed. Then, she will never reunite with either Jamie or Frank.

She cleverly brings up Black Jack's benefactor and protector. That is one of the first times the man is actually taken off guard in an unexpected way. Her risk paid off and she commands the scene. Confidently telling Black Jack what will happen with whichever outcome he decides to do. The mastery of this scene is in the balance of power. Claire is Black Jack's prisoner. So, he walks into the room with confidence which she then swoops in and takes away. And yet, he keeps her talking - a flaw of hers that had previously been established this season - and catches her in the lie. She not only loses control but all sense of dignity as he then ties her up and starts to rip off her clothing. This is the most raw and angry Claire has ever been because now she is completely hopeless. No one is coming to her rescue and there's nothing she can do to try and turn this situation into her favor. He takes the knife to her chest and it's chilling and horrifying to see what he possibly could do before the hour is over.

And yet, the hour concludes with Jamie coming to her rescue. He is here to protect his woman. That's a vow he takes very seriously. He will risk his own safety in order to protect the one woman he has strong feelings towards. That is a strong love story. I don't expect the series to be able to get out of this cliffhanger that easily when the series returns in April. But I cannot wait to see how they do it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Both Sides Now" was written by Ronald D. Moore and directed by Anna Foerster.
  • Because Frank and Black Jack are played by the same actor, it's easy to be in Jamie's corner for the whole love triangle thing because Black Jack does so many despicable things. However, Frank has always been seen as a nice and good man. And then, he almost beats a man to death which may mean he too has some darkness inside him.
  • Claire is raped almost two times and yet I never fear the show is pushing things too far simply because of how well done it has told stories of female empowerment and sexuality in the previous episodes.
  • There's also the introduction of a British defector who may be willing to help clear Jamie's name. That's another question that will have to wait until next year to be answered.
  • Ned's pleasure at shooting the gun and hitting his target 20 yards away was quite enjoyable.
  • That Sherlock Holmes quote, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth," sure is popular this week, isn't it?
  • Earlier this week, Starz announced Outlander will return for the next eight episodes of its first season on April 4, 2015. I can't wait to see more. See you all then!