Sunday, September 24, 2017

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Claire and Jamie Reckon with Their Pasts as They Face Tragic Circumstances in 'All Debts Paid'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 3.03 "All Debts Paid"

In prison, Jamie discovers that an old foe has become the warden - and has the power to make his life hell. Claire and Frank both put their best foot forward in marriage, but an uninvited guest shatters the illusion.

This season of Outlander has proven that time can be cruel for all of these characters. It affects both Claire and Jamie in the most profound ways because they clearly have this core piece of themselves that has been lost through time. But their presence have affected the other characters as well. Some people are better off having either Claire or Jamie in their lives. Meanwhile, some people's lives become even more tragic because of the amount of time they have to spend with them. No one is particularly happy in their lives. But these are the lives they've had to settle into. This is the life they've chosen to live. Claire decided to return back to her regular timeline and raise a family with Frank. But time has proven that the two of them no longer work as a couple following her adventure in the 18th century. She can't replace the love she had with Jamie. Even when they try to make things work sexually, it's not as passionate or uplifting as it used to be. Meanwhile, Jamie decided to spend the rest of his days in a jail cell. He chose to be captured by the British soldiers so that he would cause less pain and suffering for his family. They are both content to be living the lives they are living. But the years have worn them down as well. Life hasn't gotten any easier as they've fallen into these patterns in order to survive. In fact, it has only isolated them further. It's only in brief moments that they are allowed to reveal their true selves. They want to embrace the lives that they have. But there is always going to be the yearning for more. Without each other in their lives, they are condemned to a life of bittersweet moments.

These opening three episodes have been so fascinating to watch in regards to the relationship between Claire and Frank. She's able to return to a life where she has the potential to have happiness again. At the very start of the series, she desperately wanted to return to Frank because she was in love with him. He was never going to give up searching for her either. When they were finally reunited, he decided to step up and be the husband and father he needed to be. Bree would be this constant reminder of the life that Claire had lived. But it was presented as the only opportunity to give the two of them what they always wanted. But their extended time together has just shown how much isolation and discontent has filled their marriage. In the early years together, they tried to make things work in a traditional sense. But over time, they had to accept that they needed to do other things in order to be happy. For Claire, that was returning to school in order to become a doctor. For Frank, that was being able to be with other women. The two of them still share the same house. They still sleep in the same room. They still appreciate the same things. They love Bree. But there is so much distance between them as well. There is the constant desire to get a divorce. But they keep from actually going through with it because they don't want to ruin the few things that actually make them happy.

And so, Claire and Frank live these lives for many years. They get into passionate fights. Claire is upset that Frank would invite another woman to their home when she was suppose to be away celebrating her big graduation as a doctor. Frank refuses to believe that Claire wouldn't keep Bree away from him if they went through with a divorce. This isn't a healthy dynamic at all. At the root of it all is their love for Bree. She's the reason that they stay together. As such, it's not surprising to learn that Frank wants a divorce once Bree turns 18 years old. He's given an opportunity to be happy. He can return to England and marry the woman he is in love with. He can finally have a chance of normal happiness. He believes Bree will follow him as well because Claire has grown too cold and distant. She's always full of pain and sorrow when she looks at Bree because she's a reminder of the life she lost with Jamie. That is true to a certain extent. But she does genuinely love Bree and won't let her be taken away from her. Claire and Frank are just on completely different trajectories now. Their futures are determined by incredibly tragic circumstances as well. Frank suddenly dies in a car accident. There's no need for divorce or worries about moving back to England. It's all suddenly over. It's surprising and tragic. It makes Claire admit that she loved him in a way that she never could when he was alive. It's again the pain of the life not lived. She wanted this so badly but the reality of it took so much out of her as well. It's so complicated and sets the stage perfectly for what comes next for her and Bree upon their return to Scotland.

Meanwhile, Jamie is still seen under a guise of authority. He was able to survive on his own for six years after the Battle of Culloden. He was only captured because he allowed himself to be. Time has caused patterns to appear in his new life at the prison. He's seen as the most dangerous prisoner there because of his role in the Jacobite rebellion. He's forced to wear chains all the time. He has no escape from that confinement. But he has an aura of superiority to him as well. He's seen as the spokesperson for the inmates. He's the one everyone else continues to unite around. The people of Scotland still treat him with respect. He shows them the same courtesy. But more importantly, this is a story about reconnecting with one's past and reckoning with those decisions. Murtagh is revealed to still be alive. He's clinging onto life in this prison. He's the one person Jamie can still truly trust. He's always a reliable person to confide in. But it's more surprising to see the return of Lord John Grey - the young British soldier Jamie caught spying on the rebellion last season. He has become a young man now. He's a better trained soldier. He's taken over command of this prison. It's now his responsibility. The story plays with the familiarity of this character. Jamie seems to recall him but can't place from where. The audience hears his name before Jamie does. The two form a new kind of connection. But it's more exciting to learn that Jamie knew all along and was just trying to manipulate the situation to his benefit.

It really is such a compelling dynamic between Jamie and Lord John Grey. The two were enemies when they last saw each other. Jamie tricked him into getting information. Jamie sparing John's life would then trigger the actions that saved Jamie from death after the Battle of Culloden. Jamie is in this position right now because of his handling of John in their first encounter. And now, John needs a lot from Jamie. He needs to understand the prison dynamics and what is and isn't acceptable in this world. He needs a translator when a delirious man close to death is telling a tale about the missing gold. He needs a companion. The two of them don't trust each other at all. Jamie threatens to kill John several times. He even gives John the opportunity to fulfill his own promise to kill Jamie. And yet, they don't. There is an inherent respect that comes from understanding one another. Time allows them to bond. Jamie opens up about Claire being gone. She could potentially be the white witch who is a prominent part of the story with the missing gold. John opens up about his closest friend who died at Culloden. It's such a subtle way to reveal that John had such passionate and loving feelings towards this man. But it's also incredibly triggering for Jamie. He was abused by a man in John's position many times over the years. Time has passed by but he's still haunted by what Black Jack did to him. He believes that's what John wants as well and he'll be punished if he doesn't obey. But that's not what ultimately happens. John is more sympathetic to Jamie and wants to honor him in life to fulfill the own debt he feels towards him. His family name holds no debt for Jamie. But John still feels the need to ensure that he doesn't suffer anymore in prison or the American colonies. So instead, he sends him to a new position. It's a chance for a new life. One that is afforded to Jamie because of the kindness he showed upon others a long time ago.

Some more thoughts:
  • "All Debts Paid" was written by Matthew B. Roberts and directed by Brendan Maher.
  • It's tragic that Murtagh is revealed to still be alive only for him to then be shipped off to the colonies. He's torn away from Jamie once more. And yet, he's not dead yet. He's sick in this prison. But he's still strong enough to make the journey across the ocean. Plus, it's not crazy to think that the narrative could make its way to America. It's already traveled so much across the globe.
  • It's also moving to think about Murtagh being concerned about Claire and her child for all of these years. He knew her as well. He believes she survived the trip through time and that it's possible for her to one day return. He has more hope right now than Jamie does. Though Jamie's attention is still piqued upon hearing this story about Clan MacKenzie being gone.
  • Upon transporting Jamie to his new post, Lord John Grey says that he will check up on him several times throughout the years to ensure he is still being treated nicely. That makes sense considering David Berry is a new series regular this season. So, he'll probably continue to have importance somehow this season.
  • Claire loves it when Frank is cooking a traditional English breakfast for the family. She's proud of her heritage and would love Bree to experience more of it. But she's still apprehensive about returning in the following years because of her love for her patients. She sees it as her duty to continue treating them. They are her responsibility after all.
  • Throughout the graduations and birthdays, it's clear that Claire and Frank are very distant from one another. That does have an effect on Bree even though they don't really see it or care to think about it. It's all still an abstract conversation to them. They believe they are being discreet. And yet, it's always abundantly clear that they aren't a happy and healthy family.
  • So, it would seem like the story has caught up to what was happening in the 1960s with Claire and Bree at the end of last season. So now, it should be interesting to see what the two of them are going to do upon the realization that Jamie survived the Battle of Culloden. Plus, it should be fascinating to see what Jamie will be doing as well.