Sunday, October 29, 2017

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Claire Dreams of a New Life with Jamie Just as Tragedy Strikes in 'Creme De Menthe'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 3.07 "Creme De Menthe"

Claire follows her conscience as a surgeon, even though it could put her and Jamie's lives at risk. At the same time, Jamie attempts to evade the reach of the Crown as its representative closes in on his illegal dealings.

Claire had no idea what kind of life she would have if she traveled through the stones and reunited with Jamie. She just chose to do so because it would be a life with her greatest love. She figured any life with him would be the best it could ever be. And of course, she's surprised by what that life actually entails. She knew Jamie had to have changed over the years. She knew that his life without her was more dangerous and erratic than hers. She was hoping to be reunited with the same man who loved her all those years ago. And yes, she did find him still madly in love with her and willing to accept her into his life once more. But the life he is sharing is the life of a printer who prints treasonous documents and a smuggler under investigation by the Crown. It's a precarious life Jamie is living. It's a life of convenience for him. He's good at the printing job while still holding true to his roots of Scottish independence. He has a room at a brothel because he has a business arrangement with the madame. He's enlisted the help of his relatives for this business and forged some strong new friendships along the way. He's looked out for the people who work for him. He trusts them with his life. But it's also a life of him doing this precarious work in order to have money. He wasn't expecting Claire to ever return to him. And now, she has. He can imagine her in his life for as long as he's alive. But "Creme De Menthe" does a solid job in showing how their changing ideals over the years are creating new conflicts for them.

Claire has barely returned to this life and she's already threatened with rape and murder. That was a very problematic plot development at the end of the last episode. I almost wish that story didn't appear at all until the start of this one. I don't know what the ending would have been last week but it probably would have been more fitting to that overall story instead of already trying to move the narrative forward. And so, Claire is attacked once more. This is still a dangerous time to be a women in society. Of course, she still ultimately stops him from hurting her. In the process, she's the one who delivers the fatal blow. But her new life as a doctor has given her more of an appreciation for life. She can't just carelessly kill someone. It would be easier for Jamie if this man who threatened his wife and business would die. But it's not as simple as that for Claire. That creates the first conflict between them at the start of this episode. She knows exactly what ails him and how to treat it. She can save his life. She just doesn't have the proper tools to do so. She's devastated that she can't. She mourns his loss even though he was her attacker. That shows a difference in morality that is striking for this relationship. Jamie doesn't see it as a big deal. He's already looking to the future and all of the people Claire can help. Claire needs to do that as well. But this is a shocking re-entry for her to this world. She doesn't lose many patients. But now, she has to accept that that's a part of her new life in the 18th century.

And yet, Claire is still optimistic throughout the middle stretch of this episode. She is trying to find a way to make this a happy life for herself and Jamie. She accepts that he's a smuggler. She accepts that it's a dangerous life. But it's a life she wants to be living. It may be hopeless for her to think that she and Jamie could have a home in Edinburgh that they could call their own. That's the ideal she has always strived to have. It was her reality in the 20th century. She had stability in her life in Boston even though it was plagued by a loveless marriage and keeping this massive secret from her daughter. It was at least stable and consistent. Jamie's story over the years has been wildly over-the-map. The audience knew nothing about his life as a printer before Claire traveled through the stones. And now, this job doesn't last all that long for him either. But Claire was already building their life together. She was imagining a home for themselves away from the brothel. She could see him being a printer and her working as a healer. She enjoys having patients to see once more. She quickly goes back to work. She does so because she made a promise when she left to get drugs for the man who attacked her. She promised to visit a man's sick sister. It doesn't seem like she does all that much to help. She just has some useful advice and hears about the sibling's profession with telling fortunes. She doesn't get hers told. It probably would spell out chaos though because this seems to be a very short-lived future for her and Jamie.

Jamie and Claire are quickly thrust into another fight as well. Ian has arrived in Edinburgh in search of Young Ian. The teen is busy losing his virginity in the back of the print shop. Meanwhile, Jamie is lying to Ian about knowing where his son is. That reveals that Jamie is more proud of his secrets now. In his youth, he really struggled with being deceitful. Claire was a significant part of him becoming a better liar. And now, he is actually living under a new identity. He is Alexander Malcolm. That's how the people of this community know him. Only the people from Lallybroch know him as Jamie Fraser. But he's even comfortable lying to them now. He's lying to his family. On one hand, he has always done that because he hasn't shared the truth about where Claire comes from. They are still maintaining that secret even though it seems miraculous that she has returned and found Jamie living as Alexander Malcolm. On the other hand though, he is lying because he believes he knows what's best when it comes to raising a child. He's using Young Ian as a proxy for not being able to be a parent for either Brianna or Willy. But he's being destructive to the relationship Young Ian actually has with his parents. He believes it's perfectly fine for him to run away to learn about the world from his uncle. It's a dangerous life. Ian and Jenny just want to do what's best for their son and keep him safe. Claire understands that. But that only creates a further debate between her and Jamie regarding Brianna. Jamie made the decision to send Claire back to her timeline. He made the decision to keep his family safe that way even though he wouldn't be a part of it. He's happy that Claire and Brianna had this happy life together. But he's jealous as well. Jealous that Claire potentially had love with Frank again. Jealous that he didn't get that time with Brianna. He's just letting it out in ways that are very destructive of this new relationship he has with Claire.

Of course, all of that is immediately pushed to the side because the print shop starts on fire with Young Ian trapped inside. Young Ian was trying to be noble in protecting his uncle's secrets in the shop. But him engaging the intruder is the exact reason why he's able to find the treasonous documents. It's such a destructive final sequence for this episode. It has the potential to be this grand unifier. Claire can speak in the abstract about how Jamie is putting Young Ian in danger because he's allowing him to be a part of this life without his parents' approval. But now, Young Ian is in actual danger and Jamie needs to step up and be the man to save him. Young Ian proves that he has an entrepreneurial spirit that could lead to a successful life for him in this world. But he's still a naive teenager as well. He doesn't know how to flirt or seduce a woman. He's very lucky in that regard. He has no idea that his father is looking for him. He just wants to enjoy this new happiness. His personal space is invaded though. He's able to protect his woman. But he's not able to protect the store or Jamie's secrets. He doesn't die because of these mistakes. Jamie is able to storm into the building and rescue Young Ian without getting burned himself. He is even able to rescue the picture of Willy that he keeps hidden away. But this fire burns down his life in Edinburgh. It ends his life as Alexander Malcolm. He and his family once again need to seek refuge in Lallybroch. That's where everyone will be safe. But in doing so, he'll be returning home with Claire once again by his side. He's been keeping a huge secret from her. It turns out that he is married to someone else. That's an intriguing tease. Jamie has struggled to find the right moment to tell Claire. The right moment will never present itself though. So now, it's abundantly clear that life for Claire and Jamie is going to be just as complicated as it has ever been. It's a life of them running around the country struggling to find a place to land.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Creme De Menthe" was written by Karen Campbell and directed by Norma Bailey.
  • It's important for the audience to spend more time with Young Ian and Fergus. They are regular characters this season as well. As such, they need distinct personalities. The audience saw Fergus as a boy. But now, he's a man. He still refers to Jamie and Claire the same way. But he's a different person now. One who has experienced the pleasures and pains of the world as well. Meanwhile, Young Ian is experiencing everything for the first time.
  • It's fascinating to see how Fergus chooses to describe his past with Claire to Young Ian. He was close with her when he was a boy. He knows that she's not a witch or a fairy. But he does tell a tale about her being able to miraculously save lives after the men were blown to bits on the battlefield and how she took some lives as well.
  • Jamie and his associates are very quickly able to get all of the smuggled product out of the madame's basement. There's the brief fear that a spill will be able to prove that whiskey was down there. But they were very lucky that it just happened to be water. And yet, this is the easiest moment of fear that Jamie is about to be caught. Later on, things get much more intense.
  • It's more than a little ironic that in the early going Jamie doesn't suspect that the Crown's representative will be able to find anything illegal in the print shop only for that to be where the true crime to be. It's worse to be a traitor than a smuggler. So, it makes Jamie a little foolish as well. Of course, it's ultimately Young Ian's fault. It's just very complicated in a way to build up surprise and suspense in the end.
  • Claire doesn't really go into detail about the living arrangement she had with Frank in Boston. It would probably be beneficial for Jamie to know that so he isn't living in fear that she had love in her life once more. But it could be difficult for her to talk about as well. Either way, it's clear that these two still have a lot more they need to talk about with each other.