Sunday, November 4, 2018

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Claire and Jamie Wonder What Their Future Together Could Be in 'America the Beautiful'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 4.01 "America the Beautiful"

Claire and Jamie cross paths with Stephen Bonnet, a pirate and smuggler who enlists their help. Claire illuminates Jamie on some of America's history, leading him to wonder if it's possible for them to lay down roots.

Claire and Jamie have never been able to plant down roots anywhere. They have always been running to or from something. Sure, Claire was able to spend twenty years with her daughter in Boston. She committed to that life because she was pushed away ahead of the Battle of Culloden. But she also chose to return to the 18th century and Jamie. She risked it all just to reunite with him. And then, they were quickly pushed onto a new journey that took them halfway across the world. As such, their marriage has always been very tumultuous. They are always so solid and steady as a couple. They have mutual respect for each other. Their love is so passionate that it's inspiring in numerous ways. However, they have always been hunted down because of past mistakes or misunderstandings. If not that, then they have been trying to do something to save their family from the future that Claire already understands very well. First, they were in Scotland. Then, they traveled to Paris. Then, they went to Jamaica to rescue Young Ian. And now, they have been shipwrecked in America. That's how the climatic third season ended for the couple. They have just been making their way up the coast hoping to earn enough money to find safe passage back to Scotland. Jamie made a promise to return Young Ian to his parents. It seemed so improbable. And yet, the universe has forced a number of characters together in ways that can't be perfectly explained. Young Ian survived his entire ordeal. And now, he is traumatized by it in a way that only his uncle will possibly understand. All of this makes it very understandable when Claire and Jamie aspire to build a new life for themselves in America. They have so far been traveling to the property owned by Jamie's aunt with the desire to then sail back to Scotland. But now, Jamie is given an offer to potentially plant down roots in this new colony. The couple just have to weigh the pros and cons especially with what Claire knows is coming in the near future.

Right now, things are not peaceful in America. It is still a British colony subjected to those rules and the monarchy. It's still under the same jurisdiction that Jamie and Claire have been running from for a long time. However, Lord John Grey was able to call off all of the hunts against Jamie. He is a free man once more. Everyone in the group could return to Lallybroch and the life that has always been awaiting them there. Jamie always envisioned living with his family on that ancestral home. As such, it's a huge deal when he has to seriously consider this offer. Right now, the group is just scrambling to stay alive. Everyone of importance survived the shipwreck that closed the previous season. But death still defines the story in this premiere as well. One of the very first actions is Hayes being hanged for his crimes. He doesn't wish to run away either. He doesn't want to be a wanted fugitive. He just wants the peace and understanding that comes from looking at a familiar face when he is hanged in the town squire. It's so absolutely horrifying. Plus, it's tragic that he is the only one delivered that fate. A commotion soon breaks out that sends the soldiers fleeing to round up all of the criminals who need to be hanged. That too is a very important plot point throughout this premiere because it leads to Claire and Jamie interacting with the pirate Stephen Bonnet. He immediately presents as a dangerous new figure. That ensures that life will still be full of chaos around every single corner in this new world. Sure, it's lame how the show continues to use unexpected violence against these characters to define their stories and traumas. However, it's also committed to examining the impact on them as well. That is evidenced in how Young Ian freaks out while digging Hayes' grave and Jamie needs to comfort him.

Of course, Young Ian doesn't know about all of the times that Jamie has been raped. He doesn't know just how difficult it was for him to be brought back to life and continue to fight for what he believes in. Seeking revenge was such a pure cause for him as well. And so, Jamie understands the rage and uncertainty that is building in his nephew. He is no longer the young and innocent boy he was in Scotland. Now, he's been raped. He's also been gambling in the hopes of raising money to get passage back to Scotland. He sees it as the way he can contribute to the group. But it's not the right action he should be taking. He is still seen as an innocent boy in his uncle's eyes as well. He wants to maintain that innocence. He wants to reunite Young Ian with his parents. That's the promise that he made. Even when Jamie and Claire make their decision to stay, they also decide that this isn't a future that should be for Young Ian as well. It's clear that he idolizes them so much. He wants to be just like them. He already is in more ways than one. That's immediately tragic because it means yet another generation has been subjected to violence. That only continues when it comes to the addition of pirates and smugglers as well. Stephen Bonnet warns Claire and Jamie that outlaws roam these woods and will strike against anyone who is completely unsuspecting. Because of that warning, it was always clear that something was going to happen to Claire and Jamie before arriving at their destination. It just proves that they may continue to trust the wrong people because Stephen turns around and robs them. He has reunited with his friends and no longer shows any consideration for the people who saved his life. He and Claire connected over their fear of drowning and past experiences of it happening to them. But he's still willing to slit Lesley's throat in order to get to the two wedding rings that Claire wears on her fingers.

All of this may mean that the decision to stay in America is made for Claire and Jamie. When they are robbed by the pirates, they had already decided to stay and figure out a way to build a life in this new country. But now, they are left without any money or precious items to their name. They don't have anything in which to get onto a ship and sail away to Scotland. They are left completely destroyed. That means that Young Ian is staying with them as well. It means that everyone has endured yet another trauma. Well, Fergus and Marsali are saved from that pain for now because they have the happy news of expecting their first child together. That too makes it seem like the decision is made for them regarding staying in America. She couldn't possibly travel the ocean without dealing with even worse pregnancy symptoms than normal. Plus, traveling with a newborn baby would be just as difficult. And so, the two of them have now decided to use this time to find work in order to build some kind of life here. They have their cut of the money saved in case they want to return to their family in Scotland. But they are mostly looking forward to the life that they have together. Their family back home may not even know that they are married. And yet, this is the best life for them. The same is also true for Claire and Jamie. They belong together. They are still capable of connecting on a pure, sexual level. They are both so aroused by the other. But they are also just as crafty when it comes to finding a way to get the money required for this journey. Sure, Claire is able to wear that ruby as a necklace for one night. But it's all that's necessary in order to make a lasting impression. Jamie impresses the leaders of the region as well. It's because of them that he is given this offer for land. He stands up for his Jacobite beliefs. But chasing the American Dream could be meaningful for his family as well.

It's also so fascinating to see all of this framed as a way for Jamie to feel closer to his daughter. Brianna doesn't appear in this premiere at all. She hasn't been seen since her mother left to travel through the stones again. And yet, the mystical elements of the world have been swirling more than ever before. The third season closed with Geillis potentially finding a new way to travel through time. Sure, she had become a deranged individual who wanted to kill Young Ian. But her discovery also proved that there are many cultures throughout the world who carry the same belief system even though they refer to it in different ways. This hour opens with a tribe of people celebrating the stones that they have gathered in a circle. It's a potent visual because the audience knows that these stones really do carry incredible abilities. As such, it means anything is possible in the future. Claire understands that this new country will be fighting a war shortly. She wants Jamie aware of that to ensure that he doesn't end up loyal to yet another losing side in battle. She wants her future to actually have meaning to it. That's the weight that comes from this decision. They are choosing to go about it their own way. They don't want to pledge loyalty to someone who will be defeated in just a handful of years. And yet, the war is still years away from being fought. That means there will still be plenty of problems for Claire and Jamie to deal with before then. Right now, they are absolutely devastated. They will have to regroup and formulate a new plan to survive. Hopefully, Jamie's aunt can help in some way even though she has been incredibly distant for most of Jamie's life.

Some more thoughts:
  • "America the Beautiful" was written by Matthew B. Roberts & Toni Graphia and directed by Julian Holmes.
  • Claire continues to fight for the freedom and equal treatment of slaves in the area. She sees their humanity and wants to ensure that they are taken care of even in the face of abusive masters. And yet, she is also surprised that the man steering the ship down the river is actually a free man who earns decent money for his work. He got his freedom by saving the life of his owner. And now, they have a bond of mutual respect for the other.
  • Aunt Jocasta isn't seen just yet but Jamie already paints an interesting picture of her. She has been married three times. All of her husbands came from the same Scottish clan and are dead now. As such, she is the sole owner of her property known as River Run. She is also well known amongst the local community and its leaders. As such, she is bound to have influence and connections despite the comedy from her backstory.
  • This probably isn't the last time Claire and Jamie run into Stephen Bonnet either. That was clear right away from his introduction. He claimed he wouldn't cause any problems. And then, he presents as the biggest complication in the new season so far. That explains why Ed Speleers is a series regular this season. The story will likely pursue Jamie trying to retrieve the ring for Claire and get justice for the men killed in this attack.
  • Young Ian forms an immediate attachment with a dog he also won through gambling. As such, that animal is just now along for the journey as well. Young Ian even gets to name him. He is a large creature. Claire initially believes him to be a wolf. And yet, Rollo is the first to warn the ship that they are under attack. He takes out one of the pirates too but isn't able to save the rest of the crew.
  • Lesley and Hayes die mostly in order to give the new season a sense of stakes to it. Hayes' death shows that life in the new colonies isn't all that different from what Jamie and Claire have always known. He dies with honor and respect. Lesley chose to continue on this journey with his friends. They have been very good to him. And then, he dies protecting Claire. So, he too is a hero. This is just not what any of them expected for their lives.