Sunday, December 2, 2018

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Jamie Has a Shocking Reunion While Claire Cares for a German Family in 'Savages'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 4.05 "Savages"

Claire's medical expertise proves invaluable, but she begins to fear for her life when tragedy strikes her patients' household. Jamie and Young Ian travel to a nearby town to recruit settlers for Fraser's Ridge.

"Savages" features a huge character return. It once again confirms that a character is never truly gone in this world unless the audience sees their dead body. But it's also so welcome and surprising to see Duncan Lacroix as Murtagh again. There was always the possibility of him returning. The show was even foreshadowing his return in the previous episode. Jamie mentioned that this area of North Carolina was where some of his fellow prisoners were sent to work as indentured servants. That was the fate for Murtagh in his last appearance early on in Season 3. So many years have gone by. And yet, this family is slowly coming back together. It's miraculous. It again all seems fated. This was meant to happen. Claire and Jamie are finally building a life for themselves and are being rewarded for all of the hardships they have faced in their lives. Moreover, it's amusing how the show decides to stage Murtagh's return. He is the only character besides Jamie and Claire to appear in all four seasons of the show so far. As such, he's very important and immediately recognizable to the audience. His return isn't seen through Jamie's eyes as he is wandering around this village hoping to find settlers for his new land. Instead, he is mostly seen from the back as Young Ian goes to find a blacksmith and has to negotiate him staying open late to complete this project so he and Jamie can go home right away. It almost seems like Jamie and Murtagh's paths aren't going to cross again because Young Ian doesn't recognize this man. He doesn't know the significance of Murtagh in his uncle's life. But that reunion does eventually occur. Jamie storms into the shop to demand a refund for Murtagh overcharging his nephew. That's when it becomes apparent to both of them that they have miraculously been reunited. They can then go to the tavern and detail the many ways their lives have changed in the years since they last saw each other. Murtagh is one of the few people in the past who knows that Claire is from the future. As such, it's also incredible to share her return with him. Plus, he eventually gets to Fraser's Ridge to embrace her once more as well. This is a happy celebration that proves that Jamie and Claire have more allies in the region than they were expecting. However, there is still plenty of danger that could come at a great cost for them too.

Moreover, Murtagh and Jamie aren't naturally on the same side with the conflicts of the region. Murtagh and the citizens of this small community are angry with the governor and his frequent taxations on their property. They are rising up against these abusive individuals who have taken advantage of them for so long. It proves that Murtagh has stepped up as a leader since he was last seen. He fulfilled his debt as an indentured servant. He picked up a new trade in blacksmithing. That is a vital skill. However, it's clear that his importance in the story this season will come from his role in this rising rebellion against the governor. Jamie and Claire had to sign a deal with that man though in order to get the land they wanted. They understood that is was making a deal with the devil that would come back to hurt them eventually. Jamie is on Murtagh's side when it comes to asking for a fair tax instead of one that will keep anyone from being able to make a living in this area. However, he can't sign his name on the document. He made a promise to the governor to stop any of these risings from gathering and organizing against his rule. He understands the issues at play in the area. He may actually know better than anyone else because he is armed with information from the future. Claire has told him about the pending war for independence and how taxes play such a huge role in that conflict. He knows that the English will lose and that could potentially harm his land ownership deal. However, he's also trying to make the best life for himself and his family in the area. He genuinely wants to find settlers with the promise that he will be a strong but fair land owner. He doesn't wish to take more than his fair share. However, he returns home without anyone joining him at Fraser's Ridge. As such, this conflict is bound to only create more problems for him because he can't find the right tenants who are willing to come with him for this new opportunity.

Of course, all of this is mostly setup for future conflict. Meanwhile, things are much more tragic in the moment for Claire. Things start off so hopeful for her because she welcomes a new life into this world. She has become friends with the German settlers on the neighboring land. She has cared for the daughter during her pregnancy and helped deliver the baby. She could ease the uncertainty of all of this for the family. She is praised for being here during their time of need. They even name the baby after her. It's all so wonderful and special. And then, things immediately turn tragic when it becomes clear that these Germans only wish to see the Native Americans as savages. That's such a nasty and cruel word. It makes it seem like they are less than human. That they don't have the same rights as everyone else to this land. The Germans claim ownership over everything that has been given to them by the state. They take offense that the natives want water from the nearby stream for their horses. That's what creates this entire conflict. It's so absolutely trivial. But it shows just how dangerous everything can become. It happens so quickly as well. The entire German family is afraid for their lives. They see these strangers who wish to steal and kill him. They have to stand their ground to protect what's rightfully theirs. Claire is the only person who wishes to see the simplicity of the situation. It doesn't need to end in tragedy. It's better if they can just talk everything out and go on back to their normal lives. The natives don't see ownership over water. Claire understands the differing perspectives. She is able to make that peace. She eases this conflict. However, the patriarch of the German family believes that the natives cursed his land which leads to his entire family getting sick with some of them dying. Claire knows how the measles travels. It more than likely came from the doll that was given to the baby. It's just so tragic with this man's outrage over his loss producing even more violence because of his fear of the unknown.

Sure, so much of this conflict between the Germans and Natives is told from Claire's perspective. She is neither of those identities. She is on the sidelines of this conflict. But she's trapped within it as well and made to fear for her own life. She learns about the multiple deaths in the German household from the local priest. He warns her that the patriarch has gone insane with thoughts that a curse ruined his chance at happiness and family. Claire is all alone in her house on Fraser's Ridge. She is once again presented in a dangerous situation all by herself. Of course, she is more than capable of taking care of herself and the various livestock that now live there. At times, it can be an isolating and demanding experience. It's her responsibility to keep everything running smoothly. She can't rely on anyone else because there isn't anyone else nearby. But she is forced to fear for her life as well because of the unknown. She doesn't know what her new friend is capable of doing. When Rollo starts barking, she picks up the rifle and aims it at the intruder's head until he presents himself as not a threat. Claire quickly realizes that this man doesn't wish to hurt her. He just wants to deliver a message while receiving sympathy for his epic loss. And yet, he is a monster. He kills Adawehi. That's the major reveal that comes from this meeting. He believes he is justified in doing so even though she was no where near the stream during the encounter that started this entire disagreement. He targeted her because he believed in the validity of a curse that killed his family. To him, a curse only works if there is a witch to activate it. That is so profoundly silly while revealing his darkest impulses. It proves that no matter how kind and generous Claire and Jamie are to the local Cherokee tribe, they will still be targeted and persecuted by the other neighbors. They may appreciate and honor Claire and Jamie. However, it's Claire's words that were a part of this conflict. And now, it ends with the entire German family being killed as retribution for the death of Adawehi. That makes all of this a tragedy and one that shouldn't have escalated as much as it did. It means that Claire is essentially powerless to stop it even though she's a trained doctor who only wishes to heal people.

And finally, it is confirmed that Brianna travels back to the 18th century to be with her parents again. However, it continues to be frustrating that all of this is told from Roger's perspective. Yes, that's a key point-of-view that will probably be of ongoing interest because he is tracking down her movements in Scotland. He confirms that she went to the rocks and most likely traveled through time. If she didn't, then he probably would have seen her after she failed. And yet, she didn't. She succeeded in that endeavor. She left a note behind for him to read a year after she disappeared. She wanted him to know that she did care for him. Her family was just more important to her. In that note, she details that she too discovered that Claire and Jamie were fated for a tragic outcome. As such, she felt the urgency to go back and try to rescue them. She saw it as the action that either of them would do to save her if they were armed with that information. But again, all of this is being delivered as secondhand information to Roger. There isn't time actually spent with Brianna. She got the clarity from Roger that her parents were still alive and reunited. She knows exactly where to find them in the past. However, it's unclear how she discovered their tragic destinies. Roger did because of a note that was left behind. Brianna wasn't in Scotland to overhear that though. Roger didn't tell her. He chose to keep it from her because he didn't want her living in worry about what could be happening to her parents in the past. As such, it's clear that it wasn't a secret for very long. Brianna still has her agency in this story. It's just all told in passing from what Roger can deduce about her recent actions. He is heartbroken and will probably be motivated to take this journey as well. It's just much more meaningful if time is actually spent on Brianna as she came to this decision and took all of the actions to try and survive in Scotland during a very different time. That reunion with her parents is on the horizon and should be very intriguing to see how much longer it takes in the season to happen. Jamie has to meet his daughter after all.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Savages" was written by Bronwyn Garrity and directed by Denise Di Novi.
  • It's clear that Jamie's first priority on Fraser's Ridge was to build his own house for his family and to buy livestock that can keep them fed during the coming months. That's apparent because the house is now finished but Jamie and Young Ian are only now starting to reach out to potential settlers to come to their land. Meanwhile, Claire is raising a pig that they will have for the upcoming holidays. Plus, they've already made plenty of jerky.
  • The audience knew that Brianna was planning on traveling back in time long before that final sequence confirmed that it was successful for her. In fact, there are a couple of moments in the past that seem to be teasing that Jamie and Claire already know that their daughter is closer than they believe. Adawehi says that Brianna is here - and not just in Claire's heart. Meanwhile, Jamie has a dream about a birthmark his daughter has but Claire never told him about. And so, her arrival is imminent.
  • Young Ian has only heard stories about Murtagh. He doesn't have any firsthand memories of the man. He was too young at the time and Murtagh was already condemned to his fate in prison and as an indentured servant. However, it will be very fascinating to see if Fergus remembers him. He was a young child in France when he met all of the Frasers. He's loyal to Jamie and Claire above all else. But that loyalty should extend to Murtagh as well because of everything that has happened.
  • Claire didn't wish to run away from her home at Fraser's Ridge out of fear of what could happen to her. She believed that she was protected. She did a service to the German family. Plus, she has a rifle and Rollo for protection. But she also believed that Jamie would be home that night which was never going to happen because of his run-in with Murtagh and learning about the risings in this nearby community. Nor did she think to warn the Cherokee about the potential threat against them.
  • It's odd that the season cast Tantoo Cardinal as a series regular only for her character to be killed off in her second appearance. That's strange and may reflect some behind-the-scenes contractual obligations to cast her. Or it could tease that there is still more to come from the character. Or maybe this is it for Adawehi. The show does have a history of featuring actors in the title sequence even if they will only appear for two or three episodes.