Sunday, December 23, 2018

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Brianna and Roger's Reunion is Both Romantic and Tragic in 'Wilmington'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 4.08 "Wilmington"

Roger's diligent search for Brianna pays off when he finds her in Wilmington, but their romantic reunion comes to an abrupt halt when she discovers pertinent information that he intentionally kept from her.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Starz's Outlander.

"Wilmington" was written by Luke Schelhaas and directed by Jennifer Getzinger

There is certainly a lot going on with Outlander at the moment. However, there is also a clear divide between plot machinations to keep certain characters busy and key personal drama that actually informs the characters in the stories. Jamie and Claire have increasingly been in the former this season. They are trying to keep their peaceful lives intact while balancing relationships with Governor Tryon and Murtagh. They feel a duty to be friendly with the governor because of the generosity he gave to them. And yet, they have a long history with Murtagh and don't want him to be arrested or hurt again. Here, all of this culminates with Jamie needing to warn Murtagh that his secret plans have been exposed. He is about to be arrested or worse if he should try to steal from the state while the funds are in transport. He actually has a spy in his midst. That means that he and Claire have to create enough of a distraction at the theater in order for Jamie to get this warning to his friend in time. That's the entire basis for this particular story. Jamie isn't even the one who makes the journey. He has to sneak back in before anyone notices that he's gone. Fergus is the one looking for his friend in the woods. The friend whom he hasn't seen since he was imprisoned in Scotland all those years ago. So, there isn't any certainty that Murtagh will trust Fergus at his word. And yet, all of this continues to turn out well for the characters of importance who have the information to continue surviving in this environment. It doesn't solve any of the political tension at the moment. It may just delay the inevitable. In fact, Jamie's maneuvering may expose George and Martha Washington as traitors who are planning to fight against the British government. Their inclusions here are very significant. Claire shows them complete reverence knowing just how important they will be to history. But it's also just a meeting in passing where it seems like they'll keep going their separate ways. Or perhaps not considering this show always explains that every meeting is suppose to happen for a reason. Jamie and Claire go to the theater to get this information that will help Murtagh and to save the life of a man loyal to the governor. And yet, that may just be a repetitive plot point for Claire at this point. She has been asked to miraculously save a bunch of people this season. She does so even though everyone in the area scoffs at the idea of a female surgeon. She has the medical expertise because of her time in the 20th century. She has put that to good use in the 18th century. However, her pure intentions can oftentimes lead to consequences that no one could have expected.

But again, all of this appears to be keeping characters like Claire, Jamie, Murtagh and Fergus busy. It's much more sweeping and emotional to see the continuing adventures of Brianna and Roger. They were on their separate paths in the previous episode. And now, they both happen to be in Wilmington. They are so close to running into Jamie and Claire. Roger even passes by Fergus. He can't help him though because he has never seen Brianna before. That's Roger's sole mission. He eventually succeeds though. It all seems so random. And yet, it too is presented as fate. He was able to chase her back in time. They were reunited and it's glorious. They make a serious commitment to their relationship. They promise themselves to each other. It's a ceremony that may just be symbolic but it means something personal to both of them. It allows them to be open and intimate in a way they never have before. They came back to the past on a mission. And now, they have found a new sense of intimacy that may actually be lasting. It's Brianna's first sexual experience. It's a powerful sequence as well because it shows just how passionate this moment can be while also being so freeing and considerate of both individuals involved. This is an act that both consent to and enjoy even though it is scary and painful. It's a journey that opens their worlds to new experiences. That's what makes it so tragic when it comes out that Roger also knows that Jamie and Claire are fated to die. Brianna immediately becomes angry because he kept that from her. She sees a man who is very cavalier about her family and their drama across time. He came back to rescue Brianna. He wants to be with her. He doesn't think that history can be changed. This is something that is just destined to happen. That may be completely true. The show has never presented a case in which history changed in a major way. There is always the hope that it can though. That's the hope that Brianna needs to hold onto. However, she no longer sees Roger as a compassionate and helpful person in that endeavor. So instead, she returns to her journey of trying to find passage to her family. What happens next is incredibly traumatic and scary. This season has presented Stephen Bonnet as the new villain. He's a somewhat one-note character who doesn't really have any motivations for his heinous actions. He views Brianna as nothing more than a woman who will do anything in order to get back her mother's ring. He sees that as an invitation to rape her. That's so despicable and horrifying. It's something that has happened on this show previously too. It hasn't shied away from the violence against women of this particular time period. But this plot point does something remarkably different by not actually staying in that moment. Yes, it could be painful and powerful to watch Brianna's reaction as this trauma is being done on her. But it's even more chilling to watch how the bar of patrons are also complicit in this act. They don't do anything to save her from Bonnet. They can hear her scream and choose to just keep going about their days. That's truly sickening and proves just how systemic and cultural this all is. And yet, the audience and the protagonists can't grow numb to it either. This is painful and needs to remain treated as such because it is a violation that will ripple out throughout Brianna's life.