Since this is a review of the first episode of Outlander, this is your warning that spoilers will be found within. Though the first episode is available for free and you can see it posted on the blog here.
I’ve been a fan of the books series for almost 10 years now, so, like so many others like me, my expectations for a TV show about it were quite high. I’ve been following the show’s conception since the beginning, through each new casting, every new shiny piece of information that was released. But I don’t think anything prepared me for my first glimpse of the complete show, and hearing Claire’s voice reach my ears.
Knowing this is Claire’s story, I needed her to be played in a way that balanced her strength and capability with her vulnerable situation as a woman out of time. Caitriona Balfe manages this beautifully. When the first shots of her nursing an injured solider during WWII, up to her elbows in his leg, commanding the people around her and in full control of the situation, I didn’t need any more convincing. There she was. That’s Claire. Strong, competent, feminine, engaging, but still with a sensitive and sympathetic look in her eyes.
The show gives a greater backstory on Claire and Frank, played by Tobias Menzies. I think the show’s version gives you the empathy you need to relate to Claire’s wanting to get back to Frank so badly. Heck, I wanted to get back to Frank! Frank is played by Tobias with such a heartbreaking tenderness that you can’t help but be pulled in by him.
Of course, Claire and Frank visit a circle of standing stones during Samhain, and watch a druid ritual taking place. This is the first time I get chills.
Claire goes back to those stones and is transported 200 years back in time, right smack in the middle of a conflict between some Scottish highlanders and English redcoats. The confusion is played perfectly on Claire’s face. Her rational mind struggling with the realities of where she is, when she is, and getting shot at with live rounds!
Her confusion is expanded when she runs into an English officer that looks remarkably like her husband, until he’s holding her by the hair at sword point and trying to rape her.
Once again Tobias Menzies portrayal of Black Jack Randall is SPOT ON. You wouldn’t even recognize him with this new look in his eyes.
Claire is rescued/kidnapped by the highlanders and taken to our first meeting of Jamie, played by Sam Heughan. Anyone that was yet unconvinced that Sam could play Jamie can’t exist anymore after that first glimpse of him in character. He’s tall, strong even though his shoulder is dislocated, and perfectly red headed. Sam is going to absolutely stun people with his transformation. He’s adopted this catlike grace and movement which is recognizably Jamie. He’s got a capable but young look to him, and he goes from whimpering patient to fierce warrior in about .5 seconds. He’s Perfect.
Also, when Claire pops that shoulder back into joint it was like hearing the light bulbs going on for all the people that thought this was a “bodice ripper” romance novel series. Yeah, it’s not.
My favorite part of this episode is probably when Claire runs off after tipping them off to an English attack, and Jamie rides off to get her. He swings off his horse with that kilt moving brilliantly around him, and tells Claire that she’s either going with him, or he’ll be picking her up and making her go with him. Readers know that this wont be the last time these two challenge each other face to face, and it’s a thrill to see it on screen. Claire and Jamie’s stubbornness is right there in the sets of their jaws. Jamie gives a little smirk, having won that match, and back on the horse they go.
Also, Caitriona’s chin is about the most amazing thing ever.
The end of the episode when Claire is cursing and bandaging Jamie (again, because it’s a thing for Jamie to stay injured) you see something pass between them. It’s not love, not yet. Some kind of acceptance and mutual admiration, maybe. Some connecting of souls. It’s just a flicker, but its definitely there. And that flicker is sure to burn as the series goes on.
I can’t even say I was pleasantly surprised but how much I enjoyed just this episode because I’m not surprised. I’ve been repeatedly pleased with the casting choices, music choices, crew choices, and the respect given to the books that I knew it was going to be something special.
And it is. My anticipation after seeing this episode is at an all time high. Time to spread the word, there is something BIG happening here.