Masquerades and Games
I really did not like this episode. Upon first viewing I had no desire to watch it again. Quelle horreur! Right after an episode ends, I always rewatch (again and again) and delight that each one improves upon the last. Episode 5’s “Untimely Resurrection” left me thrilled, exasperated, and eager to see if it could be topped.
This time I was left confused and disappointed.
The social media chorus (mostly book readers?) is praising it and I’m left wondering, as a DIA Virgin, has my ignorance of the story left me feeling bewildered? The tone and pace were up and down and some of the emotional overtones were inconsistent. In the last episode we see Jamie and Claire (from hereon in referenced as “Clamie”) on opposite sides of the room after his stern reproach of “Don’t touch me!” As viewers we were estranged from their recent amorous reunion and rudely brought back to the murky purgatory of their strife. In this episode’s first scene together we find Jamie rubbing Claire’s feet and the air is calm. The former tension was diffused and appeared as if their previous confrontation never happened. Even when he rightfully challenges her argument for temporarily sparing Randall’s life, none of the previous anguish remains. Perhaps we are to infer that they went to bed angry that night and woke up the next morning with their hearts slightly softened?
By the way, I’m glad Jamie rightfully challenged her logic but neither has nailed the core argument that they would not be “they” if there was no Frank! Of course we haven’t been given any real insight of the story’s time travel mechanics yet but come on!
On another note in this scene: Jamie/Sam’s tenderness with Claire particularly when he says the line “I want it to be a man that loves you” struck its bow in my heart. Sigh. Why must he remain fiction?
Also, we already know Claire is going back through the stones! Any emotional depth was completely deflated as she looks bewildered at his request to return if something happens to him. I felt the same way when Master Raymond tells Claire “Hey you’re gonna meet Frank again”! Claire doesn’t understand but the audience does thanks to this season’s first episode. As much as I enjoyed it (Frank and all) I do not understand why we have this knowledge and our protagonist does not. If the first 40 minutes of episode 1 never happened, can you imagine how these two scenes would play out? The emotional stakes would so high! Here they land flat and I’m left disappointed. I wish I never knew that she went back.
As a DIA Virgin (I’ve read the first book a few times), it’s very clear to me that with each episode this season, the writers are cramming in a lot of plot points. This is part of the reason the last few episodes have been so fast! “Best Laid Schemes” is no exception but the tonal shifts are all over the place as we jump between the smallpox scheme, the intimate baby/Clamie moments, meetings with a few friends, the raid scheme, and then finally the duel. Additionally, this ep’s brief appearances of Raymond and Louise are like loose threads. It’s clear that they have been planted to return later but it adds to the tonal disjointedness.
My heart leaped only at the sighting of The Red Coat and the last ten minutes of the episode (including a gun being pointed at Murtagh!). The stakes were high and the tension laser focused as Claire raced off to the woods. It was all that I cared about this week albeit some of the more tender moments: The character development between Fergus/Jamie, the deepening trust between Clamie/Murtagh, and the burgeoning bond between parents/child. Outlander is at its best when the show focuses on developing relationships (among a few other things of course).
I’ve had the feeling that based on how this season ends will clarify the choices in narration and pace that are a little mind-boggling right now. Perhaps this episode will make more sense later as one piece in a bigger puzzle. Trust me, I’ve watched it a few times and though it mellows a little, it’s a wine that I prefer to no longer sip.
Honestly, this season so far makes me extra eager to read Dragonfly in Amber and see how the story is told. For now I’ll remain a Virgin and wait until the right time.
Yeah, it’s in the books. When you read them one day you will understand. If they made it digestible fro TV it wouldn’t follow the storyline, it wouldn’t be possible. DIA has too much going on and if they cut entire segments out for time it is just going to be choppy… one of the issues is DIA covers A LOT of time as well. So what we are seeing as the next day is actually a week or two later on top of not seeing the reconciling. The first book covered about 1-2 weeks per episode and this one is more like 2-3 months. This was actually my least favorite book, I call it the long drawn out march to Culloden.
It’s apparent that they are cramming in a lot but sometimes the pace and emotional arcs and characters get compromised. The first book was adapted very well so looking forward to readin the 2nd in time.
I agree it is also my least favorite book but it sets the tone for the books that follow
ooh how interesting! adding to list of reasons that looking forward to reading…
You really need to read the book in order to truly appreciate the episode.
I’m gonna go with someone else (a DIA reader) who said you shouldn’t have to read the book to understand the show All will be revealed in time and I think its ok to critically analyze a show of this caliber. It’s a form of appreciation.
It feels to me this season that Sam-Cait/Jamie-Claire have lost something. I know this season is about the political intrigue but I don’t feel the connection between them. Emotions seem forced
The connection is definitely strained but it’s interspersed with some tender moments right? I keep remembering what Ms.Gabaldon said when asked why she wrote the series – “I wanted to write about a marriage.” With that comes all of the highs, lows, peaks,valleys, mountains, swamps and any other nature references you can think of. But perhaps you’re right there isn’t enough of a connection between them regardless of their strain.
I’ve read the books but always love hearing the perspective of people who haven’t read the books especially when it comes to the choppy storytelling of this adaptation. I was immediately shaking my head over the first few minutes of this season because they had given away so much of what should have unfolded as the season went on. Will they be successful in stopping Culloden? Well obviously no. Will they at least get out of Scotland before Culloden happens? Nope. Will Jamie and Claire live happily ever after in their own time? No again. And while I will concede that DiA does open with Claire in present day, she is in the 1960s not the 40s and she has an adult daughter with her. Those are two very important distinctions from this adaptation that still leave plenty of room for questions in the reader’s(viewer’s?) mind as they read the book. With Claire in the 60s and us with little knowledge of the details of Culloden we can immerse ourselves in the Will they or won’t they? of the Culloden Paris stuff. And it’s the same idea with the daughter. In the book she could be the baby Claire is carrying in Paris but I’ve read many non-reader’s thoughts on the first episode this season and quite a few have caught on that Claire should be more pregnant when she comes back to the 40s so they already know that something has happened to that pregnancy/baby.
The fact that Ron Moore chose to give away two important plot points right away and then proceed to attempt to use those plot points as intriguing story has me baffled as to how the guy became an exec producer. Like you said, the “reveals” and “foreshadowing” aren’t reveals and foreshadowing because the viewer already knows so those scenes fall flat. Yes, we readers know the truth but there’s a whole other group of people watching who haven’t read the books so why not give them an intriguing story too? Imagine that scene with Master Raymond when he tells her she’ll see Frank again if they hadn’t already shown that in the first 5 minutes of the season? Chilling. I loved the way Diana Gabaldon laid out the timeline in DiA and it would have worked to keep it that way for the tv show. I think therein lies the problem with this season. The timeline and pacing is off and the viewers can’t connect with the story or the characters as a result. When you read the book you are caught up right along with the characters and the story unfolds in a way that simply works. It was a huge mistake for them to change it. But if you think about it the pacing was off with the first season as well because RDM was hellbent on having the mid season end with Jamie in the window. The problem with that is there was not enough story prior to that in the book and too much after that to shove into 8 episodes. So we were given some less interesting episodes in the first half and they cut out a lot of good moments (The Honeymoon!!) in the second half.
Oh and for the record I HATE when readers tell non-readers that they should read the book as an argument against someone’s misunderstanding of the show. Nope. Someone shouldn’t have to read the book to know or understand the story. I’ve read the book and I can still admit that they’ve botched this part of the story from the very beginning. That’s not to say that they haven’t made some great changes because they have, but there are certain aspects of telling a great story that Diana nailed and they just tossed aside because they wanted to tell it their way. They did that with Season 1 too and Jamie and Claire’s love story suffered for it. It was so important for them to lay the strong foundation of their love in the first season because, as you pointed out, this story is about a marriage and all the things they will endure. Jamie and Claire have a love/relationship like no other and when they failed to establish that in season 1 it meant the turmoil of seasons to come would lack the emotional punch. If the only thing people are consistently praising about your show is the costumes then you’re doing something wrong with the writing.
Sorry for the wall of text. I’m just happy to see a non-reader who is confirming some of the readers’ critiques of the missteps this season. Now I have to go back and read the rest of your blog. 😉
Please Heather do not apologize! I appreciate your thoughts and the time you took to express them.
Fascinating that you were shaking your head in the first few minutes of ep 1! Even as a reader of the second book, you understood that revealing these important details gave away too much. I almost wonder if there’s more of a scheme that RDM has in mind for showing these two events upfront…We won’t know until the end, right? We agree that so far the viewers have no questions as to how the events will play out and it deflates the momentum. I still feel like there’s more to this strategy than meets the eye…
I know that DIA begins in the future but do you think that that timeline would’ve really worked for the show? Viewers would have been REALLY lost.
Your take on Season 1 is interesting too. The second half had too much and not enough at the same time. I think we spent too much time with BJR in the last two episodes. Gosh it was excruciating! As a result, the restoration (is that the right word?) and healing of Clamie’s relationship was woefully undercut. Now they’re attempting to compensate in Season 2 but their connection is lost.
I feel like the best thing they did for Season 1 was streamline the story. They cut away alot of that tertiary stuff that didn’t move it along (the waterhorse, a lot of meandering in the forest talking about Jamie’s childhood or catching a fish for Claire, Laoghaire being pregnant with Dougal’s child) but we could’ve benefited with more of Jamie recuperating after the BJR trauma.
THANK YOU SO MUCH for saying that you hate it when readers tell non-readers to read the book in order to “understand” the show. Grrr!!! I’m most happy because you’ve already read (all?) the books and have the wherewithal and goodsense that the show should stand on its own as do the books. Two mediums = two stories. They just can’t be the same story.
I totally appreciate and respect your opinions! These discussions make the Outlander experience more enriching.