Outlander Season 1 Review “Both Sides Now”

Outlander Both Sides Now

“Does it ever stop? The wanting you?”

First off, damn you Starz! Damn you for making me wait until April 4th for the next episode of Outlander! I was hoping it would be February. Because the wanting doesn’t stop! It doesn’t stop for Jamie, it doesn’t stop for Frank, and it doesn’t stop for me. Major kudos again to Ron D Moore for taking a premise that could be adapted very poorly and making it shine.

“Both Sides Now” bumped off “The Garrison Commander” (yup, you heard that right, not “The Wedding) as my favorite episode of the first half of the season. It had a little bit of everything all rolled into one stellar package. Granted, I’m a major fan of Tobias Menzies, and he proved yet again how brilliant he is as Frank Randall and the son of a bitch, Black Jack. I haven’t read the book but understand that Frank is only in the beginning, and once Claire is in the past, we stay with her. It was a masterstroke by Moore in showing Claire’s memories of Frank and especially in revealing how the man is dealing in the present (well, Claire’s present). Human conflict is what makes television and film interesting. Having Claire just fall head over heels with a dashing redhead is too easy. I want to see her hesitation, the husband she left behind, the life she left behind. That makes her decisions in the past carry even more weight. Is Claire having a difficult time? Yes. But I’d argue that Frank’s situation is just as sad. For the majority of people around him, the most probable situation is that his wife left him with another man. And then the one person who says otherwise (Mrs. Graham) gives an answer that seems downright loony. Half of me wanted Claire to touch those stones at Craigh na Dun and go back to Frank; to be back in her own time; to not face attempted rape twice (the second of which seemed to serve the plot a little too much) in the same day. And yet, the other half was beyond the moon to see Jamie at the window aiming a gun at Black Jack. Not just because it meant Claire was being spared a horrible act but because it was Jamie. I was glad to see his face again. And that’s the genius of Moore and everyone involved on this show. Like Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser, I don’t know who I’d pick at the moment. And I have to wait 6 months (grrr arghhh) to decide.

More Thoughts As I Prepare Castle Leoch for Christmas:

– The transitions of this episode between both times were so well executed: Claire’s hand changing to Frank’s, Frank drinking to Claire drinking, and especially the climax of Claire and Frank at Craigh na Dun. I’m going to believe that Frank heard Claire’s voice through the stones but chalked it up to just believing it was in his head out of wistfulness. Like the shinty game at the end of “The Gathering,” that whole sequence was a great amalgam of acting, writing, cinematography, and music (I love you Bear McCreary).

– Glad to know exactly how much time has passed (almost 2 months). I was thinking it had been much longer due to one of Claire’s voiceovers in “Rent.”

– Again, I haven’t read the books but do know who little Roger is. And he was so adorable.

– I’m also happy we got to see Mrs. Graham again and hear her opinion on Claire’s disappearance. I do wonder if she thought about her unusual tea reading.

– Ned being super stoked at his good shot cracked me up.

– As Seen on TV: Claire pacing by the tree may be my favorite screenshot of the season

– The performances so far: at the top would be a tie between Tobias Menzies and Graham McTavish. You know Black Jack Randall would have not been duped into following Sally into a dark alley at night. And yet, Frank showed some of his ancestor’s violent tendencies in the beating of Sally’s cohort. Is it genetic? If Frank can turn due to Claire’s disappearance perhaps the war really could have changed Jack. That final look of surprise and dare I take it, delight, on Jack’s face when Jamie showed up was just more of Menzies in top form (contrast that to Frank’s struggle and pain at Craigh na Dun). So, so glad to have him on my tv again. Graham McTavish isn’t playing two roles but almost may have the harder part in Dougal MacKenzie. I solidly like Frank and fervently hate Jack. Dougal has all these shades of gray though that can come across poorly in the hands of a lesser actors. McTavish has made the man one I like yet also very human.

– The performances so far part 2: The last three episodes have been the best work of Caitriona Balfe. Her scenes with Black Jack especially allow her to shine. She has these small moments of triumph in front of the man that slowly deteriorate has he catches her bluff. Watch her crumble as he mentions that the Duke of Sandringham doesn’t actually have a wife. It’s all in her look, but it’s there, and you crumble with her. Balfe probably had the most to prove as an actor and she rose to the occasion. Out of the main four, I think Sam Heughan has had the least to work with in terms of material, but he won me over with his smile. And I know he has some very difficult scenes in the back half of the season. I’m not looking forward to his character experiencing that, but I am excited to see Heughan tackle it.

So, here’s to 6 months of the wanting. It won’t stop.