Outlander “The Reckoning” Review (Season 1, Episode 9)

Outlander 2014

Caitriona Balfe, I salute you.

That was a large amount of physicality you had to handle in just one episode, and you did it with major aplomb. Each of those moments shed more light on to why Claire is our heroine, not to mention being the most interesting set pieces of the first Outlander episode back. Let’s break them down.

*To reiterate, I have not read the books by Diana Gabaldon. I do know some broad strokes though from a friend of mine who knows the source material. For instance, I am aware of Brianna, but not the semantics of how we get to her. I also understand Jamie will have a harrowing experience down the road, but not the details surrounding the incident. To put it in Game of Thrones terms, I’d say I’m 75% Unsullied.

The Rescue: Even with a knife pointed at her open chest, Claire still tells Jamie to run. Heck, she still hurls insults at Black Jack, the bastard (who looked way too excited to see Jamie, as in I think he got more of a kick out of that than the idea of raping Claire).

The Argument: If I were Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan, this scene would go on my Emmy submission reel. WOW. If this would have been a Claire-perspective episode, I have no doubt her voice would have loomed over saying how she wanted to tell Jamie why she wondered off but couldn’t. I’m glad we didn’t have her voice over though. Or Jamie’s for that matter. The fight had to be just the two of them duking it out verbally. That was raw and difficult to watch. And that’s probably why the next scene took on a lighter tone.

The Spanking: I had heard this was a major point of contention amongst book readers with many throwing down the novel for a while. With no context in my mind (other than being a modern woman), I think the scene worked. At first, I was thrown off by the jaunty tune that started to play, but then realized, oh, that’s what the show is going for okay. By making the spanking more lighthearted (not even sure if that’s the right word, but I don’t want to use comedic), it became easier to watch. I think this is important considering we saw Claire with a knife and gun pointed at her not 25 minutes prior followed by that whopper of an argument with Jamie afterwards. I was already emotionally spent, and a spanking was not going to help. Also, the lighter tone allows the audience to forgive Jamie a bit more easily. I still would have forgiven him based on his regret and promise to Claire in the next big scene, but the way the spanking was put together helped. We like Jamie. We want to understand him even if we don’t agree with him. He’s not a sadist like Black Jack Randall, and his “handling” of Claire deserved to be treated differently. Claire fought back like no other though which made me very proud. Jamie is our hero, but he deserved that kick in the face. And she got the last word in during the make up. That’s our girl.

The Make-Up: Coming off what I just said, what also makes Jamie different is his apology to Claire and his oath to never lay a hand on her again. That’s a big deal. Not just because it goes against the conventions of his time. It goes against the conventions of his clan. Think about it. Murtagh was the one to suggest to Jamie that he needed to punish Claire. This is the same Murtagh that saved Claire from Black Jack’s first attempted rape. I’d say Jamie is closer to Murtagh than any other man he knows. To make that promise to Claire shows what he is willing to sacrifice (and I liked the parallel of him swallowing his pride to Claire as Colum had to do the same to make peace with Dougal). Oh yes, and there was more hot sex. I’m not going to go into much detail here because I’m honestly tired of every interview or article I read on this show focusing on the sex. I get why they do: seeing consensual sex handled with a pretty even gaze is uncommon on cable television. That being said, only talking about the sex also distracts from everything else that Outlander does wonderfully (the acting, the scenery, the score, the costumes). Let’s just say this show gets loving, consensual sex right, and I’m very happy about it (ps Game of Thrones, I heart you, but you really need to improve on this aspect asap).

More Thoughts as I Look for Any Ill Wishes Under My Bed

– Colum and Dougal: This paled compared to the interactions with Claire and Jamie, but then again, anything was going to. And while Dougal is always going to hold my attention, I’m not quite there yet with Colum. Perhaps it’s because we haven’t spent much time with him. Having Claire go on the road while Dougal collected rent allowed us to see his many shades of gray. He is complicated and can be a stubborn jackass, but dammit does Graham McTavish give an engaging performance (his high point this episode being the drop the mic speech to Colum about everything he’s done for the family, including fathering Hamish, oh snap).

– I don’t know how long I’ll feel sorry for Laoghaire, but I get what homegirl is going through. Jamie took a beating for her. They had a nice make out session. She’s young. Of course all that transfers to him being in love… except nope. This is why you never lead someone on Jamie (which I think he did both consciously and not). Either way, we have a Stage 5 Clinger on our hands now. And it doesn’t look good. On the outside, it would seem like Laoghaire is no match for Claire. Then again, you never mess with a pissed off young girl. Only bad things happen. Only bad things.

– You know who I’ve missed and was extremely psyched to see in the preview (even though she’s obviously trouble)? The one and only Geillis Duncan. I have a feeling that sneaky red-head will cause more problems than either Black Jack Randall or Laoghaire. Black Jack is the villain you know. Laoghaire is the thorn in your side. Geillis has to be the snake in the grass. That type of conflict is always interesting to watch, and Lotte Verbeek plays her inherent mischievousness very well.

– So glad to see that waterfall by Fort William again. What a stunning piece of landscape.

– Bear McCreary, you never disappoint sir.

– As an ardent admirer of Battlestar Galactica, I’m so stoked to have a Ronald D Moore show back on my television again. That reboot could have been a mess if handled by a different person, and Outlander could have been in the same boat. Yet under the guidance of him and his crew, we as the audience are watching excellence unfold again.