Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Outlander after two episodes

Two episodes in, and I'm hooked on Outlander. Am I in love? No, but there's serious like and I can see it deepening if it keeps taking the path it's going. It's a slow burn kind of show.

I liked the premiere but had reservations. First of all, Frank is boring and Tobias Menzies did nothing to change that for that. Half the episode was dedicated to him, since the audience needs to understand and believe in why Claire wants to get back to her own time (though why it's not enough to want to get away from all the narrow perspective on women, lack of modern amenities like medicines, and constant threat of war I never understood). Plus, she narrated too much. It got old. Fast. If that was going to be the way the whole series was going to go, I wasn't sure I could take it.

Thankfully, the second episode eased back on that, and since she's firmly back in time, there was much less of dull Frank. We get to start seeing the political machinations going on with everything and got a better introduction to Jamie, and it's off to strong start.

Highlights are plenty. First of all, it's gorgeous. Scotland is a stunning country, and this doesn't hold back on displaying it in all its glory. I've always said, as someone who loathes the cold, that Scotland is one of the very few places on this planet I would consider settling that doesn't really get warm. All those layers are necessary, both to protect from chills as well as the damp (I always loved that it never felt like rain, more like a constant mist). I'd watch this show for the scenery alone. There are moments when it feels like the camera dwells on the countryside a little too long, but that's necessary. Scotland is as much a character in this is as the people who populate it. Outside of Claire and Jamie's story, this is about Scotland's fights for freedom. Every second counts.

Then there's Catriona Balfe. This show was always going to win or lose based on the Claire casting. She is the anchor of the books, and her character can be very polarizing, as she can come across to some as smug, brittle, too modern, etc. I have plenty of friends who hate Claire but love Jamie and read for him alone. Others gave up entirely because they couldn't stand Claire's narrative voice. Balfe had a daunting task, but honestly, I think she's the best part of the show so far. While Claire still has some of that sharpness that's characteristic in the books, Balfe shows her intelligence, her fire, her caring heart, while at the same time making her likable.

The supporting cast hasn't had much chance to shine so far, though Graham McTavish as Dougal and Gary Lewis as Colum are pulling away from the pack. Mrs. Fitz is suitably adorable, and the girl who plays Geilis seems good, but they'll require more time for me to have a real opinion on.

But what about Jamie? After all, he's the romantic hero of the story. He didn't get very much screen time in the first episode, but that's because it's not about him. We got a lot more this second time around, glimpses into his protective, gallant nature - telling Claire she doesn't have to be scared as long as he's around, taking Laoghaire's punishment - as well as seeing the natural humor that draws people to him. It's easy to see how Claire could be drawn to him. He's a stubborn, good soul, and Sam Heughan is doing a very good job at showing that.

Plus, pretty. Oh so pretty. Which is just a bonus.

So I'm watching, and rewatching. And definitely enjoying.

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