Starz’s Outlander series is based on Diana Gabaldon’s books with the same name. The show combines history, romance, fantasy and scintillating sex in a cauldron, stirs it with haunting imagery and simmers it with men on horses, lots of men, to create a very potent and bewitching concoction that makes it hard for me to look away even for a nanosecond. Outlander refers to Claire, played beautifully by Caitriona Balfe, a woman who is not from Scottish Highlands. She is a British nurse who just survived the horrors of World War II. She and husband Frank, portrayed by Tobias Menzies, decide to take a second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland, to rekindle their seemingly floundering passion for each other after being separated during the war.
On her alone time, while gathering some flora sample in Craigh na Dun, Claire accidentally time travels to 1743 Scotland. There she finds herself face to face with the doppelganger of her husband, Jack Randall, also played by Menzies. While Frank is a history professor of gentle persuasion, Jack is a despicable and brutal captain of the British Army. Jack tries to assault her. As she runs for her life, scantily clad, as she is garbed only in the equivalent of a 1700’s nightgown, she stumbles upon Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix), a member of clan MacKenzie. The men of clan MacKenzie are rough around the edges but are loaded with sex appeal, with testosterone seeping through their pores and oozing through the seams of their kilts.
The alpha male of clan MacKenzie is the charming redhead Jamie, aptly acted by Sam Heughan. I have to add that Jamie is very attractive with muscles in the right places. He rides the horse with grace and power reminiscent of Nacho Figueras and wields any weapon with great ease like Aragorn. As far as I know, he speaks three languages and his math abilities are above par. If he is not the definition of God’s gift to women, I do not know who is. I know I dwell on Jamie’s good looks far more than I need to. Moving on. The rest of the series follows how Claire reconciles with her new reality and how she survives another harrowing experience-in-the-making.
The use of narration, with Claire’s words and voice, is almost perfect (it is a bit cheesy at times). It lends the series a more personal touch, like leading me into the unknown past, but instead of being scared, I dive into it head first because I know that Claire is there to guide me and be with me. Balfe’s voice is soothing and the words roll off her tongue as naturally as rain pours down from the sky.
The backdrop is picturesque – bucolic towns and interesting castle ruins and rock outcrops in 1945 and more bucolic towns, imposing castles, verdant expansive hills and waters with different shades of blue in 1743. In both centuries, Claire uses local plants she comes across in the field to prevent infection and ease asthma and other maladies.
The characterizations of Claire, Jamie and Frank/Randall are consistent. Claire is smart, strong willed and opinionated. She is a modern woman not only in 1743, but also in 1945 and maybe even in 2015. Most of the time, Claire is in the middle of a tug-of-war. On one end of the spectrum, there is Jamie, the good and fair and is good and fair throughout. One the other end, there is Jack, the wretched personification of evil who derives orgasmic pleasure from spoiling anything that is good and beautiful. All of them are very sexual and they do not hide the enjoyment they get from physical intimacy from their partners or from the viewers. For some, there are possible pearl-clutching moments that involve the characters and their well-defined anatomy.
In terms of historical context, I know squat about English and Scottish history. The show is an educational experience when it comes to the abuses of the Redcoats, the clans and clan wars in Scotland, Charles Stuart and the Jacobites.
I watched 16 episodes of Outlander in four days, over two weekends. The first two minutes of the first episode got me hooked on the show, the intriguing premise of time traveling made me continue watching, the overpowering masculinity of Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish) and the dry humor of Angus Mhor (Stephen Walters) helped me at times when I found Claire a bit overbearing, and towards the end, I just wanted to kick Jack in the butt. When I finished the season finale, I was relieved that it was over. It became quite taxing watching what Jack did to Jamie, and there were three scenes that made me press the pause button. Yet, at the same time I felt a tinge of sadness because I have to wait several months to know the futures of Dougal and Angus.
- My favorite characters: Angus > Dougal > Murtagh
Jamie, the sexy and sincere Scot in a skirt is dropdead gorgeous, but I like my fictional characters to be a little weird. Angus (and Rupert) provides comic relief in this tension-filled series. His sharp tongue is used in good and bad ways, and he looks like the uglier version of Juan Mata, and for that he gains +99 points. What he did to Claire in the last moments of the season finale is gold. Dougal is handsome, powerful and loyal to his laird – the last one is a rare trait in 1743 and much rarer in 2015. I cannot fault Geillis for what she did, I would have done the same thing if I were her. Murtagh was the dark horse that sneaked up to Claire in episodes 14 to 16. His story about the boar tusk bracelet was love. His dancing skills need polishing though.
- My favorite moments:
a. The local women dying (?) the huge cloth with their pee (?) while singing and doing a lot of synchronized hand movements. It reminds me of women in my town, doing their laundry in the river while gossiping.
b. The bar brawl. The men of clan MacKenzie figured in a fight and Claire became furious at them (the men talked in Gaelic so Claire did not understand). Angus told her that they were just defending her honor because she is “a guest of the MacKenzie”. He added that they can insult Claire but others who do, risk life and limb. He finished with something like, because you’re one of us. Angus <3
c. Claire confessing to Jamie in the forest. Claire told Jamie who she really was and the rest of her fantastic journey. Jaime did not just listen to her but more importantly, believed her.
Thank you, Che and Hope for the recommendation and moral support. Hahaha. Until the second season. 🙂