UK TV review: Outlander Season 3, Episode 2
Ivan Radford | On 18, Sep 2017
Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 2 of Outlander Season 3. Not caught up? Read our reviews here.
Poor old Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) just can’t catch a break. Outlander seems to enjoy finding new ways to torment him with every new season. In the first season, he was recovering from the trauma of being assaulted by Jack Randall. In the second, he had to go through the Battle of Culloden. Now, he’s having to deal with being an outlaw in his own home.
Yes, we’re back in Lallybroch for Season 3’s second episode, but even though it’s been some time since the Culloden’s fateful conflict, the rifts are still ever-present in Scotland, as the English continue to hunt for Red Jamie. It’s almost amusing, as we see a “Wanted” poster for Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) sweetheart, complete with great big bushy beard, but it barely does him justice in the flesh, as he hides out in the woods looking hairier, redder and more traumatised than ever.
Back home, soldiers regularly raid the Lallybroch ranch, never finding anything of any user, but never failing to slap Jenny’s husband, Ian, behind bars for the night. Fergus, like Jenny, is aware of Jamie’s presence nearby, juggling his time between meeting up with his father-figure hero and mucking about with the rest of the Lallybroch kids – and the pistol that he’s found and stashed in the shed.
If you paused to inhale just then, you’re not alone – and, sure enough, it’s only a matter of time before Chekhov’s musket comes into play. Not because the show’s particularly concerned about Fergus, of course, but because it’s another disastrous event that can traumatise Jamie.
The series’ trend for giving Sam Heughan something to frown about is more apparent than ever, here, as the series errs into unsubtle territory. With a cast this good, it’s easy to understand why the writers would be keen to give them as much to work with as possible. And boy, there’s a lot to work with: Heughan doesn’t hold back from Jamie’s stasis-like state, refusing to move on with his life in favour of sulking in a cave. His nocturnal visits back home are made more complicated when Jenny, who’s pregnant, goes into labour – which is exactly the point at which Fergus decides to let off that pistol trying to shoot a raven. It’s an unusually contrived moment in Outlander, albeit one that pays off in a genuinely tense sequence, as Jamie takes the newborn babe and hides around the estate, while English troops (alerted by the gunshot) conduct an impromptu manhunt.
Jamie gets away, after Jenny distracts the soldiers with a story about the baby being stillborn, but Fergus isn’t that lucky: later, he taunts a former Scotsman-turned-English-traitor, only for a whole group of them to surround the bairn and, as punishment, chop his hand off. That shock is enough for Jamie to snap out of his shell and become himself again, racing to help the lad he once promised to support through thick and thin. But while that character transformation is all well and good, it comes at the expense of wee Fergus, a character whose assault at the hands of Black Jack last season also didn’t seem to cause him much grief. Heughan’s great, but he’s not the only cast member on screen – it’s a shame that the focus always seems to be on him and not on Romann Berrux. As a result, the whole Lallybroch half of this episode doesn’t quite ring true.
Back in Boston, Claire’s in a limbo of her own, as she and Frank (Tobias Menzies) attempt to make things work. Balfe remains fantastic, but it’s Menzies who continues to get the increasingly meaty material, to the point where the formerly rigid Frank is getting more and more earnest and more and more likeable – Claire may not be happy, but he does genuinely love her, bless him. He even supports her decision to attend medical school, despite the social scandal involved. (Speaking of unsubtle, watch out for Claire and a black student both bonding over being outcasts in a schoolroom full of disapproving white men.)
Frank isn’t stupid, though: he and Claire both know that she isn’t really present in their marriage. “I miss my husband,” she sighs, in bed, as she seems to reach out to him. They certainly start to get reacquainted in a very physical way, but Frank notices that Claire constantly keeps her eyes closed during intercourse.
Compare that to Jamie and the parallel is clear, as good old Mary (Emma Campbell-Jones) visits Jamie’s cave to give him a fresh shave (ready for his official return home, before the English arrest him and send him off to jail – earning Jenny the silver reward for his capture in the process). Given the ordeal that awaits him, Mary offers a little something extra to boot. She gives him a faintly desperate, but movingly honest, speech about the comfort of physical contact for each of them, before starting to undress herself. “You can look at me if you like,” she says.
For all the unsubtlety before, it’s a gentle scene that is handled with minimum fuss and maximum nuance. Jamie backs away, unable to look at her, as he admits that he’s not ready to move on. Claire, on the other hand, says nothing to Frank, denying her feelings to try and keep the peace. Either way, we know that time won’t heal either of their wounds very quickly. Here’s hoping that Outlander’s third season spends less time in Lallybroch in the coming weeks and more time in getting out couple back together.
Season 3 of Outlander is available on Amazon Prime Video, as part of £5.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive weekly on Mondays, within 24 hours of their US broadcast.