Amazon Prime UK TV review: Outlander Episode 9
Ivan Radford | On 11, Apr 2015
Warning: This contains minor spoilers.
If the first half of Outlander Season 1 was a celebration of a woman’s independent identity, it concluded with a bit of a dilemma: the rescuing of Claire from the clutches of Black Jack Randall. “I’ll thank you to take your hands off my wife!” shouted Jamie, simultaneously defining her by her marital status and relegating her to the role of damsel in distress in need of rescuing by a man.
It gets right to the heart of Outlander’s perpetual struggle of how to present its central love triangle: from Claire’s perspective, with all its reinforcing voice overs, or from one of the two bloke’s? On the one hand, we get the knowing humour of how out-of-date the Scottish society is, especially when it comes to women. On the other, we get to observe just how peculiar Claire’s forthright behaviour must seem.
All that comes to a head in the opening of Season 1 Part 2, which sets its stall out from the off by retelling the events leading up to our cliff-hanger, but from Jamie’s perspective. It makes narrative sense to fill in the gaps, while also keeping us in suspense by holding back on what happens next, but it also marks a crucial shift in the storytelling: here, we’re gently nudged, is the person to be sympathising with throughout this chapter.
That, we soon discover, is crucial, as Jamie’s rescue leads to one heck of a barney between the happy couple: he soon makes clear that he’s annoyed that she run away, endangering not only herself but also the other clan members, who helped to get her back to safety. The response? Punishment for the disobedient wife. And so, not for the first time, our heroine finds herself at the cruel hands of a man.
Loveable, sweet, sexy Jamie? Hitting his spouse? It’s the kind of thing that could turn an entire audience against the hunk. The excellent Caitriona Balfe ensures her character’s voice is heard throughout, making events uncomfortable to watch (certainly preferable to it being dismissed lightly). They eventually launch into an in-depth debate about the power balance of their marriage, which is more the kind of area where the series excels – giving all parties room to impose their own identity.
Sam Heughan ensures that the naive Jamie appears conflicted about what he’s trying to (supposed to?) do. After a decidedly awkward patch, Ron D. Moore’s unexpected decision makes sense – a reminder of how thoughtful the writer is (let’s not forget how he handled Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica). Outlander, the start of Part 2 tells us, is well aware of any potential contradictions its story and themes raise – and it’s willing to tackle them head on.
But it’s also a demonstration that, as careful as writers can be, certain events do not easily translate from the page to the screen. Like Jamie and Claire, you sense the relationship between the two elements is still finding its feet.
Season 1 of Outlander is out now on DVD and available to own from iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play. You can also watch it online on Amazon Prime Instant Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription – or, if you would also like unlimited UK delivery and 350,000 eBooks available to borrow, as part of a £79 annual Amazon Prime membership.