Saturday, 21 March 2015

Stepping Back in Time with Outlander

An enthralling literary tale brought to life as a television drama, Outlander, based on the series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon, tells the story of an accidental time-traveler, World War II nurse Mrs. Claire Beauchamp Randall, Who finds herself hurled into the midst of an 18th century civil war in the Scottish Highlands. Socially branded as a “Sassenach,” or “Outlander” by the Scotts upon arrival, Outlander tells the story of how Claire earns her acceptance into Jacobite society; first as a healer and then as the wife of Highland warrior Jamie Fraser.

Now, after a very extended break between part one and part two of the first season, the series is set to return to Starz on April 4th. However, given the months that have passed since it was last on the air, we all need a refresher. Sparing yourself from binge watching the first half of the season (although that is an option for those with plenty of spare time and Starz Play or DTV) here’s what you’re going to need to know to be able to jump right back in on April 4th. Warning: Spoiler Alert!

Simultaneously depicting two timelines, the first eight episodes of Outlander not only reveal the progression of Claire’s life of romance and adventure with Jamie in 1743, but also tell the story of a grieving Frank Randall, Claire’s husband, who continues to look for his missing wife in 1945. While the creator, Ronald D. Moore, says that “there’s a lot of things we did in the first 30 to 40 minutes [of the pilot] that aren’t in the book or are compilations of things that happened in the book,” critics have concluded that the screen adaptation has only altered the plotline ever so slightly. writer Jefferson Grubbs says that although the series’ remains faithful to the novel, the few places where the television drama departs add depth to the story. Grubbs points to the changes in the pilot that reveal Claire’s experiences as a WWII nurse; flashbacks to Frank and Claire’s marriage; depictions of Frank’s on-going grief despite the novel’s sole focus on events from Claire’s perspective, and the invented tussle between Claire and Father Bain over the healing of an injured boy. Grubbs argues that all of these changes, although minor, add depth to the story’s characters.

After introducing us first to Claire’s husband Frank Randall and then to the world of Jamie Fraser in the Scottish Highlands, intriguing events occur in the first eight episodes. From Claire’s first encounter with “Black Jack Randall” – her 20th century husband’s colder, crueler ancestor – she finds herself directly in harm’s way until she is brought under the wings of the MacKenzie Clan. The clan, involved in the ever growing Jacobite risings and suspicious of her origins, the Mackenzie men, specifically Dougal and Colum, keep Claire under a watchful eye but esteem her value as a healer – something she first demonstrated when aiding an injured Jamie.

As Claire meets Geillis Duncan, a fellow healer and character whose origins from the future become increasingly suspect to Claire, the MacKenzies decide to keep Claire as a prisoner forced to tend to the ill and the injured. Throughout her stay with the MacKenzies Claire is introduced to the Jacobite cause, life in the Highlands, the “Redcoats,” and the outright inhumanity of Black Jack Randall – all while falling in love with Jamie Fraser. As Claire and Jamie wed, their honeymoon period is riddled with dangers that include everything from an accusation of witchcraft against Claire and her friend Geillis, to the bounty on James head and the constant ambushes by the “Redcoats.”

The mid-season finale, highlighting the sorrow of Frank Randall, the giddiness of the newlyweds, and the instability of 18th century Scotland, leaves us with a Claire who has been forced to kill for the first time, a brief re-connect between Claire and Frank, and a confrontation between Jamie and Jack Black Randall over a captured Claire. While anyone who has seen the mid-season finale is probably waiting on-edge for the second half of the season, speculation and hints dropped by Starz indicate that the upcoming episodes will feature a whole lot more of Jack Black Randall and a promised change of lead character perspective – likely to feature events from Jamie’s eyes.

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