HELLLLLLLO. This is the fourth time I’ve sat down to write an opening paragraph to a new season of Top Ten Moments from Outlander, and I have to be honest, I’m not sure I can be original here. We are finishing up a fifth year of dissecting everything Outlander and bringing you all the real, honest, non-sycophantic opinions that we have in print and in person. SO MANY words devoted to this show and these books. I’m tired. So, can I just rehash my favorite introduction to a new season? Here it is:
I have no illusions that you are only here for two reasons: you love us and feel conflicted about Outlander, or you hate us and feel cultishly devoted to it. Either way, you can trust and believe that we are in both camps: obviously critical because we are hopelessly devoted. And now it’s time to prove it.
My Top Ten Moments from Outlander Episode 401
Because anything that hides those fake bangs is a thing we should give prayers of thanksgiving for. When I first saw this episode at New York Comic Con, this first look at Jamie garnered a huge cheer, and it was heartening. We love it when he looks this good.
We all know that Jamie is at his best when he is leading men in his own, singular, honorable way. We see him fomenting a plan to free Hayes, bribing a guard to let him in to see him even though at the time they have precious little to spare, even comfortably touching Hayes’ VERY BROWN shackled hands (ew). But there is one look, when Jamie looks back at Hayes just before the open credits begin that communicates just how attractive and special Mac Dubh is. Jamie’s capacity to understand why a man would prefer to die paying for his sins than live with them on his back is often what sets him apart from the other men of his era, or any. In DOA he laments that he’s not so different from Stephen Bonnet – only by circumstance, and that anyone looking at their deeds side by side would see no difference. It is this look, this leadership, this friendship that marks Jamie as different. Not from Stephen Bonnet, they are leagues apart, but even from his friends, who would not have been able to make that same choice for Hayes. All communicated with a look.
As much as I don’t want this show to continue to beleaguer sexual assault tropes, I do appreciate that there is effort given to the victim’s trauma and healing process. Do we need to revisit Young Ian’s violation and rape by Geillis to continue with his story throughout this season? Probably not. Does this flashback, the ensuing fear and shame, and the commiseration, compassion and confession of Uncle Jamie bring to bear honest truths about lingering trauma and pain? Probably so.
Oh I love to like a villain a little bit. It was no secret that as much as we all hated Black Jack Randall, our love for Tobias Menzies created a bit of wishful expectation that seeing him onscreen was going to ratchet up our heart rates, contributed perhaps in part to his menace, but also just to the mastery he had of the scene. It looks to be much the same with Ed Speleers as Stephen Bonnet. While reading Drums of Autumn over the past couple of months for In the Waterweeds (our live hangout Outlander Book Club), I remember feeling annoyed that Bonnet was portrayed as canny while conniving, convivial while calculating. But onscreen it makes all the difference. And he knows it. We are drawn in, hopelessly enamored by his accent, his charm, his ability to ingratiate himself into the Fraser’s good graces. He’s (dammit) LIKABLE. And that’s thanks in no small part to Ed Speleers.
These gorgeous assholes. I see we have mostly forgotten that Claire and Jamie are in their late forties at this point in the timeline, and that last season we sufficiently aged them out of season one perfection. Claire’s Stacey London has been replaced by a few random wiry side hairs that she could easily pluck in the warped reflection of a brass candelabra if she so chose. And Jamie – I’m guessing – just lost his spectacles in the shipwreck? Along with his crow’s feet? WHY ARE THEY SO BEAUTIFUL? How would any red coated captain of his majesty’s forces ever even stop to question a couple who look that good in the light of the moon and a few torches? How is he not blinded by their anachronistic and perfectly white teeth?
I love Claire’s little chat with Stephen Bonnet. I like watching her interact with strangers in the past – Cait has a good way of letting us imagine the inner monologue that Claire runs through not just while healing a wound but also while navigating a conversation with someone who is superstitious or backward thinking or even simply foreign to her. She gives little away (despite the idea that she shows what she thinks on her face).
Oh look who’s looking gorgeous by fire light again. Bare chest and pectoral girdles aside, I was immediately drawn to Claire’s stockings in this scene and later when she’s undressing after dinner. They look super soft and warm and comfy and oh god, I’m so cold all the time now that it’s fall. Honorable mention goes to Governor Tyron’s white stockings which also looked warm, comfy and smooth while he was chatting with Jamie by the fire.
Thank you, Claire and Jamie, for being Olds™ but still having outdoor, seated sex whilst looking into each other’s eyes. Outlander can always be counted on to give us sex scenes that other shows don’t. Most shows’ sex scenes usually tell us something about the character’s movement through his or her story. They communicate a corner turned or a basket turned over. And they very rarely give us a picture of the conversation before hand, the small, simple touches that spark arousal, and then take us all the way through to the afterglow. Completion is never gratuitous.
Someone point me to a purer relationship on this show than Claire and Fergus. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Genuine hugs for her smol son, and begrudging congrats to Marsali. Classic Claire shade. Ok maybe she can’t hide her feelings.
I mentioned yesterday afternoon on Twitter when I watched the episode for the 1st time since NYCC that I tend to like this show better the 2nd time around. This ending is one of the reasons why. I’m sure in scripting this episode, this song was chosen specifically to highlight the harsh and violent realities of colonial America with the autumn-soft, sepia-toned dreamscape that Claire was pontificating about earlier. And to that end, inserting on top of the action and the dialogue, eventually superseding all audible dialogue altogether can shock the viewer into thinking that they don’t like it. Not at all. Not one bit. But. And this was me: don’t you? Don’t you like the juxtaposition of folksy Americana with the brutal actions of the men who made it? Don’t you like that the assault and terror and robbery and death were highlighted not by the sounds of their victims, but by the scene itself? Don’t you like not having to hear Bonnet’s screams and Claire’s sobs? Isn’t there something just right about this devastation not being given voice? Just this once, they did it differently, and I didn’t know it at first, but I was into it.
So … what were your Top Ten Moments from America the Beautiful? Did I miss something awesome happening at the snooze of a dinner party? Or was there an indelible Fraser Moment in front of the green screen … I mean, on the river? OH I SHOULD HAVE ADDED ROLLO. Tell me your faves in the comments. And if you’re new here, or you’re old here and you just want to reminisce, check out all our Outlander coverage over the seasons. We have A LOT of it.
AND join us TOMORROW NIGHT at 9pm EST for the first Hangoutlander of the new season. We canna wait.