This Village Looks Nice, Wish It Was Nice
We open on the Mohawk village, where we left Roger last week. He’s made no new friends and he’s feeling sorry for himself in the idiot hut. I wonder if he’s considered all the ways he was a raging misogynist in the last twelve months, but I doubt he is. He still looks peckish and piqued. Thankfully, we get Jamie’s handsome man-hand slapping some bark and proving how easy it is to conduct espionage on a native village, population: lots more than you. Jamie, ever the best, knows that they’re aware of him, and there’s no sneaking in. They have to trade.
As much as I love the way that the Mohawks look on this show – both in costume, character and setting, I am not happy with the way that they are represented. Jamie, Claire and Ian are the interlopers, they are the foreigners, and the Mohawk have every right to be wary and hostile, while the Frasers need to be obsequious. But instead it is hostility that is magnified by the tense music and the close up of Claire and Jamie’s frightened and wary faces. The hostility is augmented by the fact that the head of the village doesn’t give them terms for trade, doesn’t explain whether or not he’s cool with it. We are still left wondering if he’s going to be amenable or not when they start to barter and Claire’s opal stops the whole deal. By all accounts, it seems they should have been open to trading goods (if not necessarily a useless captive), and the hostility to such a small band of travelers seems overwrought. It would have been a more interesting scene if amid their wariness, the Mohawk welcomed trade, only to turn them away with a distinct change of heart. If that was the intent here, it fell short. By trying to make the Mohawk seem more dangerous, they lost the significance of the aversion to the opal Claire wears.
Back at River Run, Murtagh and Jocasta trade a few barbs about their respective places in politics and family, and we are treated to Phaedre massaging what I can only assume is a Squishmallow under Brianna’s skirts, declaring it perfect. From what Jocasta told Murtagh and Brianna’s petulant dialogue here, we are supposed to assume that Brianna is depressed about Roger, but how would we know for sure? Her face never changes.
Highlander JAMMF Returns
Claire kens there is a story with her opal (ya think?), and audiences far and wide are super hopeful that someone will eventually sit her down by the fire and tell her … and us! But Jamie doesn’t care, thank God, and plans to sneak into the Mohawk village and rescue Roger, Fort William style. Claire helpfully points out that he 1. doesn’t know the place, and 2. he doesn’t have help. Two Things That Are About to Change. We see the return of Capable!JAMMF as a band of Mohawk surround them and attack him specifically. THIS is the Jamie I am here for: the one who is not afraid to hold a hatchet to a man’s neck to protect his own. The highlander who is perfectly suited to taking on four heavily armed adversaries if he has to. It’s just hot enough.
Otter Tooth’s Story
The news of another traveler is not new … Claire has seen his skull and his ghost, but why he was there IS new information. He’s taken a play out of Gillian Edgars book, and gone into the past to attempt to change the fate of his people. Claire is moved by the story, as she is wont to be about other travelers, but she doesn’t offer the Mohawk woman the truth that she knows: that changing the future is futile, and that Otter Tooth was right about their nations. She just … promises her the stone. It’s meant to play out as a sympathetic move, but in truth it’s a manipulative one. They tell Claire that whoever possesses the stone can help tell their future, but no one asks Claire to do this and she doesn’t offer.
Wrong place, wrong person
Having Murtagh and Bree develop a relationship is a boon for adaptation. We’ve said over and over that the choice to have Murtagh live and return to the Fraser Family Unit is one of the better character and plot changes from the novels. He gives Bree another avuncular influence in a time where protection and familial feeling is in high demand. BUT … Murtagh is not Jamie. He does NOT stand in for him. This conversation fell short from providing an emotional outpour because Bree was having it WITH THE WRONG PERSON. Her blasé admittance that she has forgiven Jamie fell so flat it could have been her 3rd trimester pregnancy bump. This was shoehorned in to show that Bree has forgiven her Da, but there is nothing personal, emotional or therapeutic here with Murtagh. Not to mention we were just told that she is dealing with a severe case of melancholy, but none of that appears here. What a waste.
Hundreds of miles away from Bree’s forgiveness, Jamie is putting himself and her mother in danger to save the man she loves by sneaking into the Mohawk village with a band of Mohawk rebels. They get idiotic in the idiot hut, promise not to hurt Roger and try to leave, even though he’s not happy with that plan. And it goes awry. Despite Jamie’s best skills, they cannot get out undetected, but somehow Claire’s rebel yell for peace keeps them from all getting killed. The return of Capable!Claire.
These two scenes together serve to remind us that the storytelling of this season is blatantly misguided. Murtagh should never have been Bree’ confidante here. And the campy escape from the idiot hut looked ridiculous with Claire trying to hold Roger up. Spin the episodes around and have this escape attempt earlier, Roger’s epiphany (if he ever had one) later, and have Jamie and Claire return to River Run much sooner.
After the Mohawk leader banishes his own for causing strife, he offers the Frasers free passage out of there, just no Roger. Undeterred, Jamie provides the example of what a man of worth is willing to do for someone he loves, and the thing he has done many times in the past: he takes his place.
But it’s Ian’s choice that flips the script: he organizes his own life for Roger’s. If there was one truly moving scene in this finale, one character who grew throughout the season and got the ending that he deserved: it’s Wee Ian. The best acting John Bell has done to date, Ian’s sacrifice fully rent this episode in two: what matters and what doesn’t. Absolutely proving himself to be THE Man of Worth, Ian makes a split second decision that his own actions require penance, that he can seek forgiveness in actions and not words, that without a wife or family he is the better choice to stay behind, and that his own growth has given him the strength to forge his own way. Bravo, boy.
In Scenes No One Needed
Closely related cousins, Jocasta and Murtagh, are drinking whisky and reminiscing about stuff in a scene that I think is meant to prepare us for some sort of romantic notions between them. I must be as blind as Jocasta though because the sexual tension is impossible to detect; they both just seem cantankerous. Fighting about political tensions and the new world, neither they nor the writers give any thought to the irony of Murtagh’s assertions that the governors are breaking the backs of the “common man” who had “no choice” in coming to the new world while they sit on furniture that was cleaned by and in a room that was built by and full on food that was cooked by … enslaved people. Another reminder that this season took a huge leap into commentary on the horrors of how this nation was built but didn’t have the gumption to remain honest and sit with that discomfort. Lines like these are stark reminders that they wanted Claire to take the emotional gut punch over this issue, but refused to take one themselves and write with nuance. Do no harm, my ass.
Petulant and Petty
I’m trying here, guys, so please bear with me. Finding moments I loved in this episode is the REAL gauntlet. Roger’s sucker punch to Jamie’s face may seem like sweet justice for the character who’s been badly mistreated over several episodes. He knows Jamie is the one who beat him, and believes it’s for no reason. Put aside the fact that Jamie is the man who just rescued him, and that he also was willing to sacrifice himself to get Roger out of there, Roger’s violence is in service ONLY to himself, his own revenge and his own sense of injustice. JAMIE, on the other hand, lashed out in violence against Roger for the sake of BRIANNA. Juxtaposed with Ian’s adept handling of the Mohawk gauntlet (the best scene of the episode), Roger looks petulant and petty while Ian, with fortitude, handles the trial that Roger couldn’t.
Then, when Claire and Jamie tell Roger the reason for the misunderstanding, Roger’s FIRST RESPONSE to Brianna’s rape was, “How could you think [it was me]? I love her.” *record scratch* NO THOUGHT spared for the supposed love of his life, only for his own suffering. And subsequently, only frustration that it was the devil he knew (Bonnet). While Claire tries to placate both Roger’s butthurt feelings and Jamie’s righteous ire, I’m sitting in my favorite chair wanting Roger to just go back and leave us all alone. Jamie has every right to demand Roger’s honor here: Jamie is a man who has taken it upon himself to raise several children not his own as if they were his own. He’s done so with pride and parental affection. Fergus. Marsali. Joan. Ian. Even Willie. Listening to Roger vacillate and bemoan how “too much” this all is for him, while he has yet to even ASK how his WIFE IS … it’s clear that the only thing that keeps Jamie Fraser from wringing Roger’s neck is … *ding ding ding* LOVE FOR HIS DAUGHTER.
Roger has just found out that Bree is having a baby, and now Bree is having that baby. Labor scenes should be emotional and fraught and all of the things deliveries are in real life. Not just a still life portrait of one. Phaedre isn’t Claire. Jocasta isn’t Jamie. This scene never happened. I cannot even begin to tell you how wrong it is that the writers felt no responsibility to show Bree’s dependence on her father, his infinite patience and love for her as he spoke himself hoarse to ease her laboring, and the full flow of love between them all as he helped bring his grandson into the world with his wife. I will never be ok with this.
Marianne Dashwood Did It Better
We waste precious time as Jamie and Claire finally return to Brianna with long looks that say nothing other than that Roger is alive and knows what’s up. Since we hurriedly established earlier that Bree has forgiven Jamie, there is no moment between them. Jamie is still more concerned with revenge and NEVER HOLDS HIS GRANDSON. And by knowing looks between Phaedre and Lizzie, Claire and Jamie, we are meant to assume that Brianna has holed up in her chambers, inconsolable over Roger’s rejection. Claire seems unconcerned with the health of her daughter and grandson, and despite the risks of the era, asks no questions. Even alone with Brianna she just talks about the future, not what has passed. And Brianna AGAIN shows absolutely no emotion, so much so that Claire’s “it will be alright” seems to come out of nowhere. What in the world does she need comfort over? She is literally just sitting there.
At dinner, Jamie and Claire have left a chair between them, and no one is speaking of anything at all … because we all know writing dialogue here would have been too hard. But … Brianna makes a triumphal entry and maybe, just maybe, she’ll recover. These two scenes are ripped straight out of Sense and Sensibility, but without any earned emotion, and without any sense of relief. I don’t believe Brianna is upset, and I don’t care if she no longer is. Also … who is taking care of that baby? More enslaved people?
Please Someone End This
Finally, as they prepare to leave for home, Brianna sees a lone, dirty figure coming up the road on Ian’s horse … it’s Roger. And she runs to him to swells of strings reminiscent of that Turkish soap opera I really liked. They embrace and … all is well I guess? He calls the bairn “his son” and we are meant to rejoice, despite the fact that we won’t see the baby in HIS arms either. And since there needs to be a cliffhanger for the end of a season, the redcoats trundle up the road … to tell Jamie that he has to muster a militia to hunt down the Regulators and his aunt’s new booty call, Murtagh. Finis.
In a finale that should have brought together all the strings that this season left dangling, we were left with no repairs to the relationships that were torn asunder, no new ties to the new world, their new home or the new relationships forged. Roger and Jamie JUST met! EVERYONE just met baby Jem! Lord John disappeared. Bree met Fergus last week, and they didn’t even talk to one another. Ian is gone and no one asked. Jamie got no redemption, and Claire was barely there. Thankfully, Jamie was in character for most of the episode and Ian got his bar mitzvah by gauntlet. But it was not enough.
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