Outlander Review (Episode 8 – Both Sides Now)

Let’s get the bad news out of the way. The show won’t be back on the air until April 4, 2015.  That means you have 190 days from today to wait before the return of Outlander. Take a deep breath.  You can do this!  No doubt reruns will feed your addiction.  I’m sure Starz doesn’t want its fans to moan and groan from highlander withdrawals. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about Episode 8 — the mid-season finale.

Yes, all things come to an end.  Even books in a series…eventually.  And so it is with mid-season one, the much anticipated and highly coveted Outlander on Starz. In a diversion from the book, this episode is heavily focused upon Frank and his desperate search for his beloved wife, who has somehow vanished into thin air.  Much of the focus of the story has been on Claire’s experience being sucked back in time, but I think this diversion adds richness to the series by exploring what Frank is dealing with as well.

Rightly so this episode is named Both Sides Now, but I’d like to add a third that it had a rather dark side.  The greatest criticism of this series has come from women who do not see this as a romantic novel, when there are instances of attempted rape, actual rape, and beating one’s wife with a belt.  I am staying neutral and not commenting. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion.  Of course, there are the groups of readers who have loved this story of Jamie and Claire regardless of the not-so-pleasant scenes of brutality tucked between the pages.

Variety has a rather good article and interview with Ron Moore about Episode 8 and some of the changes from the book, if you are interested.  He explains the reasons behind his departure from Diana’s text.  READ HERE  Here is a recap of tonight’s episode, which flips back and forth in time with parallel scenes and thoughts between Claire and Frank.

The police, after six weeks of searching, tell Frank they’ve done all they can do.  Their theory is that she ran off with another man. Reverend Wakefield throws out the possibility that the river swept her downstream when she wandered off and got lost.  His druid wife tells Frank the tall tale of Craigh na Dun and the stones that suck people back in time.  As Frank screams to the copper, “My wife is not with another man,” we are taken back to Jamie and Claire reminding us that’s exactly where she is while wearing two wedding rings.

After a scene where Frank is set up in a dark alley by some woman in order to steal the reward he’s offering, we see the dark ancestral side of the modern Mr. Randall.  The men in the alley are no match for angry Frank, who nearly beats to death his attackers and almost strangles the woman for her complicity in leading him into a trap.  Yes, the man is hurt, frustrated, and these poor people crossed Frank at the wrong time in his life.  His actions get him a preaching session from the reverend about turning from the dark side and back into the light.

Claire is given lessons by Angus on how to defend herself with a dagger. She finds the opportunity to do so when Redcoats turn up unexpected, interrupting Jamie and Claire doing the deed on the grassy ground.  Once again, we are faced with a potential rape, but Claire stabs her attacker in the back and Jamie brings down the other two men holding him from intervening.

The entourage of Dougal, Angus, Murtagh, Willie, Rupert, Jamie, and Claire (did I forget anyone?) continue on their journey to meet a man who might be able to clear Jamie’s name. However, to be safe, Jamie leaves Claire alone with Willie in the woods.  She promises Jamie to stay put, but when she realizes that they are near Craigh na Dun, she slips away and runs toward the mound.

This scene is the most powerful in the episode.  Frank decides to visit the area before he gives up and leaves for Oxford.  He stands by the stone crying (poor guy) and then begins to yell Claire’s name.  Claire hears him through time, and she yells his name in return.  Frank hears her voice, but then it is suddenly silenced. Just as she reaches the stone to touch it and return, those pesky Redcoats capture and drag her away to Frank’s disgusting ancestor, Black Jack Randall.

The dichotomy of the two characters has returned, as Randall and Claire play their cat and mouse game of let’s tell the truth.  Fed up, he binds her, pushes her face down on the table, and lifts her skirt.  Another scene of attempted rape ensues. (Poor woman how much of this must she endure?  I do see the point here.) When we think all is lost, Jamie bursts open the window, points a gun at Randall, and tells him to take his hands off his wife.

End of mid-season one, and the cliffhanger has been played. Of course, those who have read the book know the outcome.  The second half of season one may be the most controversial if Ron Moore, the executive producer, goes down that road showing the consequences of Claire’s disobedience and Jamie’s belt meeting her often exposed bottom in this series. For some reason, I don’t think that’s going to go over well with some women in the audience not familiar with the written text.

Nevertheless, the episodes have ended. Life returns to normal, and maybe I can finish book four in my own series, which only contained one attempted, not welcomed advance of a despicable nature. From my own experience, I can tell you that romance books containing potential rape or rape scenes do not often sit well with some readers.  It’s a path that I try to avoid if possible.  It appears that many fans, however, are so taken by Jamie’s character, that it either doesn’t bother them or they have turned a blind eye in order to enjoy the man in the kilt.  Whatever the reason, get your calendars out, your markers, and start checking off the next 190 days you must live before more episodes arrive.  I just hope for your sake the world doesn’t end before then.

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