Through her narration, we are informed that this woman is longing for permanence in her life after the WWII. Even their holiday in Scotland is used as a second honeymoon, an excuse for reconnection. They chose Scotland as their destination for a few reasons, but mainly to investigate Frank’s ancestry and are successful in locating one man in particular, Jonathan Wolverton Randall or “Black Jack” as he was known to the Highlanders of the 18th century.
Every flashback we see is there with a purpose to tell us about the character of this woman. Right off the bat, as we get a glimpse of her fixing a wounded soldier, we are confronted with a character that is decisive, brave and tough. Yet, as she stands all alone on the sidelines as everyone else is cheering the end of the war, we can feel her loneliness, her vulnerability.
Another one is a very short scene in which Claire at tender age of around ten lights a cigarette for her Uncle Lamb, an archeologist on a dig, [he brought her up after her parents died in a car crash], and even that small glimpse is telling of a woman that she has become. You have no doubt about her upbringing because she tells you that it was unconventional and you see that she was loved and enjoyed the time with her uncle.
As we watch these two try to resuscitate the relationship they once had through their activities during the day and night, you get a sense of the two vastly different characters. In all scenes, Claire is shown to be outgoing, fun-loving extrovert, while Frank appears to be an introvert, bookish and subdued but both are definitely sophisticated lovers, which is in full evidence at the ruins of Castle Leoch. Here is a line that you haven’t heard before my Outlander fandom.
“Why Mrs. Randall, I do believe you left your undergarments at home.”
Got to admire this modern woman who freely admits that she relies on sex to bridge that divide both she and her husband feel it’s there.
It’s plain to see that Frank loves this woman very much, so much so that as he is walking back to the B&B on a stormy night and spots a man in all his Highlander garb on a corner of the street watching his wife comb her hair, he immediately accepts the notion that this man might be her lover that is seeking a reconnection and is willing to forgive her the infidelity. That’s how much he loves her! She is a bit too quick to forgive him, although we can clearly see that Frank’s apology and his declaration that he loves her no matter what, comes from the heart. Once more she falls back on using sex to burrow as close as she can to a man we can see and feel is torn with something, but are not sure with what.
Craigh na Dun, a circle of stones on a nearby hill, offers another adventure. Both are fascinated with these women dancing around and watching them made Claire feel a bit uncomfortable and unwelcome. The ‘dancing druids’ was such a mesmerizing scene and I can only say that the music made it poignant and eerie. Claire wasn’t the only one feeling unwelcome as a voyeur.
Following scenes are also heartwarming; Frank is off by himself, again deep into researching his ancestry, and Claire is on her own as well, going back to the circled stones to check out the flower she thinks is ‘forget-me-not’. Those are scenes that are telling of the relationship these two have. They are modern people with a sophisticated marriage. Both are highly intellectual and both seem to support one another’s endeavors, yet portrayed so brilliantly by Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies, you can feel the awkwardness of two people who are trying hard as hell to figure out how to go on after the ravages of war. Their conversations are stilted yet touching, such as the scene in which Claire tells Frank of how much she missed the sounds of her husband’s loving, and he comes back with a heartbreaking revelation that he used to doodle her palms lines on everything, even his reports, just to bring her closer to him.
And we come to the crucial scene of ‘falling through time’ as Claire hears one of the stones come to ‘life’ with an eerie, loud and frightening hum that to me sounded like a combination of running cattle and tornadoes fury. Again, my kudos go to the show’s creator and his team to handling this part with care and forethought. There is no CGI here. What Claire experiences, the audience does as well. She admits to not being able to define it, yet tries with the only comparison she could find in her mind, and even that, of a person that has fallen asleep in a passenger seat of a moving car, feeling serene weightlessness, and as that car went spinning out of control, she felt a sickening sensation of falling, but even that “falls woefully short” of what she felt happen to her.
The first thing the viewer notices as she wakes up, laying on the grass at the same circle of stones, is the bright color of the green grass and the second is the loud chirping of the birds. Neither was seen or heard in the previous scene. She is confused, disoriented and visibly baffled as she can’t locate her car. You will find me gushing on many occasions for the brilliance of the creator of this masterpiece [YES! It will be, if it already isn’t], Ron D. Moore. Pure genius for having the next few scenes void of any distracting music or narration, and letting the viewer be lolled into sense of security with the sounds of the forest and visage of the landscape…only to jump [DAMN that shot was loud] upon hearing a shot, then spotting some red-coated men running after some men dressed in kilts.
Watching it without a sound, you see a woman looking at the running men, but without narration, we are lost to Claire’s thoughts.
As we get privy to all her fear, Bear McCreary‘s music hits you in the solar plexus! And as she stops running, BAM! The music stops as abruptly and here is a man who on a first look is her Frank, and on the second as he introduces himself as Captain Randall, she is off and running, only to be caught, questioned, assaulted, rescued and knocked unconscious by another strange man.
It’s worth pointing out that the show will feature plenty of Gaelic speech, but no subtitles. We will be in the dark as much as Claire is. We will be all ‘Sassenachs’! BRILLIANT!
As the man who dragged her out of the Captain’s clutches brings her in the little cottage, she rationalizes, deduces and shows her pluck all at the same time. Caught by men that are dressed strange, armed to the rafters and very rough-looking, knowing that she must escape, but can’t in the dark, she is better off keeping her mouth shot. She still can’t help herself as she watches some men attempt to wrongly ‘fix’ a dislocated shoulder of a young warrior [Sam Heughan] crouched by the fire, letting her instincts take the charge of the situation.
As they all leave the cottage, she realizes that electrical lights of Inverness are nowhere in sight, and finally admits something her rational mind is fighting to accept. 20th century is not where she’s at. In the next few scenes we see her riding out, warning the Highlanders of a possible ambush, and when they are attacked, once more she tries without success to run away from them, only to be tracked down by the young man she nursed, and threatened into going back with him; stopping in the middle of the night to tend to his new wounds and once more showing her stubbornness and pluck as much as showing him her understanding and acceptance by offering him a hand to stand up. He also showed his gratitude by sincerely thanking her for tending to him.
As this first episode ends, the motley crue arrives at the castle our heroine only left two days ago, in 1946 and this viewer is left with a long sigh and longing for the second episode.
I honestly enjoyed this first episode from start to finish. I’ve read many reviews of it and there are some issues that are of this first episode as ‘slow paced’, the narration to be ‘excessive’ and ‘boring’ and sex scenes unnecessary. To anyone out there with these issues, I say ‘bah humbug’!
Seriously though, I respectfully disagree with all of you. I watched this episode without the sound and I dare anyone that had not seen it do the same and come back and tell me what they got out of the show. I guarantee you it won’t be as poignant as my take.
ENJOY A FREE EPISODE 101!
Regarding the three scenes of marital sex in the show, here is what I think. This is a married couple that was inseparable before the war, and very much in love. Both supposedly had no sex during the five-year separation, so sex was something both craved and used as “the bridge” to getting back to what they had before. The first scene [jumping on bed at B&B] was tender and sweet, and left it to our imagination. The second [at the ruins of the castle] was not explicit, and no nudity involved, and yet conveyed to the viewer that the woman is an equal to the man and very sexual. The third [after Frank hints of her possible involvement with another man] is more explicit, but still adding to the story, telling us that once more both characters are using one tool available to them [to bridge the divide and try to piece their marriage] – sex.
PREVIEW of Episode 102!
All the scenes involving sex were thought out carefully and presented to the viewer in a way that we would understand these two and connect with them. They were sensual and in no way gratuitous, and all served as an expansion to their love story. ‘The Black Sails’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ which I am fond of btw, however use sex as T&A, placed in their stories willy-nilly, for the sole purpose of titillation of their male audience. None serves to the enlightenment of a character or the story.
I applaud Ronald D. Moore, the shows writer and runner, for giving me both. With a slower pace, he took me into the life of this woman and her marriage, and with her narration I went straight into her heart!
I would also like to discuss the opening credits. To many fans of the books, they are meaningful because they include the symbols of the books, especially the stag, which is on Fraser of Lovat Clan Crest. The music composed for it is haunting and the lyrics could easily be applied to Claire. Just take a minute and listen…
Before I saw the show, I had to come to grips with which ‘eye’ will I view it. As a fan of the books written by Diana Gabaldon, I had a decision to make and it wasn’t an easy one. I needed to let go of everything that I read so far [and yes I read the latest one, MOBY] and watch the show with an unbiased eye. Let me start off by saying, DAMN but it was hard to do it the first time I saw it. It wasn’t easy to separate THE written word from THE visual offered to me, something I waited for over 23 years to ‘see’, and there were tears…
I recommend each fan to do the same. Please let go of everything you’ve read and concentrate on the story developing right in front of you. Don’t look or wait for ‘that’ moment or ‘this’ quote as it may never come, but embrace the new ones as they come. I did and it was a glorious experience and I am bursting with joy to share it with all my friends and am looking forward to each episode.