You Broke My Heart, Fredo: The Un-Making of Outlander

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Now that I’ve watched the finale of Outlander Season 4 I can honestly say that I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship with this show. Here’s a sampling of my inner monologue over the past 4 seasons:

“Maybe they won’t screw up the story or how Jamie is written next time. I’m sure they won’t do it again next season.”

“They didn’t mean to disappoint the fans and break our hearts – they said we could trust them.”

“They get so upset when we criticize them.”

“They love us and would never deliberately hurt us.”

“They’re doing the best they can! Why won’t we stop nagging them!?”

It’s exhausting.  I’ve taken all I can take. I’m done. No more chances. I will miss seeing the actors, but I can’t bear what the writers/directors/producers are doing to these characters any more.  I watch certain television shows because I enjoy them.  I watch other shows that I don’t “enjoy” in the literal sense due to the subject matter, but I get something from them or they make me think  (e.g. The Handmaid’s Tale). But the only things I’m getting from Outlander these days is heartache and agita. So, one last time, and yes, this will be my last blog post about this show, I feel compelled to share my thoughts on where and how this show has completely missed the mark by skipping or altering at least one pivotal, iconic book scene each season.

You all know I love the Outlander books and I so wanted to love the show just as much, perhaps not in the same way, but to the same degree.  I often think that if I had never read the books, I probably wouldn’t have this many issues with the show.  I would be able to appreciate the many things about it that I DO love (and remain blissfully ignorant of the rest):  the cast, which is (mostly) amazing – from the principle actors all the way down to minor characters, the sets, the costumes, etc. If I had never read the books, I wouldn’t know that TPTB and the writing team are deliberately changing the essence of the main characters, particularly Jamie and Claire, and now, to some extent, Roger.  I would think that Claire is supposed to be some fantastical, time-traveling hybrid of Mother Teresa, Marie Curie and Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, and that Jamie is her faithful, but largely disposable, sidekick.  I would think that Roger is supposed to be an unlikeable, self-absorbed prat. The problem is that I HAVE read the books and I know that this is not how it’s supposed to be.  (Yes, I know, Diana says we should put the books down.  She may be right, but I can’t unread them. It’s way too late for that).

I never expected the adaptation to be perfect.  I did, however, expect it to stay true to the heart of the books.  After my last post I swore to myself I wasn’t going to say any more on this subject. The show has taken a hard right from the books, and there is nothing I can do about it.  Many fans out there share my opinion on this, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter what any of us think, least of all to TPTB at Outlander. If those of us that don’t like the way Outlander has been adapted to the screen, then we should simply cancel our Starz subscriptions and just stop watching it, right?  Until today, I didn’t want to give up on a story that has meant so much to me without a fight.  I, and many others, have voiced our opinions on how the show was veering away from how the characters are depicted in the books, particularly Jamie, and we backed up those arguments with prose directly from the source material to illustrate our points.  We spoke out precisely because we wanted the show to be outstanding.  We even questioned ourselves when we would get pushback.  Were we just imagining it?  Ron Moore, Maril Davis, Terry Dresbach, Toni Graphia, Matt Roberts, etc., etc. continued to deny it. They kept insisting that they were making a faithful adaptation of Diana’s work. Then, back in 2017, Ron finally admitted exactly what so many of us had been suspecting since the end of Season 2:  that he didn’t view this as a love story.  In her book, The Making of Outlander, author Tara Bennet quoted a statement by then-showrunner Ron Moore that caught my attention:

While some might argue that the audience initially connected with Outlander because of the heat between the Frasers, Moore says he was unafraid to expand beyond the boundaries of the narrative.

“I didn’t think the courtship romanticism could sustain itself much beyond a year,” Moore says frankly.  “If you look at the history of TV, there’s a limit to how long the audience wants to wait before you finally get the ‘two” together.  Once they do, it’s a bigger challenge. With the books [Diana] structured it such that the courtship was only in book one, and [in] book two you were dealing with a married couple.  I liked that season two was going to evolve and wasn’t locked into this romance ideal.” [Emphasis mine].

First, I agree with the author when she suggests that the audience connected with Outlander because of the “heat” between the Frasers.  But to me that didn’t mean only the physical heat; it also meant the heat evident in the fiery, intense love between two equally compelling, equally strong characters.  I would argue that this is what draws people to the story in the books, and it is what we wanted to see carried through into the show.  Further, I take issue with Ron’s view that the courtship between Jamie and Claire was only in the first book.  Not true.  Their courtship continued throughout the entire series, spanning centuries and the improbability of time travel. The nature of it may have changed, but it never went away. In many ways it intensified over time.  He implies in this quote that it is completely implausible that a married couple that is past the honeymoon phase can continue to feel the intense love and passion that one feels in a new relationship.  Again, I disagree. Do relationships wax and wane over time? Yes.  Do some of them lose their heat? Unfortunately, yes.  And realistic or not, Jamie and Claire’s does not, and that is precisely the point. THAT is what keeps the readers (and viewers) coming back.  He was wrong to equate this story with just another “will they/won’t they” story.  We knew they would be together from the minute they met; that was never in question. The joy of Outlander was in watching that central relationship (and to be clear, I mean Jamie and Claire, not Frank and Claire) grow and change, yet never diminish,  over time.

Season 1 was often described in the press as “groundbreaking.” The reason for that is because, finally, there was a show that didn’t treat the female lead as either weak and ineffectual or bitchy and domineering, and didn’t treat the male lead as a misogynistic asshole or a bumbling doofus.  Outlander gave us two equally interesting and complex characters who were made even better by their relationship with each other.  That was revolutionary, and women loved it. (Remember us? Adult women? You know, the primary target demographic?  A demographic, I might add, that is huge and that TPTB were automatically gifted in the form of legions of book fans).  This was one show that didn’t need to be sold to the an unknown audience; Outlander fans had been waiting a long, long time for a visual rendering of Outlander.  The only two things we wanted?  That it stay faithful, as much as possible, to the books and that they give us the man we all love: James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.

Season 1 – Jamie’s Recovery

In the beginning, that’s what we got.  Almost. Then Ron and Co. decided to fall back on the usual over-used  TV cliché of the 21st century:  that of the Superwoman and her ineffectual man. Claire saves the day every time.  She doesn’t need Jamie – she’s got this.  The fallibility and vulnerability of our heroine of the books was gone.  She became nearly perfect, commanding, large and in charge. Her husband was made superfluous; he was just someone in the background to make her look even more brilliant.  It’s the modern stereotype of the “smart and saucy” woman sneering at her man (see almost any recent sitcom as an example).  She loves him, but in a condescending, eye-rolling sort of way.  That’s not groundbreaking TV;  it’s the easy way out. (To make matters worse, they then used the same trope again in later seasons in the relationships between Roger and Bree and Fergus and Marsali).  Don’t get me wrong – I love seeing strong, smart female characters.  I am a card-carrying feminist right to the core. But this is not THAT show. This show is about a strong, intelligent COUPLE.  Why not take up the challenge of showing these united, passionate people facing the historical events and adventures in the book together as equals?  Why not depict two people that respect each other’s strengths and support each other’s weaknesses, without diminishing each other?  That would be groundbreaking. What I find the most infuriating is that they had it; they had the lightening in a bottle.  The foundation for a truly great show was there and they had the perfect actors to bring the characters to life.  And in the beginning, it was fantastic.  Then they fell off the rails and started undermining the character of one James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. My question is: Why?  Diana Gabaldon has millions of fans that love the way she wrote Jamie and Claire. Why mess with a winning formula? Why not play to that enormous, yet largely ignored, demographic of adult women who LOVE Jamie?  Why go out of the way to piss them off? I know they will say they aren’t deliberately trying to make us angry, but after 4 seasons of hearing what we like and what we don’t, and then ignoring them, I’m beginning to think that maybe they are.

The problems in Season 1 started in Episode 12, Lallybroch, when they turned our reluctant, but very capable, Laird into an immature, irresponsible, petulant boy.  At the time I thought the “drunk Jamie” scene was cute, but looking back now, I see it was a cautionary sign of things to come.  Book Jaime took up the mantle of Laird without too much difficulty, as his father had taught him to do.  He didn’t give people back their rents without an attempt to come to some reasonable compromise to deal with their hardships.  He certainly didn’t get drunk in front of all of his tenants and have to have his “mommies” (i.e. Claire and Jenny) read him the riot act to straighten up and fly right.  This was a small aberration from the books, but it proved to be significant in future seasons.  It was the beginning of the diminishment of our beloved Jamie Fraser.

The first truly significant ommision came at the end of Season 1 when they didn’t allow sufficient recovery time for Jamie after his rape and torture at Wentworth Prison.  They had three additional episodes in the first season (and the shortest of the books to adapt), and they couldn’t find time for Jamie and Claire to reconnect and heal after all of that trauma?  The writers knew what would happen to Jamie at Wentworth before they even started writing any of the episodes.  It was sheer negligence not to plan for at least 2 episodes at the end for the recovery.  The 5 minute “exorcism” in the show was almost laughable in comparison to the book version.  And the failure to have Jamie seek out Claire physically was unconscionable.  That played a huge part in his emotional recovery.  At the time, I remember being disappointed, but loved the season overall.  However, I honestly thought they would give us a “grotto” type scene in the first episode of Season 2 to make up for it, so our hero and heroine could come back together and sufficiently recover for the events of Season 2.  Those scenes needed to be there in Season 1 so that Season 2 could move on from those horrible events.  By not allowing Jamie and Claire to re-connect physically and emotionally in Season 1, it set off an unfortunate chain of character assassinations and plot changes that we are still seeing today.

Season 2 – Jamie and Claire’s Goodbye

For most book fans Jamie is as important a character as Claire in this story (some, like myself, think that this is actually Jamie’s story, not Claire’s. It’s just told from her POV – see Looking for Mr. Fraser).  Yet, time and time again, we have watched as the writers have undermined and diminished Jamie’s character.  In another passage in “The Making of Outlander” Diana was discussing the Season 2 episode that she wrote, “Vengeance is Mine,” where Danton and the Duke of Sandringham meet their ends. In breaking down the way in which the scene was changed from the book, Gabaldon remarks “Ron didn’t want Jamie to look like too much the hero, which always drives me crazy because Jamie actually is the hero.”  [emphasis mine].  She continued by saying that Ron wanted Claire to rescue herself in that scene because he “[didn’t] want her to look helpless.”

And then there was Dougal’s death.  If Toni Graphia had had her way, Claire would have killed Dougal. (Outlander Was Almost Completely Different ).  As it was, they chose to have her “help” Jamie do it (even though there is a much more realistic and affecting version of Jamie doing it alone that ended up on the cutting room floor – “I’m Sorry, Uncle”).  Are they kidding?  In the book, Dougal is trying to murder Claire and Jamie kills him to save her. He didn’t need her to help him, and he certainly didn’t need her to do it for him.  Thankfully, that ridiculous idea never saw the light of day.  Toni, et al, dinna fash yourselves.  We all read you loud and clear: you think Outlander should be a remake of Claire Randall (not Fraser) – Warrior Princess.  We will never be in danger of thinking that Claire is helpless.  You’ve shoved her uber-competence in our faces far too many times for that to ever happen.

Finally, there was the nearly complete lack of intimacy, physical and otherwise, in Season 2 (see Yeah…It Kind of IS About the Sex ).  Season 1 got a lot of attention for the super-sexy love scenes (and rightfully so).  But instead of continuing that into Season 2, we got…nothing.  This was done, in part, because they didn’t allow Jamie time to recover in Season 1, so he was still suffering the aftereffects of Wentworth.  Consequently, that aftermath continued well into Season 2.  Claire and Jamie were at odds with each other for almost the entire season (even after the return to Scotland).  They were certainly not the couple from the book series.  We had poor Jamie, suffering from PTSD and running all over Paris trying to change the future (at Claire’s behest).  Claire was sulking and bitching at Jamie about how hard her life was because she had to go through her pregnancy alone.  (Seriously, writers?  You have Claire behaving that way after what Jamie forced himself to endure to save her? Do you understand these characters at all? You made Claire so unbearable and unlikeable that I nearly stopped watching back then.  But, foolishly, I was holding out hope for the print shop reunion in Season 3.  More on that later).

They couldn’t even throw us a bone at the end of the season.  Instead of our couple making love ALL NIGHT, desperate to get and keep as much of each other as they could before they parted, they thought, forever, we got a 10 second hump in the mud.  Per Toni Graphia, they didn’t include that “one last passionate moment” (her words, not mine) in the cottage because of “logistical difficulties,” which was, frankly, a ridiculous excuse.  They could have used the tent they had in the scene prior to Prestonpans or the cottage set where Claire fixed Jamie’s shoulder in Season 1 to substitute for the crofter’s cottage. Hell, they could have just done it without a cottage. Why not just have them spend their last night together outside by a fire? An actual cottage was not necessary to convey the desperation and grief they were feeling in having to leave one another.

And did they carve each other’s initials into their hands? Nope. Per Ron “We decided to skip the hand carving because there was too much going on at Craigh Na Dun; saying goodbye, making love, the exchanging of gifts… We thought it was a step too far.”  Well, he thought wrong.  “Making love”? Was he kidding?  The reason that last desperate coupling in the morning (at the cottage in the book, at the stones in the show) worked in the book was precisely because Jamie and Claire had spent the entire night together prior to that.  Without that, it was just absurd.  That’s why the readers believe their love never dies for either of them over the next 20 years and why we believe that Claire will leave everything, including her (adult) child, to go back to Jamie.  It was a deliberate choice to write that last scene at the stones and completely change the events of the prior night. By doing so it was insulting to both the depth of love that is supposed to exist between these two characters, and to the viewers for expecting that we would buy it.

As for the omission of the carving of the initials, it was seriously “a step too far?” Omitting something that is literally mentioned over and over again throughout the next 6 books was ‘a step too far’ but expecting the viewers to believe that a rock with a bug in it would signify a love that spans centuries wasn’t stretching the bounds of credulity?

Here’s a mention from Written in My Own Heart’s Blood:

When I’d lost him the first time, before Culloden, I’d remembered.  Every moment of our last night together. Tiny things would come back to me through the years; the taste of salt on his temple and the curve of his skull as I cupped his head; the soft fine hair at the base of his neck, thick and damp in my fingers…the sudden, magical well of his blood in dawning light when I’d cut his hand and marked him forever as mine. Those things had kept him by me.

Perhaps if the writers hadn’t spent a ridiculous amount of time on the harebrained scheme to attack the British army’s party the night before Culloden (which was a plotline added by the show writers), they would have had time to treat Claire and Jamie’s final night together and parting at the stones with the respect and weight it deserved. They told the audience in the first episode of Season 2 that the Scots lose at Culloden (spoiler alert for those who didn’t already know that). Why waste valuable screen time on something that (a) was not in the book, (b) was completely unnecessary to show the audience the futility of the Jacobite cause (which they had been doing all season), and (c) kept Jamie and Claire 20 miles apart on the last night they would have together?

(Note: my apologies for not including the link to the above-referenced interview with Ron and Toni. It may even have been from a BTS video.  I had written down the quotes previously but have searched, unsuccessfully, high and low for the link to the whole thing.  Some of you may remember it.  If someone has the interview link, please send it to me and I will happily edit the post to include it.  I assure you that the quotes are accurate).

I even think Sam could see what was happening to his character (although he was far too nice, wily, or contractually bound to say anything outright).  In an interview with Vanity Fair from 2016, the interviewer asked him if there were any scenes from Season 2 that they filmed that he wish hadn’t been cut.  The one he chose was from “Faith.”  I agree with him.  In the version that was cut, we got a glimpse into Jamie’s pain and loss over Faith’s death, as well as Claire’s.  That is how it should have been.  It was tragedy that affected both of them, not just her.  Yet another piece of Jamie’s soul on the cutting room floor.

Here is what Sam had to say:

Certainly, from my perspective, you got to see a lot more of Jamie and his angst. I mean, he’s kind of not present for most of that episode. I think that’s important, that’s an important cut. We go on that journey with Claire and see her go through all the stages of grief and mourning and then some sort of brittle resolve. Almost, in a way, we didn’t want the camera to blink from her. I think that’s what was decided. Watching Jamie also go through it, well, absolutely, it’s another side. I certainly know that I really felt very strong in that scene. I felt that it was a very awkward place for Jamie to be that will have some sort of repercussion—even now in Season 3. I don’t think Jamie or Claire get over the loss of Faith. I think it’s wonderful that the fans actually get to see a glimpse into some of the other work that we do that’s not always on the screen.

If Sam ever decides to leave acting, he could easily get a job as diplomat. Just sayin.’

Season 3 – Alterations at the Print Shop and Why are these two together?

Oh lordy, where do I start with Season 3?  Between the complete rewriting of Frank as a saint and the fact that I am STILL angry over the scene with the photos at the print shop a year and a half after the fact speaks volumes.  For me, that scene in particular is one of my all-time favorites of the entire series.  I was hoping against hope that they would just leave it alone and play it as written in the book.  But no. Of course not. Given the outrage on social media after it aired, I don’t think I was alone in my anger and disappointment.  The way Jamie barely looked at the photos of Bree and then immediately launched into his description of Willie was borderline unforgivable. I wouldn’t have even cared if they included the Willie discussion in the episode, but left it for the following morning, or over dinner, or after they had sex…any time but immediately after his glancing at the photos of Bree.  Frankly, I didn’t care for them mentioning Faith in that moment either (although I know that many other people liked it. I think they should have talked about her later).  In my view, that moment should have been about their one living child: Brianna. She was the whole reason they were separated for 20 years  That scene needed no dialog. Just B&W photo, B&W photo, B&W photo, then BAM, color photo of Bree with her Fraser red hair and then Jamie going “quietly and thoroughly to pieces.” It could have been so powerful and heart-breakingly beautiful.  It should have been.  But it wasn’t.  I know Sam said back then that he was the one who decided to play the scene the way it was done, and he took the bullet for it, but I don’t buy that explanation.  First, if it was all his idea, then, frankly, he was wrong (sorry, Sam), and the director should have overruled him.  The director has the final decision on how a scene is played, not the actor.  Second, if it really wasn’t his idea, and he played it as it was written and then took the blame after the backlash (knowing full well that the fans would forgive him a lot faster than the director or writer), then that’s even more unacceptable because not only was the scene badly written, TPTB allowed someone else to take the blame for the screw-up.

As for the Frank issue, I won’t rehash all of the ways that TPTB have changed him from a cheating, condescending, manipulative racist to St. Frank, the most wonderful, accepting, supportive, honorable father and husband ever to walk the earth.  You can go read any of my posts that mention Frank for a multitude of examples (starting with Frank going down on Claire in the very first episode of Season 1. He was NOT willing to do that in the book, so the first time she experiences it was with Jamie.  It was a small change, but it mattered).  Let’s just say that it was annoying me to the point of distraction in the first half of the season.  I also didn’t see the point in giving equal time to Jamie and Claire’s lives during their time apart.  Only 2 really significant things happened to Claire during that time: her becoming a surgeon and having Bree.  There were so many more interesting things happening to Jamie during those 20 years and it would have been nice to see a bit more of him than Claire during the first part of the season.  But that would have meant putting more time and energy into Jamie’s character, and God forbid, they couldn’t do that when we had to watch Claire endure the sexist condescension of every man in creation and then endure watching Frank’s mistress berating her in public (insert sarcastic eyeroll).  Even if they “had” to spend equal time on each, then why not focus more time on Claire’s relationship with Joe Abernathy?  That would have been far more interesting than watching the Randalls snipe at each other.

And then there was the weirdly awkward dialog during the sex scenes (at least there were some in Season 3).  I’m not talking about the depictions of the actual act (at the brothel, on the ship, the Turtle Soup scene).  They were ok – not as realistic as in Season 1, but acceptable.  The awkwardness seemed to be in the reading/delivery of the pre- and post-coital dialog.  I know that some of the lines were taken directly from the book, which I appreciated, but they just felt stilted and unnatural in their delivery.  For example, during the Turtle Soup scene, Jamie comments on Claire’s nipples “staring” at him.  I read that part of the scene as FUNNY in the book, not seductive.  Jamie was joking and being sarcastic, trying to get a feverish, injured and very drunk Claire back to bed so she could rest; he was not trying to seduce her.  The build-up to the sex just felt weird and creepy the way it was played in the show.  It was more like Jamie and Cersei Lannister than Jamie and Claire Fraser.  I’m not sure why…maybe it’s just that Sam and Cait were better friends by then than they were in Season 1.  I can’t quite articulate it – it’s just my feeling on it.  Maybe that’s why the scene with Geneva was 100 times better and more realistic than the scenes with Claire (shout-out to Sam Heughan and Hannah James!). I miss Season 1 sex.

Finally, why were these two together again?  They spent twenty years apart, longing for each other, and then the MORNING AFTER she comes back, she’s barking at him about saving some guy who just tried to rape and kill her (and threatened to kill Jamie, the man she (allegedly) loves), because, you know, we had to have a completely unnecessary scene showing Claire drilling a hole in his an irrelevant character’s head! (Never mind that the conditions were completely unsanitary and he was going to die anyway – similar to the scene with the slave Rufus in Season 4’s “Do No Harm” see Claire Fraser: Patron Saint of White Privilege).  Then she has the nerve to be mad AT JAMIE for not caring that the guy dies.  Oh and Jamie never asks her if she’s ok, if he hurt her, etc (completely out of character for him). WTH, writers?

For quite a few episodes after that, at least until they get on the ship, Claire never reassures Jamie that she came back for HIM, that she loves HIM and that she never stopped loving HIM, even throughout her marriage to Frank.  This, again, was the writer’s contrivance.  They had rough patches in the book, too (especially the ridiculous scene where Claire took off for the stones after she found out about Laoghaire), but before that, she never left any doubt in Jamie’s mind that she loved him. In the show? Not so much.

I could go on for pages about Season 3, but I won’t.  I think you get the gist.

Season 4 – Jamie and Claire Miss the Birth of their Grandson, Where’s Book Roger?and Young Ian’s Transition

Oh…the bitter disappointment of Season 4.  It had a few bright spots – pretty much any scene that included Lord John, Stephen Bonnet, Aunt Jocasta, Phaedra, Ulysses or Young Ian.  BUT, it also had a few glaring and unredeemable problems/omissions.

First, the “rescue” of Roger was ridiculous.  Jamie versus 100 well-armed Native Americans?  I almost expected him to do that stop action, mid-air double kick from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  And does anyone really believe that after he killed all of those tribe members that they would just let them go?

Second, regarding Young Ian’s decision to stay, I did think that John Bell and Sam Heughan crushed it when they said their farewells.  But I really did miss the book version, where he walks in to Jamie and Claire’s hut (they were all there for quite a while, getting to know the Mohawk, not fighting them), already plucked and tattooed.  I also missed that they were there for his Indian naming ceremony and the “birth” of Wolf’s Brother. The show version was good, but it could have been better.

Third, the depiction of Roger. Do the writers have something against this character or Rik Rankin?  Roger is one of my very favorite book characters.  He’s got his flaws, but he’s a good man and he loves Bree way more than she deserves.  Show Roger is almost unrecognizable. He’s condescending, selfish, misogynistic.   I just don’t get it.  Rik Rankin is doing a great job with what he’s been given, but I don’t understand why the writer’s are portraying Roger as so unlikable.

Finally, the worst offense, and the one that finally put me off the show for good, was the omission of Jamie and Claire at Jemmy’s birth.  They turned what was one of the most beautiful, hopeful scenes in the book into something sad.  Worse yet, they never resolved the conflict between Jamie and Bree.  I think even DG was unhappy with this ridiculously bad decision.  She rarely comments negatively on the show, but after the finale of Season 4, she posted the birth scene of DOA on her FB page and on Twitter.  Serious shade from Herself.  If you haven’t read it, you should, to see how that scene should have been done.  It was pivotal to the relationship between Jamie and Bree, and to some extent, Jamie and Claire.  They NEEDED to show the reconciliation between them and to show the absolute adoration Jamie has for his grandson.  He never got to be there for the births of either of his children or to participate in raising them, which made his presence at the birth of Jem all the more poignant.  How could the TPTB not understand this? It’s unfathomable. The other issue was the lack of Claire’s presence at the birth.  The writers spent four seasons shoving her medical prowess down our throats every chance they got, then they expected us to believe that she wouldn’t have been there to help her own daughter deliver her first child? In the 18th century? With no medical facilities? I don’t think so.

I suspected this was going to be how they would ruin this scene when they informed us that the Mohawk were in upstate New York (they weren’t that far away in the book), just as I did when they had Jamie 20 miles away from Claire the night before Culloden in Season 2.  How is it that seemingly intelligent people fail to understand the truly important scenes that shape our main characters?  It’s beyond my comprehension.  What I do know is that I’m tired of being angry about a show that I want to love.  And I’m really tired of watching them tear down one of my favorite literary characters.  I don’t know if they just think we book fans are all just ridiculous, vapid women for admiring this (admittedly) idealized man, so they go out of their way to mock us by undermining his character at every turn in order to make him more “realistic,” or they just don’t get him.  I’m not sure which would be worse.  I, for one, am done caring.

On a final note, thanks to all of you who have read my posts over the years and taken the time to comment and/or share them.  I truly appreciate it.  I’ll still be around on Twitter and FB, the coo isna leaving entirely!

 

 

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Claire Fraser: Patron Saint of White Privilege

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I’ve now watched Episode 402 twice, and, frankly, I didn’t like it any better the 2nd time. My objections to this episode are not with the acting – once again the casting is spot-on and the new cast additions of Maria Doyle Kennedy as Aunt Jocasta, Colin McFarlane as Ulysses, Natalie Simpson as Phaedre and Kyle Rees as John Quincy Myers (and of course, the lovely and talented Tim Downie as Governor Tryon in Ep. 1), were all fantastic and brought tight, emotionally-nuanced performances to their roles. They are also not with the costuming or the sets – as always, I’m in awe of the talents of Terry Dresbach and Jon Gary Steel.
No, my issue, once again, is with the writing and direction, particularly with respect to the character development of Jamie and Claire. I’ve been saying since Season 2 that the hero worship of Claire (at the expense of Jamie) by the writers and directors has been materially altering the Outlander story – and not for the better. The reason we love Jamie and Claire in the books is that they work as a team; they are equals. The faults and strengths of each balance the faults and strengths of the other, they don’t work in opposition to them. And this, I argue, is what the writers don’t seem to “get.” Claire’s domineering personality was, yet again, on full display in episode 402, “Do No Harm.”
Up until this season, it’s been Jamie’s character that’s been under assault – the writers have weakened and minimized his character to the point that he often seems to be merely Claire’s trusty sidekick, rather than her soulmate and equal partner (see my older posts Looking for Mr. Fraser and Yeah, It Kind of IS About the Sex) for specific examples). On a side note, in case any of you were wondering why it’s been so long since I’ve posted, I chose to bite my tongue last season and say nothing. I wrote a few pretty harsh critiques, but then decided not to publish them – what was the point? The show was the show and nothing I wrote was ever going to change what I regarded to be glaringly lost opportunities to showcase this couple as they should be portrayed. However, after watching 402, I was so offended by the direction the writers had taken with Jamie and Claire that I felt the need to come out of hibernation.
First, a disclaimer: I am coming at this from the perspective of a white woman. I can try to empathize with the experience of a person of color all I want, but I understand fully that I will never experience certain things in the same way. As a woman, I can relate to misogyny and being relegated to second class status as women were in the past (and to some extent, the present), and even though women have historically been treated as property, I know it’s not the same kind of “ownership” as that experienced by slaves. I also want to make it clear that my personal view is that in all of American history, slavery is one of our most shameful and odious blights. In no way do I believe that the lives and feelings of enslaved people were unimportant or irrelevant, or that they were undeserving of treatment when sick or injured. I say this because my comments in this post about the slaves and their positions at River Run will be from the perspective of the time period in which the events in this episode occurred and how white people may have viewed them at that time.
So, my question to the writers is this: what purpose did this episode serve? It didn’t help further develop the main characters and it didn’t move the story forward. If anything, it did just the opposite. One thing it did accomplish was to waste a lot of precious and limited screen time (considering everything that happens in Drums of Autumn) for no reason other than to showcase, once again, Claire as Savior in a situation where no good could come of it.
Arrival at River Run
Claire and Jamie arrive at River Run with almost nothing but Ian, Rollo, Claire’s gorgeous medical box (thank GOD – I worship you, Gary Steele!), and the clothes on their backs.

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They are greeted by Aunt Jocasta, aided by Ulysses, who graciously welcomes them to her home (even though they are nearly complete strangers to her). Almost immediately, we see “that look” on Claire’s face conveying her displeasure and disapproval of the fact that Jocasta owns slaves.

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Yes, THIS look.

Aunt Jo gets them settled in, listens to what happened to them and tells them they are welcome to stay as long as they like (and proceeds to supply them with new clothing, free room and board, contacts in the community, a horse and wagon and a huge (if unwanted) inheritance). How does Claire repay this generosity? By pouting, pursing her lips, glaring, being exceedingly rude and complaining almost incessantly about the fact that Jocasta owns slaves. We get it, Outlander writers – Claire disapproves of slavery! From a 21st century viewer’s perspective, we understand her feelings because we share them. However, from an 18th century perspective, she is being unbelievably inconsiderate to a woman who has opened her home and been incredibly generous to them. Claire was well aware of the history of slavery. She knows that sniping at everyone and imposing her 1968 viewpoint on them will do NOTHING to change the situation, yet she does it at every turn. In addition to her rudeness to Aunt Jo, she is also making all of the slaves uncomfortable, and potentially endangering them, with her behavior – ”Oh, call me Claire!” Really, Outlander writers? Really? And it just gets worse from there.
Rufus
I found the scene with the torture and death of Rufus to be monumentally offensive, but not for the reasons you might think. The hard right taken from the events in the book altered the scene from being about the horror of slavery to being all about Claire…again. Except this time, she went from being St. Claire the Savior of the ill, injured and downtrodden to St. Claire, Patron Saint of White Privilege: a selfish, irresponsible, arrogant self-righteous…well…asshole. While I suspect the intent of the scene was supposed to be a social commentary on slavery, that is not what was achieved. Rufus’ plight became secondary. The entire scene shifted to being about Claire. That IS a tragedy. If they had left well enough alone, and played it as it was written, it would have kept the focus on Rufus and been much more affecting.
And where was Jamie during this fiasco? Trying to force her to see how stupid she was being, right? No. Of course not. He was right by her side, taking orders and doing nothing to stop her from making a dangerous and heart-breaking situation 100 times worse, which is COMPLETELY out of character for Jamie Fraser (book version). I’ve opined (repeatedly) in previous posts about what’s happened to the book version of Jamie (that we know and love), but now I’m also asking the same about Claire. We know that book Claire is reckless and headstrong, and often doesn’t stop to consider the consequences of her actions, but she’s NOT stupid or selfish to the point of caricature. When book Claire realizes that her actions could put others in danger (particularly Jamie or her friends and family), she will stop and listen to Jamie (who is usually the voice of reason in these situations). But the way show Claire behaved in this episode was absurd.
As book readers know, the way the scene with Rufus played out in print was much the same, except for one HUGE, significant difference: in the book, they did not bring Rufus back to the house for Claire to tend to his wounds. She did what she could for him right there at the mill, and when Jamie made her take notice of the hostility rising around them from the white overseers and others, and told her they could not save him, SHE LISTENED to him and gave Rufus the mercy of a quicker and far less painful death. The situation was tamped down, right then and there, so that it never got to the point of a, literal, lynch mob. The scene was about HIS tragic death, not her martyrdom.

No one was paying attention to the true object of the discussion. Only seconds had passed-but I had only seconds more to act. I placed a hand on Jamie’s arm, pulling his attention away from the debate.

“If I save him, will they let him live?” I asked him, under my breath. His eyes flickered from one to another of the men behind me, weighing the possibilities.
“No,” he said softly. His eyes met mine, dark with understanding. His shoulders straightened slightly, and he laid the pistol across his thigh. I could not help him make his choice; he could not help with mine-but he would defend me, whichever choice I made.
“Give me that third bottle from the left, top row,”
–Drums of Autumn, Chapter 11

For some unknown reason, the writers decided to go down a ridiculously unrealistic rabbit hole and, like show Claire, completely disregard the collateral damage (to the characters and the story) resulting from her behavior. I assume by including the horrific “punishment” of Rufus, the writers were trying to give us a historically accurate depiction of the brutality of slavery, as did Diana in the text. But by changing the scene, they ended up taking the focus off of the treatment of the slaves and putting it on Claire and her need to make sure everyone within a 1000 mile radius knows that “She’s a DOCTOR” and will operate on anyone, regardless of the unintended consequences. And this is not the first time they’ve done it. Think back to Season 3’s Crème de Menthe, when she insisted on operating on the man who just tried to rape and kill her (and threatened to kill Jamie), ONE DAY after she gave up her entire life to come back him, and then got all pissy with Jamie because he wasn’t sorry the guy died anyway! That ranks up there with one of the worst, most useless, waste-of-time scenes in Outlander (show) history, IMHO. Seriously, how many times do we need to see Claire operate on someone? We know she’s a skilled surgeon. We don’t really need to be hit over the head with it over and over again. But I digress…
So, there she is, with a mortally wounded slave (who has attacked a white man) bleeding all over Aunt Jo’s dining room table, ordering all of the house slaves to do her bidding to help this man. Think about this from an 18th, not a 21st, century perspective. First, Claire was told – before she ordered the other slaves to carry him to the house (potentially sentencing them to death, too, for helping him) -that he would be hanged for the “crime” of attacking a white man, if he lived from his wound. That was NON-NEGOTIABLE. There was absolutely nothing she or Jamie could do to prevent that. Second, I confess the I am NOT A DOCTOR!, but even I know that if you insert a large, dirty hook through a human body, that person is not going to recover in the 18th century. Third, book Jamie would NEVER have allowed Rufus to be brought into Aunt Jo’s house, not because he didn’t think he deserved to be treated, but because he was intelligent enough to see the situation as it was. He would have recognized the danger to Jocasta, to the other slaves, to Ian, to Claire and to himself in doing that, and he would have told Claire “NO.”
Instead, the writers decided to gin up some unnecessary drama: Claire is told he will be hanged anyway, but she keeps operating. All of the slaves in the house were visibly scared to death even before the mob got there because they knew this was going to end badly for them and for Rufus. Even Rufus knew he shouldn’t be there. Neither she nor Jamie even consulted Jocasta to see if she would agree to this (which she would not have), thus putting her at risk as well. When the mob shows up, they are getting ready to burn the place down if Rufus isn’t handed over by midnight (yet another ridiculous plot device-why would an angry mob agree to wait patiently for an arbitrary deadline?), AGAIN, endangering everyone. It never even crosses Claire’s mind that they might also drag Jamie and Ian out and hang THEM for harboring and aiding a “criminal.” And even if they all got out of this alive, what has she done to Aunt Jo’s livelihood? Will these people ever want to deal with River Run again? I’m guessing…no. This last point may seem irrelevant in comparison to what happened to Rufus, but from an 18th century perspective, it was not. It was a BFD. And all of this against the backdrop that Rufus will die one way or another, a fact about which Claire is fully aware!
If the writers had left the scene as it was written in the book, Rufus could have died with some dignity, without having his body further defiled by being dragged across the property and hanged as an example. In the book scene, the white “mob” was led to believe that he had died of his injuries, so they took no further action. That final scene was unnecessary and exploitative, in my opinion. It was thrown in for shock value and nothing more.
As we book readers know, Jamie and Claire will leave River Run and head for the mountains to settle. Aunt Jo isn’t happy that Jamie doesn’t want to be her heir, but they part on good terms. Based on the events in the show, I’m not sure how that will happen. If I had been Jocasta, I would have been furious at what transpired and by the position they had left me in, and I would have told them not to the let the door hit them in the ass on the way out. Do the writers expect us to believe that everything will just go back to normal at River Run? That everyone in town will just forgive and forget? I guess we’ll have to wait and see what new rabbit holes the writers will lead us down in the coming episodes. Let’s hope they’re more intelligent than this one because if show Jamie and Claire don’t wise up, they’re not going to last five minutes on the Ridge.

 

The Canonization of Frank Randall: Do TPTB Have a Pathological Man-Crush on Tobias Menzies?

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First, let me say that I, and from what I read, most other Outlander fans are DONE with Frank Randall. I tried to be somewhat diplomatic about him in my last post (How Do You Solve a Problem Like Frank Randall?), but having watched the first five episodes of Season 3, the gloves are coming off about my feelings on the portrayal of “show” Frank. And a warning: my language may get a little “salty,” so if that offends you, stop reading now. Oh…and there are some spoilers for Episode 305, so if you haven’t seen it yet, and don’t want to know anything about it, go away until you’ve watched it.
I’ve tried to be patient; I knew, based on Season 1 and 2, that Frank would have a much greater role in the first half of Season 3 than he has in the books (and that he deserves, imho). I had prepared myself for it and accepted it. I had planned to say nothing more on the subject of Frank. But, then I watched episode 305, Freedom and Whisky, and it just pushed me over the edge.

What. The. Actual. F*ck., Ron Moore & Co?

That whole scene at Harvard to honor Frank with a fellowship was just ridiculous, a waste of time and completely unnecessary to the story (and I am sorry, but as much of a history nerd as I am, I don’t think there’s a ton of “groundbreaking work” done the field of European studies). For non-book readers, this event did NOT happen in the story. Additionally, the part of the scene with “Sandy” and Claire also did not happen. The only purpose for including this scene was to bestow sainthood onto poor, long-suffering Frank, to make Claire look like a heartless bitch and to very ham-handedly hit the viewer over the head with the message of not squandering an opportunity to be with the “love of your life.” But to do it this way? What the hell? Would our Claire honestly stand there and be berated about her choices, in public, by Frank’s MISTRESS? The woman doesn’t exactly hold the high moral ground in this situation. And then to drag Bree into it? Oh, HELL no. (And Candy…is that your name, honey? Clearly Frank did not share your feelings or he would have left Claire for you as soon as Bree was old enough to make her own choices about continuing to see him, but he didn’t, so…maybe you need to reevaluate the depth of his ‘love” for you).

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I honestly do not understand this obsession that TPTB have with Frank. This story is NOT ABOUT FRANK, people! It was NEVER about Frank. There was NO love triangle between Frank, Claire and Jamie. Let me say very plainly that, as a fan of the books and the show, I am sick and tired of having this notion shoved down my throat. Every time I hear one of the producers/directors/writers say during a podcast/interview/episode recap that we “have to see the relationship between Claire and Frank to truly understand the story,” (and by association, to understand Claire) I want to throw large projectiles at my television. We do NOT, I repeat, do NOT need to know about Frank and his relationship to Claire in order to understand her, or her love for Jamie. We’re on to your message, and it reeks…

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I am fully aware, as are all fans, that this is an adaptation and that the show will not be exactly like the books. I have no problem with that. But as I have said in many of my previous blog posts (Yeah…It Kind of IS About the Sex , Looking for Mr. Fraser ) I very much take issue with changing the essential natures of the characters. The portrayal of Frank is the most glaring example.
I never really disliked Frank until Voyager. One can feel sympathy for him in Outlander (book 1 and the show). But the show runners have really gone off the rails where Frank is concerned, and are continuing to do so. In my opinion, they went way overboard (and wasted valuable screen time that would have been far better spent on the Jamie and Claire relationship) by focusing so much on Frank’s pain and his search for Claire. Why do I think this, you ask? Because THE STORY IS NOT ABOUT FRANK. While one could imagine these events occurring in the story, they did not, in fact, appear in the books. There was no mention of Frank’s search for Claire, or his anger, frustration and downright douchiness to the local Scottish police. Personally, I think it was omitted from the book for good reason: BECAUSE THE STORY IS NOT ABOUT FRANK.
And then there’s Voyager (the book). Frank knew he was incapable of siring children (he KNEW, and to my recollection, never mentioned it to Claire when she first came back). Consequently, he “claimed” Brianna as his own, and never failed to lord his self-righteous “benevolence” over Claire. There are so many examples of Frank’s being an utter dick to Claire in the book that I could fill pages and pages repeating them here (which I will not. I’m only going to include one passage a bit further down as an example. If you haven’t read the book, just take my word for it. It’s there). However, in the show, we see the exact opposite. Even in portraying Frank’s infidelity, he is made out to be the victim. Poor Frank, married to a woman who is still in love with Jamie and who ignores him because she is “married” more to her career than to him, so OF COURSE it’s completely reasonable that he would seek love outside the marriage (I’m rolling my eyes so hard right now that they may stay this way).

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I knew that we would have to endure scenes between Frank and Claire in Season 3. My question is, why spend so much valuable, limited screen time on it? Jamie’s is the more compelling story during the twenty-year separation. Think about all that happens to him versus Claire; there are only three major events that happen to Claire during this period: the birth of Brianna, graduating from medical school and her discovery that Jamie was alive. That’s pretty much it. And the truly interesting part of her story during that time was the search for Jamie with Brianna and Roger after Frank’s death . Why not focus the first few episodes predominantly on the events in Jamie’s life? So much more was happening to him during that time: Culloden and its aftermath, his time in hiding as the Dunbonnet, Ardsmuir Prison and his developing relationship with Lord John Grey, his time at Helwater as MacKenzie the groom and all that occurs with Geneva and Willie, and finally his re-birth as Alexander Malcolm, printer and smuggler. Those passages in the book were so beautiful and fully fleshed-out in comparison to the chapters about Claire in the 1960’s. I’m glad they covered all of them in the show, but they were a bit rushed because we just “had” to watch Frank and Claire’s marriage disintegrate, too. Was that really necessary?
I am not saying that the show runners should have completely ignored what was happening with Claire in the 20th Century. Not at all. We needed that juxtaposition against Jamie’s life in the 18th century. But given the two parallel story lines, it would have been more faithful to the book to put more time and energy into portraying Jamie’s story in the past, and then focusing on Claire, Brianna and Roger’s search for Jamie in the present. What we did NOT need was the canonization of poor, pitiful, long-suffering Frank. Want to know why we didn’t need that? THE STORY ISN’T ABOUT FRANK.
Even in the scenes that should have been about Claire, the TPTB made them about Frank: the scene with Millie was really about making Claire feel guilty about Frank, Claire’s graduation party was about…you guessed it…Frank (not about Claire’s amazing accomplishment of becoming a doctor in the 60’s, as it should have been), the fights between Claire and Frank made Claire out to be the “bad guy,” while Frank was the put-upon, martyred victim. And speaking of “that fight” between Claire and Frank (where Frank finally tells Claire he wants a divorce and wants to move to England with Bree), I have a few comments:
In the book, this is how it went down, mostly in the chapter entitled “To Lay a Ghost”:
Frank announces that he wants to go on sabbatical in England and is taking Bree with him (the announcement, by the way, is made ONE SEMESTER BEFORE BREE’S GRADUATION FROM HIGH SCHOOL! This was incredibly selfish & Frank clearly did not give one thought to Bree’s feelings. It was all about him).
“I’m going now. For good. Without you.”
“Why now, all of a sudden? The latest one putting pressure on you, is she?”
The look of alarm that flashed into his eyes was so pronounced as to be comical. I laughed, with a noticeable lack of humor.
“You actually thought I didn’t know? God, Frank! You are the most…oblivious man!” (and then, instead of protesting or denying it (as one would do if one was innocent of the accusation), he says:
“I thought I had been most discreet.”
“You may have been at that,” I said sardonically. “I counted six over the last ten years—if there were really a dozen or so, then you were quite the model of discretion.”
Then we have a rather despicable passage that shines a light on Frank’s racism, in which he reveals his true motive for wanting to remove Bree from Boston: that he doesn’t want her around “those kinds of people,” i.e. African Americans, specifically Joe Abernathy and his son). What a great guy!
Claire finally explodes:
“You have the absolute, unmitigated gall to tell me that you are leaving me to live with the latest of a succession of mistresses, and then imply that I have been having an affair with Joe Abernathy? That is what you mean, isn’t it?”
Frank then announces that he doesn’t need her permission to take Bree (there is also the strong implication that he is angrier about the possibility that Claire had an affair with a BLACK man, and not just that he thinks she had an affair in general). Claire counters that she CAN, indeed, stop him (the following passage was very closely mirrored in the show, with a few notable omissions that made Frank look bad). She says:
“You want to divorce me? Fine, use any grounds you like—with the exception of adultery, which you can’t prove, because it doesn’t exist. But if you try to take Bree away with you, I’ll have a thing or two to say about adultery. Do you want to know how many of your discarded mistresses have come to see me, to ask me to give you up?”
Frank responds a bit further on:
“I shouldn’t have thought you minded. It’s not as if you ever made a move to stop me.”
And then later, “You might have behaved as though it mattered to you,” he said quietly.
“It mattered.” My voice sounded strangled.
“Not enough.” OUCH.
You can see how this scene was subtly changed to make Frank seem like the victim and so much better than he was in the book. The directors/writers completely ignore his racism and his selfishness about pulling Bree out of school a few months before she would graduate high school. In fact, they turned this around, too. In the book, it was CLAIRE that pointed out that Bree wasn’t an irresponsible teenager; that she was a level-headed adult. In the show, they had Frank make that observation (because he was SUCH a better parent than Claire). In the book, it was Frank that was treating her like a child. Let’s face it, folks: book Frank is an asshole. Show Frank is practically a saint.
Finally, let’s talk about episode 305, Freedom and Whisky. Finally, we “non-Frank” people are thinking, “Great! We are done with Frank. He’s dead and gone. R.I.P. Hasta la vista, baby. Claire is free to follow her heart.” But Noooooooo. Frank is back from the grave, getting his posthumous adulation from the University, while Claire is accosted by his mistress, whining about how he was the “love of her life” and how she (Claire) is horrible person for not “letting him go” (as if she had kept him prisoner in a deep pit in their basement .

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Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, people, LET IT GO! He’s dead! Get over it! Move on! (If I see a tramp stamp of Frank’s face above Claire’s ass when Jamie peels off her corset next week, my head will explode…truly).
Please don’t get me wrong. I am THRILLED that Droughtander is over and our favorite show is back. For the most part (except for the Frank stuff), I am loving this season. The production value and the acting has been, as always, outstanding. Further, none of this critique has ANYTHING to do with Tobias Menzies. He is fine actor and probably a lovely person.

So, regarding Frank, is this it? No more Frank? No Frank flashbacks, Frank hauntings, Zombie-white walker Franks? Are we done with this, now? Yes? GOOD.

On a final note, I admit that I was squeeeeing like a teenager when Claire walked into that print shop at the end of Ep. 305. Judging by the sex scenes between Claire and Frank and Jamie and Geneva (which I had no problem with, as they are part of the story…although thank GOD they spared us the breast-feeding scene! That would have been way too “Game of Thrones/Lysa & Sweet Robin” for any of us to deal with! I think I would have had to bleach my eyeballs if I had been forced to witness THAT), I think TPTB got the message last year. We want to see the intimacy and physical love between Jamie and Claire that is integral to their characters and their relationship. Fortunately, it looks like we’re going to get it this season (and hopefully more than just next week). I am excited beyond belief to see our favorite power couple back in action, together, where they belong, going forward to live their crazy lives.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m glad that Frank is really most sincerely dead? Let’s hope he stays that way.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Frank Randall?

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Frank, Frank, Frank… Love him, hate him or just don’t care about him, people have verra strong opinions about Frank Randall. Is he the tragic hero in this tale, or just a condescending philanderer? I suppose the answer depends on how one feels about Frank and his role in this series.
Personally, I’m kind of in the middle; I neither hate nor love him. The problem, for me, is that he’s just not a compelling character. Any interest I may have had in Frank ended when Claire went through the stones. If you’ve read the books, you know his story mostly ended there. Yes, there are some glimpses into Claire’s life with Frank when she left Jamie and came back to the 20th century. There are also occasional memories about him imparted to the reader from Claire and Bree in later books. And there is the letter Frank writes to Reverend Wakefield about Jamie, which I will address later. But those passages take up very little of the overall story. Consequently, I have two main questions for the Powers that Be who bring us the show: 1. Why is Frank being given a much larger role than he has in the books, and, more importantly, 2. Why are they altering his character to make him more likeable in the show?
In my reading of the books, there is a lot more going against Frank than for him, but in fairness, I will say that I think Frank got a raw deal: he marries Claire, WWII intervenes a few months later and they are separated for years by their respective roles in the war effort. They both survive the war, come back together, practically strangers, and decide to go to Scotland on a second honeymoon so they can get to know each other again (or arguably, for the first time). They are there for a few days, and WHAM, Claire disappears into thin air.
Imagine being in that situation: someone you love has just vanished without a trace. No clues, no evidence of foul play, no closure. Just gone. What a horrible thing to endure – always wondering what happened to that person. Did he/she leave you, without even the courtesy of telling you why? Or was it more sinister? Was the person kidnapped? Murdered?
So, we have this poor man, whose wife has been inexplicably gone for nearly 3 years, trying to get on with his life when, suddenly, she reappears, telling a crazy tale of time travel. Oh, and she’s pregnant with another man’s child. Does she allege that she’s been held captive and was raped? No. The pregnancy is quite clearly voluntary and wanted(that’s GOTTA hurt). He takes her back (out of duty or love, I’m not sure), even though he is not buying her story, and says the they will raise the child as their own. Claire, reluctantly, agrees.
Given these circumstances, I am not unsympathetic to Frank. He didn’t do anything to cause this situation, and he stands by Claire when most men would not have done so. As Claire tells Roger in Voyager:

“He was a very decent man.”

So, we know from Claire herself that Frank was a good guy, and despite his other faults (and he has quite a few), I think, deep-down, he was. Frank is not my favorite character, but not because he was unfaithful to Claire. I don’t care for him because he’s often a pompous, condescending ass, and “frankly” (see what I did, there?) kind of boring. Before I continue, let me state that YES, Frank was unfaithful to Claire, despite people’s protestations to the contrary (including, unfathomably, Diana Gabaldon’s, who stated not long ago, that Frank’s infidelity was “ambiguous.” No, it wasn’t. It was quite unambiguous. While it is true that Claire never finds Frank and one of his mistresses in flagrante delicto, nor does he ever say “Hey Claire, guess what? I’ve been shagging everything in a skirt for the past twenty years!” the implication is pretty clearly written. I won’t repeat all of the evidence here, but if you want a prime example, read chapter 19, To Lay a Ghost, in Voyager, when Claire is thinking back on the argument she and Frank had right before he was killed in the automobile accident. He never once denies her accusations; he admits them. In response to her telling him that she knows he has been unfaithful he says:

 
“I thought I had been most discreet.”

 
Sounds like an admission to me! In many ways, one could argue that he was justified in seeking affection outside the marriage when he wasn’t getting any inside of it (although, personally, I think divorce is a better option than infidelity). But as I said, his infidelity is not the problem. Frank and Claire have a difficult marriage that is held together by the love they share for Brianna. In some ways they love each other, too, but not in the way that Jamie and Claire do, not even close.
The problem is Frank’s role in the story. Why make it more important than it was in the books? Now that we are in season three, and Claire has returned to the present, I suppose the producers must give time to what is happening in Claire’s life to juxtapose what is happening in Jamie’s to keep the story balanced. But does it need to be equal time? There is a lot more happening to Jamie during their twenty-year separation than to Claire. Why not spend a bit more of the first part of the new season focused on Jamie, rather than wasting valuable screen time, say, beating us over the head with the misogyny of 20th century America (seriously, one scene of that would have been more than sufficient; we got the message the first time), or watching Claire try to light the pilot on the stove? Jamie’s story during that time is much more involved–and spelled out in detail in the book–so why not use the time to stick closer to the story instead of speculating about the details Claire & Frank’s awkward marriage?
I do like the way they are moving back and forth between Jamie and Claire’s lives during their separation. What I object to is spending more time than necessary on Frank and deliberately making him more likeable in the show than in the books. This is not his story. He is a secondary character. I’ve said in previous posts how irritated I was that the writers and directors were altering Jamie, Claire and Frank’s personalities, especially in Season 2. Diana wrote these characters in a specific way; they don’t need to be changed.

One need only look at two other popular book series-to-film franchises: Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. I am a huge fan of both of these series and the thing I like so much about the film versions is that the essence of the main characters has not been changed from books to screen. Good, evil or some combination of the two, they are the same characters I loved in the books. I can only imagine how daunting a task it is to adapt a large book series to the small (or large) screen. Scenes must be cut, minor characters removed, or merged with other characters (which I hope they did with Murtagh. THAT’S a change I could get behind!), storylines altered or removed, etc., to bring the story to life on screen. The same is true of Outlander, and I completely respect that. What should not happen is for the personalities of the major characters to change, because that alters the essential essence of the story itself.
Here is an example from the first episode of this season, “The Battle Joined”. Mostly, I thought it was excellent, except for the very end. Even though we know next to nothing of Bree’s birth from the books, the way that it was interpreted in the show was not consistent with the character’s “book personalities.” It made no sense to have Frank carry in newborn Bree, give her to Claire, who takes one look at her (completely ignoring her beautiful red hair, and therefore her connection to Jamie), and tells Frank how sorry she is for being so horrid to him and that now they can begin a happy life anew. What???
They chose to hearken back to Claire’s distress at losing Faith during the beginning of that scene, when she wakes and asks if her baby is dead. What would have been truer to the story, in my opinion, would have been to focus on her loss of Jamie, given baby Bree’s resemblance to him (don’t tell me that the first thing she would have seen would have been that gorgeous hair!).

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There is no reason they couldn’t have done this: open the scene with Claire holding Bree, stroking her red hair, and feeling the absence of Jamie. Show her expressing her deep love for her child and her deep sorrow at knowing Jamie will never hold her. Maybe even have her imagining that Jamie is there with her, looking at Bree over her shoulder. That’s what I think book Claire would have done. Frank might be standing near the door watching her. He comes in, a brief, unspoken tension between them, and then he asks her to hold Bree.  When Claire sees Frank holding this baby, Jamie’s baby, and falling in love with her anyway, THAT would have broken down the wall between them. That would have achieved the same purpose of the scene, i.e. to bring Claire & Frank closer together, while staying true to the personalities of these characters and the larger story.

 
Frank’s Letter to Rev. Wakefield “Prepping” of Brianna for the Past
In Episode 2, “Surrender”, we saw Frank beginning to write a letter to Reverend Wakefield to see if he could find information about Jamie Fraser. Book readers will know, somewhat, what this is about. (SPOILER ALERT from the book) Frank eventually finds out that Jamie Fraser was an actual person and that he did not die at Culloden, which he doesn’t tell Claire or Bree (another thing which does not endear him to me). Instead he has a “marriage stone” (a headstone without birth and death dates) for Jamie (that says “James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, Beloved husband of Claire”) put in the kirkyard of St. Kilda’s church in Scotland near Jack Randall’s grave. He does this because he is fairly certain that one day Claire will take Bree to Scotland. He believes that Bree will look for Frank’s ancestors, Jack’s headstone, and then she and Claire will see Jamie’s. This is how Claire ends up telling Bree about Jamie in the book. He later writes a letter explain his actions to Reverend Wakefield. Roger finds this letter and tells Jamie about it (oh, and by the way, he kind of admits to his adultery in this letter as well). We don’t know exactly how much Frank knew, or when, but somehow he comes to believe Claire’s story, because as Bree is growing up, he “preps” her for life in the eighteenth century (teaching her to shoot, hunt, make fire, ride a horse, etc).
This part of the story is a wee bit murky. Having a headstone put in a graveyard in Scotland near Jack Randall’s grave on the off-chance that Bree would research her genealogy and that she and Claire would find them is quite a long shot. We do know that the reason he does all of this is so that they both will know about Jamie, and Claire will find out he didn’t die at Culloden, without him (Frank) having to tell her. I always found this to be a pretty selfish, cowardly thing to do to Claire. I understand that he was afraid she would leave him, but he was reasonably sure she wouldn’t leave Bree (or try to take her away). But he wanted to leave her and was well-aware of the love she had for Jamie, so why not tell her? He took the choice away from her.
The other part of this, that we don’t know, is why he believed Brianna would go back to the past at some point. 1. Why would he think she would believe the story? 2. Even if she did, why would he think that she could travel back, just because her mother could? 3. I assume that Frank didn’t think he would die at the age he did, and he never told them what he knew while he was alive because he didn’t want to lose Bree (he even threatened, right before he died, to take Bree away from Claire and move back to England (in the semester before she graduated from high school, by the way, another selfish act). So, if he believed he would live to a ripe-old age, and he had no intention of sharing the grave information while he was alive, what was the point of all these machinations? Even if he knew, somehow, that Bree could travel to the past, does anyone really believe he would have told her sooner, and risk losing her, maybe forever? I suppose Diana may explain all of this in her last book, but for me, even if she turns Frank into the secret hero of this entire story (like Snape in Harry Potter), I will still think it was pretty awful of him not to tell them.
So there you have it, my thoughts on Frank Randall. Thankfully, he won’t be around much longer. Winter is coming and those cold Boston streets are covered in black ice.

 

A Wee Coo’s Top 10 Hopes for Outlander Season 3

Droughtlander is OVER! Season 3 of Outlander is upon us, and I’m verra excited about it. (PRINT SHOP…need I say more?) I sincerely hope the producers took the criticisms of last season seriously and got themselves back on track for Season 3.  I’ve already seen the list of episode titles, so I know that many of these will be included (YAY!).  Hopefully S3 will spend time developing Jamie and Claire, and the relationship that we love so much from the books. I know we’re all dying to watch what’s been going on with Jamie during the 20 year separation (which, in my opinion, is the more compelling story), but we also need to spend time in the future.  Hopefully they will use those episodes wisely and won’t spend too much time dwelling on Frank and Claire’s passionless marriage, focusing instead on Bree and Claire’s relationship, Roger and Bree’s burgeoning love story and, of course, the search for Jamie Fraser.
So, here are my top 10 “must sees” for Season 3, not in any particular order. (Note: some of the pictures are from S1 & S2)

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1. A. Malcolm (of course). Every time I read this chapter, honestly, I’m sobbing, especially when Jamie is looking at the photos of Bree and goes “very quietly and thoroughly to pieces.” Kills me every time. There is a huge amount of pressure on the director, writers and actors to get this right. And not just the first moments together. They need to get the love scenes right, too. Jamie and Claire are both so scared and vulnerable that “first time”—just amazing in print. It may not have the same emotional impact on screen as reading it, but I think the writers and directors understood how important this reunion (all aspects of it) was to the fans. I think this will be just phenomenal to see.  We know Sam and Cait can pull it off.  The writers just had to go right to the source for inspiration. “Dinna be afraid,” he said softly. “There’s the two of us now.” SQUEEEEEE!

Outlander Season 3
2. Fergus’ hand. So heartbreaking when this happens and Jamie is helpless to stop it. But Fergus’ comeback is the best!
“Do you not recall our agreement, Milord?”
…”Agreement?”
“Yes, when you took me into your service in Paris. You told me “….if I should lose an ear or a hand while doing your service…”
“I would support you for the rest of your life.” Jamie was unsure whether to laugh or cry, and contented himself with patting the hand that now lay quiet on the quilt. “Aye, I remember. You may trust me to keep the bargain.”
“Oh I have always trusted you, milord,” Fergus assured him.

“So I am fortunate,” he murmured, still smiling. “For in one stroke, I am become a gentleman of leisure, non?” C’est magnifique.

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3. Jenny and Jamie/Wee Ian’s birth. I love this entire passage in the book: the British soldiers barge in, Jamie is hiding with the newborn baby Ian in the armoire, trying to keep him quiet, young Jamie is wailing and cursing at the soldiers, thinking the baby had died and it was their fault, Jenny trying to keep it together to save everyone, even though she just gave birth. Just fantastic. It was also so touching in showing the relationship between Jamie and Jenny, how lonely he is and how sad she is to see it.
“I ken ye mourn Claire.” His sister’s voice came softly from behind him. “D’ye think I could forget Ian, if he doesna come back? But it’s time ye went on, Jamie. Ye think Claire would want ye to live alone all your life, with no one to comfort ye or bear your children?”
He didn’t answer for a long time, just stood, feeling the soft heat of the small fuzzy head pressed against the side of his neck….
“She was with child,” he said softly at last, speaking to [his] reflection. “When she—when I lost her.” More sobbing.

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4. Culloden and Ardsmuir Prison: This will be incredibly sad and hard to watch, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the battle, and later the relationship between Lord John (one of my other favorite characters) and Jamie.

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5. All of the happenings at Helwater. Can’t wait for the scenes with Geneva, Willie’s birth, Ellesmere’s death, and young Willie’s time with “the groom” MacKenzie.

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6. “Daddy! Who is that woman!” – One of the iconic passages in the book. Poor Marsali (no one should see their “father” doing that, even if it IS Jamie…hmmmph!). As much as we all hate Laoghaire, this should be great fun to watch.

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7. Claire caring for Jaime after the gunshot. In the book, it always annoyed me that Claire ran off after finding out about Laoghaire, especially after swearing that nothing would make her leave him ever again, but I do love the scenes with them together, while he’s healing.
“Would ye care to tell me why jabbing pins in my arse is going to help my arm?” (literally laughed out loud when I read this, and again when he later says he should have let them burn her twenty years before).
And then when he opens up and starts to tell her what happened after Helwater, it just breaks your heart:
I was here,” he said softly, “but not home.”
I could feel the pull of it around me—the house, the family, the place itself. I, who couldn’t remember a childhood home, felt the urge to sit down here and stay forever, enmeshed in the thousand strands of daily life, bound securely to this bit of earth. What would it have meant to him, who had lived all of his life in the strength of that bond, endured his exile in the hope of coming back to it, and then arrived to find himself still rootless.
“And I suppose I was lonely,” he said quietly.
Again with the sobbing.

Outlander Season 3 2017
8. Roger and Bree: I’m so looking forward to seeing this relationship blossom  Roger has always been one of my favorite characters in this series and I love Rik and Sophie together! Can’t wait for Drums of Autumn to really see them in action!

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9. Turtle Soup! Oh MY…there IS, in fact, an episode of this title. This was one of the hottest, sexiest scenes I’ve ever read (and I read A LOT). Should be FANTASTIC. (Yes, I’m jumping up and down and squealing like a teenage girl).

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10. Lost at sea and found again in the New World. The hurricane was pretty harrowing in the book, and I’m 99% sure they will include it in the show. Jamie and Claire seem to lose one another, again, but, at last, they survive to start their new life in the Colonies. Fraser’s Ridge (and Drums of Autumn) here we come!!

Looking for Mr. Fraser

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What is it that we love so much about the Outlander books?  Is it Claire and her bad-ass self? The history? The adventure? The steamy sex? The love story?  For me, it’s all of those things.  But above all else, it’s one James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.

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 Outlander:  1636 vs 199

Dragonfly in Amber: 1832 vs 133

Voyager: 2508 vs 121

What are those numbers, you ask?  Mentions.

One of the best features of e-books is that they let readers (ok, maybe just me) indulge my obsession to find information about my favorite books quickly and easily (i.e., gather data, take notes, and highlight and/or bookmark favorite passages).  After the finale of Season 2, and to support my hypothesis that the show runners were getting off track where Jamie Fraser is concerned, I did a little search of Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager, the three books in the series where both Jamie and Frank appear.  The figures above show the number of times Jamie is mentioned versus the number of times Frank is mentioned.  The difference is pretty striking.  It’s also quite obvious who is the more important character.  Can’t dispute hard data, Ron.

Some fans (and apparently the showrunners) think that Outlander is strictly Claire’s story, and by extension, the story of her relationships with Frank and Jamie.  I don’t entirely agree with that.  In the wake of Season 2, I found myself in numerous discussions about this very topic with other “book people.”  I wasn’t surprised to discover how many of us see it quite differently; we see the Outlander series as more Jamie’s story than Claire’s. And even when we didn’t agree on that, two things about which we all did agree was that it is NOT Claire and Frank’s story, nor is it a “love triangle” between Jamie, Claire and Frank. The central character in the series is really Jamie.  The story may be told from Claire’s perspective, but her narrative is all about him: how he smells, the way he looks, his intelligence, his bravery, his sense of humor, the way he makes her feel…The few times she mentions Frank, it is usually to tell us that he was a good father to Bree and to let us know that in comparison to Jamie, as a man and a husband, he is woefully lacking (whether or not she had a hand in those failures is a topic for another post):

Jamie. Jamie was real, all right, more real than anything had ever been to me, even Frank and my life in 1945.  Jamie, tender lover and perfidious black-guard.

Perhaps that was part of the problem.  Jamie filled my senses so completely that his surroundings seemed almost irrelevant.  But I could no longer afford to ignore them.  My recklessness had almost killed him this afternoon, and my stomach turned over at the thought of losing him.

-Outlander

*Note: this passage is from right after she tried to get back to Frank, but was picked up by the Redcoats and taken to Fort William. Makes me wonder if her heart was really in it, or did she just feel guilty and obligated to try and return to Frank? Just something to consider.

As I mentioned, I realize that some people still see Claire as the main character-that the story is about Claire and what happens to her, and that Frank is just as important a part of her life as Jamie. I ask those people to please read the books again.  Once Jamie comes into her life, almost everything Claire does and says is relayed to the reader through the prism of Jamie: how events affect him as an individual, them as a couple, and the world they inhabit.  He is like the sun; a powerful, magnetic force to which everyone is drawn and around which everything revolves.  The difference in Outlander, though, is that the depth of feeling isn’t one-sided. For Jamie, Claire has the same overwhelming pull for him as he does for her

“I had thought I was well beyond that stage, had lost all trace of softness and was well set on my way to a middle age of stainless steel.  But now I thought that Frank’s death had cracked me in some way,  And the cracks were widening, so that I could no longer patch them with denial. I had brought my daughter back to Scotland, she with those bones strong as the ribs of Highland mountains, in the hope that her shell was strong enough to hold her together, while the center of her “I am” might still be reachable.

But my own core no longer held in the isolation of “I am,” and I had no protection to shield me from the softness from within.  I no longer knew what I was or what she would be; only what I must  do. (my emphasis)

For I had come back, and I dreamed once more, in the cool air of the Highlands.  And the voice of my dream still echoed through ears and heart, repeated with the sound of Brianna’s sleeping breath.

“You are mine,” it had said. “Mine! And I will not let you go.”

-Dragonfly In Amber

*Note:  these are Claire’s thoughts after 20 years apart from Jamie.  Her first instinct after Frank’s death is to run back to Scotland, in search of a ghost. Her grief is palpable-but it’s not for Frank.

……………………….

“It’s a lot too late to ask that,” I said, and reached to touch his cheek, where the rough beard was starting to show. It was soft under my fingers, like a stiff plush.  “Because I’ve already risked everything I had.  But whoever you are now, Jamie Fraser-yes.  Yes, I do want you.”

-Voyager

I don’t mean to say that Claire isn’t also a wonderful character, and Caitriona plays her brilliantly.  She embodies the characteristics that many of us, as women, possess ourselves (or wish we did!): strength, intelligence, resilience, compassion, resourcefulness, sensuality, and yes, a certain degree of recklessness and a “damn the consequences” attitude.  But for all of her great, and not-so-great, qualities, I would go so far as to suggest that Claire is at her most interesting when she is with Jamie (and before I get a lot of comments suggesting I’m being sexist, NO, I do not think a woman needs a man (not even Jamie Fraser) to be interesting, fulfilled or complete!).  I just happen to think there is a good case to be made for Jamie being the more fascinating character. (Side note: I’m not saying that he is perfect. If he were, he wouldn’t feel so “real” to the reader. However, I really wish the whole “King of Men” moniker could just be erased.  It’s silly and turns the very interesting character of Jamie Fraser into more of a caricature. Nobody wants to see that. Ron practically rolls his eyes whenever he says it, and Sam looks uncomfortable whenever someone mentions it.  Jamie Fraser is supposed to be a human being (granted, an exceptional one), not a comic book super hero).

Consider this:  would you be more interested in reading a story about Claire without Jamie, or one about Jamie without Claire? I know, I know, most of us would prefer them together as a couple, but indulge me.  I know which I would choose.  Even Diana Gabaldon finds Jamie the more interesting character:  beyond the core Outlander series, Virgins is about Jamie, The Exile is about Jamie, The Scottish Prisoner is about Jamie (even though it’s in the Lord John series).  Are there any additional books or novellas about Claire? No.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe Diana has even said that she relates more to Jamie than to Claire.  And why not?  Jamie is a much more compelling and nuanced character than Claire.  We know what Claire will do in almost every situation (usually something that ends up putting Jamie and/or herself in mortal danger…lol), but Jamie often surprises us.  In addition, it is Jamie that develops the most over the course of the series.  We see him as a young, slightly reckless warrior, a survivor of sexual assault, an outlaw, a prisoner, a merchant, a conspirator, a soldier, a laird, a printer, a smuggler, a pioneer… Most importantly, we see him grow and mature as man, a father, a grandfather and a husband to Claire.

So all of this begs the question: why are TPTB (the powers that be) changing the story and minimizing Jamie’s character in the show?  In Jamie they have a beautifully rich character in his own right, they have enough great prose and dialogue in the books for 50 episodes per season and they have the perfect actor to play him. It makes no sense to shift so much focus away from the most beloved character in the books. Here are some examples of what I mean.

For the most part, I loved Season 1, and after re-reading (again) Outlander, I realized why. THEY STUCK (MOSTLY) TO THE BOOK AND USED A LOT OF DIANA’S DIALOGUE.  Perhaps that’s less interesting for the screenwriters, but their job is to adapt an existing piece of work to film, not to re-write the characters. Wisely, that’s what they did in Season 1.  I will take exception to two, rather major, changes to the first season.  The first was in The Wedding. In the show, the focus was on Claire.  In fact, in the recap after the episode, both Ron and Terry said that it was “all about the dress, Claire’s entrance, the way Jamie reacts to her,”etc., etc. But if you re-read that passage in the book, you will see that they were wrong.  Diana wrote it from the completely opposite perspective. Diverging from societal norms, this wedding wasn’t all about the bride; it was about the groom:

It was a “warm” Scottish day, meaning that the mist wasn’t quite heavy enough to qualify as a drizzle, but not far off, either.  Suddenly the inn door opened, and the sun came out, in the person of James.  If I was a radiant bride, the groom was positively resplendent.  My mouth fell open and stayed that way.

A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight–any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance.  A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breathtaking.

Well over six feet tall, broad in proportion and striking of feature, he was a far cry from the grubby horse-handler I was accustomed to–and he knew it. Making a leg in courtly fashion, he swept me a bow of impeccable grace murmuring “Your servant, Ma’am,” eyes glinting with mischief.

“Oh,” I said faintly.                                                                                                         

-Outlander

Don’t get me wrong. I loved that episode, and still think it was one the best hours of film that I have ever seen.  I loved the way they started after the ceremony and worked backward. I loved the sex scenes, going from awkward first encounter, to the passionate, lust-filled round 2, to the beginnings of falling in love at the end. I loved the scene between Jamie and Murtagh talking about Jamie’s mother and how Claire’s “smile was as sweet” as Ellen’s.  I loved the “bible smack-down” between Willie and the priest.  It was romantic, funny, emotional and sexy as hell!  In short, it was perfection, so I didn’t mind the change.

At the time, I also didn’t really think anything of shifting the focus from Jamie to Claire when, for example, the writers had Jamie thinking that it was the vision of Claire that was “like the sun coming out,” instead of the other way around. I appreciated that the reversal was made as Ron’s homage to his wife, Terry.  In fact, I thought it was quite a sweet gesture and didn’t think it took anything away from Jamie’s character to do it. However, in retrospect, having seen all of the other changes where the focus was moved from Jamie to Claire in Season 2, I’m beginning to think that maybe it was more deliberate, and less romantic, than I originally thought. Maybe I’m just cynical.

The other significant change to Season 1, which I mentioned in my previous post, was the failure to allow time for Jamie to heal and for he and Claire to reconnect after his assault at the hands of BJR. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe were brilliant with what they were given.  But why was that entire section skipped when it was so hugely significant to the development of Jamie and Claire’s relationship? Those of you who have read the books know what I’m talking about (the length and intensity of the “exorcism,” the tentative first intimate encounter, the passion and re-connection in the hot spring, and yes, even the dark humor). There really was no excuse for it, given that they had three additional episodes in which to address it.  Both Maril and Terry are huge fans of the books; I find it difficult to believe that this subject never came up in private discussions,  in the writer’s room or when they were blocking out the episodes before filming. I mention it again here because it was a rare, but crucial, misstep by TPTB.  Not only did it fail to give both the characters and the audience a much-needed catharsis after the events in Wentworth Prison and to Ransom a Man’s Soul, it resulted in the writers having to alter the natures of the core characters and much of the flow of Season 2.  I suppose we’ll never know why they chose to eliminate those scenes from Season 1, but someday I’d really like an honest answer to that question.  I would much rather know it was a miscalculation rather than an intentional decision to prop up Frank’s character and undermine Jamie’s.

As for Season 2, I’ve already made my thoughts known on the altering of Claire & Frank’s characters, the diminishing of Jamie’s and on the nearly complete, and incomprehensible, lack of sex and intimacy between Jamie and Claire (see Yeah…It Kind of IS About the Sex). I won’t revisit them here.  In preparing to write this post, I re-read many different parts of the first three books, among them “the print shop scene.”  As always, it brought me to tears.  I so want the filmed version to do the same.  I mean, seriously, I want to be like this when I see it:

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As of this writing, the cast and crew have reconvened in Scotland and are ready to start filming Season 3, Voyager.  So here are my pleas to Ron, Maril, and all of the directors and writers:

  • Please DO NOT continue down the path you were on in Season 2.  Focus on Jamie – and on the relationship between Jamie and Claire.  A LOT happens in Voyager, but don’t get so lost in the “action” that you forget why millions of fans love these books.  If we want to watch a high-seas adventure in the Caribbean with lots of gratuitous and unnecessary sex, we’ll watch Black Sails.  There are many scenes you can skip or merge together for the sake of time. Some suggestions:  99% of Claire’s life with Frank, the serial killer in Edinburgh, Mr. Willoughby, some of the events in the ocean crossing, much of the voodoo in the Caribbean.  There are plenty of things you can skim over that won’t affect the story going forward to Drums of Autumn. Please do not skip over Jamie’s time without Claire (i.e., Ardsmuir, Lallybroch, Helwater) or any of the time with him when she returns. Those scenes are far too important not to include in all their glory.
  • PLEASE, do not make the mistake you made in Season 2 (and yes, I do think it was a mistake) by skimping on the love story (including the sex) that is the heart of Outlander. There is no shame in producing a top-quality love story. They are sorely lacking on television today. You have enough talented people working on this show that you can weave the romance between Jamie and Claire seamlessly into the history and adventure of the story.  You did it in Season 1 and it was adored by critics and fans alike.  I challenge you to do it again. Let us see more of this:

“Do ye know?” he said softly, somewhere in the black, small hours of the night. “Do ye know what it’s like to be with someone that way? To try all ye can, and seem never to have the secret of them?

“Yes,” I said, thinking of Frank. “Yes, I do know.”

“I thought perhaps ye did,” He was quiet for a moment, and then his hand touched my hair lightly, a shadowy blur in the firelight

“And then…” he whispered, “then to have it all back again, that knowing. To be free in all ye say or do, and know that it is right.”

“To say ‘I love you,’ and mean it with all your heart,” I said softly to the dark.

“Aye,” he answered, barely audible. “To say that.”

His hand rested on my hair, and without knowing quite how it happened, I found myself curled against him, my head just fitting in the hollow of his shoulder.

“For so many years,” he said, “for so long, I have been so many things, so many different men.” I felt him swallow, and he shifted slightly, the linen of his nightshirt rustling with starch.

“I was Uncle to Jenny’s children, and Brother to her and Ian. ‘Milord’ to Fergus, and ‘Sir’ to my tenants. ‘Mac Dubh’ to the men of Ardsmuir and ‘MacKenzie’ to the other servants at Helwater. ‘Malcolm the printer,’ then ‘Jamie Roy’ at the docks.” The hand stroked my hair, slowly, with a whispering sound like the wind outside. “But here in the dark, with you…I have no name.”

I lifted my face toward his, and took the warm breath of him between my own lips.

“I love you,” I said, and did not need to tell him how I meant it.

  • Please stop changing the story by focusing so much on Claire (and giving so many great lines written for Jamie to Claire).  Diana wrote them for Jamie for good reason. It doesn’t bolster Claire’s character to diminish Jamie’s.  Claire is not a character who would give up everything for a man who was not her equal.  And Jamie wouldn’t be with a woman that was angry and shrewish.  If he wanted that, he would have stayed with Laoghaire.  And therein lies the secret to what makes this story so popular with your key demographic, i.e., women.  Jamie and Claire are not only soul-mates; they are a match of equals.

“You are my courage, as I am your conscience,” he whispered. “You are my heart-and I your compassion. We are neither of us whole, alone. Do ye not know that, Sassenach?”

“I know that,” I said, and my voice shook. “That’s why I’m so afraid. I don’t want to be half a person again. I can’t bear it.”

-Drums of Autumn

  • Please, please, please stop with the Frank lovefest.  I have nothing against Tobias Menzies, but ENOUGH. This story is NOT about Frank. We don’t need to see every detail of Claire’s life with Frank.  Even the non-book readers can infer what those 20 years were like. Personally,  I don’t want to hear from RDM & Co. ever again about how we “need to include Frank so that we can understand Claire.” No…we don’t.  And we really don’t if you keep changing Frank’s nature.  “Book Frank” was kind of jerk; not the nice, understanding saint you changed him into.  If Frank were that wonderful, why would Claire want to go back to Jamie? Why would she have spent that entire 20 years in love with a ghost?  The story needs to make sense to the non-book readers.  If you truly want to understand Claire, you need to focus on JAMIE.

“All the time after ye left me, after Culloden-I was dead then, was I not?”

“I was dead, my Sassenach-and yet all that time, I loved you.”

I closed my eyes, feeling the tickle of the grass on my lips, light as the touch of sun and air.

“I loved you, too,” I whispered. “I still do.”

The grass fell away.  Eyes still closed, I felt him lean toward me, and his mouth on mine, warm as sun, light as air.

“So long as my body lives, and yours-we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched my, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.

“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours.  Claire-I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.”

The wind stirred the leaves of the chestnut trees nearby, and the scents of late summer rose up rich around us; pine and grass and strawberries, sunwarmed stone and cool water, and the sharp musky smell of his body next to mine.

“Nothing is lost, Sassenach; only changed.”

“That’s the first law of thermodynamics,” I said, wiping my nose.

“No,” he said. “That’s faith.”

-Drums of Autumn

 

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(Not sure who made this .gif, but thank you!)

 

You have found the perfect actor to play Jamie Frasier in Sam Heughan.  Diana has created one of popular literature’s most beloved characters in Jamie Fraser.  Give Sam his due; let him run with it.  The fans will love you, and the show will be all the better for it.