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.

 

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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.

“I Will Have Your Surrender Before You Leave This World”

“I felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast, the smell of the damp earth, the unseen presence of victorious corruption, and the darkness of an impenetrable night…”

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

Och, lads and lasses, I dinna think I can be witty after watchin’ Episode 115. It’s way too dark in my wee coo heid. I suspect the finale will be just as devastating. I tried in my last post to use humor, not to make light of the subject matter, but to remind myself that these are fictional characters, and to try and prepare myself for the last two episodes.  I dinna think it worked. Most of us knew what was coming.  We thought we were prepared for it. We weren’t.  It was beyond harrowing and extremely hard to watch.  I’m sure I’m not the only person who turned her head away, covered her eyes and physically recoiled at Jamie’s agony, Claire’s anguish and the revolting display of BJR’s sadistic cruelty.  But, in my humble opinion, as a fan of these books, it was important, necessary even, for us to bear witness. We owed it to Jamie. To everyone involved with this episode, you created a Masterpiece.

From what I read out in “social media world”, the reaction of both the public and the critics was, for the most part, very positive. But there were some people that felt that the writers and director went too far in the depiction of the violence, to the point of describing the episode as exploitative “rape and torture porn.”  I disagree. Perhaps the problem was in the medium, not in the material.  In the books, what happened to Jamie is given to us second hand, from Claire’s POV.  On television, Ron Moore and company were faced with the task of giving it to us in real time.  In the books, we can “see” what we want to see, and what we don’t.  We can skim past (or skip altogether) those parts that make us uncomfortable; our minds protect us from what we don’t wish to confront.  On film, however, we can’t hide from the immediacy of the images.  The rape and torture are there for us to see, visceral and brutal, thanks to the skill of the actors, director, writers, make-up artists, special effects crew and cinematographers.  If we choose to watch, we are forced to see their vision of what we have read.  If that vision is even worse than what we imagined, we find it even more upsetting.  But I say to the critics of the episode: if you think it went too far, then you should direct your anger at Diana Gabaldon, not at director Anna Foerster and writer Ira Stephen Behr.  The episode was faithfully adapted from the source material; the rape and torture scenes were not gratuitously added or made more gruesome just to generate hype and controversy.   Re-read the book; that’s how it went down, people.  And don’t kid yourselves…when we get to the finale, if Ron and company stay true to form, things will get a whole lot worse before they get better. I understand what those who didn’t like it are saying. I get it. Really, I do.  So much so that I nearly didn’t read the rest of the series after reading Outlander the first time because of what happened at Wentworth Prison.  I was so angry at Gabaldon for “doing that to Jamie.”  Even now, after having read all of them (more than once), I still struggle with her choice to build up this wonderful character, only to utterly destroy him.  I know he recovers, but it’s clear that he suffers from PTSD for the rest of his life.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in fantasyland.  I know life isn’t fair. I don’t expect everything to have a happy ending.  I’ve written things myself that are dark and ugly.  I just couldn’t understand why she felt it necessary to go there with Jamie and BJR.  Wasn’t the flogging enough?  So why?  WHY?

I guess we’ll never really know why she chose to write that into the book.  I know she’s said it has to do with plotting and structure and the “rule of 3,” but that’s really not the answer we want.  It’s a wonderful story that we all love, much as we might hate the scenes at Wentworth and the aftermath at the Abbey. But in the end, Diana Gabaldon made up these characters and it was her choice as to what trajectory their stories took. We can accept them or put the books aside and never read them again.  The more interesting question is why do we care so much? Would we have been as upset if BJR had chosen to torture and rape just some random character?  I doubt it.  We would have found his sadistic behavior upsetting, but we wouldn’t have cared in the same way. We’re invested in Jamie and Claire, so we care about what happens to them.  It seems to be human nature to care more about the pain of those we love, even when they are fictional, than about other people in general.  What does that say about us?

Another interesting question that comes up in discussions of these events is: “Why do we find it so much more disturbing when this happens to a man?”   Is it so unnerving to us because it happened to Jamie, or because the victim is male?  Let’s face it, we’re all kind of in love with him, so perhaps it is because it’s Jamie. But it’s not really that simple. Why is it that people seem to be much more appalled if a man is raped, than a woman? One reason, and Jamie does talk about this when he describes his ordeal to Claire, is that men cannot stop themselves from responding sexually, even though they are repelled by what is happening to them.

“… he hurt me -hurt me badly- while he did it, but it was an act of love to him. And he made me answer him- damn his soul! He made me rouse to him!”  The hand bunched into a fist and struck the bedframe with an impotent rage that made the whole bed tremble.”

If you stimulate a man, his body body will respond. The same is usually not true for a woman, not under those circumstances.  So, on top of the rage and pain and shame victims feel after being sexually assaulted, men have the added issue of feeling that they somehow “actively participated” in it, even though that was clearly not their intention. Consequently, it must make them question their own role in the assault with respect to “consent.” Their bodies betray them. That’s a pretty horrible burden to bear.  But does this mean that rape is worse for men?  I guess that depends on your perspective. I would posit that it is equally devastating for a man or a woman, just in different ways. And let’s face it, it’s women who constitute the majority of rape victims, both in the media and in the real world. Regarding people’s reaction, or lack thereof, to female rape, that, my friends, is more of a sociological discussion.   Hold on a sec…need to step up on my soapbox for a moment.

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We live in a rape culture. It’s everywhere: on television, in feature films, in literature, comic books, video games…and, worst of all, in reality.  To illustrate my point, Google the name Anita Sarkeesian.  For those of you unfamiliar with her, she is a media critic and blogger who has been repeatedly threatened with rape, torture and death just for having the audacity to speak out against violent and degrading images of females in video games.  Yes, really, you heard that correctly.  Over fucking, stupid, inconsequential video games. Or what about the Indian woman who was gang-raped, tortured and murdered on a public bus in Delhi?  The examples are too numerous to mention.  The pervasive depiction of violence in various media unfortunately only serves to “normalize” the sexual objectification and exploitation of women, to the point that we have become numb to it.  We barely even notice it on the screen anymore. Maybe that’s what we should really get upset about. Pretty scary that we don’t. I do have a pet theory about this episode and the upcoming finale:  maybe, just maybe, they decided not to pull any punches with the violence in these episodes as a way of reminding viewers just how damaging and horrendous rape really is. To remind us that it is not about sex, but about power and control. I have no way of knowing if that’s the case, but I like to think so.  Ok, rant over. Back to the episode…

How is it that you can love something as an amazing piece of film and still be totally creeped-out and repulsed by it? I’m not sure how they managed it, but to Anna Foerster and Ira Steven Behr: Bravo.  As for the actors, I am in awe. The performances blew me away. Fearless and absolutely raw.

“I have never met any really wicked person before. I feel rather frightened. I am so afraid he will look just like everyone else.”Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Let’s start with Tobias Menzies. His portrayal of of BJR is riveting and so, so, SO disturbing in its oh-so-polite precision.  It was beyond uncomfortable to watch him smash Jamie’s hand, then hold him and shush him like a child, all the while putting his uninjured hand between his legs to arouse him. But no, he “won’t give in to coarse passion.” He wants Jamie to surrender to him…to “consent” to his own torture and sexual assault.  How does he achieve that?  By using the one weapon he knows will work:  Claire.  And when he kisses Jamie, after nailing his hand to the table…was there anyone not weeping for Jamie and Claire by then?.  Oh, and let’s not even talk about he back licking. Menzies’ performance made me want to: 1. shower, 2. shower again, 3. sit in a corner, curled in the fetal position, clutching a Costco-sized bottle of Laphroaig with a very long straw in it.  Thanks, Tobias.

Caitriona Balfe

“Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild; With a faery, hand in hand; For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” ― Willam Butler Yeats, Collected Poems

I have to admit, when I first saw Cat, she was not who I pictured as Claire at all, but it didn’t take long for her to turn me around. She is amazing.  She IS Claire: independent, strong, funny, intelligent, and beautiful inside and out. And the chemistry with Sam Heughan? Perfection.  Her performances have been wonderful since the very first episode, but in this one, she was exceptional. We were right there with her in Sir Fletcher’s office, barely keeping it together, and then losing it spectacularly as she stumbled out of the prison. The expression on her face as she looked into the box containing Jamie’s personal effects, the Je Suis Prest brooch, Sawny…all those small, personal things that summed up the life of the man she loved, broke all of our hearts. It was devastating.  Later, when she was in the cell with Jamie, we all experienced her anguish over what had happened to him, and what would happen to him and how helpless she felt, knowing she couldn’t save him from the horror of Jack Randall.

Sam Heughan

“Innocence eroded into nightmare. All because of very bad touch. Love, corrupted.” ― Ellen Hopkins, Fallout

Jesus, man, you could have prepared us! I did not see that coming.  Wow.  Just, wow. Mind blown. I’m not sure Sam always gets his due as an actor, with so much attention being focused on Tobias and how creepy his Jack Randall is.  But that time is over. Sam’s performance was stunning, especially considering that he was chained up and nailed to a table for a good portion of the episode. I’m certainly no expert on acting, but it seems to me that Sam had the harder job in this. All he had to work with, for the most part, was his face.  The range of emotion that he managed to convey with just his eyes was astonishing. In just that one scene, when BJR cuts open his shirt and is caressing and licking the scars on his back, we all saw, and experienced, Jamie’s realization of just how depraved Randall was. We felt his rage, agony, revulsion, fear and finally despair, all in the course of just a few minutes, just by watching his face.  If that performance wasn’t Emmy-worthy, I don’t know what is.

As much as I was dreading this episode (and most of the next one as well), I was thrilled for the actors. They were up against some horribly dark and difficult material and they did not flinch away from it, and they did not disappoint. I’m sure the finale will be just as amazing. Masterpiece, indeed.