Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Outlander: "Both Sides Now"

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I don’t expect anyone to read this, but I have got to write down my thoughts and the only way I can think to decompress is to brainstorm those thoughts.

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~♥~♥~♥~♥~~♥~♥~♥~♥~

The mid-season finale to Outlander aired Saturday night, and I am not very happy. (FYI: I will be listing book spoilers). I didn’t hate it exactly. I loved several parts of it in fact, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried for the second half of the season. I awoke the next morning and felt so angry the more I thought about it.

Up until now I’ve been okay with most of the changes, but after Saturday night I'm no longer in denial.

Some very key moments have been cast aside, and I'm speaking of common sense things; basic personality traits, which convey to the audience an actual growing relationship between Jamie and Claire.

Have there been any Jamie/Claire scenes so far that are true to form? Yes, but not enough to justify the 'punishment' that's coming up in the next episode.

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(It airs in April, even though all along we’ve been told the 2nd half of the season would resume in January).

It’s the same with the honesty speech Jamie gives Claire on their wedding night…

"There are things that I canna tell you, at least not yet. And I'll ask nothing of ye that ye canna give me. But what I would ask of ye---when you do tell me something, let it be the truth. And I'll promise ye the same. We have nothing now between us, save---respect, perhaps. And I think that respect has maybe room for secrets, but not for lies. Do ye agree?"

- Chapter 15: Revelations of the Bridal Chamber - Page 273

… that is a KEY QUOTE in regard to understanding Jamie's character, and it does affect the rules for their relationship in the future. WHY did they not include this on the show? It is essential!

And even if it does crop up at some point, it'll be too late. The damage has already been done. The honesty speech belonged in the wedding episode, and if it comes up in a later episode the impact of it won't be as powerful now.

Judging from reports I’ve been reading online, I’m fearful that newbies to the Outlander world do not understand why so many people have fallen so madly in love with Jamie and Claire’s story. (I've even heard of people thinking that FRANK is the hero of the story).

It isn’t their fault. Who can blame them? They can’t understand what they’re missing because the Jamie/Claire relationship that they’re viewing on tv isn’t in the same place as the Jamie/Claire relationship in the books. At this point in the tv series, the depth of their relationship should be matching the books. They should be intersecting.

Unfortunately, they’re not.

At this point in the book, their feelings haven’t yet reached their full potential but at least it’s further along than we’ve been seeing onscreen. While their love – especially on Claire’s side – is gradual, by this point it should consist of more than a physical attraction and just being two friends married out of necessity.

Had there been less scenes - or none at all - of Frank in this episode, we would be seeing more of that oh-so-needed Jamie/Claire bonding.

At present, seeing that bond is vital!!!

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I'm sorry, but there should be no Team Frank. Starz is focusing on Frank a lot more than necessary, and the result of that is Jamie/Claire’s connection getting the shaft.

Up until the mid-season finale I really believed that the Outlander production team would always at least keep the most important aspects of the story and characters in place. Obviously I was wrong, and stupid, gullible me didn't see it coming.
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This isn't a story about Frank and Claire, and it's apparent that some newbies are under the impression that Frank is more integral to core of the series than he really is. Is he important? Yes, but is he ALL important like Jamie? No.

I have no problem with them adding to Frank's storyline, but I do have a problem - and a major one - when in order to execute that they push JAMIE of all characters aside to do it. We don’t need character development for Frank, whom overall isn’t even a major character. It’s the hero of the story that needs to be fleshed out. Why is this not obvious to Ron Moore and the writers? This isn’t only Writing 101. It’s common sense. Understanding Jamie is more important than understanding Frank, PERIOD!

For instance, the scene with Frank going all Black Jack in the alley. There was no reason for it. Not only is it against Frank’s character, but it takes time away from some desperately needed Jamie/Claire relationship development. Frank going berserk was unneeded fluff.

What are they thinking? Did Starz think all the extra subscribers they were going to gain from this tv series had never picked up the Outlander series of books? Did they think the majority of them wanted to see FRANK's side of things? Employ a little common sense, please.

And why waste so much time focusing on Frank’s search? We’re not stupid. We know he’s in 1940’s Scotland looking for the whereabouts of his wife. That’s obvious. We know this and we don’t need half an episode – the MID-SEASON FINALE for God’s sake – to reveal this. Frank should not be a priority here.

Screen time for such an important episode was not used very wisely. Why?

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This tv series is supposed to be an adaptation of the books. These books are ultimately about Claire choosing Jamie, why she does so, how it affects her life, and how other people in her life are affected by this decision forever after.

Separating the book from the series, Jamie's character traits aren't where they should be at this point. Readers of the books understand who Jamie Fraser is, but if you’re only a viewer of the tv series you are missing out on LOADS and LOADS of character development when it comes to Jamie. (A lot of which takes place during his and Claire's honeymoon, which the tv series skipped over in favor of Frank). These viewers have no idea what they're missing, and that’s frustrating to think about.

And oh my God! One of the most endearing lines from Jamie - "Does it ever stop, the wanting you?" They just shot the original meaning to hell. It was meant to come across as sincere, even spiritual in a way. On the whole I had no problem with that scene, but over time I stopped lying to myself because those words did not come across - AT ALL - as to how they were originally intended. It was as if they decided to pick a random line from the book, and then - as if it was a doggy bone - tossed it in the fans general direction, hoping it'd satiate our appetite for hearing actual lines from the books.

NEWSFLASH! It isn't about the lines themselves. It's about THE TRUTH behind those lines. It's about the ESSENCE behind the words. Just why do they think these books are so popular? If they change the spirit of these characters and their story, then by the end it won't be the same story.

Also, this reminds me of the scene with the pearls in the wedding episode. I didn't like how one moment Jamie was all "These pearls belonged to my mother, whom was very precious to me," and the next second Claire is wearing the pearls and nothing else and it's Making-Whoopie-Time. I'm not a prude, but for me it completely cheapened the sweetness of the gesture.

And yes, I realize that Starz itself is likely the one to blame for that but the fact remains that Ron Moore and Company needs to stop twisting - or leaving out - the most important elements in the Outlander Universe. I see nothing wrong with enhancing a story, but at least preserve the most important aspects.

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Claire has to choose between Frank and Jamie pretty soon, and people who have only seen the series have no clue that Starz is already beginning to fall behind at showing the many facets of Jamie’s character. He has a lot more depth than what we're seeing. (I've actually read, and from several people, that Jamie is coming across as a teenager half the time. This isn't good news).

At this juncture in their story, we should also see that Claire understands Jamie even more than she ever understood Frank.

And WHERE was the honesty speech during the wedding episode? (Yes, this again. It IS important). That one conversation was only THE FOUNDATION of Claire and Jamie's relationship. The heart of their relationship began with those words.

Bottom Line: Claire and Jamie’s relationship simply isn’t developing at the rate that it should be. There are some very, very intense situations coming up and I'm not so sure that Jamie and Claire have bonded enough to weather it together.

And I think it’s important to note that I’m not upset over Sam or Caitriona’s acting skills at all, or even some of the changes and additions. (Sam is definitely doing his homework because he is including Jamie's mannerisms quite a bit). It's the brushing aside of Jamie’s character, and situations from the books that are IMPERATIVE for Jamie/Claire's relationship to work and be believable.

Up until this mid-season finale, I've been very forgiving of all this.

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I absolutely hated this part of the episode. It was a train wreck, and even now I can't gather the courage to watch it again. It was an absolute mess.

It was cheesier than a can of Cheez Whiz.

For people that haven't read these books, I fear that the scene with the stones has given them the wrong impression. Claire's SCREECHING Frank's name (like she was Scarlett O'Hara running after Rhett Butler) was a bit much.

And Frank’s crying of Claire’s name…. bad, bad, BAD acting right there. I was shocked. He’s supposed to be crying and at the end of his rope, but where were his tears? And his voice… “Claire… Claire!” … horrible, horrible acting. And I’m not saying this because I think they’ve spent too much time on Frank’s character. Even though I've never seen any roles that Tobias Menzie's has been in, I’ve always thought he was a fine choice to play the role, but now I can only hope there won’t be any more dramatic scenes like that for him. I didn’t believe him at all. Sorry to sound harsh, but his acting sucked something major in that scene. It was so phony. Watching it, I felt pretty embarrassed for him.

The whole scene at Craig na Dun just felt waaaay over the top and overly dramatic.

I understand that at this point Claire still loves Frank, but at least in the book we know that Claire does feel torn over going through the stones. She has at least some internal conflict over how it would affect Jamie, and what it would do to her to leave him. She even realizes that if Jamie found someone else to love – Laoghaire in particular – she doesn’t exactly feel comfortable over it. She feels jealousy deep in her gut just thinking about him with someone else. I think she even mentions her stomach lurching at the thought.

No, you can see for yourself. Here's part of that scene:

My stomach gave a sudden lurch as I thought of Jamie. God, how could I do it? Leave him without a word of explanation or apology? Disappear without a trace, after what he had done for me?

With that thought I finally decided to leave the horse. At least he would think I had not left him willingly; he might believe I had been killed by wild beasts— I touched the dagger in my pocket— or possibly kidnapped by outlaws. And finding no trace of me, eventually he would forget me, and wed again. Perhaps the lovely young Laoghaire, back at Leoch.

Absurdly enough, I found that the thought of Jamie sharing Laoghaire’s bed upset me as much as the thought of leaving him. I cursed myself for idiocy, but I couldn’t help imagining her sweet round face, flushed with ardent longing, and his big hands burying themselves in that moonbeam hair....

I unclenched my teeth and resolutely wiped the tears off my cheeks. I hadn't time nor energy for senseless reflections. I must go, and now, while I could. It might be the best chance I would get. I hoped that Jamie would forget me. I knew that I would never be able to forget him.


In this episode however, it was as if Claire had completely forgotten about Jamie and had no affection for him whatsoever. I just don't believe that scene was true to Claire's character and her growing feelings for Jamie. (But again, the show isn’t focusing on developing their relationship at the rate that it should be). In that particular scene Jamie was COMPLETELY swept under the rug.

This isn't mere opinion, it's fact.

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And NO ONE should be wishing for Claire to go through those stones and back to Frank. That shouldn’t even be a thought inside anyone’s head. If anything, it should be the opposite and if anyone wanted her to make it through the stones and back to Frank then this series is beginning to fail. Even if Gabaldon herself approved such a scene - which I do believe she did - to faithful readers of THE SPIRIT of the book, it’s insulting. (I realize not everyone feels that way, but speaking for myself... it felt offensive to the very heart of the story. The dramatic music, camera shots, and poor acting from Tobias made it look like fan fiction penned by a 13-year-old. It might have looked fine on paper, but onscreen it just didn't work for me).

And it wasn't even like Claire was running towards the stones in a panic because she was having a bad day and wanted to get the heck out of Dodge. Nope. She was screeching Frank's name like she was Scarlett Flippin' O'Hara and he was her soulmate. (Sorry, but Frank and Claire are not soulmates. I get that they love each other, but Frank doesn't even respect Claire the way Jamie does so early on in their relationship. Jamie would never tell her it was okay with him if she ever cheated on him. Hmm, think about just why Frank would make such a comment).

And if anyone had a connection to Claire and the stones, it sure as hell isn't Frank. It's JAMIE! The story may begin with Frank, but the whole purpose of the stones is that they bring Claire 200 years into the past; to Jamie.

I understand that things have to be adapted for television, but that one scene... which felt like it was going against the very grain of the story... well, as Jamie would say it was tearing my guts out! I do understand these characters, and what I watched the other night wasn't always them. Tweak the story all you like, but please don't tweak the characters personalities. Gabaldon wrote them beautifully to begin with. Don't mess that up.

I honestly wouldn't have minded that scene if the drama in it wasn't so ridiculously overkill. It just felt phony. I can see the beauty in the IDEA of it, but the reality of it felt catawampus. Epic, epic fail.

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In the book it was a near-rape, but in this episode it looked to me like Claire was raped. WHY would they add that, especially with Wentworth prison coming up? And if she was raped, you cannot just gloss over that. It would change Claire forever, not to mention her relationship with Jamie.

What also didn't feel right - because it is out of character - was Jamie leaving Claire up on that hill when she was in shock. Jamie would NEVER do that. NEVER! Absolutely NEVER. He would have just let Dougal walk up that hill himself - (he's got legs ya know) - while he stayed at Claire's side. And if he did leave, he would at least see that someone else stayed with her.

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(And FYI: In the book Claire didn’t go into shock like that. Claire really has a much stronger backbone than we’re seeing in the series so far. She thinks quickly under pressure, too. For example, the scene at the end with BJR… in the books she didn’t panic like that. Claire is never a damsel in distress).

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Of the mid-season finale, THIS SCENE has upset me just as much as the one at Craigh na Dun and when Jamie left Claire while she was in shock. Once more, just like with the honesty speech, they left out only one of the MOST IMPORTANT pieces of dialogue from the book. To ensure Claire’s safety, Jamie does a thorough search of the woods before telling her….

“It’s verra dangerous, and I’ll not have ye there, Claire. I shall be busy, and if it comes to it, I can’t fight and protect you at the same time.” Seeing my mutinous look, he dropped his hand to the saddlebag and began rummaging.

“What are you looking for?”

“Rope. If ye wilna do as I say, I shall tie ye to a tree until I come back.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“Aye, I would!” Plainly he meant it. I gave in with bad grace, and reluctantly reined in my horse. Jamie leaned to kiss me glancingly on the cheek, already turning to go.

"Take care, Sassenach. You've your dirk? Good. I shall come back as soon as I can. Oh, one more thing."

"What's that?" I said sullenly.

"If you leave that copse before I come for ye, I'll tan your bare arse wi' my sword belt. Ye wouldna enjoy walking all the way to Bargrennan. Remember," he said pinching my cheek gently, "I dinna make idle threats."


This warning is important for two reasons:

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1). We’re given a glimpse into Jamie himself. His code. Jamie doesn’t make idle threats. He’s a man of his word, and if he gives you a warning you had better believe that the truth is coming out of his mouth. James Fraser doesn’t lie. (Again, the newbies to this story don’t know that and why? Because the honesty speech from the wedding night never took place, and the above quote didn’t take place either).

2). After Jamie rescues Claire from Randall, there is a BIG scene coming up.

From the quote I posted above, what happens is obvious. It’s a very controversial scene, but overall Gabaldon’s readership is intelligent enough to understand that Claire is living in a different time period with a different set of rules. Every decision made is literally a matter of life and death. If Jamie didn’t punish Claire for disobeying and putting the clan in danger, his word/vows/oaths mean nothing… the respect he has earned within the clan is lost…. and the clan would punish Claire themselves, most likely by flogging her. Her punishment would have been all the more severe.

In this episode all Jamie told Claire was to promise him that she’ll stay put. That’s it. No mention of being punished if she left. No mention of not being one to make idle threats. Just a simple “Promise me, Claire. Swear to me you’ll be here when I get back.”

It’s pretty obvious that this warning from Jamie would have had to take place BEFORE he left her alone. (And in the episode it didn’t happen). So now, when Claire is punished for putting the clan in danger, it will change so much of Jamie's personality and what the audience thinks of him. It won’t be that he’s a man of his word, but is just being cruel.

And even crueler is that he will punish her after 1). Not warning her of any consequences, 2). Not telling her he isn’t one to make idle threats, and 3). She was just raped by one of the Redcoat Deserters. (Which, in the book she wasn’t).

Claire’s punishment was difficult enough to swallow before – and that's knowing she’d been forewarned - but thanks to that one warning never taking place... it's going be a train wreck. It WILL be a train wreck because in the episode Jamie GAVE NO WARNING! As it stands now, all she did was break a promise (not thinking there would be consequences) and run up a hill.

Another important difference in the books versus episode was that in the book Craigh na Dun was a 7 mile hike. Traveling that far a distance makes Claire's actions all the more problematic for the clan in trying to discover her whereabouts. In the series however… all she did was trek up a hill. Not such a big deal.

And the punishment WILL take place in the next episode. That scene was one that Sam Heughan had to do in his audition.

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This is a minor nitpick, but it's so ridiculous that it makes me laugh... and I need to end this Outlander-Sized post with a laugh.

As you can plainly see, the photo Frank had drawn up of the mysterious Highlander (aka Jamie's Ghost) is incredibly detailed.

When Frank saw Jamie, it lasted only a few seconds. It took place in the middle of a thunderstorm. It was the middle of the night. He saw him only from behind.

So taking all that into account, why is the mysterious highlander's face drawn? How could Frank have seen the brooch at all, much less that it was a Jacobite brooch possibly from the 18th century?

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Deep Breath....

Believe it or not I DID enjoy a lot of the finale, even though it felt very rushed. I wouldn't even have minded some of the Frank scenes had this been a 2-hour episode.

It's only that the scenes I didn't like... I REALLY didn't like. I didn't set out to feel that way. It's just my reaction to what I saw.

And please don't misunderstand me. I don't expect the series to be exactly like the books. I look forward to any surprises, but I also think the KEY factors from the books should be present.

I'm not taking this series for granted. I'm thrilled that it exists, and so far I am very impressed with the actors. (Apart from Tobias Menzies phony-bologna 'crying' at the stones). I'm still reeling over the fact that they've found an actor capable of filling Jamie's shoes. And while Caitriona Balfe isn't how I've always pictured Claire, I think she understands the character and has brought her to life. She isn't always as plucky and spirited as Claire from the books, but that has nothing to do with her acting ability.

I only hope that during the long hiatus newbies to this story will actually pick up the books. I think that's why I'm so upset. I feel like I'm beginning to see an injustice in progress. This wonderful, much-anticipated gift has been given to the world and I'm afraid that by the end of it all the story won't be recognizable. Jamie and Claire in the series won't be the same Jamie and Claire from the books. (I've already seen examples of that. For instance, Jamie leaving Claire's side while she was about to have a full-on nervous breakdown).

If that does end up happening... heartbreaking.

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