It’s time for some semi-coherent thoughts about the episode! First, imagine some general flailing around and squealing with delight, because this episode fills me with joy just by existing. I have been waiting so long to see this book come to life. I first read Outlander at the tender age of 13 or 14 (I want to say 13, as I think I was in 8th grade, but that seems somewhat inappropriately young… I had just finished reading Gone with the Wind and Scarlett, so I suppose my young sensibilities were already being tarnished beyond repair anyway). To say it made an impression is an understatement, this book has been among my all time favorites for more than half my life.
I loved getting a more fully fleshed out view of Claire and Frank’s marriage. It is more told than shown in the book, and as a reader I never got the sense that they were all that in love, despite (hopefully not too much of a spoiler) Claire’s spending a lot of the book trying to get back to her own time and to Frank. It may also be a simple function of the name Frank, it’s a name that sounds kind of old fashioned and not very sexy. No offense to all the Franks out there. It’s funny that the eighteenth century name Jamie actually seems more immediate and present. Tobias Menzies is a perfect casting choice, he’s a great actor and his physical presence really underscores how different he and Jamie are, which is something Book Claire dwells on often.
The set up for Claire’s present-day life was masterfully done. The show managed to squeeze in all the necessary plot and actually got Claire transported back in time in one episode, something I thought might be dragged out for a couple of episodes. I think it was key for viewer buy-in to get her through the stones in the first episode so the action can really get rolling. Plus, all of us book readers were probably just dying to get to that scene in the crofter’s cottage where Claire is thrust into the midst of a disreputable looking gang of highlanders. Ron Moore has said that he deliberately uses spoken Gaelic to underscore Claire’s sense of being a stranger in a strange land, and it worked like a charm. As viewers were also get that feeling of not knowing what’s going on. Also, hearing some of the Gaelic phrases that I’m so used to hearing in my own head was kind of a thrill- that shout of “Tulach Ard!” during the ambush scene was amazing.
I have no quibbles with the casting for Claire and Jamie, I think the actors embody their roles really well. One small nitpick, which I’m seeing all over the internet, is that Caitriona Balfe’s “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ” could use a little work- it’s funny, reading these books as an American, Claire has always had an American accent in my head, and I think the phrase sounds a little funny in a British-by-way-of-Ireland accent (Balfe is Irish), but it’s also a mouthful to say and maybe doesn’t roll off the tongue as well as it reads on paper.