After all that build up, we get the climax.
After listening to Jen squeal and cheer throughout the episode, I’m well aware of how long fans have been waiting for this moment. The wedding! The wedding night! The wedding night part deux! Passion! Butts! Boobs! A paucity of wang! I’m pretty sure if a pop-up showed up on screen offering viewers an extra twenty minutes of Claire kissing Jamie’s scars for ten bucks, STARZ would be buying HBO today.
The main thing that this episode achieved, besides finding a bunch of helpful links to kilt merchants added to my web browser by Persons Unknown, is prove how much this show is Not Aimed At Me. I want, like, stuff to happen. I want adventure. I don’t want flashbacks to where a dress came from or how a ring was made. The show, though, knows that these things are not the things its fans want – they want emotional connections, they want feelings,
they want butts.
And listen, as a middle class white dude, I’m used to all entertainment being aimed at me. For a show to be so decidedly not… is strange and disturbing. Is this how Jen felt when we watched Gotham? The only saving grace of that pilot were the references to the Batman mythos, but even then they were laid on as thick as a whale omelette in hopes of targeting nerds like me.
Though I did not like nor hate this episode, it did make me appreciate not only how easy I have it as a consumer of media and entertainment, but also how hard it must be to create a show based on a Known Work and still surprise its fans. Given Jen’s reactions to the episode, I think Outlander succeeded in many ways that Gotham failed.
Wait, wait. I forgot to recap – here’s the most padded version I can muster: Claire spend the day drunk before her wedding. Various people get her wedding set up for her. She has her wedding. She and Jamie do it. A few times. Uncle Mythbusters has a creep relapse. Claire remembers she’s from the future and also now a bigamist. Fin. Sorry about the lack of jokes.*
Okay, back to Outlander vs Gotham. From what I gather from Jen’s reactions and reviews, the show has been pretty respectful of the book so far. I honestly don’t think it will last and that there will be some Big Changes** that will enrage the bookset, but for the time being, people who are familiar with the books seem to be happy with the show. The show does not slavishly follow the books – new characters exist, lines are given to different people, narrative structures change, etc – but it retains the core identity. Casting had a big part to play in this – things are so much easier when Jamie looks like you imagined him to so that you don’t mind that he hops on his motorcycle and speeds off into the sunset to rescue Claire, wind running through his hair and tears as he..
Outlander respects its source material – which is much more than I can say for Gotham. The problem with Gotham is that it appears to want to stripmine the Batman mythos not to tell a story, but to get viewers to tune in each week. For example, there’s The Joker cameos – we’ll be seeing multiple “possible Jokers” throughout the season – thus maximizing the appearance-yet-not-appearance of Batman’s most notable foe without ever needing to have him on screen. Edward Nigma, the future Riddler, was on screen for all of two minutes and in that time managed to riddle-me-this like fifty times. There was no nuance, no use of a familiar line to warm the hearts of fans, but straight up, arrow-pointing LOOK LOOK IT’S BATMAN STUFF. And they did it so much, they showed they lacked the confidence to create an exciting story or engaging characters.
Outlander has that confidence and this episode showed it. Nothing happened in this episode. You could watch the last one, skip this one, and head into the mid-season finale without a problem. There was no new information presented in this episode that would matter in the future. No new characters. The only change – the marriage itself – could have happened off camera just after the credits rolled on the last one.
But despite that, this is an episode people who didn’t even read the books wanted to see. Looking at the reviews, it’s one that they liked. Judging by Jen ripping my clothes off yelling “I want to look at you” after the episode aired, it inspired them. Sure, the nudity and hot sex helped, but I think it was because of the strong foundation of character, acting, and writing that the show laid down in previous episodes. Could they pull this off every week? Up to a point, but even the most die hard fan would start to hunger for more than ScotButts and Claire’s ribcage.
To stretch the meal analogy even further, Outlander already fed us well in the first six episodes, so yeah, we got our dessert. Gotham seems intent on just whipping candy at us to make us like it.
* – I’m worried that it’s getting harder to make fun of this show because I’m secretly starting to like it.
** – Everytime I tell Jen that I don’t think some BOOK SPOILER will happen because it’s TV and TV has different rules than books, I usually end with Ron Moore Doesn’t Mind Changing Things Exhibit One: Starbuck’s Missing Penis. It’ll happen to y’all too, mark my words.