Jen- Episode Review- Episode 2×1, Through a Glass, Darkly

Obviously I am out of practice with blogging, and I’ve been remiss in not posting this sooner. Overall, I liked the episode. It was a great showcase for Caitriona Balfe’s and Tobias Menzies’ acting chops. I told someone recently the Caitriona had not done much acting before landing the Outlander gig, and she was so surprised to hear that. I think it speaks to Caitriona’s talent and what a great character Claire is, that we can so easily identify with her and find her so compelling to watch.

So, we opened on Claire back in Scotland in the 40s. I was actually super ok with this major change from the book. In fact, for pretty much rest of the series, there are few book things that are must-haves for me, and I’m going to be way more ok with the show mixing things up and changing things. As long as a certain pivotal scene in Voyager takes place true to the book, I’ll be happy. Assuming we get a season 3, that is. I’m also pretty psyched about the casting of adult Roger, because the actor was on a Scottish sketch comedy show we love (Burnistoun, check it out, it’s hilarious, if a little incomprehensible the first time you watch it).

I liked how we saw how broken and grief-stricken Claire was when she went back to her own time. The book gives us some idea of it, but it’s written as a flashback and doesn’t have the same emotional punch. Frank, for his part, conveyed a pretty perfect mix of good dude happy to see his wife back and angry husband grappling with some pretty harsh truths.

Luckily we got some adorbs wee Roger to break the unrelenting gloom of the first half of the episode.

Then, back in Paris! I thought some of the dialogue was a little shoehorned because they had to get the exposition and remind the audience about Claire and Jamie’s plan. But we got to meet Jared and the Comte St. Germain. I kind of hope that the introduction of the Comte is enough to keep Drew at least marginally interested as the season goes on. The show did kind of lose him with the last couple of episodes of season 1 and then the long hiatus.

Finally, I loved that they actually spoke French in the warehouse scene. I appreciate it when a show doesn’t dumb things down too much for the audience, and this show has proven to be willing to give the audience some credit. Thanks, Starz and Ron Moore! Speaking of, Ron Moore’s podcast for this episode was interesting. There were a couple of people involved in post-production of the episode with him, and they talk about some of the things involved in making the show that I never gave much thought to. Here’s a link to his podcast.

Alright, looking forward to episode 2!

Jen- Episode Review, Episode 16, To Ransom a Man’s Soul, and Season 1 wrap-up

I don’t have a ton to say about the episode. Sam and Tobias’ acting game was top-notch.

I do think that Ron Moore’s take on the series just isn’t the same as mine when it comes to pivotal moments and the real heart of the show. He doesn’t seem to really get that Jamie and Claire’s relationship is the driving force of the show, and the plots and action and adventure are there to move the characters into position for relationship challenges and growth. The fact that he says in the podcast that the ending was abrupt because once Jamie was healed, that was the end of the story… that’s not really how I see it. He almost cut out the confession scene with Claire and Brother Anselm, even though that’s a big character moment for Claire in the books…. I just think we are experiencing different things when we read the books.

This episode’s ending did feel really rushed and tacked on, I maintain my wish that the second half of the season had been broken differently for the episodes. I think this episode could have really shone if more of it had focused on Claire and Jamie actively working toward healing and Jamie finding peace. It should have been more of a struggle. I’m not even complaining about the lack of the hot springs, because I can totally get why that couldn’t be shot, and I don’t think the hot springs scene was as necessary to their relationship as, oh, Claire’s decision at the stones and her actually telling Jamie she could have gone back but she chose him. Ugh, show, that one scene really needed more fleshing out (and from what I gathered listening to the podcast, more of that scene was written and shot, it just ended up being edited out by Ron). I think in this episode they really should have kept the book lines where Jamie tells Claire to leave him and go back to the stones. The audience needs to be reminded that hey, Claire really can walk away and go back to her old life, but she is committed and she’s not going to give up on him.

Still, with all my quibbles, this show is amazing. It is so thoughtfully created and it’s very clear how much work goes into making it. The acting, the costumes, the sets, the gorgeous scenery, it’s all amazing. And whoever does the casting wins all the awards forever, because the casting news we’ve been getting for Season 2 this week has been fantastic (young Fergus! Mary Hawkins! Master Raymond! Bonnie Prince Charlie! They all look perfect!). I vastly prefer Season 1A over Season 1B, but The Devil’s Mark is my one of my favorite episodes of the entire season. After that, I think The Way Out is my second favorite.

Stay tuned periodically for random updates and Scottish music!

Jen- Episodes 14 & 15- The Search & Wentworth Prison

The Search felt a little like a weird episode to me. I liked it a lot, actually, but I ended up feeling like it probably worked really well for people who have read the book and not well at all for people who haven’t. I love the out-of-left-field idea of Claire and Murtagh singing and dancing their way around the highlands trying to flush Jamie out. I also like Claire and Jenny working together on their initial hunt for Jamie. After the heavily Jamie-centric episodes 12 and 13, it was great to be reminded that this is Claire’s story, and Claire is the heroine literally riding to the rescue. Also, how great was Claire’s outfit when she was dressed in drag for her performances! That lady can rock a tricorn hat.

I did have a big issue with the way the Dougal scene transpired, because in the book he’s cruder and scarier and Claire never says she would agree to marry him if Jamie dies. I mean, let’s be real, if Jamie dies, why on earth wouldn’t she hightail it back to Craig na Dun and get back to running water and cars? I can see, though, that maybe the show was trying to not make Dougal into a total monster and leave some room for him to be sympathetic in the future. So, I would have preferred Claire not even considering giving in to Dougal, but I can live with it (like I have a choice, right?). My other minor issue is that I think the episode was kind of slow for people who might not be as invested as the book-reading audience. It was a nice break from action episode, and I think I’ll like it even more when I watch in a block of a few episodes at once.

Now, Wentworth Prison. I was pretty distracted through the episode by trying to identify the scenes that were shot at Linlithgow Palace, since we watched the episode a couple of days after visiting Scotland. This episode was indeed not a picnic to watch, as anyone could guess just from the super creepy title card at the beginning. They really did justice to the book, while not being as gratuitous with the gore and violence as I think less tasteful show runners might have been tempted to be. Tobias Menzies did a fantastic job of portraying the depths of just how sick Randall is. This show lucked out so incredibly by finding Sam Heughan, he embodies Jamie so perfectly it’s almost ridiculous. His performance was so moving. Finally, Caitriona Balfe brought it, showing how frightened, heartbroken, determined, and brave Claire is.

Also, I’m glad they left the wolf scene out (though according to Ron Moore’s podcast they had originally written it in, but late decided it would be impossible to film). It is just a bit too bananas in a story that already has tension dialed up to 11.

This show! The acting, the thoughtful writing and show running, the costumes, the sets, the Scottish vistas. It is such a fantastic adaptation, it really was worth waiting some 20 years to see the book brought to life.

Tonight, the season finale!

Scottish music time!

Here’s a band that was recommended to me by a guy in a band in Glasgow (do you know how much it thrills me to be able to say that?!). This singer’s voice is amazing!

And here’s an instrumental post-rock band from Glasgow that I have been loving lately, in:tides.

Jen- Episode 13 Review: The Watch

Wow, this episode veered pretty far off-book. I actually liked it a lot. There isn’t much in the Lallybroch chapters in the book to form a climactic hour of tv around, so I’m on board with the adaptive liberties. Ron Moore says in his podcast for this episode that they had to give this some structure for tv, which makes a lot of sense.

I could have done with way less of the Jenny giving birth scenes, though I can understand that they wanted to give Claire her own story in this episode, and it was nice to see the women bonding. I am often squicked out by how Diana writes about motherhood, so I was not thrilled to hear one of Jenny’s book lines, but Toni Graphia (this episode’s writer) specifically mentioned in the podcast that she loved that line from the book. Sometimes I wonder if I read a different book, OMG. They left out the amazing conversation between Claire and Jamie when Claire ran to him from the stones- about how she can’t live without him, and how Jamie prayed for the strength to not beg her to stay. I so wish that conversation was in episode 11. I was glad, though, they kept Jamie’s line about being able to bear his own pain but not Claire’s. Jamie’s face, though, you could see him struggling with the idea that he would never be a father- well done, Sam Heughan.

Horrocks! Loved the change for how Jamie ultimately gets taken in by the Redcoats. That actor does have charisma- in the episode podcast Ron Moore says that after seeing Horrocks in Episode 8 they rewrote this episode to get the Horrocks actor back. I was genuinely tense for a lot of this episode, and the confrontation between Horrocks and Jamie was tightly wound. Having Ian kill Horrocks just at the moment I thought Jamie would do it, that was a well-written twist. Poor Ian!

Jamie and that piece of bread! That was a great scene. And then Claire and Jamie’s parting scene, perfection.

Jen- Review, Episode 12: Lallybroch

I loved this episode! I was worried that it would end up feeling too much like a hodgepodge like By the Pricking of My Thumbs, because in the book this is a big break in the action. Writer Anne Kenney knocked it out of the park, as she has been doing (she wrote The Wedding).

I really got the sense through the episode that Claire is all in with Jamie. I love seeing happy married Claire and Jamie! It just warms my heart. Their airplane talk in the opening scene was fantastic. I wish we had gotten a scene of their dialogue after she comes back to him from the stones, but my impression from Ron Moore’s podcast is that dialogue ended up on the cutting room floor last episode. I really hope we get it in deleted scenes on the dvd!

So glad they left out the ball grabbing (in the book, Jenny grabs Jamie’s nether region while they argue outside Lallybroch, and it’s Super WEIRD).

How cute is Young Jamie?! These adorable little Scottish children on the show are killing me with cuteness.¬†Laura Donnelly is perfect as Jenny! I have a weird relationship with Book Jenny because I liked her a lot in the first book, but her characterization gets weird through the series. I also always felt like she’s a bit of a Mary Sue stand-in for Gabaldon.¬†The casting for Ian is not what I had in mind, but after watching this episode he totally works. Ian is such a warm, calm presence, I do love that character.

Ugh, Black Jack. Tobias Menzies deserves some awards for being the creepiest, most disturbing villain.

What’s with the snoopy looking maid lurking in the hallway during Claire and Jamie’s little “I’m the laird, act like a laird’s wife” argument? It seemed like she was lurking for a reason?

Drunk Jamie! That was the best! We need more drunk Jamie being all “The Laird, that’s me” and talking about elephants. It was also nice to see Jamie being kind of terrible at being a laird, but trying so hard.

Ian and Claire’s little talk was so nice. Then we got the big I love you conversation with Claire and Jamie! *squeal* That was perfect!

Last thought: where’s Murtagh?! Isn’t he supposed to be there with them?

Jen- Episode Eleven Review: The Devil’s Mark

I knew that this was going to be my favorite episode of the season going into it, because it encompasses my favorite chapters of the book, and I was totally right. That was an epic hour of television! These actresses and actors are so talented, I was sucked right into the show and was on the edge of my seat even knowing full well what would happen. I got goosebumps! I cried!

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Jen- Episode Ten Review: By the Pricking of My Thumbs

This is a tough one for me. On the first viewing I didn’t love it. On the second viewing I liked a lot of individual scenes, but the whole episode didn’t gel together into a cohesive whole for me. I definitely get distracted the first time I watch every episode by the book discrepancies, and waiting for special book moments. I end up really enjoying all of them much more once I’m settled into a repeat viewing (what? I am fine with the choices I make in my life!).

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