One is Compassionate; One is Fierce (hint: it’s both of them)

For all of season 4, I intend to leave the recaps to other bloggers and reviewers and to focus pretty narrowly on something in each episode that captures my attention: a character, a line or two of dialogue, a brief scene. Today I’m examining two tiny moments in episode 402 (“Do No Harm”) that I’m calling signature moves.

In the Outlander books, Diana Gabaldon has given Claire—and to a greater extent, Jamie—some mannerisms that occasionally reveal their state of mind. Claire’s aren’t as obvious as Jamie’s, probably because when Claire’s on the page, we’re usually in her 1st person point of view, and she’s simply not observing her own features at that point. But it’s obvious that her facial expressions are doing something to convey her emotions; more than once she is told that her countenance is readable to anyone who looks.

Jamie’s mannerisms—in the books—are more obvious: he shrugs his shoulders as if his shirt is too tight when he’s uncomfortable, he taps the fingers of his right hand when he’s nervous or antsy, he performs a very articulate Scottish noise.

These personal mannerisms aren’t quite as obvious in the Starz series, although both characters have a few gestures that they return to from episode to episode. Claire is a face cradler—there are many shots like the one below throughout the series, most of them when she’s comforting or reassuring Jamie (or during a moment of intimacy).

Picture1

Jamie’s series gesture is similar to his book gesture—he’s a finger twitcher.

Picture2

But episode 402 featured moments from both of our main characters that were bigger than mere gestures—signature moves that reveal something even deeper about their personalities.

Claire’s moment comes very near the end of the episode after she has given the injured slave Rufus a fatal dose of aconite to save him from a horrific death. She takes his hand and asks him to tell her about his sister—a moving act of compassion that immediately reminded me of a similar scene in season 1. In that scene, a man has been fatally gored by a wild boar, and she holds his hand and asks him about his home.

Picture7

This reveals, I think, a side of Claire that we don’t see very often on the series. Television Claire is a total badass, unafraid to take on psychopathic redcoats, Highland chieftains, and murdering witches. We don’t often see her gentle side, but this tenderness toward the dying—this desire to assure that another’s death is both physically and emotionally painless—shows us that she is as fierce in compassion as she is in bravery.

Jamie’s moment comes a bit earlier in the episode when they are called to deal with the violence between Rufus and a cruel overseer. As Claire goes to help the injured slave, several of the white overseers close in on Jamie, ordering him to back off. He pulls two pistols from his belt, using their threat to hold off the incipient mob. This is very reminiscent of the season 1 scene in which he draws a sword and a dagger at Claire’s witch trial to hold off a similar crowd of angry men.

Picture8

In both cases, Jamie is alone at Claire’s defense. If they’d tried, the others could eventually have overtaken him. Such is the force of his personality (and the ferociousness of this expression) that no one even tries.

I’ve read some criticism of Starz’ depiction of Jamie—some people think he’s too weak, too deferential, unrealistically progressive. But Jamie’s signature move shows us that the fearsome Highlander is alive and well and that he is as fierce in bravery as he is in compassion.

I appreciate the writers and producers for giving us the moments of connection from the books to the series and across seasons. These are firmly rooted in an understanding of Gabaldon’s books, and in these moments, we can sigh and think That’s the [Jamie, Claire] I’ve come to love, right here in my living room.

***

Jan Ackerson is a retired teacher, a writer and editor, and an absolute cuckoo about all things Outlander. You can find her on a much-neglected Twitter account (she’s mostly there to follow the Outlander gang) @janackerson1, or on Facebook (Jan Worgul Ackerson). Her book of micro-fiction, Stolen Postcards, is available at Amazon or https://bofapress.com/collections/all.

Comments or Questions? Send your comments to contact@adramofoutlander.com or call the voicemail line at 719-425-9444.

The Outlander book series is written by Diana Gabaldon. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook

Picture attribution –  Sony/Starz

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Do No Harm Ep 153

Season 4 Episode 402

“Do No Harm”

Directed by:  Julian Holmes

Written by:  Karen Campbell

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Summary:

Claire, Jamie, Young Ian, and Rollo arrive at Aunt Jocasta’s plantation, River Run. Aunt Jocasta extends every hospitality learning they were robbed. Young Ian and Rollo meet a wicked predator. We meet a mountain man. Claire’s sensibilities and beliefs are on edge. Auntie Jocasta hatches a MacKenzie style plan. There’s a party with the who’s who of the area in honor of their arrival. An incident puts Jamie and Claire between what’s right and what’s the law.

Themes:

  • Jamie is again in a down and out position and feeling responsible for it all.
  • Family matters and Jocasta needs an heir.

The Confusing:

The timeline isn’t discernible for how long Jamie and Claire’s stay is at River Run before the dinner party or the incident with Rufus and Overseer Byrnes. This is important to why Jocasta named him heir so swiftly without seeing him really acting administratively or performing the business management duties she needs help with. Jamie appears not to have looked at Jocasta’s business dealings until after the public announcement. Really? One discussion with Wolff and Jocasta following his business acumen from afar. He was laird of Lallybroch for a short time with Jenny and Ian doing most of the work, he worked for Jared in Paris for a short time, yet successfully, he was in hiding, in prison, working his sentence off, and then became a seditious printer and smuggler. His bonafides don’t add up without Jocasta seeing him in action.

The plot device of Jamie only learning about the difficult slavery laws of the colony AFTER the announcement to make him an heir and the incident between Rufus and Byrnes. Jamie knew about other laws and even the Regulators. Surely, he would’ve asked about slavery and all it entailed. He was so pie-eyed and Pollyanna about working to release them if he took on the running of River Run. It is a kind and right notion, but as we find out, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Squares and Round Holes:

John Quincy Myers the wild mountain man just happens to be on the property and is the one person who knows how to help Young Ian with the skunk perfumed Rollo. Then he goes poof, and we don’t see him again during the episode. This screams, “Hey viewers, he might be important later, and we wanted you to meet him now.” Secondly, he’s either ill-mannered or completely oblivious in speaking to Young Ian, a lad of 16, in such a way. Book readers, I think you get my vibe on this scene.

The Good:

Maria Doyle Kennedy as Aunt Jocasta Cameron. She convinces me she IS a MacKenzie through and through.  The other new faces Ulysses, Phaedre, Lieutenant Wolff, John Quincy Myers, and Farquard Campbell are also well cast and believable. I am always struck wondering what the experience is playing the part of a slave or a slave owner. Both cause my heart to ache.

Claire and Jamie being in partnership they can’t own slaves, how they proceeded together in trying for true justice, treating Rufus, and subsequently understanding his soul is what matters. They stand unified.

Young Ian’s sweet heart when learning about Jocasta’s blindness and his compassion for the American Indians as people and not savages. He also shows great steel as Claire’s surgical assistant.

Jocasta’s butler Ulysses speaking plainly to Claire about what is to come for Rufus if he lives and how saving his soul is better than what’s to come. He’ll be used as an example for the other slaves to obey. Jamie says the same thing to Claire when he realizes Rufus will not be allowed to live no matter what. I like how these conversations mirrored each other, one from each, a free man and a slave.

Claire’s loving and kind bedside manner connecting with Rufus as he was dying. We have seen her do this before to send a soul off peacefully and with comfort.

Finally, Jamie’s prayer as the clock strikes midnight, Rufus dies from the poison, and Jamie delivers the limp body to the waiting men. Jamie crosses himself and prays, “I’m bending my knee in the eye of the Father who created me. Pour down from heaven the rich blessing if thy forgiveness. Be thou patient wi’ us. Grant to us savior of glory, the love of God…And the will to do on earth at all times as angels and saints do in heaven. Give us the peace.”

Mixed Bag:

Claire’s unwavering belief that people should not be owned. Seeing her fight the need to save the young man and not to cause unintended harm, was a beautiful struggle to behold. Sometimes the right answer requires courage in action we can never see coming. The downside to this staunch and brooding belief is that she isn’t culturally aware or sensitive. Did she have to bludgeon the idea home over and over. It is revolting, but she could have found a way to not sulk around and find a way through the situation without inadvertently putting the slaves in harm’s way, and without threatening Jocasta’s home and land, which she did. SLAVERY IS UNCONSCIONABLE. History, when allowed, will speak it loud and clear without Claire being more entrenched and rasher in action because of her 20th-century beliefs.

I was struck hard at the closing sequence. I applaud the realistic and brutal portrayal of slavery as it was in the American Colonies. I believe we must confront the good and bad in our collective history through any and every medium. The entertainment industry is an important vehicle, especially when the simple and often harsh truths are allowed to be represented, and no agenda or politics get in the way. Time might heal some wounds, but others need intervention and social change to be righted even a little bit. That said, I do think like the theme of circles in episode 401, it was heavy-handed without allowing the viewer to make the emotional, ethical, and moral leaps on his or her own. Outlander viewers are by and large people who can critically think and get what the writers are trying to say.

The idea Jocasta would assume Claire to be a Quaker because of her abolitionist beliefs is simply odd. The Southern Colonies had slaves, the northern Colonies did not. For some reason, viewers REALLY, REALLY need to know that Quakers may be of importance to future storylines.

CORRECTION: There was slavery across the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. And the first organized group of white people to speak out against slavery was indeed the Quakers (The Society of Friends) who stood alone as a group for quite some time. I misspoke in my critique. With the exception of Claire’s speech, Jocasta may have been correct in this assumption.

Things to Ponder:

  • The color blue is seen throughout the décor and in clothing during the episode. Is it a nod to the indigo trade or something else?
  • Will we be meeting Quaker’s in the future?
  • Will we see more of John Quincy Myers?
  • Will Jamie take Governor Tryon’s offer?
  • Will we see Jamie in a kilt this season? He is free to wear one.
  • Have we seen the last of Stephen Bonnet?
  • Where’s Murtaugh?

Favorite Lines:

There are numerous warm fuzzies from the book regardless of who the lines were given. These stand out in particular for me.

  • We learn Jocasta has lost most her vision but has “now been gifted with hearing that would be the envy of many gossip, and the ability to scent truth from lies, if ye catch my meanin’.”
  • There’s been a run in with the scary and horrible skunk. Young Ian says, “It lifted its tail and sprayed a foul liquid from its arse.”
  • Jocasta says to Claire, “Jenny was right about you. You are a peculiar lass.”
  • When Jocasta adds definition to how Claire speaks her mind on all manner of topics whether she knows about them or not, Claire responds, “the same could be said for Jenny.” There’s the humor! Jocasta likes her fiery spirit.
  • Claire to Jamie after he tries to be positive about benevolent slave ownership and forging change, “Fuses often lead to explosions.”
  • Jamie’s response to Claire, “Aye, but when the dust settles, oftentimes the devil yer fightin’ is gone.” Mayhaps, he’s talking about Black Jack Randall?

Links of Interest:

Bottom Line:

It took me two viewings before I could get a handle on this episode. I think us devoted book readers need to watch more than once to firmly separate one from the other. We have the blessing and curse of knowing the material being adapted.  I like this episode for the most part. I’ve a few gripes so far this season: the choppiness in the flow scene to scene and episode to episode (why didn’t they discuss the ring being taken too), the sense of feeling rushed from one place to the next without taking time to savor or deepen important moments or characters, then slowing way down for one event, and being spoon-fed what the writers deem important. If the writing is solid, there’s no need to put the point on repeat.

Please share your thoughts and comments to 719-425-9444 or contact@adramofoutlander.com. Comments or messages may be included in the podcast or a written post.

The entire Outlander book series is written by Diana Gabaldon. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Visit Outlander Starz on social media, like or follow: TwitterInstagramFacebook, and the official website. All photos are the property of Starz/SONY PICTURES TELEVISION INC.

Join the A Dram of Outlander Community

Please share posts, join the discussions, and follow this website and social media sites listed below!

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THE INTRO AND OUTRO MUSIC SEGMENTS ARE TAKEN FROM A PIECE BY DAMIANO BALDONI AT URL ON FREE MUSIC ARCHIVE. CURATOR: CCCOMMUNITY. COPYRIGHT: CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION-NONCOMMERCIALNODERIVATIVES 4.0: HTTP://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/4.0/

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American the Beautiful Ep 152

America the Beautiful

Season 4 Ep 401

Written by Matthew B. Roberts and Toni Graphia

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Summary:

Jamie, Claire, Marsali, Fergus, Young Ian, Lesley, and Hayes are in Wilmington, NC. There’s a hanging. Young Ian gets a dog. The Frasers are going to a party. They are broke and need to sell a gemstone for passage back to Scotland. A greedy pastor, flashbacks, and a stowaway complicate the burial. Assistance is given to an escaped convict. Jamie and Claire sleep rough. The Governor makes Jamie an offer. They decide to stay in America. On the way to River Run, there’s trouble.

Themes:

With good there is bad. There are opportunities in the new world, but there is also cruelty and opportunistic savagery that takes place against others in the process.

Circles have significance from the broader to the personal, impact lives, and are here to make a point this season.

The Good:

  • There is so much excellent dialogue to provide warmth to devoted Outlander readers.
  • Jamie stands out as a good friend and leader.
  • Claire’s humor and emotional range are coming into view. She’s less a constipated shrew and more emotionally rounded.
  • The choice to highlight Young Ian’s trauma after being scared and sexually assaulted by Geillis “The Bakra” Abernathy.
  • Rollo is joining the crew.
  • Marsali and Fergus are expecting a child. SURPRISE. Apparently, she likes sex quite fine and having a child won’t stop that.
  • Jamie’s gift of the medicine box for their 24th anniversary is a deep home run. He’s sentimental and knows Claire is not the type to want baubles and fancy things.
  • Ed Speleers gives an excellent performance as Stephen Bonnet, at once likable, over the top schmoozer, maybe kind, and then morphing into a malevolent mercenary he returns to steal Claire’s rings and the gems he overheard them talking about when he was a stowaway. He even murders Lesley when he fights back.
  • Caitriona’s performance during the robbery is stunning. With minimal sound, her emotions, facial expressions, and body movements scream volumes.

The Bad:

Jamie’s wig with bangs is hands down is THE worst thing in this episode. Claire’s wig and the funky North Carolina CGI are next in line. Everyone else’s wigs are fantastic. I just don’t get it. It seems the hair team is trying to mimic Sam’s hair before he donned a wig. Someone, PLEASE give Jamie an all over shoulder length wig that can be properly plaited. The utter distraction makes for difficult viewing.

Who the hell is Lillington and how did they get an invite to a party? It was an abrupt non-sequitur without context while they’re riding to the kirkyard to bury Gavin. Unless you’re a book reader, this came out of left field.

The So-So:

The hanging of Gavin barely ticked the emotional box because there was so little character development of him and Lesley even though they were at Ardsmuir and worked for Jamie in Edinburgh. Except for Lesley’s heartfelt tavern singing, and the shocking nature of his death, they felt superfluous to a storytelling end

Why was Jamie so determined for them all to go back to Scotland? Claire mildly talking him into staying is a bit off-putting.

Fergus being so mild and mousy and seemingly lacking the wit and fire his younger counterpart displayed is a slight turn off as a viewer.

The Funny:

  • The snarky dinner party guest Judith Wylie being jealous of Claire and trash talking her to Claire’s “whatever” face.
  • Jamie’s “more trees” response to Claire.
  • Jamie’s response to sweet devastated Young Ian, “What it comes down to is your cock doesn’t have a conscience, but you have.”
  • Young Ian to Uncle Jamie, “I didna ken. She’ll be saying it in Scotland won’t she.”

The Obvious:

Claire’s voiceover in the opening scene of native peoples building a cairn circle around a standing stone, Hey there! Circles of ALL kinds (nooses, wedding rings, the movement of clock hands, and planetary orbits) are super-duper important. Especially stone circles in America.” (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink). Then Stephen Bonnet focusing on the rings and the importance of an eternal circle. Then Stephen attempting to take Claire’s wedding rings.

Bottom Line:

Overall, I liked this episode and look forward to what’s coming. A lot of ground was covered to move the story along nicely. I don’t envy the task of adapting such detailed and lengthy work. Outlander viewers are pretty darned smart and don’t need to be spoon-fed foreshadowing, hit in the face with themes or points the producers and writers want to be certain we don’t miss. I promise, if the writing is good, viewers with getting it.

Please share your thoughts and comments to 719-425-9444 or contact@adramofoutlander.com. Comments or messages may be included in the podcast or a written post.

The entire Outlander book series is written by Diana Gabaldon. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Visit Outlander Starz on social media, like or follow: TwitterInstagramFacebook, and the official website. All photos are the property of Starz/SONY PICTURES TELEVISION INC.

Join the A Dram of Outlander Community

Please share posts, join the discussions, and follow this website and social media sites listed below!

Facebook PageFacebook Group,  InstagramTwitterTumblrGoogle+

To financially support the podcast, go to my Patreon page.

Call 719-425-9444 listener/reader line to leave your comment or question.

THE INTRO AND OUTRO MUSIC SEGMENTS ARE TAKEN FROM A PIECE BY DAMIANO BALDONI AT URL ON FREE MUSIC ARCHIVE. CURATOR: CCCOMMUNITY. COPYRIGHT: CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION-NONCOMMERCIAL-NODERIVATIVES 4.0: HTTP://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY-NC-ND/4.0/

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401: The Beginning and the End (No Middle)

If you watched The Leftovers (an excellent HBO series), you may have been puzzled, as I was, by the prologue to the first episode of season 2. I won’t summarize it here, but it featured prehistoric people, and I remember scratching my head and thinking, “What?”adoo2

On my first viewing of Outlander episode 401, I had the same response, along with the wish that–given the immense amount of material from Drums of Autumn to be condensed—they’d chosen an opening featuring the people we knew. However, on subsequent viewings, I’ve come to appreciate the opening (maybe not to love it, as I did the rest of the episode).

First of all, a brief educational moment: I’ve seen people referring to these circle-builders as cavemen. The date is 2000 B.C.—at that time, Europe was entering the bronze age, the Great Pyramid at Giza had been built, and city-states had been established in Mesopotamia. In the Americas, societies like the one shown in the episode were hunter-gatherers with established social structures—not cavemen, who would have pre-dated these dancers by many centuries.

That lesson aside—what did this prologue bring to the show? I believe its greatest value is in continuity and foreshadowing.

In season 1, we met the dancers at Craig Na Dun. At the end of season 2, we revisited that site to see Gillian Edgars disappear into the past. In season 3, we saw a group of slaves dancing in a circle near Abandawe. In 401, a variation of the ‘stones’ theme was played, and the fires and the dancers’ costumes called back to elements of previously-seen circles. This all combines to say to the viewers: Don’t forget—the Outlander universe is one of mystery. Although it has one foot now firmly in the 18th century, the other foot could be…well…anywhen.

I also believe that we’ll see this circle again. That’s enough about that, in the interest of staying (mostly) spoiler-free.

Then a whole episode happens. I’ll leave that recap to others—there are dozens of them to be Googled. It was a darn good episode, I think.

And now for the five minutes at the end of the show that have polarized the Outlander fandom. Jamie, Claire, Ian, and Lesley are on a rivercraft, on their way to River Run. That night, Steven Bonnet, encountered earlier in the episode, waylays the travelers with his gang of thugs, robs them of their valuables, and kills Lesley. Except for the first few seconds of this attack, the viewers hear nothing of the screams, blows, and shouts. Instead, the music of the great Ray Charles is heard, singing “America the Beautiful.”adoo3

Those who dislike this sequence have several reasons: they find the camera work jarring and the playing of the beloved song at contrast with the violence happening onscreen. Some find it heavy-handed; when taken together with some characters’ earlier statements about the wrongs done to slaves and Native Americans, it feels to them to be overly critical of America.

I found it a masterful piece of television. A fight scene might be seen on almost any drama, and the Outlander writers might have done the easy thing and let us hear every footfall, grunt, and smack. By taking these sounds away from us, we’re forced to fill them in on our own and to concentrate more closely on the faces of the actors and the chaotic action.

The rapid camerawork, too, captures that sense of total loss of control. The viewer wants to say, “wait…stop…slow down,” but can no more stop the action than Jamie could, when held down by several masked men.

More controversial than the camerawork, though, is the use of “America the Beautiful.” It doesn’t escape me that Ray Charles was the son of sharecroppers, and that he lived through pre-Civil Rights era America. He might well have had his own difficulties with this song, and there are certainly other versions that the producers or directors could have chosen. But this version says:

America IS beautiful, despite its past, despite its present woes. Look at the lawlessness on your screen…but America is beautiful. We have come a long way, and there is much to accomplish still…but America is beautiful. We must learn from our history…but America is beautiful.

The first visceral reaction is to think that the irony of that song, juxtaposed with the violence onscreen, points to a criticism of America—and there is certainly an undercurrent of open-eyed criticism there. But I believe without that song, we’d be left with an imprint of both visual and auditory horrors. With it, we’re left with the hope of eventual “brotherhood—from sea to shining sea.”

***

I leave you with this picture from early in the episode which has nothing to do with the rest of the post, just because I think Sam Heughan has more acting ability in his eyes than most actors possess with every tool in the actors’ toolbox.adoo4

For the rest of season 4, I hope to focus pretty narrowly on something I find worth exploring in each episode, and to leave the recapping to others. You may disagree with my take on things—I’d love to read why. Comments are like candy to bloggers, and I look forward to hearing from you.

***

Jan Ackerson is a retired teacher, a writer and editor, and an absolute cuckoo about all things Outlander. You can find her on a much-neglected Twitter account (she’s mostly there to follow the Outlander gang) @janackerson1, or on Facebook (Jan Worgul Ackerson). Her book of micro-fiction, Stolen Postcards, is available at Amazon or https://bofapress.com/collections/all.

Comments or Questions? Send your comments to contact@adramofoutlander.com or call the voicemail line at 719-425-9444.

The Outlander book series is written by Diana Gabaldon. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook

Picture attribution –  Sony/Starz

Join the A Dram of Outlander Community

Please share posts, join the discussions, and follow this website and social media sites listed below!

Facebook PageFacebook Group,  InstagramTwitterTumblrGoogle+

To financially support the podcast, go to my Patreon page.

Call 719-425-9444 listener/reader line to leave your comment or question.

 

Mammoth Bones and Toilet Paper

Although Outlander will always be Jamie’s and Claire’s story, the series is so richly populated that occasionally DG lets someone else take center stage for a while. One of my favorite non-Jamie/Claire moments comes in chs. 69 – 70 of ABOSAA, and it features Brianna and Young Ian, with flashbacks to Frank Randall and Ian’s Indian family—his wife Emily, in particular. These two chapters are among my favorites in the series.

A brief summary, to remind you if you haven’t read this bit in a while (better still, go re-read those chapters, then skip this summary):

Ian takes Brianna with him on what she believes is a hunting trip. As they walk farther, she realizes that hunting is not their objective, but when she questions her cousin, he indicates that he’ll reveal what’s going on when they get there. He talks a little bit on the way, touching on both Scots and Indian spirituality, and readers are given a brief flashback to Ian’s life among the Mohawk during the happy times of his marriage to Emily. There’s even more conversation on the second day of their trek, giving us this humorous exchange:

toilet_paper_by_superawesomevectors-d847omx“…I dream about toilet paper all the time,” [Brianna said]. “That’s a thin, soft kind of paper that you use to wipe your, er, behind with,” she explained, seeing his incomprehension.

            “Ye wipe your arse with paper?” He stared at her, jaw dropped in horror. “Jesus God, Brianna!”

Ian tells Brianna more about his Mohawk life, including his rivalry with Sun Elk and his and Emily’s inability to have a child. Finally, they reach their destination: a gorge in which reside the ancient bones of a mammoth. Ian has questions about these bones which he hopes Brianna can answer; it’s all tied to his crisis of faith and his grief over the end of his marriage to Emily.

mammoth

At the end of the scene, Ian has reached a tentative truce with the Mohawk and Scots beliefs battling within him, and he and Brianna have a new closeness. It’s a truly beautiful few chapters, and I’d like to examine a few reasons why I appreciate them so much.

Characterization

At this point in the series, both Brianna and Young Ian need a bit of reader attention. Ian spent most of the previous book off-page, living with the Mohawk. He returned at the end of TFC, but when we last saw him before that, he was just barely a man—only 17 years old. He’s twenty when he returns, and the mammoth incident takes place two years later, but it’s the longest bit of Ian-centered writing that we’ve had in a good long time—certainly since he’s reached full manhood. We learn, through this incident, some of the events that transpired when he was a Mohawk, and how being a Mohawk and a husband has changed him.

Brianna is a character who often presents with prickly edges. Even DG has acknowledged that Brianna is difficult to write and difficult to like. But in this interlude with her cousin, we get to know Brianna more deeply, and we see more of her tender side. To comfort Ian in his grief over his dead daughter, she calls out to the spirit of Frank Randall, asking him to find Ian’s little girl in heaven and make sure that she’s safe. This is tricky, given that Frank technically isn’t born yet, but it’s exactly the right thing for her to say. She weeps with Ian, then spends a few peaceful moments with her memories of her daddy and with the trees and water all around. Just for these few chapters, we see that Brianna can be soft and vulnerable and nurturing, and it’s quite lovely.

Long-Range Plot Considerations

Toward the end of this scene, Ian asks for Brianna’s advice: should he go back to Emily? He still loves her, and he feels that she probably loves him—it was their infertility that forced him to leave the Mohawk, not a lack of marital affection.

Brianna answers quickly, giving him several compelling reasons why he should stay. He accepts her advice, and this opens the door to developments in books 7 and 8 that could not happen if he were to return. These developments are significant, centering largely around Rachel Hunter, but touching on many other characters and events as well. Young Ian is at the top of nearly everyone’s list of favorite Outlander characters, and it was necessary to keep him in the forefront, not back among the Mohawk.

Just Darn Good Writing

Ian knows about the time travelers, but he’s unclear how time travel works, and his understanding of it is tied strongly to Highland stories of the Old Folk. So when Brianna tells him that she’s seen similar mammoth bones in a museum, in her own time, we get this exchange:

“A museum? So it’s not a thing ye’ve got where—when”—he stumbled a bit—“where ye come from? Not alive then, I mean?” He seemed rather disappointed.

            She wanted to laugh at the picture of mammoths roaming Boston Common…

Another bit, as fine a description of love as I’ve seen, in just a dozen words:

“My soul didna wander while I slept—when I slept wi’ her.”

And this, just one of the thousands of examples of exquisite writing that perfectly captures a moment:

Brianna felt sleep come, the waves of it gentle, lifting her toward peace, and did not resist. The last thing she recalled was Ian’s face, cheek heavy on her shoulder, his eyes still open, watching the fire.

These interludes away from Jamie and Claire help us to realize that the characters in the world DG has given us are all interconnected. A few moments away from our main characters gives us a little thrill when we turn the page and there they are again. The Outlander universe is very wide, but scenes like this reveal its depth as well.

[Got any ideas for future blog posts? I prefer to write about the books: themes, characters, events. I welcome your input!]

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Jan Ackerson is a retired teacher, a writer and editor, and an absolute cuckoo about all things Outlander. You can find her on a much-neglected Twitter account (she’s mostly there to follow the Outlander gang) @janackerson1, or on Facebook (Jan Worgul Ackerson). Her book of micro-fiction, Stolen Postcards, is available at Amazon or https://bofapress.com/collections/all.

Comments or Questions? Send your comments to contact@adramofoutlander.com or call the voicemail line at 719-425-9444.

The Outlander book series is written by Diana Gabaldon. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook

Picture attribution –  Creative Commons

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