Episode 101 Sassenach has officially aired. The much waited for and wanted Outlander series coming to life onscreen from the wildly popular book series by Diana Gabaldon, has finally debuted. The built in fandom (more about this later) is at a fever pitch.
I have watched the first episode many times (11 now) on a variety of screen sizes in order to come up with my very own thoughts to convey.
In utmost truth there are a good many things I absolutely believe are spot on, reinterpreted or directly from the literary pages of Outlander. Yes, there are moments I think could use improvement.
Is it my version of perfect, no. Is it a fantastic rabbit hole to fall into and want to stay in, yes.
What did I like best? The order is stream of consciousness after number one.
1. Claire. Caitriona Balfe’s has exceeded expectations in her portrayal. She has the glass face, attitude, fiery demeanor, heart and soul of Claire down. I care not about her height or eye color. I fully believe she is Claire. She may have been of gentle birth, but it is plainly obvious, she was grown from a very different life. No doubt in my mind. I have already written posts on her alone. Here is one.
2. Scotland. There is no arguing with the character of Scotland herself. Breathtakingly beautiful ‘scapes. Enough to bring a tear to one’s eye. Wild, untamed, haunting. It could be any year really. Utterly timeless.
3. Jamie. The evolution of Sam Heughan has been masterful. He, over months, became the King of Men in front of our eyes. In the first episode, the glimmer of cultured depth, the “more than meets the eye” layers, his utter capacity and range already shows itself. Commanding presence. That is the key to Jamie, Sam has it. I want to know him more. He takes to Claire straight away. She is something, someone that sparks him.
4. Frank. Tobias Menzies is masterful in this role of restraint. He is more attentive and expressive onscreen than he reads for me in the pages. The insatiable craving for knowledge, that insulation of history need he has still supersedes his closeness, openness, true awareness of Claire. He loves her no doubt. I like that he is not wholly different than book Frank but expanded Frank. I daresay, “Downtown” Randall is someone I like quite well. The mystery of Frank is not solved in 8 books certainly one episode will not divulge all he is.
5. Dougal. Graham McTavish embodies the gritty, darker, intelligent, forceful presence of Dougal (with or without hair). He is a man on his own mission within his rank of Clan MacKenzie War Chieftain. I look forward to his personality’s nooks and crannies being exposed,
6. Black Jack Randall. Tobias in this second, very juicy role of the unrestrained, menacing, cruel Black Jack Randall is spectacular. Playing the ancestor that Frank is researching before Claire falls through the stones. I hear Emmy knocking, In a flash we meet BJR as Claire does. There is an immediate understanding of his character that causes chills and fear. No longer is the viewer in Frank-town.
7. The other host of supporting characters. Mrs, Baird, Mrs. Graham, Reverend Wakefield, The Blue Vase, Castle Leoch ruins all lay a foundation for what was and what is.
8. The band of Highlander’s on the run from BJR. They are watch worthy in their genuine lack of understanding of Claire. She blows their minds, ruffles feathers and commands respect. Puzzling she is. But as Murtagh states not a hoor.
9. The Dancers. Simply stunning and portrayed in such a way my heart followed in awe as they called to the sunrise. It mattered not that it was Samhain versus Beltane as in the book. The spirit of the event was kept and expanded visually for me.
10. Frank quipping about remembering, doodling the lines of Claire’s hand as a touchstone during war years separation, a welcome addition and support of palm reading importance.
11. Wardrobe by head costume designer Terry Dresbach. I dare not call them costumes because the clothing far exceeds period costumes to perfected blending into whatever time from time we experience. For me virtually flawless in execution in episode one. I want more!
12. The vision of Ronald D. Moore along with his production partner Maril Davis in making this happen do exquisitely onscreen. A taste of what is to come is a tantalizing bite realized.
13. The Gaelic. Excellent to have no idea just like Claire what is being said. Adhamh O’Broin a shout out for fantastic onset teaching!
There is much more I could comment on but those are the foremost in my mind,
Overall I liked it, quite fine. I will be fervently going back for more
What did I not completely like? In no particular order here is my list.
1. The Blue Vase. I could not see the significance in her not buying the vase and it going as an unused promise that did not come to fruition as in the books versus her longing for it but not buying it in the reinterpreted version onscreen.
2. Claire’s wrath is so mild toward Frank when she perceives him accusing her of infidelity after seeing the ghost versus the book demonstration of rage. She seemed to soften too quickly for proper impact here.
3. Jesus H Roosevelt Christ felt a bit forced in use by Caitriona. It seemed out if place as well lacking explanation why she uses it. She will eventually get it down I have confidence.
4. Why a 5 year war separation between Claire and Frank instead of 6? Seems like a very small switch up from the text. Purposeful somehow?
5. I missed young Roger making an appearance.
6. There was no reference by Claire to her favorite scent, L’heure Bleue which has some pivotal connecting points in the written.
My list is short and likely negligible to the viewer who is completely new to the series.
Nothing on my list is insurmountable or a deal breaker to future watching. I did, however, pause as to “why” which halted the viewing pleasure for small increments of disruption.
I am sure to watch each episode multiple times this season.
Episode 101 did the job it set out to in my opinion. It drew in already fans and new viewers. Real critics overall agree Outlander is a worthwhile pursuit whether a previous reader or not.
Buckle up and enjoy. The ride will surely not be straight or smooth. It is definitely more than expected.