I missed blogging about last week’s episode, “The False Bride,” because of the busyness of Thanksgiving week. But I’d like to start out this week’s post with a quote from that episode. Jamie and Claire are in the woods, talking about their plans for the future, and Jamie says,
“A man should be settled at my age, no? … I was an outlaw when first we met, and an outlaw when you returned. If it was only me, I would live as one again, and when I was old, I would lie under a tree and let the wolves gnaw at my bones. But it’s not just me. It’s you. And Ian … Fergus … Marsali. You understand? I would lay the world at your feet, Claire. But I have nothing to give you.”
When I first heard that speech, I was a bit taken aback. It sounded to me as if Jamie was saying that he would actually prefer to live the life of an outlaw. But on subsequent viewings, I’ve heard him differently. Let’s review a bit before I come to my thoughts about episode 404.
The Jamie of season 1 is a very young man, still discovering what he will be. He has gathered all the tools necessary for becoming almost anything: from his father, he learned how to be a landowner and a laird; from the university in Paris, he learned how to be a man of the world; from his time at Leoch, he learned how to be a warrior. There are times in season 1 when he is as happy as we’ve ever seen him…until Jack Randall takes that away.
In season 2, he should be at his most content: he’s living a life of ease in Paris, safe from harm, with a wife he loves with his whole being. But Paris is miserable because it’s against Jamie’s nature to live a lie. Although the second half of the season is one of hardship, Jamie is able to be himself—the warrior aspect of his self, at any rate—and he seems, ironically, to be at peace…until he loses Claire.
The first half of season 3 is one of despair (and a tour de force for Sam Heughan), when Jamie believes that he will never see Claire again. His life has no purpose throughout those years, until Willie arrives, and even that bit of purpose is something that Jamie has to sacrifice. Then Claire returns—but almost immediately, he’s plunged into a series of circumstances beyond his control. He’s not in control for most of the rest of season 3, which is perhaps why those are the episodes I’ve least enjoyed.
Which takes us to the speech I quoted above. I believe Jamie is saying that Claire (and Ian, Fergus, and Marsali) and their new circumstances have given him a purpose again—have saved him from a life of outlawry. Jamie has seen the potential of this new world, both in what he can make of it and what it can make of him. He can finally be all the things he’s so qualified to be: the laird, the man of the world, and yes, the warrior.
That’s why I was so happy with episode 404. I just felt the world settling into place again: Jamie Fraser is back, and in control of his own life. This is not to say that things aren’t happening to him (Steven Bonnet, the incident with Rufus) in his new world, but that he is increasingly able to take control of circumstances and to turn them to his advantage. In “Common Ground,” we see Jamie the landowner/laird as he begins to build his homestead on Fraser’s Ridge and to arrange for the settlement of his land there.
We see Jamie the man of the world in his conversation with Governor Tryon. Both men are carrying on two conversations: the words they are saying, and the words they are not saying—and each of them is well aware of both conversations.
We see Jamie the warrior in his fierce protection of Claire and Ian from threats both real and perceived.
I don’t often compare the Starz series to the Outlander books—that way lies madness. But there’s a great quote from The Fiery Cross, where Brianna and Claire are talking about finding one’s purpose in life.
“What about Da?” [said Brianna]
“What about him?”
“Does he—is he one who knows what he is, do you think?”
Claire’s hands stilled, the clanking pestle falling silent.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “He knows.”
“A laird? Is that what you’d call it?”
Her mother hesitated, thinking.
“No,” she said at last. She took up the pestle and began to grind again. The fragrance of dried marjoram filled the room like incense. “He’s a man,” she said, “and that’s no small thing to be.”
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.
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Picture attribution – Sony/Starz
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