I’ve spent the week since the Outlander Season One finale, pondering why I am so discontented over it.
I’ve said repeatedly in my writing and podcast, these are two different Outlander universes. We get to keep our book friends while experiencing and enjoying our screen friends.
I completely understand how adaptation works. Adding characters, shifting timelines, creating new storylines, broadening parts, having an actor’s hair, height, or eye color be different, does not have to be a big deal to the heart and path of the story.
So why if I know this, am I struggling with the focus, content, and ending to the season?
I was desperately trying to stick to my own advice, to separate the two universes, yet I cannot lie, the last episode was a deep letdown. So much so, I worry what the next seasons will look like. Will there be any semblance of what I and others so treasure and love?
This one thought keeps brimming to the surface as my mind will not quiet on the subject.
Since the show was first announced, book fans were assured the story was in good, capable, and understanding hands. Showrunner Ronald D. Moore repeatedly stated publicly to the existing fan base, that he promised (not exact quote) his longtime book fan wife and Head Costume Designer, Terry Dresbach, he would not mess up her book. The fact that half the writers’ room team were avid fans as well forebode that this would translate into the screen version in essence faithfully. Great news all around.
I cannot dare speak for all book fans, only for myself. I understood this to mean that the essence of these beloved characters, the relationship development, important events and key scenes would remain intact if at all possible.
I began to feel unease after the second half of the season started, though initially amazing, writers’ room concoctions began to take more screen time leaving less for the core relationship and story development. Episodes were counting down with extensive material yet to cover. I pushed aside the reader worry, and kept the trust alive. I kept reminding myself what Ron said, what he promised, along with Diana Gabaldon’s assurances. I believed redemption would be had.
My first viewing of To Ransom A Man’s Soul left me utterly shocked and angry. I could not take off my reader goggles no matter how I tried.
Is that really it? Is that all? Wait, wait, what?
The next viewing, I had more success taming my inner book fan and reviewed it strictly on what I saw on-screen, negating my foreknowledge. The third and fourth viewings, simply left me in a quandary of dissatisfaction.
But why? I can see an adaptation for what it is an enjoy it. Why not this instance?
Since I could not make peace, I allowed my reader goggles back on and pondered all these days off and on. I critically thought it through. Still I found no comfort.
The heart and spirit of the material was watered down. Claire appears more fragile and weaker than she is. Her digging deep into the supernatural, pushing herself to the brink of her own limitations, expressing a fierce love toward Jamie in necessary fashion was truncated and diminished. Her strength where he had none lacked follow through.
Jamie’s healing is cruelly shortchanged. The powerful love they share that binds forever who they are together, is a mere spark of what it ought to be. Jamie had saved Claire from certain death. This was her chance to pull him from darkness, to champion his body and very soul. He didn’t get to fight back and win his freedom through Claire pretending to be BJR. She did not get to push him to healing and wholeness. The emphasis was on the darkness with a passing nod at ransoming Jamie’s soul.
My heart beats hollow. Our beloved friends seem glancing imitations of who they should be at the end of this episode.
I kept thinking that even without complete restoration of soul and spirit, and knowing there would be no hot bath scene, surely, there would be an intimate, passionate reclaiming of each other through sex as healing medicine. If not, then a deeply connected time of conversation, holding of each other, sharing, crying, nurturing scene of healing. Nope wrong again.
Instead an unnecessary beach scene with Willie, Angus, and Rupert saying goodbye to Claire and Murtagh while Jamie sat in the row boat occurs. Then once on board a lackluster and almost impersonal exchange between Claire and Jamie on the ship’s public deck ending with her blurting out she is pregnant. They are left without virtually any individual and relationship structural reinforcement.
Deer in headlights. THAT’s the end. What just happened? I never ever saw that coming.
Bottom line, I feel terribly misled by the powers that be by the continued assurances, by the promise not to mess it up for book fans. I trusted fully. Shame on me for taking it at face value. I take responsibility for my lapse into the Pollyanna. Right or wrong my feelings and interpretation along the way.
I say write a great adaptation,give us excellent storytelling, and incredible acting. Defend and own your new vision without inferring the core will remain. Please don’t sell me something that you know will not delivered upon.
Feeling cleansed and purged, I’ve now little expectation of what is to come in Season Two or down the road. Like other adaptations, Outlander is venturing down alternate unknown paths. In all truthfulness, that is quite fine with me. Now that my rose-colored glasses of expectation are in the trash, I will be able to watch with no interference from the Outlander bookverse no matter what any power that be says. One harsh reckoning for this book fan and in the end needed to break any ties to the written word.
I end this no longer grieving how Season One ended. I am a clean slate sailing away with television Jamie and Claire. I’m ready for whatever comes our Outlander way.
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