Warning: Spoilers Silly & Galore
Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
O, could that lass be I?
After S1 E11 “The Devil’s Mark” of Starz’s hit show Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling series of novels, I thought the show was going to take off like a meteor for those of us who haven’t read the books and weren’t already huge fans. The witch trial of that episode, with Geillis’ self-sacrifice to save Claire, Jamie’s dramatic and loving gesture to give up Claire so that she could return to her own time through the stones at Craigh na doon — all of it finally was knitted together so perfectly that I thought I would become a fan, if not a fanatic, of the show.
Alas, to my great disappointment, it didn’t happen. No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot fall in love with the show, its characters, or its plot, despite the tremendous promise shown in “The Devil’s Mark.” It has, indeed, become, as writer of Episode 14, “The Search,” Matthew B. Roberts called it, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”
Scriptwriter Roberts claimed that the “Good” in this episode was Claire (Caitriona Balfe, R) and Jenny (played wonderfully by Laura Donnelly, L), and I admit that, despite the fact that Jenny seems unbelievably mobile after just giving birth to a breech-baby in the last episode, Jenny and Claire seem more competent together than separate. The writers of the show call Jenny and Claire “Cagney & Lacey” as well as “Thelma & Louise,” and the allusions to the latter pair, at least, were obvious is last night’s episode.
Jenny is some kinda bad-ass, lemme tellya.
Wearing a pistol in front at her waist and behind, she knows how to track the bad guys as well as Hawkeye from The Last of the Mohicans, and can tell how close they are by picking up their horses’ droppings, which are “still warm.”
There was some fine female-bonding, led, in E 14, by Jenny. We’ve seen some evidence of this in Outlander before, and it’s during these scenes that some of the better aspects of Claire’s personality come out.
She bonded with women in the drinking & urine-wool-dyeing scene.
In fact, if there is a “good” in E 14 as the writer of the latest episode claims, then it’s the relationship Claire develops with other women, who seem to bring out the better qualities in her. In fact, Claire seems to be more independent and efficient when she’s paired with another female, whether it’s someone she respects, like Jenny, or someone she cares for, like Geillis.
But I disagree with the writer who claimed that “Jenny and Claire” were “the good” in E 14.
It was Jenny who was the good, and she was very, very good.
In fact, she was so good, she was bad.
I thought Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) was going to be “the bad” this season, since he was shown mercilessly flogging Jamie earlier in the season (Part 1, 2014), but he’s scarcely been seen since. Despite the threat of his raping Claire, she was saved by husband Jamie. He wasn’t in last night’s episode either, so, “the bad” is not yet (consistently) BJR, as fans affectionately refer to him.
I thought Claire might “betray” Geillis” during the Witch Trial, as lawyer Ned suggested, to save her own life, so I thought that her behaviour, in that episode, was going to be “the bad.” But Claire refused to to it, both women were condemned to burn as witches, and then Geillis melodramatically sacrificed herself to take attention off Claire so Jamie and she could escape. So that “betrayal” wasn’t “the bad,” either. And Geillis proved herself to be pretty “good” in that sacrifice, despite her infidelity with Dougal and her murder of her husband Arthur to be with Dougal.
So who, in an episode modeled after the iconic The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, were the bad?
Were the Redcoats “the bad”? Not in last night’s episode: Jenny took care of them before they had the chance to do anything bad.
Were the Gypsies “the bad”? They delivered Claire the message they’d received that had been intended for her. That was honorable, considering they stole her routine, and even though they wanted more money for the message.
I looked at the article again.
According to the writer of “The Search,” the “bad” was Murtagh.
Jamie’s godfather, who was revealed to have been madly in love with Jamie’s mother and to have given her two beautiful bracelets as a wedding gift, the bracelets that Jenny gave Claire (in a quite unbelievable gesture) last episode? Murtagh who tells Claire that she’s not the only one who loves Jamie? Murtagh who revealed that he considers Jamie to be a “son”?
That Murtagh is the bad?
I’ll tell you what was “the bad” in E 14: the silly, time-wasting, throw-away-plot antics (“shenanigans,” the episode-writer called them) of Claire singing some weird-o version of “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy” while dressed as a boy.
That was Murtagh’s plan for “searching” for Jamie: to have him dancing, badly, and — after Claire told him he needed to sing a song with more of a beat — to have Claire singing, even more badly, and dressed as a boy, while traveling around the country so that Jamie would “hear” of them and get them a message. (Claire tells a man from a country with some of the oldest and most famous folk-music in the world that he needs to sing a song with more of a “beat”? Please, somebody, tell me that was not in the book.)
In any event, Claire’s singing routine was so bad, I found it difficult to get through the episode.
It was so “bad,” it was boring.
And we hadn’t even gotten to “the ugly” yet.
For a couple as in love with each other as Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan) claim to be, they sure do bicker a lot. And I mean a lot. Like virtually all the time. When they’re not having sex. And they’re not having nearly the amount of sex they had when they first got married. In fact, after the “oral pleasure” scene which opened E 10, the two haven’t had relations at all. At least, none that the viewers have been shown, and I assume that’s one of the reasons for the popularity of the show (and the books): to show this fabulous, fantastic, fantasy sexual relationship between the two.
Oh, boy, do they ever.
In fact, beginning with E 12 after Jamie took Claire to his ancestral home of Lollybroch, it’s almost all they did. Jamie got all Laird-ly with his sister Jenny and her husband Ian, who was a childhood friend of Jamie’s. He also got all Laird-ly with Claire, comparing himself, at Lollybroch, with the MacKenzie at Castle Leoch. Basically, Jamie told Claire in no uncertain terms that she was to keep her mouth shut in public if she disagreed with him, though he implied that she could throw crockery at him in private (as he claimed Letitia did to the head of the Clan MacKenzie, her husband Colum, in their private chambers).
So… the basic message was this: don’t disagree with me in public; throw crockery at me in private. Ouch. What a dreadfully ugly message. I think I’d prefer the bickering, as much as I dislike it, to the passive-aggressive violence of thrown & broken crockery. In any event, I don’t see Jamie & Claire’s attraction to each other, especially now that the sex seems to have disappeared.
But the bickering… Yeah, that seems pretty “ugly.” Their love has disintegrated into virtually constant bickering or separations. In E 14, I was waiting for them to find each other, be briefly happy, then start picking at each other again.
But what do I know?
That’s not the “ugly,” as the show’s episode-writer intended it.
I haven’t read the books (and so am blogging only on the Starz version of Outlander). I’m not one of the show’s writers, who are apparently looking to other successful dramatizations for inspiration in writing these episodes. This week, it was the Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, because E 14 had “the horses and the guns.” (You can read the original article for yourself by clicking on the link to it above.) Last week, producer-writer Toni Graphia apparently based Jamie’s character and behaviour on that of the characters in HBO’s wildly successful (though unevenly written) The Sopranos.
What, according to the writer of E 14, was “the ugly” in “The Search”?
Now, the episode-writer admits that the actor who plays Dougal — Graham McTavish — is a “very handsome man,” but that it was his behavior in asking Claire to marry him that was “ugly.” Dougal wants her to marry him after Jamie’s dead, of course, since he’s apparently already been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death, if he hasn’t already been executed — so that Dougal can have control of Lollybroch.
Not that he wants it for himself. After all, he asked Claire to marry him in the tunnels filled with goods that he’s smuggling to raise money to bring back Bonnie Prince Charlie. So, he clearly wants Lollybroch for the same reason: to return the Scottish king to the throne. And he must only want Claire to get Lollybroch, despite the fact that he’s made several passes at her already, including one on her wedding night.
That is apparently what makes him “the ugly.”
The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
and Starz Outlander
I respectfully disagree with the writer of E 14 “The Search.”
You know what I think is the “ugly”?
The writing of this show.
It’s the “bad,” too.
In fact, I’m starting to look forward to the feared and rumored “Wentworth Prison” episode — despite the violence that people say will be in it — because, at least, something will happen.
You know a show’s writing has deteriorated to a bad and ugly place when a woman who’s survived incest and rape by parents of both sexes is beginning to look forward to an episode that is rumored to include rape, sodomy, and torture.
Why do the writers of Starz Outlander feel it necessary to look to other successful shows and films in order to write each episode of this show? I think it’s distracting and unsuccessful, at the very least, as well as insulting to the books, the readers, and to the audience of the show.
Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
O, could that lass be I?
Yes, it soon could be. Only I won’t be gone through the stones at Craigh na doon. I just won’t be watching Starz Outlander on Saturday nights. Maybe I’ll just get the books and read them instead since fans are so passionate about them.
I hear Gabaldon’s Outlander books are not based on either The Sopranos or on Sergio Leone’s classic Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
And now at my back I hear Tuco (Eli Wallach) as he’s standing in the cemetery on a wooden grave-marker, a rope around his neck, trying not to lose his balance, desperately screaming, “Blondie” as Clint Eastwood’s character rides away on his horse with his own portion of the stolen gold…
Cue Ennio Morricone’s memorable soundtrack…
Outlander: Season 1 Part 2
Outlander: Season 1 Part 1