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Through a Glass, Dark and Dull: OUTLANDER season 2 Premiere, Review & Recap


Dull & Drear


Two years ago, when Starz aired its first episode of Outlander, based on the best-selling novels by Diana Gabaldon, which I had not read, I wrote a post saying that the network was taking a huge risk by creating a show whose intended audience seemed to be solely women. Not only is Outlander more romance than historical fiction, but the show’s writers further restricted its audience appeal by concentrating on the sexual relationship between the time-transported Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and her 1740s Scots husband Jamie (Sam Heughan).


Even if Parts One and Two of Season One, which were divided by an entire year, had been brilliantly written and acted, I doubt the show could have maintained its viewing audience  between seasons, simply because it divided the book on which it was based in half, and because non-readers of the Outlander book series, like me, would have had absolutely no incentive to continue watching.

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As Outlander was neither brilliantly written nor acted, it was no surprise to see its ratings plummet between the finale of Part One and and the premiere of Part Two (from 1.4M to 1.2M, a 32% decline).

Given the graphically violent content of the final two episodes of Part Two, with its explicit torture and rape of the belovèd male protagonist, the ratings drop of those final episodes was to be expected (1.01M for episode 15, down another 7% from the Part Two premier; with only .98K for episode 16, down a further 3.25%). (All these figures, including the percentages, were taken from the Nielsen ratings to which the post is linked in the word “ratings.” If I made a mistake in writing any of them down, I will correct them.)

After all, it is one thing to read about your favorite hero telling his wife about what happened to him in prison. It is quite another to see it dramatized. And in such an explicitly horrifying and graphic way.


Despite Outlander’s numerous book fans, therefore, the show itself averaged only about 1.04M viewers per episode.

Compare that to the highly successful Game of Thrones, which pulls in an average of 8.1M viewers per episode.


Apparently, the writers of Game of Thrones know something that the writers of Starz’s Outlander do not.

How to adapt a best-selling book into a successful series.


Despite the fact that Outlander the show was not necessarily a dramatic success, judging by its low ratings, I was hoping for an improvement for Outlander Season 2, only because it was claimed that author Diana Gabaldon would be more than a consultant. She was to be one of the writers.

I thought Gabaldon’s being among the writers would vastly improve the show, even though I thought it highly unlikely that Starz would get any viewers beyond the book fans based the the dramatic weaknesses of the first season of the show. I read Book 1 after watching all episodes of the show on which it was based, but have not read any additional books. I am blogging, once again, on the show Outlander as a stand-alone drama. Further, I am only watching it because book fans begged me to give my opinion on Outlander, the show.

Unfortunately, the poor writing and cringe-worthy acting of Season One was even more blatant in the premiere of Season Two.

That does not bode well for Outlander, the show.


When we last saw Claire and Jamie, they were on a ship to France. He had just been rescued from Wentworth Prison, where he was tortured and raped by Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). Claire had just informed Jamie that she was pregnant, despite her previously thinking she was sterile.


I assumed that their going to France had something to do with the historical conflict between the Scots and the British, which would ultimately lead to their return to Scotland and to the Battle of Culloden, when the Jacobites, who were attempting to restore Bonnie Prince Charlie to the throne of Scotland, were not only defeated, but the Scottish clans were virtually wiped out by British reprisals against the rebellion.


Imagine my shock and horror, therefore, when, instead of seeing Jamie and Claire either on the ship or landing in France, the Season 2 premiere opened with Claire, alone, back at Craigh na dun.


In 1948.

Dang, was I disappointed.

Furthermore, I was jarred.

What happened to Jamie? What happened to France? What on earth was going on?


Claire’s return to the stones and to 1948 was accompanied by the Voice-Over that was present in Season One. If Claire’s Voice wasn’t saying things that viewers could see her doing (“I went for a walk along the docks” as she was walking along the docks), then it was so vague it made no sense (“I touched the edges of oblivion” while lying in the grass in the midst of the stones). Voice-Overs are to provide ironic commentary on the characters’ actions, as in Madame Bovary (2000), or to provide viewers with insight into the narrator’s mind, insight which the other characters are not privy to, as in most recent version of The Great Gatsby. Once again, in Outlander, we get pointless Voice-Overs.

Instead of the Voice-Over giving us insight into Claire’s feeling or her character, it tells us what we can see her doing on the screen. I realize that the book readers are probably still accompanying the narrator Claire in all her private thoughts, but the show is not giving us much of that in the Voice-Over.

Claire’s unexpected return to the stones at Craigh na dun was followed her screaming, screaming, screaming as the camera pulled out. Then we were treated to a scenery-chewing-Cait screaming at some poor driver about what year it was and about who won the war. As you can imagine, he thought she was talking about the recently ended World War II. When she shrieked, “Who won the Battle of Culloden?” he must have thought she was bonkers, and not just because she was walking down the middle of an isolated Scottish road wearing a bad wig that didn’t match the front part of her hair and a dress that was clearly two centuries old.

“Who won the Battle of Culloden?” she screamed-shrieked.

“The British,” the startled man dutifully replied.

Cue some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen as Claire collapsed, screaming and sobbing most falsely, into the road.

Viewers started off Season Two with a shock: Cait’s acting had not improved; it had, in fact, deteriorated. And, worse, Claire was not with Jamie on the boat to France.

Instead, she was in the “present” — but two or three years later than when she was first transported through the stones to the past — and her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies, in a dual role) was back.


Oy, vey, I can hear all the book fans who don’t like Frank screaming their annoyance and disappointment.

During season one, book fans already vociferously voiced their objections to Frank’s getting so much screen-time, telling me in the Comments to my posts that Frank was not in the book after the beginning and he should not have been in the show.

Honestly, I was in the viewing-minority since I liked Frank, and I wanted him to have more screen-time.

As Frank, of course, not as his evil ancestor Black Jack Randall.

Not only is Tobias Menzies the only principal in Outlander who can actually act, I thought the love-triangle set up a nice conflict with Frank’s searching for his missing wife, and Claire’s continually mentioning that she had to get back to the stones to get back to her husband Frank (though I did think her saying that she had to get back was “tacked on” by the show writers since the character didn’t behave as if she really wanted to get back) even while she was getting more involved with 1740s Jamie.


Despite the show’s jarring return to 1948, I was willing to see the premiere of Season Two as a sort of artistic parallel to the premiere of  Season One Part One, where Claire and Frank were on their second honeymoon. Initially, in the Season Two premiere, Tobias did an admirable job as a grieving man reunited with his missing wife.

Cait just played a dazed and supremely insensitive, self-centered Claire. Not only did she not say anything — for over a week, at the very least — about where she had been, she was obsessively hunting through historical books for mention of the survivors of the Battle of Culloden. Viewers and the Reverend’s housekeeper, whom Claire had told about Jamie, knew she was looking for the name of her Scots husband.

Frank did not.

How cruel of Claire.

I felt sorry for Frank.

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Claire eventually told Frank about Jamie, in an extremely drawn-out scene, and a weeping Frank told his wife that he was just happy to have her back. But then the writers further extended the scene, dragging Claire’s story out so that it could include news of her pregnancy, with her callously emphasizing that the child was not Frank’s.

Over and over and over.

If I’d had any sympathy for Claire, it would have evaporated when she kept rubbing the fact that she was pregnant with another man’s child into the grieving Frank’s wounds.

Cue Tobias-as-Frank getting angry, making a fist, and lunging at the seated Cait-as-Claire.

Oh, no, they did not, I thought to myself, even as I realized that the show had just made Frank a violent idiot.

I don’t care if the show’s writers were trying to emphasize Frank’s relation to his ancestor Black Jack Randall with the fist-aimed-at-Claire scene. They’d already had Claire flinch when Frank attempted to kiss her in the hospital room, as an image of Black Jack Randall flashed before her eyes. One’s ancestors, no matter how remote or near, do not determine one’s character.


When the writers, or Tobias himself in an improv moment, made Frank ready to punch his wife — his wife — after he weepingly claimed to love her and to completely accept everything that had happened to her and to just be happy to have her back, Frank’s character fell apart.

I disliked him intensely.

As I would dislike any man who threatened any kind of violence toward a woman, especially toward one who was his wife, especially toward one whom he claims to love so much that, despite her being missing for so many years, he still madly loves her and wants her back.

Bad move, Outlander writers or Tobias.

I just lost all empathy for Frank.


Then, in an unbelievably slow move — making the Frank and Claire episode last 40 minutes out of the show’s hour premiere —  Frank told Claire he had been offered a job at Harvard, which he had been planning on turning down but now he was thinking of accepting. By accompanying him, Claire would never be able to return to the stones at Craigh na dun or to her Scots husband Jamie.

As viewers saw Claire and Frank on the plane to America, saw them disembark, saw Claire stare at some generic American skyline, I found myself wondering what in god’s name was going on with the story. Having not read the books, I didn’t have a clue about why Claire was ending up in America, but I did realize it would ruin her chances to return to Jamie.


And as Frank held out his hand to Claire at the bottom of the plane’s stairs, as Claire reached out to place her hand in his, as the camera shifted its angle to show the two hands reaching toward each other from below…


We were back in the past with Jamie helping Claire off the boat in France.


I gotta tellya, it gave me a headache, trying to figure out not only what was going on, but also how the show’s writers could have taken a story with so much dramatic possibility and made is so drearily insipid.

That took some hard work, dedication, and imagination, turning the Jamie and Claire story into something so boring.

Too bad the writers didn’t use all that dedication and imagination writing a really compelling drama: the kind of drama that readers find in the original books.


So, now we’re back with Claire and  Jamie, in France, and he seems to be wearing a wig, too, since his hair is so much thicker, longer, curlier, redder, and closer to his forehead than it was in the previous seasons, and like Claire’s hair, his also has no discernible part: one of the telltale signs of a bad wig.


What happened in France, you may ask?


Jamie’s cousin Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) is apparently there, despite the fact that I did not see him board the ship with the show’s two protagonists.

Jamie and Claire seem to have come into some serious money, despite their being exiles and Jamie’s being an escaped British prisoner, because their lodgings do not look like those of ostensible criminals on the lam.

And what are Jamie and Claire doing in France?

Trying to infiltrate the Jacobites who are hiding in France in order to prevent the Battle of Culloden from happening in the first place.

‘Cause, you know, Claire is so dense that she never paid attention to all the history lessons Frank was giving her while they were at the monument on Culloden Moor, and so Claire doesn’t know anything about the battle except that the Scots lost and the Brits decimated the Highland clans.


And though Jamie says, in dismay, that it’s “not a very honorable path [Claire’s] laying out for” them, he is apparently going along with this plan because… because… even though he’s a warrior and he wants to fight and he believes that Claire’s knowledge of the Battle’s outcome can help him galvanize the clan members more successfully so that they win the Battle of Culloden, Claire is the boss in this relationship because she’s from the future and because she’s more sexually experienced than Jamie and Outlander the show specializes in making Jamie nothing more than a weight-machine body with a very pretty face.

I guess Claire didn’t remember that the French assisted the colonists and the Native Americans against the British in the French and Indian War (1754-1763, known, internationally, as the Seven Years’ War), or that the French helped the American colonists with their Revolution against the British, or that the French even had a Revolution themselves, so she didn’t think to ask the French for military or financial help in the Battle of Culloden.

No, silly wittle girl that she is, she wants to infiltrate the Jacobites in France in order to convince them not to try to restore Bonnie Prince Charlie to the Scottish throne.

Am I the only one that thinks this makes no sense whatsoever?

Am I the only one that recalls that, in the show, Claire is already in America with Frank and that she is just remembering all these events with Jamie?

Am I the only one thoroughly disappointed with the writing of the premiere of Season Two of Outlander?


Instead of a story of Jamie and Claire in wedded bliss, expecting their first child, as the leaked photos would seem to indicate, Jamie and Claire are going to go Bond-James-Bond on us.


Instead of returning to Jamie’s ancestral home in Scotland and living in fear of Black Jack Randall, which is a more reasonable conflict since, technically, Jamie is a fugitive from the British, the two of them are going to Versailles.

Okay, the Versailles part wasn’t actually in the premiere: it was in the previews for next week.

At Versailles, where the king and the royal court are living, where all the women are wearing dresses like this,


like this,


like this,


and like this,


Claire is going to be wearing dresses like this,


like this,


and like this.


Then, when Jamie and Claire rub shoulders with all the royalty at Versailles, who will be dressed like this,


and like this,


the two of them will be dressed like this,


and like this (at least Jamie has some ruffles in the photo below).

Oh, I got so bored during the premiere, and so confused by the flurry of Versailles-related events in the previews, that I didn’t even want to know anything more about the ostensibly great love between Jamie and Claire.


I’m ready to hang it up on Outlander, and not because of the Exorcist-puke-yellow that someone will keep dressing Cait-as-Claire in this season,


but because the story, which has so much dramatic potential, is simply duller than watching cement dry and become concrete.

I’m not attracted to the actors playing Jamie and Claire, if only because neither of them can act very well.


I don’t care if it looks like Black Jack is going to either appear in France, or Jamie is going to return to Scotland, so they can have a duel.


I don’t care about the faux conflict the show’s writers created by having Claire loudly announce that there was plague (smallpox) on a ship,


earning the enmity of some French nobleman, Le Comte de St. Germain, who vowed revenge.


I don’t even care about Jamie and Claire’s baby,


their supposedly life-long, loving relationship,


or even about the Battle of Culloden,


since one of the very things that interested me in Outlander —  the show — was how a woman from the future, with knowledge of the historical outcome of the battle that caused the decimation of the Scottish Highland clans, was going to attempt to change that Battle’s outcome.

All I saw in Season One, Parts One and Two, of Outlander, the show, was bad writing, slow storytelling, mediocre to poor acting, and inconsistent characterization that confused and bewildered me.

Unfortunately, in many key aspects, such as in Jamie’s character, the show seems to be very unlike the book Outlander, and I found the show confusing in the extreme.

Looks like Season Two of Outlander, the show, is going to be more of the same as it was in Season 1.

With Versailles thrown in for the costume-designer’s fun.


Related Posts

Outlander, the Show: My Blogs from Season One



Filed under Actors, Authors, Books, Movies/Television, Outlander, Recap, Review

The OUTLANDER Smackdown: Book vs Show, Part Two


Disappointment Galore

UnknownIn Part One of the Outlander Smackdown: Book vs Show, I went very meticulously through the first few episodes of the Starz’s show, based on the bestselling books by Diana Gabaldon, comparing episodes and chapters, scenes from the show and dialogue from the book, looking for the good and the weaker in both versions of Outlander.

I have just spent the last two days doing the same thing for the remaining episodes of Season 1 Part 1, and I was intending to analyze each episode in the same way.

But something happened.

Something in me cracked.

I saw more hours stretching ahead of me writing a blog comparing the show adaptation to the book than I’d spent watching the show’s 16 episodes and than I’d spent reading the first book in the series.

I felt weighed down, depressed, and unhappy.

After all, there is only so much you can say about a show that gets further and further away from the book as each episode progresses.

There is only so much you can say about a book that has so much reader love which is, unfortunately, not being translated into love of the show.

So, that’s what I decided to talk about instead.

What is it that’s in the book Outlander that the readers love so much that has not been translated into the show?

What is it in the show that has turned away even non-readers of the book, i.e., what has failed in the Starz adaptation of Outlander as a stand-alone drama?

Jamie & Claire

imagesIt’s clear that the major attraction for readers of the book is the relationship between the time-transported Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and her Scots husband Jamie (Sam Heughan). The wedding episode probably had more viewers than any other. It certainly got more pre-air-time publicity, press, and viewer memes.

The number of photos on the internet of women imitating that wedding  — from having their gowns designed like Claire’s (above, top), to having their grooms wear kilts, to having their poor grooms grow their hair long so they’ll look more like Jamie — is staggering. (I don’t imagine that it’s the grooms who are saying, “Hey, Honey, how about if I grow my hear real long and shaggy and wear a kilt to our wedding, and you can dress yourself up to look like Claire?”)

images-36Readers are clearly transported by and deeply emotionally invested in the relationship they see between Jamie and Claire, which readers of the book interpret as love.

On forums and Outlander pages, they complain that the love between Claire and Jamie in the book is not shown in the adaptation.

I guess I didn’t see any great love between them, in either the book or the show.

I saw physical attraction, on both sides, but I didn’t see love.

The Wedding Ring

images-14The wedding ring, which is a symbol of the love that readers see between Claire and Jamie, is nothing more than a key in the show: a poor substitute for the beautifully described ring of the book.

The ring, that bothered me.

Why a dull key? Was it supposed to be a symbol? Was it supposed to be the key to Jamie’s heart or something?

images-7It wasn’t anything like the gorgeous ring described in the book, even if Claire didn’t get the book-ring during the ceremony: Jamie used his father’s wedding ring instead, a lovely ring with a ruby, which she gave back to him on their wedding night.

The key-ring of the show was pathetic and insulting.

The Pearls

images-15In the show, Jamie gives Claire his mother’s pearls on their wedding night, when they’re alone. In the book, he gives them to her before they marry. That part of the story works either way for me. She got the pearls on the same day, so it didn’t really matter to me exactly when she got them.

The pearls were lovely.

His wanting her to have his mother’s pearls was even lovelier, book or show.

Frank & Claire

images-12I didn’t mind the show’s changing the fact that Frank (Tobias Menzies) and Claire had originally been married in the same chapel where she and Jamie were eventually married. It was dramatically successful to show that Frank’s “impulsive” civil marriage — before introducing Claire to his parents for the first time — could be regarded as “romantic.”

Besides, it worked better with the contrast of the two marriages to have Frank & Claire marry on the spur of the moment in a courthouse civil ceremony, and to have Claire agonize over marrying Jamie “for convenience” in a religious church ceremony after she’s transported to the past.

Unknown-2A religious ceremony that Jamie takes so seriously he comes late: he’s had to clean up, get his own clan plaids, and look good for his intended bride.

Even if the Frank and Claire marriage wasn’t in the book as an impulsive civil ceremony, that part worked fine for me in the show.

The Great Love

images-21To be completely honest, I didn’t see any great love between Claire and Jamie in the book itself. What I read repeatedly in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander was Claire’s comparing her feelings for Jamie to the “temporary” and “physical attraction” that many “doctors, nurses, and patients” had experienced during the War (chapter 16).

Claire even admitted to having felt such attractions herself during her time as a combat nurse, though she had always refrained from acting on them, thus not ever being unfaithful to her husband Frank (also, chapter 16).

images-1She also admitted that she had long been aware, in her time-transported life, of Jamie’s attraction to her, though she also compared that to the attractions wounded soldiers had for their nurses in the War.

I saw physical attraction in the book.

Not love.

I saw physical attraction in the show, on Claire’s part, that might have grown into love — I couldn’t tell based on some of her atrocious behaviour to Jamie.

images-9I also saw guilt, on her part, for being attracted to Jamie because she was already married to Frank and also because she’d never acted on those feelings for anyone else, during the War.

images-2What I never saw in the show was her admission that she had ever had those feelings of attraction for anyone during the War, that she had noticed the physical attraction between other people during the War (leading to their having affairs), or that those physical feelings were any different from her attraction to her own husband Frank.

That means the viewers were left to interpret the fact that Claire felt more physical attraction for Jamie than for Frank, which is definitely open for argument in the book, and to interpret that as meaning that she had never felt it for anyone else except Jamie, which is most clearly not what Claire says in the book.

Unknown-1In the show, however, Jamie clearly seemed more than physically attracted to Claire early on: he seemed to have feelings for her from the beginning. Certainly he had them by the time they married, or he wouldn’t have gone through all that trouble to make it a beautiful wedding. In the book, Jamie also eventually tells Claire that he had strong feelings for her — not just sexual ones, though those, too, were present — from their first meeting.

images-8In the book, Jamie told her his “conditions” for the wedding: that it be in a church with a priest, that she have a gown, and that she have a ring. But he didn’t tell her those things on their wedding night. He told her much later. And it was only then that readers might have gotten the idea that Jamie had more love for Claire than she yet had for him.

In the show, he told her those “conditions” on their wedding night, before their first sexual encounter. Since I hadn’t read the book at the time I saw the show, I didn’t know how to interpret Jamie’s “conditions.” I know that I didn’t interpret them as “love,” however; I thought that he simply viewed marriage as a life-long commitment, as his parents’ had been, and so he wanted a nice ceremony.

Claire’s Narration

images-3I admit that it is difficult — but certainly not impossible — to have all the elements of a book written in First Person Point of View, with a narrator’s intimate thoughts and feelings revealed to the reader, put into a dramatic adaptation as a Voice-Over. Screen adaptations are visual, and sometimes that’s better than what you can get in a book: viewers get more historical information about clothing, hairstyles, etc in a dramatic adaptation much more quickly than they do in a book (and, in any event, Gabaldon leaves out most of the historical description in Outlander, so in that arena, the show is an improvement).

But nothing can replace the intimacy of being inside one character’s head for a prolonged period of time. And there have been successful Voice-Overs in dramatic adaptations. The Oscar-winning Isabelle Huppert version of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is a case in point: it manages to be so faithful to the book that even the ironic Voice of the Author is presented as the Voice-Over commentary on the characters and their behaviour as the viewers see the action on-screen.

I’m not saying that everything Claire thinks in Outlander is profound, earth-shattering, or will change your interpretation of her behaviour. However, having watched the show before reading the book, I can assure you that leaving out virtually all of Claire’s thoughts does, indeed, significantly change not only her own personality, but her relationships as well.

Claire & Jamie,
the Adaptation

images-18Her relationship with and physical attraction to Jamie is one of the most important things that gets changed from book to show. In the book, Claire clearly and repeatedly compares what she feels for Jamie to the brief  “physical” entanglements that happened between strangers thrown together in intense moments during the War. Physical attractions that she also felt, though she does not specify whether she felt them for doctors or for wounded soldiers who were her patients, but attractions that she felt strongly enough to resist so as not to be unfaithful to her husband Frank.

Many Outlander readers apparently interpret those intense sexual feelings that Claire discusses as love. Especially when she compares Jamie’s feelings for her to those she witnessed and felt in the War, and when she compares her own attraction to Jamie to those War-emotions.

That is all lost in the show.

Because it’s lost, because even the mention of the capability of physical attraction to other men by Claire is lost, then viewers who have not read the book don’t understand the relationship between Jamie and Claire. It seems like a sexual fling.

One that will burn out quickly.

One that, unfortunately, is not even convincing in the first place.

At least the book’s narration provided some awareness on Claire’s part that she did have sexual feelings for men other than her husband Frank, and that she was able to recognize when men — soldiers, patients, Jamie — had them for her.

Also, the book’s narration made it blatantly clear that, as a married woman, Claire chose when to act on those sexual feelings, and that she had only acted on them with Jamie.

Claire & Frank,
the Adaptation

Unknown-1One of the strengths of the show is dramatically portraying the relationship between Frank and Claire. Readers don’t seem to like it, however, as they continually insist that they thought “Claire married Frank for safety,” that Claire and Frank had a “Teacher-Student type of relationship,” or that “Frank and Claire never had oral sex.” Those are all interpretations of the book because the book is very vague on the relationship between Frank and Claire, whether it be their sexual connection, their friendship, their love, their marriage, or their long separation during the War.

In fact, except for the physical attraction between Jamie and Claire, the book is just as vague about virtually everything sexual. Only two sexual encounters (detailed below) are graphic. The others are all alluded to.

images-37Concerning Frank and Claire’s relationship between book and show, however, Claire does mention, in chapter 24, for one paragraph, that Frank must be worried sick about her having disappeared, that he must be looking everywhere for her, and that he must have gone several times to Scotland Yard for news of her.

When I praised episode 108 in a blog post last year, where Frank was brought back into the storyline, I got “corrected” in comments.

I was informed that Frank never appeared in the book again, so the show was just “wrong.”

images-4While it’s true that Frank doesn’t appear in the book after early chapters, Claire often mentions him. In that paragraph in chapter 24, she worries about what Frank is going through, mentioning everything he must be doing to find her. The “Everything” Frank’s doing is what the show chose to dramatize. It was perfectly acceptable for the adaptation to show Frank doing those things since they didn’t have Claire’s narration as a Voice-Over very often.

It worked.

But readers apparently forgot some of those things between Frank and Claire in the book.

So they complained that the show had made them up.

No, the show expanded or dramatized some, like the paragraph that I just indicated, and it interpreted others that author Gabaldon left vague.

Frank & Claire
& the Joy of Sex

images-33Readers are delighted to admit that Claire and Jamie have a great, intense, virtually continuous sexual relationship, which the readers seem to interpret as love. And this is despite the fact that Claire complains about Jamie sexually, saying that he was “too hungry and too clumsy for tenderness” and that “his concern” for her “safety” was “at once endearing and irritating” (chapter 15).

That ain’t in the show.

Readers seem to forget that it’s in the book.

They also seem to forget that Claire and Frank do have sex. It’s always alluded to, but never written about in any great detail. So we don’t know if Claire liked, loved, or just endured sex with Frank.

But the aspect about Claire and Frank’s sex life that really riles readers/viewers is whether the two of them ever had oral sex, if Frank just wasn’t as interested in performing oral sex on Claire, or if he wasn’t as energetic in that particular area of their sexual relations, if Jamie was the first to perform oral sex on her…

Oy, vey, the annoyed reader/viewer discussions on that particular topic, which is left vague and open to huge interpretation in the book, though Claire is shown enthusiastically enjoying oral sex with Frank on the show.

The sexual relations between Frank and Claire are just never described as vividly or in as much detail as the one detailed sex scene that’s described between Claire and Jamie.

Only one sex scene between Claire and Jamie is given in graphic detail, and that  one is so much like a rape that Claire begs Jamie repeatedly to stop, telling him he’s hurting her, but he doesn’t, so she hurts him back, with vicious scratches and bites (chapter 23).

Both are bruised, battered, and sore the next day.


Black Jack Randall & Jaime
and Rape

images-36Is it mere coincidence that the only other graphic sex scene(s) in the book are the rapes that Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies, in a dual role) commits on Jamie in Wentworth Prison, related to Claire by Jamie, after she goes all “General Patton” on him — book and show —  in “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” (season 1 finale, episode 116)?

It was hard enough to read, they were so graphic.

Watching those rape scenes was horrific.

For the writers and producers of the show to have shown Jamie’s shame at his involuntary orgasm without having Claire explain why his body had ejaculated due solely to the continued pressure of BJR’s member on Jamie’s prostate gland was absolutely shameful.

And I don’t care if that bit of information would have been anachronistic or not.

She was a nurse. She’d seen battlefield atrocities. She would have known what Shell-Shock was (now called War-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder): General Patton was disciplined for slapping two boys suffering from it, so the condition was well-known during World War II.

Whether Claire would have known about rape-PTSD or not, the show did every boy and man a huge disservice by not explaining why Jamie’s body ejaculated involuntarily, shaming him because he thought it was pleasure. Some reviewers even mistakenly assumed that Jamie actually experienced pleasure.

I know that many premium cable channels — and Starz may be one of them — give their producers and writers complete creative freedom. In this instance, by allowing this kind of misinformation about male rape to be shown, Starz failed its viewers. Male bodies may react because of the type of physical stimulation, but it is not pleasure: it is still rape.

Not permitting Claire to “correct” Jamie’s misinterpretation of his body’s involuntary ejaculation during the rape was shameful, even if it might have been anachronistic (and I admit that I do not know if it would have been anachronistic, but I don’t care. That information should have been given to viewers by Claire’s giving it to her husband Jamie).

In any event, Starz, Outlander producers and writers, the actors themselves, and everyone else connected with the show had a moral obligation to all male rape victims to make it clear that Jamie’s body’s involuntary ejaculation did not mean he was experiencing pleasure: he was still being raped.

Just changing the words from “buggering” to “making love,” like Gabaldon did in the book, did not make the source of Jamie’s shame clear, as the continual flow of comments to me from my post on that issue indicate. Yes, that was how Jamie described it in the book. No, Claire did not correct him in the book. She didn’t even comfort him. She was too busy going General Patton on him.

That doesn’t mean the show shouldn’t have made it clear to all their viewers that Jamie’s body’s ejaculation was involuntary, that it was not caused by pleasure. There are viewers who insist that episode was particularly graphic only in an attempt to win Emmy nominations for Tobias Menzies, but Jamie’s rape was graphic in the book as well.

The difference is that reading about Jamie telling Claire about the rape put more emotional distance between the violent act and the book’s readers.

The adaptation showed it, slamming the viewers in the gut with it.

If the book and show were going to slam the readers and viewers with male rape and a victim’s involuntary ejacualtion, then everyone, from Diana Gabaldon to Ron D. Moore to Starz to the actors, had a moral obligation to all male rape victims — as well as to the women in their lives — to explain why Jamie misinterpreted his body’s involuntary response and why he subsequently felt so much shame that he wanted to commit suicide (by refusing to eat or drink).

In the book, Jamie wants to die because he thinks he’s going to lose his severely damaged hand, while, in the show, he wants to die because Black Jack Randall “broke him,” body and soul, by “making love” to him.

Shame on you, DG, RDM, Starz, et al.

Book vs. Show

images-1How do I think the show was, overall? Fair to middling, I guess. It was much  more interesting in Season 1 Part 1, despite its slow parts. But as a stand-alone drama, it deteriorated dreadfully in Season 1, Part 2.

How do I think the show compared to the book?

Not too well, I’m afraid.

We got some interesting things in the show that were not in the book — the addition of Father Bain and the exorcism fit well with the witch-trial, for example, and Claire’s helping deliver Jenny’s breech-baby was much more in line with her having been a nurse than her helping deliver a breech-foal by shoving her hand and arm up into a horse’s uterus.

Also, sometimes Claire’s Voice was inappropriately acerbic in the book: her openly yawning and complaining about the “boring” length of Ned’s defense of her during the witch-trial was incredible. How could a woman from 1945, who would know that women were regularly burned as witches even for inconsequential things like looking different, or saying things that others didn’t understand (e.g., “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ”) but whose words were taken as “casting curses,” how could a woman like that yawn openly during a trial in which her own life was at stake? (no pun intended)

Sometimes, the show did improve on things in the book.

But many of the things in the show that were not in the book did not improve the adaptation at all. In fact, some of the changes damaged the story and its characters. Jamie’s constant change of character, from episode to episode, left me confused as a viewer, and annoyed after I read the book since Jamie is quite consistent in the book.  Discovering that book-Jamie knew Latin, Greek, and was more fluent in French than Claire stunned me. All that tripe with the Duke of Sandringham was dull-ness in the extreme. Claire’s constantly stating that she had to get back to Craigh na dun and to Frank always seemed tacked on by the writers of the show: the character didn’t seem to feel it.

Maybe those additions or changes didn’t work because they weren’t in the book.

Then again, maybe they didn’t work because the adaptation wasn’t as good as it could have been.



Filed under Actors, Authors, Books, Movies/Television, Outlander, Rape, Violence