I freaking loved this episode. I wanted to bundle it in something pretty and display it proudly in my home. I need to name a child after it, and then when people ask me “Why is your child called ‘Freedomandwhisky?” I can sit their pristine little tushes down on my sofa and give them a parade of feels. Afterwards we can get drunk together and eat ice cream, and the world will seem a better, happier place. Not to say this was a happy episode, per se. What it was was about identity and change. As Semisonic once said, “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” The revelations in episodes past all have their emotional payoff here, as characters experience new beginnings that come from some other beginning’s end.
Spoilers ahead for episode 305.
Here are five takeaways:
Randall aftermath. One of the things this episode did really well was to tie up the emotional loose ends of the turbulent Randall marriage. Claire made a commitment to Frank, once upon a time, to forget Jamie. She made a commitment to Jamie to keep their daughter safe, and watch over her. To some extent, keeping each of those promises meant defrauding the other. Her choice (and it was a choice) to stay with Frank up until the end of his life impacted lives aside from their own, and it felt honest and real to see Sandy’s bitterness, hear Joe’s brief, brutal summation and watch Brianna doubt Frank’s love. Even though she is our hero, and despite a keen scientific mind, Claire doesn’t always analyze her own motivations, and usually sidesteps blame when it comes her way. It’s one of those quirks that defines and humanizes her character, and the reason so many people end up entangled in so many shenanigans in her name.
The return of Magical Claire. Not since Master Raymond in Season 2 have we gotten a hint at the book’s allusions that Claire’s healing powers are, at least in part, magical. In that timey-wimey way Outlander has, her examination of Joe’s “pretty lady” bones is mostly instinctual, and it yields some insights that are in no way scientifically derived. The surgery that she encouraged Joe to attempt on his own would have undoubtedly been a failure, as he would have closed without extracting the necrosis she instinctively knew was there. Geillis and Claire were both called witches, and certainly Geillis owned that title much more than her time-traveling companion, but there might be more there than meets the eye. Her notebook is no longer seen as the ravings of a madwoman, but instead a reference manual for time travel, as evidenced by Brianna’s gift of a topaz necklace to aid in Claire’s return. These little moments are touched on very briefly, but very distinctly, and certainly bear watching.
Mommy’s Little Girl. Bree’s statement that she is more her mother’s child than either of her fathers’ is more revealing than she knows. Her “Everything is fine,” to her professors, her intense privacy and her pride are all callbacks to Claire. Certainly that deep breath in the kitchen, echoes Claire’s deep breath at the doors of the morgue after Frank’s death. Children do as we do, not as we say, and she’s certainly learned to suppress intense emotion and get on with it. Despite her very real loss of identity in finding out about her biological father and wondering if she was truly loved, questioning the authenticity of her own story, by the end of the episode the selfishness that has has been her most frequently cited negative trait is beautifully offset by her choice to actively encourage her mother to go back in time and retake the life that she unwittingly interrupted. It is a lovely, generous, action, and it served to endear me to the character in a way I didn’t experience until much later in the books.
Shipping RedBeard. I loved seeing the further blossoming of Brianna and Roger’s relationship. Series Roger is endearingly geeky and goofy, but that fumbling exterior covers up a deep well of understanding about what it means to be well-loved. Roger may have experienced a lot of pain and loss in his life, but he was also raised with honesty, and the stories he heard held deep, meaningful resonance. Brianna’s worldview has been forcibly shifted, and Roger’s upbringing gives him the means to remain grounded and hopeful in the face of her doubts, without needing to convert her to his way of thinking. He has all the patience of Frank with the emotional intelligence of Jamie, and this is a marriage of viewpoints that calls to the parts of Brianna that are in turmoil. Roger doesn’t deny his pain, and he understands loss. Bree is practical, analytical. Roger is introspective, sensitive. They are uniquely positioned to cover each other’s deficits and reinforce each other’s strengths — and they are cute as sleeping baby mice together.
But the book… I always understand the reasons for changing things from the book, but this was one of few episodes where I only briefly made a mental note, and it didn’t affect my enjoyment at all. Usually there are a couple of lines or edits that will make me wistful enough to crack the books open a bit, but for me at least, Outlander is like Cinderella. There’s the source, the bible if you will, and then there are all the interpretations. The interpretations tell the story, but they also reveal insight into the teller. The things they choose to highlight, the things they leave behind, their own impressions of the past, and current times. One of the gifts of this particular retelling of this story is the ability to see the emotions we have so long held in our minds and hearts transposed onto real faces and bodies. I think this is one of the most exquisitely delicate episodes of this show produced so far, and I really feel it did justice to the wait.