Hey all, thanks for the well-wishes, and here’s payback in the form of an unnecessarily long promo recap.
The title of this promo is more than a righteous Magic:The Gathering card. It’s also the nickname for Plutarch’sLives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, a series of biographies of famous men that highlighted their similar virtues and failings, and a fascinating study of morality and choices. It’s an apt lens through which to view this season of Outlander, in which Claire and Jamie struggle to make the most of their choice to separate, consequently exposing the best and worst of themselves (and those closest to them). It’s a reminder that our heroes are no more human than any of us: sometimes disturbingly fallible, others heartrendingly persistent. Plus I hear there’s a lot of sex.
Let’s dig in.
The promo opens on Claire and Bree, presumably on a plane back to Boston after their visit to Scotland. Caitriona Balfe narrates, letting us know that when we last saw the character it was 1968, right after her character discovers Jamie didn’t die at Culloden. Both Randall ladies seem immersed in thought.
Information like that has a way of jump-starting one’s fantasy life, and Claire gazes out of her plane window while Bree reassures her that they “will find him.” Don’t pat yourself on the back, kid. Everyone finds Jamie eventually. He’s pretty noteworthy.
Cut to Bree and Claire researching at what looks like a library with Roger. This promo needs more Roger. If this keeps up I am just going to start Photoshopping his face onto vases and stuff. Here he is, color-coordinating not only with the rich wood paneling but also Bree’s vest. I assume he’s the head researcher because he’s the only one who can read fluent Scottish noises.
I am still cleaning up around here, but I wanted to post my thoughts about this new venture.
This site is the culmination of a massive amount of time spent being bathed in the light of an LCD screen and talking to myself.I have always loved television. I feel that these shows are our modern fables, and they reveal not only the interests of the people who create them, but the values and culture of the people who watch.
Especially since Outlander premiered, folks encouraged me to start a formal blog that was more user-friendly than my Killing Time Tumblr. I was thrilled when the fine folks at Scotland Now hired me to write for them, but churning out a recap per week (in addition to being a mom and working a full-time gig) was a punishing schedule, and it forced me to make a shorter recap that was a bit more censored at times. I remain proud of the work I did there, but when Season 3 talks came around, we amicably parted ways. I wish everyone there the very best.
On that note, I finally decided “what the hell.” I don’t think I could shut myself up if I tried, so I’m taking a leap of faith and hoping folks follow along. This will be the new home for my Outlander recaps and other pieces on that show as well as an archive of my older Tumblr posts. I also hope to post about other shows I love and yes, maybe even recap a scene or episode if fancy takes me.
So thanks for visiting me. I appreciate every one of you, and I hope to see you around often.
First, let me say that this is what happens when the hiatus runs long and I’m on medical leave and I end up watching what amounts to 48 straight hours of Comic Con videos and photos and thinking, “Damn. These are some ridiculously attractive people.” A recap of the promo is a bit much for my short bursts of energy as things stand, but this rolled right out, ha ha.
Let me say first that obviously the series is more than the love scenes, and of course the actors on the show are talented, incredibly generous with charities and time spent connecting with the fandom. Absolutely true that the sum of the narrative is about more than physical bodies and the collective gravity-defying sex appeal of the cast. Now that we have established that, I’m just going to talk about the sexy, so if that isn’t your cup of tea, jump ship.
For purposes of this rumination, I am going to stick with the principal S1-S3 characters. The adult ones, or the ones that will be adults by the end of S3. Also, when I refer to “boy-me,” that’s because I am cis hetero. Insert your own gender/orientation as it applies. Or don’t, and taste the rainbow. Live a little.
Fergus Fraser- I have yet to see adult Fergus onscreen, but if the social media reaction is any gauge at all, he’s going to be propelled straight into heaven by giant, gusting sighs. Fergus combines the earnest face of a renaissance angel with the easygoing rough-and-tumble-ness of your favorite boy band member, and 14-year old me would be HERE FOR IT. Tween/early teen me had a short list for the ideal boyfriend: be arguably prettier than me, have an accent and be super into insecure, cantankerous young women. Fergus and I would have been blissfully happy right until I met him in person at my local mall and fainted dead away, ending our brief, blissful love.
So… The reunion scene isn’t until 306. That’s under six episodes… One to cover Culloden and its aftermath, maybe 1-2 more when he’s in jail, two more for Geneva and William and then boom we meet him again as a printer?
Leaving aside the fact that Outlander is the story of Claire’s life (and yes, by extension her great love but all of the characters connect via her, she is the linchpin)…
That’s actually not a lot of time for all the story that they need to get through on Jamie’s end alone.
It’s a great romance, but there is other story there to be told. It’s all relevant, and as the saga goes on and the cast of characters expands, the emphasis will shift from Claire/Jamie, fairly often.
Have you been too happy lately? Face hurt from smiling? Did you find that the Droughtlander was finally long enough that you remembered your kids, started reading books other than Voyager and finally quit re-watching Outlander S2? Are you feeling like maybe your kids aren’t as fascinating as wondering about the print shop scene?
Starz has the cure. A new teaser trailer for Season 3 dropped a week ago, and with it, an opportunity for me to procrastinate indulge in shenanigans.
Let’s get to it.
We begin by briefly revisiting Jamie and Claire’s angst-ridden goodbye from the S2 finale, just in case you didn’t remember how sh*tty that was. This also serves as foreshadowing so you know in advance that it doesn’t take a great production an hour to make you into a sobbing pile of used tissues and turn your previous playful humor dark as the Batcave. We’re getting it done in under 30 seconds.
The next image flashes by, but is a gut-punch all the same: the aftermath of the battle of Culloden. A literal and figurative dark night of the soul, and a reminder of just how awful we can be to each other in the name of a principle.
At its center, Jamie. Sad, blue, and probably suffering hypothermia and raging blood poisoning.
Jamie’s voice-over, which runs the entire length of the clip, is this pared-down and restructured novel quote from e213:
“I have lied, killed, and broken trust. But when I stand before God, I’ll have one thing to say to weigh against all the rest. Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”
This is followed by two brief glimpses. One of Lallybroch in what looks like summer…
…and one of a serious, pale Jamie, dressed in breeches, riding a horse through the woods. He looks ghostlike in the mist, his features sharp and drawn.
And last in this series, the Selznick-technicolor-like shot of Jamie in the thick of battle at Culloden field, his attention caught by something we can’t yet see. Despite his obvious exhaustion and what is going on around him, he is as brilliantly rendered as a medieval saint, beautiful and stoic as any martyr.
Hopping forward to the 1960s, Claire is sitting in perhaps a doctor’s lounge with what looks like a poinsettia pin on, seemingly staring at something on maybe a television along with her fellow staff.
Depending on the month and year (Claire’s hair doesn’t show the grey streak but is already in the 1968 pompadour), it could be this, this or heck, maybe the grey is just hard to see and it’s maybe even this.
Then some more flashes of Claire’s life sans Jamie. The happy parts, like Bree graduating high school…
…and the sad parts, like forgetting that she no longer has an all-access pass to the Ginger Roller Coaster at FraserWorld.
Back to post-Culloden Jamie, who is also Very Sad and is wandering around the countryside, petting Scotland like it’s a giant cat and looking like Highland Kurt Cobain.
Then, a brief flash of the [OMG BOOK SPOILER] Fraser kids, 16-year old Bree with Frank and Claire at the world’s saddest teen birthday…
…and what I am assuming is little William Ransom, launching himself at Mac the stable groom (aka JAMMF).
UGH THE HEARTBREAK. If there is anything Heughan excels at, it’s letting his face crumple from neutral to devastated, and I look forward to feeling my own face fall in helpless sympathy.
As we draw to the end, a frightened Claire runs down a hospital hallway in her scrubs…
…and a determined Jamie, shooting a man point-blank.
Finally, as the final two lines of Jamie’s voiceover play (”I’ll find you. I promise.”), a bedraggled, wild-eyed Jamie stumbles through some ruins while looking for the Frenchman’s gold and a white witch, shouting Claire’s name.
Because this popped into my head and I won’t be doing any more pieces for Scotland Now/The Daily Record till September, when, for all we know, we might all be in the depths of a nuclear winter and I might not have access to Tumblr. Or fingers.
Slight book spoilers, but nothing beyond what’s already in the press. Read on at your own peril.
1. Frank Randall. This poor bastard is likely the only character that wishes the premiere was two weeks after never. He finally convinced Claire to give it a go for old times’ sake, moved across the ocean, is fathering a child that isn’t his, all in the hope that he can recapture the past. The inevitable breakdown of his hope and rise of his IDGAF-ness will be both tragic and riveting. I both dread it and also CAN’T WAIT.
2. Bree Randall. Not only does she have to listen to Claire constantly justify herself by describing how SCORCHING the sex was with her bio-dad, the revelation that Jamie is alive (past alive, currently dead, it’s very timey-wimey), means that Bree will now also have to shoulder the burden of making herself a 20th-century orphan x3 vs. leaving human baby chinchilla and potential bae (Roger) behind before they even hit first base. Either way, someone’s getting c*ckblocked.
3. Roger Wakefield. There are a lot of dangerous things that happen in the Outlander-verse, but none is as guaranteed to be risky as falling in love with a Fraser. Much like Moses parting the Red Sea, loving a Fraser requires brass balls, excellent hair, and divine intervention. From the moment Roger spied Bree across a room, he hitched his wagon to Satan’s ponies, and it’s only a matter of time before he joins mom-in-law Claire on the dark side. Ain’t nothing like a Randall woman to make a Mackenzie boy lose his gotdamb mind.
4. Claire Fraser-cum-Randall. Claire is not here for a lot of things, and now those things include the Bonnie Prince Charlie, traditional gender roles and the 20th century. We get the sense at the end of S2 that the Randall marriage was unhappy–and we’ll get to see that progression happen–but we’ll also see the pain and loneliness that Claire hides from everyone else, and her despair at never seeing Jamie again. Now that she knows he is alive, she’s pointed herself right at him like a bouffant-y, sexually frustrated arrow, but the man she is going back to won’t be the one she left behind.
5. James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. Jamie finished up S2 by giving up his wife and child after agreeing to betray his King, killing his uncle and heading off to die in war. You wouldn’t think things could get worse for our Scottish Aslan, but you would be SO WRONG. War. Prison. NO KILTS. Not only does he get to live in constant ignorance of what happened to his family, but that bod is like a Ferrari that only gets driven to oil changes and that is a crying shame. Basically, underneath Jamie’s lagoon of sadness lives a subterranean village of suck, and he has barely set foot on what will be an island cave filled wall-to-wall with WTF.
So I read the original article with Eleanor Tomlinson last week and thought there were definite parallels to Arrow, Outlander and a bunch of other shows being marketed to women lately, and I just wanted to air some thoughts. Brace yourself for some long top-of-my-head musings I copied over from a private discussion.
Specifically as regards to marketing (so, not who is watching, but how shows are advertised and language used in interviews):
Speaking of Outlander, I think the issue began early on when Starz made the decision to market the show as a romantic period bodice-ripper. At the beginning there was a short period where the “Time Traveling Female Badass” was being stressed, and for whatever reason, that didn’t get response maybe and so we went full “Watch Us We Have Hot People Doing It.” Then the kilt questions, endless reblogging of Sam’s butt and his naked self in the river, interviewers and ads stressing the sexy aspect… None of this is inherently wrong, I want to stress that I don’t think sex is bad or shameful. But I do think that consumers (or viewers, in this case) are buying what you write on the label. IMHO the marketing campaign managed what decades of the Dewey Decimal System couldn’t, which is pigeonholing the story into sexy people sexcapading.
I admire Eleanor’s statements when she points out the show is more than its hot lead, or his chest, or questions about it. I think it’s great that people want to watch a show because it’s sexy, but I don’t
think that’s the main or ONLY reason to watch. I think for Outlander, the story this season was groundbreaking and really well-acted– the whole Culloden arc is tragic– and some people are still complaining there wasn’t enough (physical) intimacy.
Is that a failing, or an unmet expectation? For Arrow, Stephen Amell used to be shown shirtless ALL the time, and I occasionally still run across a disappointed fan asking why this doesn’t happen as much anymore. I feel your pain, ladies (and gents), I’m a hetero woman with eyes…but I’m more interested in why we feel it should.
I don’t think it has to extend into objectification. That would require institutional prejudices that simply don’t exist for men as opposed to women (historically speaking). But I do think there is a place to consider a work of art independent of how hot the actors are, because 1. most actors are hot 2. an actor’s job is to disappear into the role. So by some standard if the actor’s attractiveness supersedes the performance, that’s an issue. At the other end of this is a self-fulfilling prophecy: a less attractive character actor is somehow thought to be “better” and garners more buzz or awards than someone who is attractive and isn’t
thought to work as hard. This was one of the points in the Method article I linked last week.
This also touches a bit on the trap a lot of creators are falling into when they make and market these shows: if you create an expectation, people will demand you feed the beast. If you say you do sexy in a feminist way, feminists are still going to want that sexy. Put a shirtless guy on an ad, and people will tune in to see shirtless men. I’m oversimplifying, of course, but that is one of the reasons it’s so important to understand what is being sold, and the contract of sorts you are making with your audience. I think in a way this might be a learning curve for shows as they navigate the new wave of viewers who demand both visual gratification and social awareness from their shows.
The Poldark actresses seem to be making a concerted effort to back away from oversexualizing their show and fellow actors not as a way to shame their fandom, but as a way to take back creative ownership of their performances. While I still maintain that objectification isn’t a standard for male actors as it has been for female actors, the balance of power towards empowerment should be something both sexes (and the audience) strive for. If you’re unfamiliar with the objectification vs. empowerment distinction, here is a very helpful cartoon from Everyday Feminism that really enlightened me. Basically what it comes down to is, who has the power?
So when I apply this to actors on a series, it’s a bit fuzzy. Initially the power is not in the actor’s hands, as they have to submit to a producer/director/script. I suppose they have the power to quit and break contract but usually 1. they are convinced it is part of their job as the person who brings that character to life, 2. they are doing it for the good of the story, and 3. It is a moment in time and not their whole portrayal. The problem arises that now that we have the power to capture and reproduce that moment ad infinitum, the power is taken from the individual. The moment can be isolated from the narrative and the individual presented only as a sexual object, independent of his own intentions and that of the story. That’s troublesome.
But as I said earlier, sex is great, we all like it, and it sells. So how to reconcile this new sensitivity in an enlightened social age with people who just plain like seeing butts and abs? Maybe the point now is that this is happening more and more to cis males, we can come up with a set of standards across genders that can be adhered to and become a new social norm. A new concept that takes into account the joy we find in bodies while limiting the power we give them as marketing objects. We can hope, at least.