Outlander Recap: Dragonfly in Amber

1Previously on Outlander: Claire and Jamie tried really, really hard to avoid the Battle of Culloden, but alas, ‘twas not to be.

1746: The battle is nigh. The very morning of, Jamie is still begging Charles to call the whole thing off, reminding this idiot that his entire army is cold, hungry, and seriously ill-prepared. Charles is basically all, ‘Whatever, doubter. Let me drop some more religion on you, because that often serves one well in circumstance such as these.’ Culloden is on.

Claire decides the only thing to do is to assassinate Charles, which is precisely what Murtaugh has been telling them to do since Paris day one, right? And they told him that wouldn’t work because…reasons. But now that it’s Claire’s idea, it’s totally cool. What Claire wants, Claire gets, and she’s not going to let a little thing like an actual human life stand in her way. And yes, you could make the argument that she’s hoping to save many lives here, but let’s not kid ourselves: she’s only doing this because she’s worried about Jamie. If it were just a bunch of Highlanders marching off to their doom, she’s probably just shrug and mutter, ‘War really is hell, in any century.’ And maybe patch up the survivors.

Unfortunately, this assassination plot is overheard by Dougal, who’s not at all pleased to hear Jamie so willingly discussing killing their rightful heir to the throne. And you have to think that this would be seriously confusing to anyone on the outside, considering how gung-ho Jamie’s been on the rebellion all this time. The only thing to do here is, of course, to stab Dougal in the chest, which Jamie and Claire do, together.  Co-murder really helps cement a relationship, you know? Just as Charles Starkweather and Caril Fugate.

While they’re standing over Dougal’s body, in comes Angus, who can’t quite WTF enough to fully express his shock. Jamie begs for a couple of hours to get his affairs in order, and Angus gives it to him. In a couple of hours, aren’t you two marching into battle? Seems like that should take care of matters, right?

[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Murtagh’s reaction to news of Dougal’s death is essentially, ‘What the hell took you so long?’[/cryout-pullquote]

Jamie grabs Murtagh and explains what happened. Murtagh’s reaction to news of Dougal’s death is essentially, ‘What the hell took you so long?’ Jamie signs Lallybroch over to his nephew, with Claire and Murtagh signing the official document as witnesses (cleverly, Jamie had the document backdated to before the rebellion, so his treasonous behaviour couldn’t be used to void the whole thing). Fergus—yes, Fergus, who’s all of, what, eleven? Twelve?—is entrusted with taking this very important document to Lallybroch safely. Are you guys kidding me with this? Murtagh offers to take it but the offer is declined because…reasons. Oh, apparently Jamie wants Murtagh to take the Lallybroch men home before the battle, so they’re not slaughtered. If Murtagh’s already going to Lallybroch anyway, why can’t he deliver this document as well? Why didn’t they at least wait and send Fergus with all of these guys, which seems like it’d be a hell of a lot safer than sending a child through unfamiliar countryside that’s crawling with British soldiers. I know they’re under stress right now, but come on, this is the most basic levels of common sense.

Also, is nobody concerned about the fact the MacKenzie clan now has no real leader? Jamie was supposed to run things while his nephew was underage, but with him out of the picture, what happens there? Anybody care? No? Ok, then.

Jamie’s final order of business is to hustle Claire off to the stones so she can go back through. Jamie’s determined for her to do so because he knows she’s pregnant, having been very, very closely tracking her periods ever since they were first married. That’s a bit obsessive, actually, especially since it’s not as if there hasn’t been a lot going on for him, lately. The two of them have a tearful parting that then turns into some al fresco sex (because having impromptu sex out in the open with soldiers nearby has never worked out poorly for them in the past) which is interrupted by the sound of cannon fire in the distance. War. Such a c*ck blocker.

1968: Reverend Wakefield has passed away, and it’s time for his wake. Roger, his nephew/adopted son is now all grown up and looks like what would happen if you mashed James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe together. This is not a bad thing. Claire has come over from Boston, bringing along her snotty bitch of a daughter, Brianna. Claire is a surgeon now, which amuses me a little, considering how absolutely terrible she is at weighing options quickly, assessing multiple outcomes, and actually choosing the best path to take. It also kind of interests me, because qualifying as a doctor, let alone a surgeon, would have been extremely difficult for a woman in the 1950s and 60s. It would have been equally, if not more, difficult for her to build up a practice because prevailing attitudes were such that a lot of people probably would have refused to be operated on by her. I’d like to hear more about how this came about, but alas, I will not. Not this season, at least. We also don’t get to hear about how Frank died, though it seems like it’s a fairly recent thing, not that you’d know it, given Claire’s blasé attitude. Poor Frank.

Roger, who’s clearly got the hots for Bree, despite having exactly no chemistry with her, swiftly invites them both to stay, even though they’re basically strangers, and Claire jumps right on that. The next day, Roger takes Bree to Fort William. That’s how the Scots do romance. ‘Hey, we’re surrounded by some of the most astonishingly beautiful countryside the world has to offer, but instead of exploring that, I’m going to show you a dreadful, blood-soaked prison so you can stare for a little while at the stocks your father was locked in while he had his back flogged bloody by a rape-happy, self-loathing sadist! Fun times!’

While there, he and Bree get into a back-and-forth about history, during which he comments that one shouldn’t try to out-history an American. I laugh for about ten minutes straight, because I know the average American doesn’t know ANYTHING about their own country’s history. There may be some vague notion about turkeys and pilgrims, and then Paul Revere signed the Declaration of Independence before Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and we saved Europe’s ass in World War II…and that’s about it. I’m convinced the only reason anybody knows what the Battle of Yorktown was anymore is because of Hamilton.

While they’re off doing that, Claire’s taking a trip down memory lane, visiting Lallybroch, which is now a hollowed-out ruin, heading to the Culloden battlefield to have a pretend conversation with Jamie about their daughter, and digging up the Lallybroch deed she signed all those centuries ago in the town’s archives. She also asks the woman in charge of the archives to do a genealogical search on Roger, because boundaries are for losers.

Bree confides to Roger that she thinks there’s something funny about her mother. They decide to go trolling through Rev Wakefield’s old diaries to see what they can find out (ahh, dead person diaries! Such a gift to writers, and I say that as a writer who’s totally made use of that tool). What they find is the article about Claire having been ‘returned’ by the fairies after being missing for three years, and when Bree does the math, she realises her mother was ‘returned’ a full trimester into her pregnancy.

She confronts Claire, demanding to know who her real father is. Claire’s all, ‘It’s complicated. Maybe you should sit down.’ She tells Bree and Roger about having travelled back in time, and finally—FINALLY—we meet someone who’s rather skeptical of this whole insane story, and it’s the human result of said time-travelling nookie. Bree stomps out in a snit, now completely uninterested in hearing anything about her father, even though that’s why she started this conversation in the first place.

While out with Roger, Bree wanders into an ‘Independence for Scotland’ rally being led by none other than Geillis Duncan—or Jillian Edgars, as she was in her own time. Hi, Geillis! She’s super into the whole notion of Scotland regaining its greatness by cutting itself off from its closest neighbour and isolating itself. It’s seriously depressing to be watching this, post-Brexit. She and Bree chat a bit, and she invites Bree to an upcoming rally, mentioning offhand that she won’t be around for long.

Claire finds the rally flyer at Roger’s and goes to Geillis/Jillian’s home to have a chat, I guess, even though Jillian’s not going to have the faintest idea who the heck Claire is. But it doesn’t matter, because Jillian doesn’t live there anymore. Claire only finds the woman’s husband, seriously depressed and day drinking because his wife up and left, judging him to be not quite enthusiastic enough about Scottish independence to suit her. He gives Claire some journals Jillian left behind. More diaries!

These journals are the work of a seriously crazy person. They’re filled with Jillian’s research about time travel. She has, somehow, decided that the stones can send her back in time, and that furthermore they can send her back to the 18th century, just before Culloden. How on earth would she figure that? Oh, and the best part: she’s also decided a human sacrifice is needed to make all this work. Holy. Shit. This woman is a psycho. I’m pretty sure even Alex Salmond would stop short of murder, even if it meant gaining Scottish independence.

[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Oh, now Claire’s worried about messing with the timeline? Really? Now? [/cryout-pullquote]

Bree comes home, a bit contrite, and Claire tells her about Jamie. Over the course of their conversation, Jillian comes up and Claire realises Jillian means to go through the stones soon. She panics a bit, because going through the stones will result in the woman being burned at the stake. Roger hears that and, being a normal human being and not a sociopath, immediately says they need to stop her. But no! Apparently Claire’s snooping into his family history revealed that one of his ancestors is Geillis’s and Dougal’s son, and she worries that if they stop Jillian from going through, that ancestor won’t be born and Roger won’t exist. Oh, now she’s worried about messing with the timeline? Really? Now? Well, I guess she has had a couple of decades to think about it. Or maybe she saw a couple of episodes of Star Trek and went, ‘Ohhhh, I get it now.’

Roger’s a bit skeptical that saving this woman from a horrifying fate will totally erase him from history, plus there’s that whole terrifying human sacrifice aspect, so they head off to Crag na Dun. They arrive just in time to see Jillian, dressed in a full 18th century ensemble that she must have picked up from a very well-stocked costume place nearby, disappear through the stones. That’s after she set her husband’s body alight nearby. Like I said, this woman’s a complete psycho.

But on the upside, Roger continues to exist, and now Bree totally believes Claire’s insane story about time travel. And Roger has a little gift for Claire: it turns out that Jamie survived the Battle of Culloden after all, and went on the run. Claire hears that and immediately decides she has to go back, because it’s not as if she has any obligations or responsibilities in the 20th century, right? Like, her patients? Or her daughter? Are you going to take your 20-year-old daughter back to Rapeland, Claire? Does that seem like a good plan to you?

Oh, right. Plans are not your thing. And you’re clearly no longer worried about screwing up historical timelines. It’s really all about what you want. Sigh. And, we’re back where we started.

I don’t think it’ll come as any surprise to hear that I didn’t care for this season. Oh, it had its good points: the costumes in Paris were fabulous, and some of the performances, particularly Catriona Balfe’s in Faith, were outstanding. But to be honest, the whole Paris detour felt like a really long waste of time. St Germain felt like a hollow villain, Master Raymond seemed like he could have been interesting but was ultimately a bit wasted and then disappeared, and ultimately we just had to sit there watching Claire and Jamie come up with increasingly preposterous plans, and fail, predictably, while all the time they thought they were just totally brilliant. No, you guys. You suck at intrigue. Stop. Just…stop. This was me, throughout most of the Paris chunk of the season:

irritated doctor

Which is a shame, because that was most of the season.

I think part of the problem may have been that we knew from the very start that all their plans would fail, so there was very little tension. The plots and plans just got tiresome, because we already knew the outcome. If it had been left a bit more up in the air, maybe it would have been more interesting.

And Jesus Christ, they need to come up with some trauma besides rape to visit on a character. And whomever thought it was a good idea to show Fergus getting assaulted by Jack Randall is a repulsive human being. That was completely unnecessary—there are ways to convey what happened without actually showing a child being raped.

But like I said, there were good bits. I hear the next season is in doubt (though, knowing how dedicated the fan base is and what a cash cow this thing is already, I’m willing to bet they’ll iron out any differences quickly) but if it comes back, I hope it returns with a stronger story. And a different actress playing Bree, because she was…not good.

approval denied

3 thoughts on “Outlander Recap: Dragonfly in Amber

  1. I’m pretty convinced I suffered through this season of “Outlander” mainly to come and read your reviews and laugh at the characters’ antics all over again. THANK YOU for that – and thank you also for “…maybe she saw a couple of episodes of Star Trek and went, ‘Ohhhh, I get it now.’” Oh dear lord that woman!

    And I don’t want to talk about the awful casting of Bree – though the character’s behavior did remind me an awful lot of S1 Claire when she arrived back in time and I continually questioned why no one just ran the mouthy Englishwoman through with a sword to shut her up once and for all. Seriously, Roger – I don’t care what the books say, save yourself and back away now. (But Richard Rankin, you can stay just the way you are.)

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