Monday, September 18, 2017

Murtagh's fate in the TV show (SPOILERS!)

Over the course of the OUTLANDER TV series, Murtagh (played by Duncan Lacroix) has developed into a very appealing character (more so than in the books, IMHO) and a fan favorite.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.


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Many of you will recall that in the books, it's made clear that Murtagh died at Culloden, although the exact circumstances are a bit murky. He died in Jamie's arms, we know that much.

Murtagh was definitely present during the battle of Culloden as depicted in Episode 301 ("The Battle Joined"), but we didn't see what became of him after the battle.

Executive producer and show-runner Ron Moore made the following comment in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter:
Moore: We're pretty much allowed to do what we want. We always try to do the book version first. We make changes because it doesn't work for some reason, or maybe we changed a character that means you have to follow a different path – like our Murtagh [Duncan Lacroix] is alive, and clearly that's a change from the storyline.
Wow! I've been aware for many months that there was a "Save Murtagh" campaign going on in the fandom, but I can't believe Ron Moore just blurted out a huge spoiler in an interview like that.

What do the rest of you think about this? I hope they can find a way to make it work without major changes in future seasons.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Episode 302: "Surrender" (SPOILERS!)

Here are my reactions to Episode 302 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Surrender". I thought this episode was very well done: riveting, emotionally intense, and very faithful to the book.

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.


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The "wanted" poster in the opening shot is very reminiscent of the one Claire sees in Episode 211 ("Vengeance is Mine"), except of course this one mentions the Dunbonnet, not Red Jamie.

Interesting way to start this episode, with the boys in the dovecote.  It's good to see Romann Berrux again, although I have to say that he doesn't appear to have aged six years since we saw him in Episode 213, just before Culloden. <g>  (That's not a complaint, just an observation. FWIW, Romann recently turned sixteen, so he's certainly the right age to play sixteen-year-old Fergus.)

Ian's arrest is shocking in its suddenness, but it's consistent with the book. I thought the older boys should have made themselves scarce the moment the Redcoats appeared, but that's a minor quibble.

I like the silver gorget that the Redcoat captain wears around his neck. (We get a good look at it when he says, "I'm here for the Dunbonnet.")  Those of you who have read WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD will remember William's gorget, which I think would have been similar.

It's really hard to believe that Ian would have aged so much in only about seven years since we last saw him in Season 2. My (half-joking) explanation is that the stress of looking after Lallybroch and his family and tenants (not to mention his worry over Jamie hiding in the cave), with Redcoats roaming the countryside nearby, has caused his hair to go prematurely gray. I don't like the look, but it's not as bad as I expected from the previews.

When you see Ian being taken away, keep in mind that in the books, he contracted consumption (tuberculosis) during one prison stay, and it could very well have been during this period.

Finally we have our first glimpse of the Dunbonnet. I don't think it's realistic that Jamie would be out hunting in the open in daylight, but I can accept that it's more dramatic for TV this way. I liked Jamie's archery skills. That must have been fun for Sam to learn!

If the purpose of the dun bonnet is to hide his very recognizable red hair, why does Jamie make no attempt to cover his hair with the bonnet while he's out and about?  That makes no sense to me.

Jamie imagining that he sees Claire at Lallybroch made me gasp, and my instant reaction was, "My heart hurts for him." So sad!

Jamie's silence is unnerving, as is the way he barely reacts to anything that Fergus or Jenny are saying.

"James Fraser hasna been here for a long, long time."  Good line from Jenny, and she's right.  His body still functions, but he's not really living, merely existing, much as Abel MacLennan did in FIERY CROSS:
The sight of MacLennan’s grief reminded me too much of the days after Culloden, when I had gone back to my own time, knowing Jamie dead. I knew too well that deadness of heart; the sense of sleepwalking through days and lying open-eyed at night, finding no rest, knowing only emptiness that was not peace.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39, "In Cupid's Grove". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I think Sam does a great job of portraying Jamie in this state of numbness, grief, and despair.

Meanwhile, back in 1949, Claire's dream of Jamie is really well done. It reminds me vividly of the Prologue to DRAGONFLY IN AMBER:
I woke three times in the dark predawn. First in sorrow, then in joy, and at the last, in solitude. The tears of a bone-deep loss woke me slowly, bathing my face like the comforting touch of a damp cloth in soothing hands. I turned my face to the wet pillow and sailed a salty river into the caverns of grief remembered, into the subterranean depths of sleep.

I came awake then in fierce joy, body arched bowlike in the throes of physical joining, the touch of him fresh on my skin, dying along the paths of my nerves as the ripples of consummation spread from my center. I repelled consciousness, turning again, seeking the sharp, warm smell of a man’s satisfied desire, in the reassuring arms of my lover, sleep.

The third time I woke alone, beyond the touch of love or grief.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, "Prologue". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The way Jamie turns, naked, and smiles at her, is calculated to make viewers' hearts melt, as well as Claire's. (At least it worked that way for me! <g>)  But at the same time, it's heartbreaking to watch, knowing it's only a dream.

The next scene, with Claire and baby Bree, is mostly taken from the book. I like the way Frank talks to the baby, making it clear that he loves her.

The cave is bigger than I imagined, but it's still a cold, dank, and depressing place to live, and I can't imagine being cooped up there for seven years (!)

"Where'd you get this?"  More than 15 minutes into the episode, and these are the first words Jamie speaks out loud.

When Fergus called Jamie a coward, I really thought Jamie would strike him, but I suppose Fergus is old enough now not to be treated like a child.

I like the fact that they've given Mary McNab a somewhat larger role in this episode than she had in the book.

Glad to see they included the raven as an omen of death. Notice that Fergus says he learned how to load a pistol by "watch[ing] Murtagh instructing the soldiers", presumably in Episode 209 ("Je Suis Prest"), before Prestonpans. I can understand that the TV writers thought it would be more dramatic to have Fergus be the one to shoot the raven, rather than Jamie, as in the book, but I don't find it believable that Fergus would have such pinpoint accuracy in his aim, especially if this is the very first time he's ever fired a pistol. (Beginner's luck, perhaps?)

I like the way Mary tells Rabbie, "Dinna be causin' any mair trouble."

Seeing Jamie holding baby Ian just breaks my heart, knowing that he never got to hold Faith, he will never get to hold Brianna as a child, and at this point he has no reason to think he'll ever know if Claire's baby even survived. So sad!

I was disappointed in Jamie's subdued reaction to Jenny's talk of marriage: "I won't marry. Ever again," is all he says. In the book, he reacts with fury, and I missed that.

The scene where the Redcoats burst in to search the house is riveting and suspenseful, just as in the book. I can understand that filming Jamie and the baby in a cramped little closet or wardrobe would have been impossible, but it seems unlikely that he could have escaped detection just by hiding in an adjacent room. Jamie and baby Ian are awfully lucky that the corporal was interrupted before he could do a thorough search!

Jenny is very good in this scene. I love the way she manages to think very quickly, and answer all their questions, but notice the sweat on her forehead. She's clearly terrified, knowing this is a matter of life and death.

Mary McNab taking the blame for the pistol is very strong foreshadowing of Jamie, at Ardsmuir, claiming the scrap of tartan as his own. Interesting.

Meanwhile, in 1949, Claire finally decides she wants to have sex with Frank, possibly for the first time since her return. But when she says, "I miss my husband," the double meaning behind those words is all too clear. And she's keeping her eyes shut.

Fergus out in the woods alone, when there are Redcoats in the area?  I have a really bad feeling about this!

Fergus taunting the Redcoats is totally in character, but awfully reckless!

"Hold him down!" I gasped at this, with the very strong echo of BJR ordering Marley to hold Jamie's hand flat while he smashed it with the mallet. <shudder>

The scene where Fergus loses his hand is riveting and very emotionally intense, just like the book, and I thought it was really well done. Romann and Sam are both terrific in this scene.

I loved the way Jamie collapses, from guilt and grief, and weeps in Jenny's arms. I had tears in my eyes, too.

Very glad to see they kept the scene with Jamie at Fergus's bedside almost word for word from the book.  I liked Jamie's, "You remind me I have something to fight for."

Back in 1949, the dinner scene seems mostly designed to have Frank noticing the affectionate way Millie and her husband behave toward one another. But in the sex scene that follows, Claire still has her eyes shut, and Frank, understandably, doesn't like that a bit!

"Claire, when I'm with you, I'm with you, but you're with him." Terrific line, one of the best new lines so far this season, IMHO. And of course he's right.

In the next scene, Ian's description of phantom limb pain is a vivid reminder of my reaction when Diana first announced the title of AN ECHO IN THE BONE, back in 2007.  I thought essentially the same thing that Ian says here, "Feeling a pain in a part of ye that's lost.  And that's just a hand. Claire was your heart." What a powerful metaphor that is for loss and grief!  (Look here for some of my thoughts on this from 2009.) Jamie is lucky to have someone in his life who understands a little of what he's been going through.

I liked the scene where Jamie announces his intention to allow himself to be captured for the reward money.

"Jamie, have ye not seen the insides of enough prisons for one lifetime?"
"Little difference to the prison I live in now."

The scene between Jamie and Mary McNab is well done. I'm very glad to see him lose that "Wild Man of Borneo" hair and beard -- he looks 10 or 15 years younger without it! -- but I don't buy the (implied) idea that this is the first time Jamie's shaved in more than six years. I was really glad they included Mary's speech beginning, "I ken well enough what you're thinking", almost word for word from the book.

Nice parallel there, as Jamie, too, keeps his eyes closed while he kisses Mary.

Meanwhile, back in 1949.... The sight of redheaded baby Bree made me smile. Speaking as a fellow redhead, I don't think I've seen a redheaded baby of that age on TV or in the movies before.

I love Claire's voiceover, which comes almost verbatim from the book (VOYAGER chapter 7, "A Faith in Documents"):

"Once, I had thought I was whole. I'd been able to love a man, to bear a child, to heal the sick, and all these things were natural parts of me. But the man I had loved was Jamie, and for a time, I had been part of something greater than myself."

One bit of historical trivia:  The newspaper headline about the first woman treasurer of the US is referring to Georgia Neese Clark, who was appointed by President Truman. Look here for more information.

It's good to see Claire taking the first step in her medical career, even if this anatomy professor can't stand the thought of "a woman and a Negro" in his classroom. I liked the way all the men turned to stare at Claire as she came in. Good to see Joe Abernathy, too!

(Idle speculation: who do you suppose is looking after Bree while Claire is attending med school?)

And Frank and Claire are now sleeping in separate twin beds (!)  That doesn't bode well, at all.

The scene where Jamie is captured by the Redcoats is very good. I love the way Jenny says, "You gave me no choice, brother, and I'll never forgive ye. Never!" The rest of her reactions might be just acting, for the Redcoats' benefit, but I think she clearly meant that.

The final scene in the 20th c. with Claire and the piper is bittersweet, a not-very-subtle reminder that even though she's started medical school, she's still only "half a person", and her heart remains in Scotland, with Jamie.

Overall I really enjoyed this episode. The season is off to a good start!

I hope you enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my reactions to Episode 303.

Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Episode 301: "The Battle Joined" (SPOILERS)

Here are my reactions to Episode 301 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "The Battle Joined". I thought this episode was really well done, and both Sam and Cait were terrific!

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.


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I like what they've done with the opening credit sequence. Subtle changes, but overall it's reassuringly familiar. I liked the way the hand tuning the radio knob in Seasons 1 and 2 has turned into young Brianna's hand on the control knob of a 1950's-era television set.  The sight of the scrap of tartan made me shiver a bit. I'm intrigued by the scene where Claire evidently performs a trepanation (drilling a hole into a patient's skull), because the only reference in the books to that procedure is at the end of DRUMS OF AUTUMN. Maybe they'll have an injured sailor in need of treatment on the Artemis or Porpoise, later in the season?

Very sobering start to the episode, seeing so many dead Highlanders on the field at Culloden. The sight of the British soldiers bayonetting the wounded men as they lay helpless on the ground made me think of Dougal in Episode 210, doing the same thing after the battle of Prestonpans. It made me think that Jamie was very lucky not to suffer the same fate!

Charles Stuart mentions the canteen that he received from his father.  This is the same "picnic set" mentioned in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, as Roger explains to Brianna:
"Well, that was how generals led, back then--from the rear. Especially Charlie; he ran off so fast at the end of the battle that he left behind his sterling silver picnic set.”

“A picnic set? He brought a picnic to the battle?”

“Oh, aye."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "Culloden". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see it on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Look here for more information.

I liked the way Jamie remembered flashes of the battle, just bits and pieces, throughout this episode. That was portrayed very effectively. I thought they did a good job in conveying how cold, wet, and miserable the weather was that day.

Jamie at Craigh na Dun in the moments after Claire went back -- that's so sad!

The Highland charge, and the bloody slaughter that followed, was very well done. These scenes are very reminiscent of the 360-degree film of the battle at the Culloden Visitors' Centre (well worth a visit if you get the chance!)

I liked the way Murtagh shows up out of nowhere, saving Jamie from the Redcoat he's fighting, and surprising Jamie enough to make him smile. But it occurs to me that Murtagh telling him the Lallybroch men are safe might have given Jamie even more reason to "throw his life away" (as Claire put it in FIERY CROSS). All the loose ends are now tied up, all his responsibilities are taken care of, and now he can simply hurl himself across that field, to his death.

Watching Jamie fight his way through the line of enemy musket fire, Highlanders falling all around him, my thought was that it's a miracle he lived through that.

And then, finally, here's BJR, and the answer to a long-standing mystery:  BJR bayonetted Jamie in the leg, and Jamie managed to stab him in the belly, then they have a brief struggle, and Jamie ends up on the ground with BJR lying dead on top of him, his weight keeping Jamie from bleeding to death from the wound in his leg.  (Where is Murtagh while all of this is going on?  We don't know.)

Jamie dreaming of Claire -- that's so sad!

Very fitting that it should be Rupert who finds Jamie on the field and carries him to safety. Notice the chunk of amber with a dragonfly in it lying on the ground as Jamie is being dragged off the field. We know from Episode 213 that Claire will see it in a museum display case in 1968.

I like the scene with Frank and Claire in the new house.  They're both trying very hard to make this work, and it's clear that Frank still loves her.

Clever idea, to have Claire deal with her frustration over the temperamental stove by deciding to cook over a fire in the hearth instead. And we really needed a little humor in this episode!

I like Millie, the neighbor lady. She seems a very appealing character, and it will be good for Claire to have someone to talk to, otherwise she'll be all alone in that big house with the baby while Frank is off at the university, and we won't have any idea what she's thinking.  I see Millie as a nicer, friendlier version of Mrs. Hinchcliffe from VOYAGER.

In the next scene, Dean Jackson reminds me a little of Young Jamie in DRUMS:
"It’s verra unseemly for a woman to be givin’ her opinions sae free, and her with menfolk to look after her,” he said stiffly.

“You don’t think women ought to have opinions?” Brianna asked sweetly.

“No, I don’t!"

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Bon Voyage". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The scene in Leanach cottage is excellent, very much as I imagined from the book.  Sam Hoare, who plays Lord Melton (aka Lord John's brother Hal), is very good.

The very explosive breakfast scene between Frank and Claire is really well done, a good addition. Frank's aversion to teabags comes straight from the book:
Frank made a face; an Englishman to the bone, he would rather lap water out of the toilet than drink tea made from teabags.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 3, "Frank and Full Disclosure". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Hastings and Magna Charta, Drake, Marlborough, the Tudors, Stuarts, Plantagenets...."  I laughed in recognition when I heard that, with the very strong echo of John Dickinson's speech in the movie "1776".  Apparently it's Ron Moore's homage to that wonderful musical about the writing of the Declaration of Independence. If you've never seen "1776", look here. Highly recommended!

Watching Frank try to touch Claire, while she shies away, I was reminded of the way Jamie acted in some of the Paris scenes in Season 2 -- avoiding her touch, hardly even talking to her, let alone having sex with her.  "Talk to me!" Frank says, just as Claire said to Jamie in Episode 204 ("La Dame Blanche"). The parallels are very striking.

Cait is just marvelous in this scene. "You asked me to leave behind everything that truly mattered to me!''  I loved it when she threw the ashtray at Frank. <g>

The whole scene in Leanach cottage is very close to the way I imagined it from the book. Riveting and emotionally intense. I liked Jamie and Rupert's last conversation, and Rupert's last words: "I mean to set a quick pace, so try to keep up." Very sad to see him go!

In the next scene with Frank lying on the couch, unable to sleep, you can't help noticing all the little sounds a 20th-century house makes: a dripping faucet, the hum of the refrigerator. I thought that was an interesting contrast with what must be going through his mind; thoughts of the 18th century, and whether there might possibly be any truth to Claire's story. So he gets up to write to the Rev. Wakefield, and Claire comes in to tell him she's in labor.

Back in the cottage at Culloden, I liked this exchange:

Wallace: "Are they to be shot lying down?"
Hal (looks at him, horrified): "Prop them up, certanly! Good Lord. No man in the King's custody shall be shot lying down on my watch. Not even traitors."

The rest of the scene is straight from the book, which I was glad to see.

Meanwhile, in the delivery room, I liked this bit between Frank and Claire:

"I'm glad I missed you with that ashtray."
"Your aim was spot on. It was my cat-like reflexes that saved me."

I disliked the doctor on sight, with his "do exactly as I tell you" manner and the way he spoke only to Frank, as though Claire wasn't even there. But I liked the bit where Claire reveals she had a miscarriage, much to Frank's surprise. To his credit, the news doesn't faze Frank at all; his attention is focused entirely on helping Claire get through this. I liked his "Claire. I love you," as she is wheeled away.

The delivery room scene, where Claire is sedated against her will, is disturbing. It hurts to see Claire so powerless. This isn't the way it happened in the books, but I think it works pretty well here.

Meanwhile, Jamie wakes in the wagon at Lallybroch, thinking he is dead. Jenny and Ian's reactions are just perfect. I can totally imagine Jenny stubbornly refusing to let her brother die.

When Claire wakes in the hospital room, her "Where's my baby?" hit me like a gut-punch, with the VERY strong echoes of Episode 207 ("Faith").

I loved the way Frank and Claire look at the baby, and each other. "She's perfect, Claire. Just like her mother," Frank says, and you start to see how this child might begin to heal their relationship at last. "This is all that truly matters now. It's going to be all right, I promise."

And then the nurse comes in and bursts their bubble of happiness with six words: "Where'd she get the red hair?" Talk about awkward questions!
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I really enjoyed this episode, and I can't wait for the next one! Please come back next week to see my reactions to Episode 302 ("Surrender").

Look here for my recaps of the Season 1 and Season 2 episodes.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Diana Gabaldon's book-signing in Winston-Salem

I went with my mom to see Diana Gabaldon yesterday at the Bookmarks Book Festival in Winston-Salem, NC.  We had a wonderful time!





We got there more than two hours before the doors opened, and there was already a considerable crowd waiting in line, including many members of the NC Outlander Fans Facebook group. By the time they started letting people inside, the line stretched all the way around the building (!)



Inside the auditorium.



I was so excited to be there!



Diana spoke for more than an hour. She was very entertaining, as usual. She confirmed (in front of the audience of some 1800 North Carolina fans) that they will unfortunately not be doing any Season 4 filming in North Carolina. Diana said that in addition to the fact that they have a huge OUTLANDER production studio in Cumbernauld, Scotland, they are a non-union shop, and filming in the US would require the production crew to be members of a union.

The highlight of the evening for me, of course, was getting to see Diana, for the first time in more than four years.  When she saw me approach, she told the woman assisting her, "She's a friend," and gave me a hug. 





I thanked her for the wonderful Dedication in SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL (which is quite a thrill for me personally!) and then she signed my copy.



The inscription reads, "To Karen, Expert in Eyeball-Numbing Nitpickery!"  This is a reference to the fact that she very generously let me read the stories in this collection before they were published (an honor and a privilege!), and I was able to spot some issues with dates and such that her copy-editor didn't catch.

We had a good time at this event, and it was great to get a chance to talk to other OUTLANDER fans. Many thanks to Diana for agreeing to do this event on fairly short notice!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

One more day!



So we're down to the final hours of #Droughtlander!  Just a few things I wanted to mention:

STARZ is running a Season 2 marathon on Sunday, September 10, starting at 7 am ET/PT. They will be showing all 13 episodes, leading up to the Season 3 premiere at 8 pm.



I will be attending Diana Gabaldon's appearance at the Bookmarks Book Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, on September 10th! This will be the first time I've seen Diana in more than four years, and I'm really looking forward to it. (I'll post more about this on Monday.)

Yes, that means I will not be home to watch the premiere of Episode 301 at 8 pm.  (I keep telling myself that's what the DVR is for....)  I will post my reactions to Episode 301 as soon as I can, probably Monday or Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New Season 3 trailer: "Claire's Journey" (SPOILERS)

I haven't watched all of the OUTLANDER Season 3 trailers and video clips released in the last few days, but I made an exception for this one.  I think it's very good!




Friday, September 1, 2017

August poll results

Here are the results of the August poll, which asked the question, "Which NEW character are you most looking forward to seeing in OUTLANDER Season 3?"
  • 40.25% - Adult Lord John Grey
  • 23.49% - Young Ian
  • 12.26% - Adult Fergus
  • 2.73% - Joe Abernathy
  • 2.29% - Mr. Willoughby
  • 1.48% - Marsali
  • 1.03% - Geneva Dunsany
  • 0.66% - I haven't read VOYAGER, so I don't know any of these characters yet.
  • 0.07% - Margaret Campbell
  • 14.70% - All of the above
  • 1.03% - Other
There were 1354 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

Please take a moment to vote in the September poll, which asks the question, "Have you attended any of Diana Gabaldon's public appearances?" Thanks!