Sunday, August 3, 2014

Episode 101: "Sassenach" (SPOILERS!)

Here are my reactions to Episode 101 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Sassenach".

*** SPOILER WARNING!! *** 

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

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What a lovely view of the Highlands to open the show! Hearing the Prologue in Caitriona's voice was simultaneously reassuring (they're staying close to the book) and different (hearing Claire speak the words).  I liked it very much.

The opening scene was bloody but effective.  "Six months after the end of the war" orients us very precisely in time, without having to put up a big "1945" in the middle of the screen at the beginning.

I love the opening credits and theme song <g>, and I am not going to get tired of watching/hearing them!  I liked the focus on the forget-me-nots at Craigh na Dun when we see Diana's name in the credits. (For those of you who don't know, Diana has said that the forget-me-nots are significant, but we won't find out why until the very end of the last book.  Look here for more information.)

The bit with Claire and Frank reminiscing was well done. Claire couldn't remember his laugh, but Frank remembered the lines in her palm well enough to doodle them on official documents? <g>  You get much more of a sense here, compared to the book, of how much Frank loves Claire.

I liked the bedsprings bit, especially the look on Mrs. Baird's face when they went at it the second time for real. <g>  She can definitely tell the difference!

Young Claire with Uncle Lamb caught me by surprise, especially the bit with the cigarette. She definitely had an unconventional upbringing, that's for sure! <g>

The guidebook Frank had at Leoch isn't quite accurate. Leoch was the home of the MacKenzie clan until the "mid-19th century"?  No, we know from the later books that Leoch was destroyed in the aftermath of Culloden.  (Sorry, don't mean to nitpick, but I couldn't resist....)

"Most never came back" - that made me think of Jerry MacKenzie, of course.

About the sex scene: I miss Frank's line about Claire being "the most devastatingly practical woman I've ever met", but I see what Diana means about how they rearranged bits and moved scenes around occasionally for dramatic effect.  And my reaction to Frank making love to Claire was a) it's clear it's by no means the first time they've done it this way, and b) Frank pays a lot more attention to Claire and her needs here than in the book.

I liked the scene with Mrs. Graham, which seemed pretty much exactly as it is in the book.

I was a little bit disappointed in the ghost scene, because the muted tones of Jamie's plaid make him very hard to see in the dark unless you're looking closely.  I had to rewind it and watch 3 or 4 times before I figured out where he was. That's not really a complaint; I think Frank just has keener eyesight than I do. <g>

The scene with Frank and Claire after the ghost is toned down somewhat from what's in the book, but the effect is to make Frank seem gentler, not so jealous.

Seeing the lights of Inverness from Craigh na Dun was a nice touch.

The dancers were very mystical, beautiful and eerie at the same time, and I liked the music in this part very much.

I love the last lingering look that Claire gives Frank.

I had the fleeting impression that the trees at Craigh na Dun were different, before and after.  I'd like to compare the before and after shots, to see if it's really changed, but it would certainly make sense if the trees are different after 200 years.

I loved the sound the stones were making right before Claire went through. That seemed just right.  The passage through the stones was not nearly as horrible or scary as I expected, though.

The bagpipes in the chase through the woods were terrific!

Tobias Menzies was excellent as BJR - scary and well-mannered at the same time.  Looking forward to seeing more of him!

Dougal looks great -- very commanding presence, and I like the beard. Graham McTavish is a wonderful actor.

The dislocated shoulder looked very realistic. And painful!

Jamie's voice is soft-spoken, just as described in the books.  And Diana is right, it's just astonishing how fast Sam Heughan BECOMES Jamie, right in front of our eyes. <g>

Claire's "NOT a wet-nurse", when she catches Jamie looking at her chest, made me laugh, thinking of the same bit in THE EXILE.  And I think the costume people made the right choice with the white dress. It really does look like an 18th century shift.

"You're shakin' so hard it's makin' MY teeth rattle" -- good line, and evidence that Jamie has a sense of humor.

I like Cocknammon Rock -- very distinctive.  Interesting to hear the discussion in Gaelic between Jamie and Dougal. You can get the sense of most of it in context, from body language and tone of voice, even if you don't understand the Gaelic words.

I loved the scene where J finds C in the woods. I didn't expect the bit with the sword, but it fits, and the rest of the scene is just as I always imagined. <g>

I liked the clansman riding the black horse with the white face -- Rupert?  I have a hard time telling some of the men apart.

I liked the look Dougal gave Jamie and Claire after the bit with the flask, as if to say, why are you being friendly with this very suspicious Sassenach?

"Gerrrrrrms" made me laugh, thinking of various bits in the later books. <g>

The scene with Claire tending Jamie at the roadside was Just Perfect.  And I liked Jamie's line beginning "If ye couldna fix me up well enough to ride...."

"Thank you, Sassenach. Truly."  God, I love that!!  Thank you to the scriptwriter for not making us wait such a looooong time to hear Jamie call her Sassenach.  <g>

Fascinating to see Castle Leoch before and after.  As for "remembering things that haven't happened yet" (paraphrasing) -- my thought was, be careful, Claire, don't think about that too much or you'll get a time-travel headache!

As the episode ended, I was left feeling very happy and contented.  Can't WAIT to see the next one!

SUMMARY:


I thought they did an amazingly good job in staying as close as possible to the spirit of the book.  What an incredible feeling, watching the story literally come to life before my eyes!

The cinematography was terrific, as was the music.  And I thought the whole cast was wonderful.

In particular, I think Caitriona absolutely NAILED Claire! <g>  Everything from passion to intelligence to frustration to fury to bewilderment at her sudden change in circumstances shows clearly on her face, and she "inhabits" Claire every bit as much as Sam does Jamie.  The casting people were incredibly lucky to find her. <g>  She's a lovely and very talented actress, and she's going to be wonderful as Claire.

BRAVO to everyone involved with the production!!

Here are my recaps of the other episodes:

Episode 102: "Castle Leoch"
Episode 103: "The Way Out"
Episode 104: "The Gathering"
Episode 105: "Rent"
Episode 106: "The Garrison Commander"
Episode 107: "The Wedding"
Episode 108: "Both Sides Now"
Episode 109: "The Reckoning"
Episode 110: "By the Pricking of My Thumbs"

24 comments:

Roz said...

Can't disagree with a single word or sentiment!

Re the difference at the stones, I think generally the countryside is more lush and there were more trees near the stones. Was it to show how the countryside has been changed to make way for roads etc? Claire makes reference to that later when she's back at the stones, if I remember rightly.

Julia said...

Excellent commentary Karen. I agree completely and was very happy with the episode.

Alison said...

Great summation! I agree with most of what you said -- they really did capture the spirit of the books while condensing down for TV! Well done! I wasn't as taken with the opening credits though. I think they kept Ghost Jamie purposely vague, so that when we see him for real it's a jolt.

Tricia said...

Oh, I am sooooo jealous! It's killing me that we in the UK have no idea when we will see the series yet! It sounds fantastic and I cannot wait to see it. Crossing everything that it is an enormous hit Stateside so someone over here decides to show it.

Donna Foley said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I feel like I just discussed it with a friend while drinking my coffee. Great way to start the day.

D Kearney said...

Karen - excellent commentary - You captured all of my thoughts and feelings exactly! It is an awesome start to a book series we love so much!!! Thank you!

Frannie said...

I loved everything you loved -- the way the stones scream (just like I imagined), the way the bagpipes start up when Claire starts running, the scene with Uncle Lamb and little Claire… Like you said, it's hard to see the ghost at first, but it gave me chills when he disappeared. I can see how not subtitling the Gaelic helps us to feel as confused as Claire, but I hope that they add subtitles as a DVD extra so we can appreciate Àdhamh Ó Broin's hard work! All in all, I thought it was brilliant!

Takella Green said...

Awesome review, Karen. I left the theater ready for the season to begin. All my fears that something would be lost in trying to bring the characters to life are gone. I agree that Caitriona did an absolutely marvelous job as Claire, which was my biggest fear, and Sam is great as Jamie. Although he is not as I pictured him, I love the look of Dougal MacKenzie. I agree with everything you said about his character and Graham.

Susan G. said...

I read a comment from Someone Somewhere that there was a "we're not in Kansas anymore" feeling as the beginning scenes are shot in muted colors and when Claire wakes in 1743 Scotland the colors are more vivid. I paid attention the third time I watched Episode 1 and thought this was true. I get the feeling that I will pick up even more details with each viewing, not a hardship I assure you! I was left with a feeling of disappointment after Episode 1 until I realized that it was due to the fact that I couldn't immediately watch Episode 2, 3, 4, etc. !!!

Anonymous said...

Loved it all, did wish a glimpse of Rev. Wakefields' bulletion board had been in the scene, that is one of my favorite discriptions in Outlander.

Tiffany Terry said...

Yes I totally agree with everything! The only thing was that although Catriona was GREAT as Claire, I was still seeing an actor... until she spit in BJR's face! I was like, "Oh THERE she is!" I felt the same disappointment as Susan G and for the same reason! I wanted episode 2 already! I was a bit disappointed not to see a child Roger in Rev. Wakefield's study.

The first time I watched it with my husband (who has not read the books, but has accidentally overheard some of the sex scenes on my audiobooks & calls it my "smut") and I think 3 "sex" scenes were a bit much for him. But on watching it again I realized they all were REALLY quick scenes. Of course we haven't gotten to the wedding night or Wentworth yet... Hahaha... uh oh.

Anonymous said...

Excellent summation! I agree with everything you said. My only (nitpicky)observation was the show not staying true to the book in regards to Rev. Wakefield's study... I, too, wanted to see the organized chaos of books and papers, etc. and the much described bulletin board. Also, why no intro to wee Roger, especially with the obvious reference to Jerry MacKenzie in the voice over?

Anonymous said...

I thought perhaps the "Wizard of Oz" thing with the more vivid colors AFTER Claire goes through the stones was my imagination...glad to see others noticed it, too. Can't wait to see more!

Frannie said...

@Anonymous — There was a post this week about the young actor playing wee Roger, so I'm guessing that Claire will have a flashback to a scene in the study when we get to the part about Roger's complicated ancestry.

http://www.st-columbas.org/News/Rory_Stars_in_International_TV_Series.aspx?p=5

Connie said...

Love your comments, Karen. My husband and I were very satisfied with Episode 101 and are eager to watch more. I think we're going to meet Roger in another flashback / flash forward to the 1940s. We got a photo of him this week. Darling little boy.

Laura's Reviews said...

I agree with all of your points. I was so excited to finally see Outlander come to life yesterday! My husband watched it with me as well and enjoyed it. I was anxious to see what someone who had not read the books thought of it.

Deirdre said...

Try adjusting your tv to see the darker scenes better. When I put mine on "movie", all the details in the darker scenes appeared! I like your observations, and I am very excited for episode 2!

Betsy Eyrich said...

I need to watch again - I thought Claire said she couldn't remember the sound of Frank's love ( thinking she meant how he sounded during sex ).

anntx said...

I loved loved loved hearing the Gaelic. Music to my ears. And,
I want Sam to be taller.

Tanja said...

Interesting thoughts. My thoughts were that they tried very hard to make something good to catch the multi-millions of fans of this book series, but that's where it stayed...at trying. It's like the producers said "Hey, lets make something epic!" and then they had a budget meeting and found out epic was not in the cards for this show...but hey, I maybe wrong and they might suprise me with tge next episode. The actors are definitely well chosen. Imho it can only go uphill from here...

Anonymous said...

I shared a lot of your same thoughts Karen.

I was disappointed in the gratuitious sex scene at Castle Leoch. First of all, that never happened before for Claire and when it did, it was with Jamie, not Frank. It also was one of the most funny and tender moments of intimacy for Jamie and Claire in the book - so it was sad to see it played out as it did on screen. Oh well.

Aside from that ... the whole show was marvelous. Can't wait to see more!

shellyg8r said...

Great review Karen!! I loved the episode! The only thing I missed was Jamie's line of taking "the wee lassie off his chest" so he could ride after Claire dressed his wound. Not a big thing, but a great way to showcase Jamie's sense of humor.

As for the "down under" scene, I'm not remembering where the story infers that Claire never had that before. If my recollection is correct, she was only worried about her state of hygiene when Jamie initiated that contact. After all, she was a very passionate and sensual woman and the story seemed to infer that Frank was a very careful and attentive lover, if not overly passionate. Am I forgetting something?

LoriJK said...

I'm on my umpteenth time re listening to it on Audible. After Claire goes -ahem- 'down under' with Jamie (on their wedding night I think), he swears to get even, and does after she admits that it would be a new experience for her.

Anonymous said...

Just watched Episode 1 for the 5th time, and just noticed that Jamie is wearing the same plaid as all of the McKenzie's, as is Murtagh. Why wouldn't he be wearing the Fraser plaid??? Especially seeing as he had been living in France for several years and then as an outlaw back in Scotland.