Episode 408: "Wilmington" (SPOILERS!)
Here are my reactions to Episode 408 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Wilmington".
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
The opening scene, with well-dressed people filing into a theater, makes sense only after you watch the episode.
As the episode begins, Roger has arrived in Wilmington in 1769, and he's searching for Brianna, without success. He goes to the office of the Wilmington Gazette, publisher of the infamous death notice announcing Jamie and Claire's deaths in a fire.
Suddenly Fergus emerges from the printshop. Roger shows him the drawing of Brianna, but he doesn't recognize her. I thought that was a nice touch, to have Fergus and Roger meet, even if they don't have any reason to know each other at this point.
The sign over the printshop lists the printer's name as John Gillette. In the books, his first name is Jonathan. (But it's a minor point.)
I liked the next scene, with Fergus and Marsali, baby Germain, and Jamie and Claire, who have come for a visit.
Jamie says young Ian didn't come with them because "he's gone to Brunswick to fetch casks for our whisky." So there's no one left at home on the Ridge. Who's taking care of the farm animals while they're away?
Jamie pronounces "Germain" with a French accent. That's certainly appropriate (it's a French name, after all, and of course the baby's father is French), but it takes a little getting used to for those of us who are accustomed to Davina Porter, in the audiobooks, pronouncing his name "Ger-mayne".
Edmund Fanning, like Governor Tryon, was a real historical figure. According to this site:
The North Carolina Regulators believed Fanning epitomized political corruption. They accused Fanning of embezzlement and abuse of tax collection, although a 1724 act detailed that courts charge fees for their services. Regulators demanded documentation concerning the construction of Tryon Palace in New Bern and opposed Crown actions they believed to be unnecessary for their welfare.Marsali really does look genuinely delighted to be a mother. "I look at him, and I ken I'd have a knife through my gut before seein' him hurt or in sorrow." Good line.
Claire, of course, is thinking of Brianna. "That's the hardest thing about being a parent. [....] Though you know you would die trying, you can't protect them from everyone and everything." Given what happens to Bree by the end of this episode, this line feels like Major Foreshadowing.
In the next scene, Roger is in a tavern, looking exhausted. He reaches for his mug of ale and accidentally spills some of it on the picture of Brianna. (That was pretty careless of him!) As he gets up and starts to leave, he hears Brianna's voice, asking the barman, "Do you know where I might be able to buy passage to Cross Creek?"
Roger steps forward, calls her name, and a moment later they're in each other's arms, as if drawn together by a magnet.
"You weren't supposed to come here! That wasn't the plan."
"What, and ye call tearin' off into bloody nowhere a plan?" Good line.
Roger looks around, seeing a stranger staring at them having this Deeply Personal Conversation in public in the middle of a tavern, and he urges Brianna to come outside. Lizzie watches them go, obviously concerned, but doesn't say a word.
I like this whole scene VERY much! Some of the dialogue is new, but it's clearly based on the scene in the book (DRUMS chapter 40, "Virgin Sacrifice").
"Did you just say ye love me?" And even in the midst of her fury, Bree can't help smiling at that.
Roger takes her to what appears to be an abandoned storage shed or outbuilding, and just when it appears they're going to make love then and there, Bree stops him.
"Are you sure?"
"Do ye not know how badly I want you?" (More kissing.)
"But....we're not engaged. That seemed to be very important to you. At the festival, you said--"
"I said I would have all of you or none at all."
"Have you changed your mind?"
"Well, then...." [pause, looking intently up into his eyes] "You have all of me."
I liked that.
Roger's explanation of what handfasting is comes almost word-for-word from the book. But I think it's interesting that Bree interrupts his explanation by saying, "Let's do it", rather than, "I don't want anything temporary", as she did in the book. I love the look of pure joy on Roger's face as he realizes she's said yes.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Wilmington, Governor Tryon greets Jamie and Claire as they arrive at the theater. (For what it's worth, I don't find it plausible that a small colonial town like Wilmington would have a theater -- this isn't Philadelphia or Boston, after all.)
I didn't like the way Claire walked a couple of steps behind Jamie, so that even when Gov. Tryon was addressing both of them, he mainly looked at Jamie.
Jamie has FINALLY managed to comb his hair, after months and months of that straggly unkempt look. He looked handsome and well-groomed in this episode, much to my relief!
Tryon introduces Jamie and Claire to Edmund Fanning. Fanning appears to be in pain, and he explains that he injured himself in an encounter with Regulators the previous year.
"I've a strange protrusion. The least movement now sends me into paroxysms of pain." Naturally, this piques Claire's medical curiosity, but to her credit, she doesn't insist on examining him then and there.
So Tryon takes Jamie off to discuss men's business, leaving Claire to "the society of the wives." I like the ladies' gowns in this scene very much.
Claire notices a tall, striking man at the far end of the room, and Mrs. Tryon informs her, "That's Colonel Washington."
Claire stares at her in shock, her eyes bugging out. "I'm sorry, who?"
Much as I enjoyed Claire's reaction, I really, REALLY did not like George Washington appearing in this episode! Not at all. This plot twist is so contrived that it threw me completely out of the story.
For one thing, it's much too early, and IMHO it completely ruins the effect of the later scenes in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD where Jamie and Claire meet Washington in the middle of the American Revolution.
For another, Wilmington is a small port town on the coast of North Carolina, some distance from Virginia. What on earth is George Washington doing here? It seems unlikely in the extreme that he and his wife came all that way just to attend a play, and I didn't find it believable.
Now Tryon is claiming that George Washington surveyed the land that includes Fraser's Ridge. Another improbable and contrived coincidence, if you ask me. Washington worked as a surveyor in Virginia, not in North Carolina, so why would he have been in the mountains of western NC at all?
I rolled my eyes at Claire's line about "chopping down cherry trees". Honestly, is that the most original thing they could think to have her say when she met George Washington in the flesh?
As they make their way to the theater for the play, Claire tells Jamie exactly who George Washington is and why he's important.
"Oh, if only Brianna were here. She'd have a hundred questions to ask him." Indeed!
I loved the next scene, with Roger and Brianna's handfasting. Very well done, with excellent performances by both Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton.
"I think we're supposed to kneel." That isn't in the book, but I liked the shot of them kneeling there facing one another, with the fire in the background. The vows they spoke come almost verbatim from the book:
"I, Roger Jeremiah, do take thee, Brianna Ellen, to be my lawful wedded wife. With my goods I thee endow, with my body I thee worship...." Her hand twitched in his, and his balls tightened. Whoever had worded this vow had understood, all right.What a beautiful scene! I can't help going, "Awwwww!!" at the end when they kiss, every time I watch it. Perfect, just perfect!
"...in sickness and in health, in richness and in poverty, so long as we both shall live."
If I make a vow like that, I'll keep it--no matter what it costs me. Was she thinking of that now?
She brought their linked hands down together, and spoke with great deliberation.
"I, Brianna Ellen, take thee, Roger Jeremiah...." Her voice was scarcely louder than the beating of his own heart, but he heard every word. A breeze came through the tree, rattling the leaves, lifting her hair.
"...as long as we both shall live."
The phrase meant a good bit more to each of them now, he thought, than it would have even a few months before. The passage through the stones was enough to impress anyone with the fragility of life.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 40, "Virgin Sacrifice". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Meanwhile, back at the tavern, Lizzie is growing worried that Brianna is still out with "that man of wanton morals". I don't like that choice of words. It makes Lizzie sound stern and disapproving, like a Victorian, rather than fearful for her friend's safety.
Back at the theater, Tryon and Jamie settle into their seats, with Claire and the other wives seated in the row in front of them. Segregated, again. I didn't like that.
Tryon says this theater was "made possible through taxes". Just like his palace in New Bern, for that matter. It's an extravagance, of course -- taxing the poor to finance luxuries like this that benefit only the upper classes -- and I am beginning to see the Regulators' point.
Governor Tryon tells Jamie that his men plan to arrest a group of Regulators on the road to Wilmington that night--including their leader, Murtagh.
And now we come to a part of the episode that I thought was just BORING. The play is not at all interesting, and neither is watching a bunch of men waiting by the roadside on a dark night.
Fortunately, Roger and Bree have more entertaining things on their minds! <g> I like the "Roger and Bree" theme music that plays throughout this scene, as Roger undresses her, caressing her gently, kneeling down to kiss her belly, etc. The whole scene is really well done, tender and very sensual.
"You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," Roger says, unconsciously echoing Jamie's line from VOYAGER, when he sees Claire naked for the first time after their reunion.
"If I take you now, it's for always."
"Yes. Yes, please."
This exchange comes straight from the book. (DRUMS, chapter 40, "Virgin Sacrifice")
The sex scene is tastefully done, as these things go, with dialogue taken mostly from the book, including Roger's line, "Feel my heart. Tell me if it stops."
Abruptly the scene switches back to the play. Boring! Even Jamie is looking around, fidgeting. This scene went on much too long, IMHO. Watching an audience watch a play is just not compelling TV. I started looking at the clock, something I rarely do when I watch OUTLANDER.
Back to Murtagh, waiting with his men by the roadside at night. Again, nothing is happening. Boring! The music indicates there's supposed to be dramatic tension here, but I'm not feeling it at all.
"Patience, lads," Murtagh says. Even his men must be getting bored and restless.
The only ones who are not bored, apparently, are Roger and Bree, lying together in a happy afterglow. <g> The dialogue here is taken almost word-for-word from the book.
"I don't think I've ever been so happy." Better enjoy it while you can, Bree, because it's not going to last much longer!
Back to the play, again. Never mind what's happening on stage. The action is occurring in the audience, where Fanning is clutching his abdomen, clearly in pain. Suddenly he collapses, crying out in agony, and Jamie leaps to his feet, shouting, "This man needs a surgeon!"
Claire goes instantly into full emergency-room-surgeon mode, barking orders at the people around her.
"I'll buy you as much time as I can," Claire says to Jamie. OK, at this point she's lost me. Faced with a patient suffering from a serious medical emergency, her duty is to give that patient her full attention, to treat him to the best of her ability, not to use the occasion as a pretext to "buy time" to allow Jamie to warn Murtagh about the plot to arrest the Regulators. What happened to her Hippocratic oath?
I really didn't like this one bit. And I liked the surgery scene even less. So Fanning is suffering from an inguinal hernia (the same condition that affected John Quincy Myers in DRUMS OF AUTUMN, where she operated on him on Jocasta's dining table), and #SuperClaire proposes to operate right then and there, without her medical kit, or proper surgical tools, or any painkiller stronger than alcohol. (She gave the slave in Episode 402 laudanum, but there's none to be found for this man?)
What I saw in this scene is Claire turning into the super-amazing all-powerful Surgeon From the Future, just like she did last season in Episode 307 ("Creme de Menthe"). Logic and common sense gets thrown out the window, just because Claire flatly declares that Fanning will die if she doesn't operate immediately.
Meanwhile, Jamie wanders outside, and immediately runs into George Washington and his wife, who are leaving in their carriage. "What a lugubrious performance," Washington's wife says, and I have to agree. Washington offers Jamie a ride, and he can't very well turn it down.
That wad of cloth they stuffed in Fanning's mouth to muffle his screams looks more like a gag than something that might actually help him control the pain. Don't any of these soldiers present have a leather strip, like the one MacRannoch gave Jamie to bite down on during the surgery on his hand after Wentworth?
Also, is Claire operating without any instruments at all besides a small knife and her bare hands? It sure looks that way to me. #SuperClaire apparently can fix a hernia with her magic surgeon's fingers alone. <rolling eyes> And there's remarkably little blood for an abdominal wound.
"I must admit that was all rather exciting," Tryon says. Well, yes, it was, if only by contrast to the very boring parts that came before it.
Just as Claire begins to sew up the incision (without a peep from the patient -- maybe he's passed out from the pain?), the doctor arrives.
"You've butchered him, madam! All he needed was some tobacco smoke up the rear." Good line, reflecting the attitude of some physicians at the time that a "clyster", or enema, could cure a variety of ailments.
"No need," Tryon says. "The lady has it in hand." And he nods to Claire, indicating a grudging respect for her surgical skills, at least.
Meanwhile, out on the road, Murtagh and his men intercept the Redcoats. "Let's take our money back," says Murtagh, sounding like a bandit, not a man with a justified grievance.
But it turns out that Jamie sent Fergus ahead to warn Murtagh not to attack the Redcoats. Murtagh appears startled by Fergus's appearance; did Jamie forget to tell him that Fergus was alive and well and living in Wilmington? They called off the ambush, so all that waiting (and waiting, and waiting) turned out to be completely pointless, a waste of screen time. <sigh>
In the next scene, we're back to Roger and Bree, lying in bed, talking about the printer who printed the death notice.
"How did you know?" Bree says, and I imagined one of those anvils from an old Road Runner cartoon hovering a foot or so over Roger's oblivious head, ready to drop any second.
The argument that follows is a terrific scene, well-written and well-acted. I loved it! Absolutely riveting.
"You're acting like a child." Wow, that's pretty harsh!
I love this bit:
"Look me in the eye and tell me. Because if that's what you really want, I will go."
"No one's stopping you."
In this scene, maybe for the first time in their relationship, I don't see Richard and Sophie. I see Roger and Bree, coming to life on the screen. They're really amazing to watch.
Alone in the room, Bree finishes dressing, and the "Roger and Bree" theme playing in the background has taken on a decidedly melancholy tone, to match her mood.
In the tavern, Stephen Bonnet is playing cards with some of his men when Brianna walks by. Unlike in the book (DRUMS OF AUTUMN chapter 41, "Jouurney's End"), it's Bonnet, not Brianna, who draws attention to the ring. But as soon as Bree gets a good look at it, she has no doubt that it belongs to Claire.
"I never haggle in public," Bonnet says, heading for the back room of the tavern, and Brianna follows him, because she has no choice if she wants to find out what happened to her mother.
Bonnet's violent attack on her is chilling, and very difficult to watch, even though the TV version mercifully leaves most of the details to our imagination. I thought it was very effective to have the rape occur behind closed doors, with the men listening, laughing, amid Bree's screams. Just horrible!
As Bree sits up, I liked the way the camera focused on her so that all the details of her surroundings blurred together, reflecting her mental state.
"I pay for my pleasures," Bonnet says as he gives her the ring. It was just a business transaction to him, nothing more.
As Bree stooped to pick up her boots, I thought that she might be sick -- or I might. This whole sequence was chilling, terrifying, very intense, and VERY faithful to the book! What a terrific way to end the episode.
I hope you enjoyed this recap. Look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far, and please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 409.
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