written by Toni Graphia | directed by Brian Kelly
We got a sense of the long-term plan for OUTLANDER with episode 5, beyond Claire's (Caitriona Balfe) inevitably doomed intention to time-travel home by touching the stones at Craigh na Dun. The famous Battle of Culloden is three years hence, and Claire remembers it will mark the demise of the Clan MacKenzie and the Highlander way of life. This gives Outlander a deadline and something nasty looming on the horizon, and one assumes the eight source novels haven't reached that grisly conflict with the British army just yet—so does this mean Starz are angling towards making a half-dozen seasons, or so?
JAMIE (to Claire): It doesn't matter where you come from. You're here.Much of the show is about the social/culture clash between Claire (a 20th-century outspoken woman) and the comparatively primitive Scots she finds herself living alongside, but this was the first episode that felt like she was learning and understanding more about their ways. Some of their behaviour's undoubtedly crude and difficult to appreciate, but it's not quite so barbarous as she's quick to believe (well, some of the time). For instance, Claire joined a group of female villagers in performing an old ritual with urine-soaked fabric, managing to overcome her disgust when the feeling of community spirit it evokes became infectious.
I also liked how some of the MacKenzie clansmen started a brawl in a tavern, which she later discovered only started because they were defending her honour from a rude local calling her a whore. While there's still mistrust in the air, it's increasingly clear these gruff men actually like Claire deep down. Not least handsome Jamie (Sam Heughan), of course, who took it upon himself to sleep outside her bedroom door to discourage any drunken, xenophobic Scots wanting to rape her.
I'm also now wondering if Outlander will eventually edge towards changing history, and have Claire's knowledge of the future work in the Highlander's favour when the Battle of Culloden is fought. She isn't a military tactician, but surely they'd stand a chance if she somehow got them modern weaponry. Or is that end-game too fantastical for this show? Whatever happens, "Rent" worked well to reaffirm some of my misgivings about Outlander in recent weeks. It still has its problems ('voice-overs for the hard-of-thinking' and extremely coincidental 'history lessons from Claire's husband in 1945'), but its heart is in the right place.
6 September 2014 | Starz