Sunday, 26 April 2015

OUTLANDER, 1.12 – 'Lallybroch'

Sunday, 26 April 2015


We're in a very different place now, literally and figuratively. Jamie (Sam Heughan) knows his wife's a time-traveller, and is awed by her stories of airplanes and, well, seeing an elephant in the flesh, and Claire's (Caitriona Balfe) been taken to her new spouse's ancestral home at Lallybroch. Having chosen 17th-century Scotland over her own place and time, this was an hour of 'meet the family' drama, but not as overwrought and predictable as that implies. Indeed, sassenach Claire's arrival was met with frostiness by her husband's pregnant Jenny (Laura Donnelly), but this episode mostly avoided the in-law clichés.

For the first time, Jamie was being presented in a different light—as laird of his own land, not the hot-headed but ultimately deferential nephew of one. But after a four year absence, during which time the Fraser home was run by his sister Jenny and her one-legged lover Ian (Steven Cree), there was understandably some awkwardness regarding his return. Jamie's many things, but in trying to emulate his father's kindness (by refusing to take rents as a kindness to his people), he's leading the place to rack and ruin—which his more experienced sister knows only too well. And Claire's own naivety, while more expected, was likewise exposed by simply assuming a boy she noticed is being abused by his father was being neglected, when there was actually a plan afoot to get him re-homed.

The reintroduction of Jenny also worked very well, as we've only seen her in early season flashbacks to the time Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) threatened her with rape in front of her brother; a scene that was the catalyst for his character-forming flogging, which was once again re-staged in vividly horrific detail. I appreciated how this episode gave us a broader picture of the whole event, however, with Jenny avoiding being raped by Jack because it was revealed he's sexually impotent. Her laughs of derision spared her from being sexually abused, but triggered Jack's decision to take out his frustrations on her brother's back. Also very interesting that Jack's sexuality appears less black-and-white than expected, as another flashback revealed he was willing to forego Jamie's public whipping if he instead agreed to be sodomised. At this point, I'm wondering if Jack Randall's going to be given any glimmer of humanity, because he's fast becoming the most reprehensible person on television. And while that's certainly very bracing and compelling to watch, mainly because Menzies plays it so devilishly well, it's perhaps becoming a little cartoonish. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a scene where Black Jack eats a newborn baby before the season's over.

Overall, "Lallybroch" was a surprisingly good hour, considering it lifted us to a different place and introduced lots of new people—including a group of nefarious men, led by someone called Taran MacQuarrie (Douglas Henshall), who break into Jamie's home in the final scene. I enjoyed how Claire's presence irritated Jenny (who was essentially being replaced as the lady of the house, by someone who's never run a castle before), but they soon became friends; and it was a welcome change to have so many moments of male nudity (including a rather unexpected penis) in a show that could so easily be focused on the female form. Game of Thrones could take a leaf out of Outlander's book, on that score.

written by Anne Kenney • directed by Mike Barker • 25 April 2015 | Starz