After a run of great episodes that's reenergised the season in many ways, things were just too sluggish to really enjoy "The Watch"—not helped by the fact Outlander has a tendency to rely on variations of either Claire (Caitriona Balfe) or Jamie (Sam Heughan) being kidnapped and in need of rescuing.
Last week's cliffhanger was disappointingly resolved very early, when it became clear the man holding Jamie at gunpoint in his own home is someone known to his sister Jenny (Laura Donnelly)—one Taran MacQuarrie (Douglas Henshall), a roguish leader of an outfit calling themselves The Watch, whom Ian (Steven Cree) pays to keep the Redcoats away from Lallybroch. Getting to know Taran and his gang of uncouth scallywags was certainly entertaining for awhile, and I enjoyed seeing Henshall in this role—playing a character you couldn't quite pin down as a hero or villain. He was something inbetween, really—eager to bond with Jamie, after recognising he'd be extremely valuable as a member of his gang (who are, frankly, past-their-prime idiots).
Elsewhere, in an episode that was definitely parting the sexes into separate storylines, Jenny went into labour and Claire had to play midwife after discovering her unborn baby's breached and this complication puts mother and child's lives in danger—especially in the 17th-century with limited knowledge of midwifery and none of the usual assistance and drugs available. Again, this was quite an entertaining story in its own right, mainly because Donnelly's brilliant as the non-nonsense Jenny and I like her burgeoning friendship with outsider Claire.
The trouble was that neither storyline was especially gripping, and a third of the episode felt padded. The only real standout was a moment of surprise when Ian revealed he has a darker, tougher side—by slaying an Irishman called Horrocks (Lochlann O'Mearain) who'd realised there's a bounty on Jamie's head, to save his brother-in-law. Added to that, it feels frustrating that the episode ended with Jamie and Taran both captured by Redcoats during an ambush—as too much of the season has been built around rescues and escapes. I can appreciate the difficulty of writing a book/TV show like this, without such ingredients, but we've had too many just lately. If Jamie's brought before Jack Randall (again) I'm going to be rolling my eyes, but on the bright side there's potential for some fun role-reversal if it's Claire who has to free her husband for a change.
written by Toni Graphia • directed by Metin Hüseyin • 2 May 2015 • Starz