Monday, 14 December 2015

The Best Television of 2015: No.7 - Starz's OUTLANDER

Monday, 14 December 2015

A post-WWII nurse called Claire (Caitriona Balfe) travels back in time to 17th-century Scotland while holidaying in the Highlands with her husband, where she meets a dashing young highlander called Jamie (Scott Heughan) and her spouse's sadistic Red Coat ancestor Captain 'Black Jack' Randall (Tobias Menzies)...

What made it so good? While it uses sci-fi to set the story up, Outlander is largely a romantic action-adventure with added kilts. I instantly enjoyed this show, but it definitely could have veered into limp 'picture postcard' Highland fluff, so what kept me going were the glimpses of something darker underneath. Indeed, by the time the second half of the season was underway, and certainly by the final batch of episodes, Outlander had revealed a grittier and nastier side to its nature. Game of Thrones may be most people's go-to drama when asked to choose a memorably harrowing or shocking scene, but Outander's scenes of sadism and rape eclipse everything I've seen on that HBO series. Outlander wasn't showing violence for an easy thrill, either, it was an unavoidable part of the story, and everything worked because we'd spent so long getting to know and care about Claire and Jamie as a couple. Bonus point for easily the best sex scene (erotic, romantic, realistic) on television in years, too.

The best moment? It wasn't a pleasure to watch (quite the opposite) but the tour de force of acting from Heughan and Menzies, during their psychological and physical torture scenes, were so tough and unflinching that I was genuinely left agog. I'd recommended Outlander to middle-aged friends and family who, quite frankly, probably had a heart attack by the end.

Watch this if you like: Life on Mars, Game of Thrones, Sharpe, Scottish countryside.

I'm counting down my 10 Best Television Shows of 2015 this year, so check back tomorrow to see what's at number 6... the whole list can be read here.