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Outlander - The Battle Joined - Review

We had been hearing a lot about season 3 opening with The Battle of Culloden. Those statements had me expecting the premiere to focus more on Jamie, much like the opening of season two focused on Claire and her return to the 1940s. I was really happy with the balance between Jamie’s very bad horrible day in the past and Claire’s months in the future.

As Jamie waits to bleed to death we get a rather stark lesson about how the British responded to their victory in the 18th Century. It was a little disconcerting to watch British soldiers wander the battlefield dispassionately killing anyone they found who was still alive.

Jamie finally got to kill Black Jack Randall. Oddly though, the moment where the battlefield is empty with the exception of Jamie, Randall and the fallen was the only scene in the episode that didn’t work for me.

I understood what they were doing with the scene; that, from Jamie’s point of view, there was no one else on the battlefield but the focus of his very justifiable hatred. There was noting wrong with the scene technically; it just kicked me out of the episode for a moment.

Jamie is content with his choice to die and spends the rest of the moment waiting for it all to be over. Rupert shown throughout this sequence. His goodbye to Jamie was one of my favorite moments.

For some reason, I didn’t expect to like Lord Melton, but when he said the Highlanders would be executed like soldiers, I liked him.

It hadn’t occurred to me, until I re-watched the episode, but the bulk of the soldiers on this show have been bad guys. Lord Melton treated the defeated Highlanders with respect. After watching soldiers stabbing injured and dying men it was welcome.

While the episode spent only a day or so with Jamie, a greater span of time was spent with Claire. Claire and Frank’s time in 1948 spanned their arrival in their new home to the birth of Brianna. Claire’s surroundings weren’t as dire as Jamie’s, but she is in no less pain. So is Frank for that matter.

This sequence was much more emotionally complex than the 18th century sequence. Claire is, at this point, basically a woman whose husband has died, but she can’t allow herself to mourn openly. Consequently, she has no one to help her through it.

The one person who could offer her some emotional support, Frank, she can’t go to because of the bargain she made with him. Claire can’t rage against Frank because she knows he’s not the villain in this piece. Instead she shuts him out.

After the fight scene, I couldn’t help but wonder if part of the problem is Frank’s face. When she stood there waiting for his reaction to the flying ashtray, I wondered if she still has a problem separating Black Jack and Frank in her mind.

Frank exhibits more patience than I think I would be capable of. But he’s hurting too. He did nothing wrong and lost the love of his life. He thought he had her back; that the misery he endured when she disappeared was over, but his wife is still gone.

Can he win her back, or will he ultimately lose her again? I have to confess I am rooting for him to get her back. I really hope that they can achieve some sort of happiness, or at least contentment. I just can’t help but think of the unfairness of the situation to Frank. It was nice that the episode ended by offering Claire, Jamie and Frank a bit of hope.

One of the things I love most about this version of the story is the opportunity to explore Claire and Frank’s relationship in some depth. I am thoroughly enjoying this incarnation of the relationship. The fact that Frank knows the truth about where his wife has been is refreshing. I think that having him think she’s slightly nuts, or her having to lie to him about what happened wouldn’t have been nearly as complex or interesting as what we got in the season premiere.

As I was thinking about how I was going to approach this review, it occurred to me that Claire has been pretty lucky with her husbands. Jamie and Frank actually share a few traits. They both seem a little ahead of their time in the way that they respect Claire and her talents.

After the doctor who wouldn’t look at Claire, let alone speak to her, and then gave her a shot she specifically declined, (I have seldom been as outraged by TV Show as I was watching the delivery scene. Excellent work from all.) I realized the importance of Frank standing up for Claire in an earlier scene by pointing out to the Dean that she’d been a combat nurse.

I thought this was a fantastic start for the series. If the next few episodes are as compelling, as layered, and as rich as the season premiere, then the wait for Claire and Jamie to find each other again won’t be as painful as it was when I read the novel. (I literally stayed up all night on a work night to get to that section.)

What did you guys think of the episode? Did anyone else think the scene where Jamie sees Claire bending over him felt a little like the moment in the pilot where Jamie’s ghost was watching the inn?

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