TV Review: Outlander Season One

Thursday 15 October 2015 by

Outlander, TV, Amazon, Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe

I promised a review of Outlander and here it is!

Outlander tells the story of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a World War II nurse who goes to Inverness with her husband on a second honeymoon. But, on visiting magic standing stones, she is transported to 18th Century Scotland where she discovers Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the drama of the day.

This is based on the Diana Gabaldon romance novels, and so it should come as no surprise that Jamie and Claire soon fall in love, and it becomes the epic kind of love in which they frequently sacrifice themselves for the other.

Okay, so I’ll be honest, this is basically soft porn. There is a lot of nakedness and sex. But it is also a brilliant story – how does a 20th Century woman survive in the 18th Century highlands? There’s the redcoats to fight, and clan warfare, accusations of witchcraft and – of course – the knowledge of the future.

There are two contradictory parts of this, though. Claire is a fantastic protagonist – powerful and wilful, and a strong lead. She is not meek, and fights back (and wins) more often than not. There are many romances where the female is just a passive part, whereas she is the lynchpin of the whole story. Jamie’s sister (Laura Donnelly), as well, is one of the most powerful female leads I’ve seen in a TV series for a long time. It’s the women that make the series, in truth. They are funny and intelligent and they don’t let the men get their own way. It’s refreshing.

The problem? Sexual violence. In sixteen episodes, I would say there is rape – or threat of rape – in 80% of them. I’m not hugely understanding of rape as a plot device – I think it’s unnecessary. But when it’s used to such excess, it makes it a little harder to swallow. I feel like the characters are stronger than needing to rely on sexual motivations for their drive. It feels weak, when the rest of the story is so strong.

You have to get past that to see the brilliance in this series, and that is a hard thing to do. Thankfully, the series does make a compelling argument to keep watching. One can only hope they tone it down in season two, and work on the better parts: the romance, the adventure, and the brilliant women.

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