Warning: this review contains spoilers.
Outlander is racing through time and events so fast it threatens to confuse the viewer and deplete the series of what should be some its most emotional dramatic moments. In ‘Of Lost Things’, Jamie goes from prisoner, to servant, to freed man while also knocking up the daughter of a lord and helping to raise his illegitimate son. In sharp contrast, Claire spends the majority of 1968 gloomily searching through archives for proof of Jamie’s existence.
Predictably Claire and Jamie’s daughter Brianna falls in love with Roger MacKenzie, the charming bearded distant relative from season two. If this episode feels a little uneven in pacing and tone, that’s because it is. An inordinate amount of time is spent on Jamie’s brooding face and less on actually developing the Dunsany family with which he becomes so entwined in this episode.
There are more new characters in this episode than you can throw dram of Scottish whiskey at. From the Lord and Lady Dunsany, the English aristocrats who employ Jamie as a groom at the Helwater estate, to their daughters, the improbably named Lady Geneva and the docile Lady Isobel. None of these characters are given much time in the story and as the days, weeks, months and years race by we are instead favoured by a series of scenes building up to a strange sex scene involving Jamie and Lady Geneva.
As tiresome and predictable as Jamie’s overly serious sourness now is, he seems to be attracting admiring attention from both genders. We know that he is the romantic hero of the show but making him irresistible to so many characters does start to feel a bit heavy-handed and unrealistic. In this episode he attracts the haughty gaze of Lady Geneva. After dumping her in a muddy puddle during a horse ride, she propositions him while he shovels horse shit out of the stables, which may be unintentional but could be a metaphor for what follows. When it becomes clear that Jamie has no desire to sleep with her, she threatens him and his family. This then leads on to a rather bizarre sex scene of soft-core visuals and supposedly enjoyable lovemaking. There is a problem with this plot development however.
It is clear that Geneva, who is about to wed a man three times her age in an arranged marriage is trying to claim her own sexuality and control her own body by sleeping with Jamie. But while Jamie is committed to giving Geneva a good first time experience and essentially allowing her to make her own bodily choices, he is essentially being coerced into sex and it is clear he is not willingly consenting to the experience. It is not quite rape, but it is not exactly far from it.
Outlander has portrayed rape before, most prolifically in season one, so it is a shame for the show to again glamorise sex where one partner is either avidly refusing or at the very least, is conflicted about the situation. The audience is aware that sexual morals in the 18th century may have been different, but ‘no means no’ and that is the message about sexual consent that today’s TV audiences should be given.
Of course, as is always the case in television, the one night stand improbably results in a pregnancy and this is where the pace of the episode really spirals out of control. The racing through of time and events does nothing to create feeling or emotion over the dramatic scenes unfolding. Jamie sires an illegitimate son, kills to defend that child and then is acquitted of any wrongdoing in a matter of minutes. Jamie’s son goes from being a newborn to a boy in the space of seconds and so the audience neither cares about William nor appreciates Jamie’s love for the boy.
There are, however, some nice scenes in the episode. It is good to see Jamie working with horses again, reminding us of Season one and how much he appreciates animals and nature. The costumes are fantastic and the cinematography almost makes England look as beautiful as Scotland, although not quite. The show is, after all, a love letter to the Highlands! The setting of a grand stately home is a welcome change from the dark cells of Ardsmuir Prison and despite not being properly explored, some of the new characters are intriguing.
Lady Isobel is both likeable and sweet, but sadly does not possess any gaydar and falls in love with Lord John Grey. Poor John Grey still carries a torch for Jamie, wears a fairly obvious wig, ends up marrying a woman he can never physically desire and raises Jamie’s illegitimate son. Lord Grey is definitely the new Frank Randall of the show, a saintly tragic hero who is doomed to be unlucky in love. It is also good to see a nod to Claire’s continuing commitment to being a good doctor. She may be Jamie’s wife, but she also wants to be a surgeon. This may pose a potential future conflict if she ever does return to the 1700’s.
Perhaps the most effective moment in the episode is a montage of scenes in the last few minutes. Jamie leaves England for Scotland in 1764, while in 1968 Claire and Brianna leave Scotland for the US to the melancholy strains of a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall.’ It is a montage that takes its time, something the episode would have wise to do for the previous fifty minutes of drama.
Outlander is now airing on Mondays on Amazon Prime in the UK. Let us know what you thought of the episode.