There are no brides in this episode, false or otherwise. But there is a rather sudden and odd marriage proposal, a ghost of a Native American Indian time-traveller, a nervous, loud mule and some delightful folk music. ‘The False Bride’ is an improvement on last weeks’ slightly misjudged slavery episode and proves to be a fairly entertaining hour of television.
The episode starts with the return of the historian Roger Wakefield (Richard Rankin) leaving Scotland to travel to Boston to woo Claire and Jamie’s daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) in 1970. Brianna has changed since we last saw her in Season 3, she is more confident, has more ambition and is now studying Engineering at MIT. Roger and Brianna travel to North Carolina for a Scottish festival (naturally!). What are the chances that they should be travelling to the same area of the world in 1970 where Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) are 200 years in the past? This being Outlander, there are no coincidences and the chances are pretty high. We predict that before the season is out Brianna will have travelled back in time through the American version of Craigh na Dun to be reunited with her parents.
Despite some of the twee elements of the Scottish festival in America, the love story between Roger and Brianna is really rather sweet. They fall in love while ceilidh dancing, listening to folk music and dressing up in tartan. Their drive to North Carolina could give any meet-cute scene in a Romcom a run for its money. They sexily feed each other a milkshake and play a flirtatious game of ‘The Minister’s Cat’ proving there is nothing more attractive than two handsome people who know a lot of adjectives. Both Rankin and Skelton have plenty of chemistry and they do a good job in all their scenes together.
It is all going so well until Roger decides to propose marriage rather abruptly. Brianna is understandably confused and unsure, rejecting Roger’s sudden proposal. She is perfectly happy to engage in a relationship and although it is clear that she loves Roger, she has no intentions of marrying him. Brianna is a modern woman, she wants to make her own choices, focus on her studies and to not be pushed in to any decisions. Her confidence and freedom nicely contrasts with the restrictions that Claire faces back in the 1700s.
Roger doesn’t seem to quite understand the double standards he imposes on Brianna and although he is a character that the audience will love, purely for his sweet character, his behaviour in ‘The False Bride’ is pretty unbecoming. He applies old morals to a modern era, explaining rather petulantly that he can have sex before marriage but that Brianna should not. He can barely sit still for long enough to consider what Brianna might want out of life before he is on bended knee talking about the future ‘he’ envisions for her. This is an important scene because it clearly shows how loving relationships can go wrong when both parties want something different both in and outside the bedroom. Outlander, for all its faults, has always been a show that champions women’s sexual freedom, pleasure and their right to choose how they live their lives and with whom.
Back in the 1700s, Claire and Jamie’s relationship contrasts nicely with Brianna and Roger’s. Although the older couple may have started out with a turbulent marriage, they have reached a place where there is a real love, understanding and easy humour between them. The conversation they have about Brianna is an especially nice scene and it is great to see a middle-aged married couple whose marriage is not in crisis like so many TV marriages are.
After the distressing events that took place on Aunt Jocasta’s plantation, Claire, Jamie and Young Ian (John Bell) are back on the road looking for a home. This time they are accompanied by Clarence, a loud mule and John Quincy Myers (Kyle Rees), a Scottish trader and guide. They pass through Cherokee territory which is shown in a series of cinematic shots that would not go amiss in a tourist advert for the American countryside, complete with an American eagle flying above the treetops.
Myers, who has in-depth knowledge of the Native Americans is a good attempt by the writers to inject some historical accuracy into Outlander. His relations with the Cherokee are not inaccurate. An influx of Scottish traders to Cherokee territory in the 1700s and subsequent intermarrying with Cherokee women means that many Native Americans today who come from North Carolina also have Scottish blood in their ancestry.
While Myers and Young Ian head off to trade with the locals, Clarence the nervous mule runs off in a storm and Claire rushes off to look for him, getting lost in the process. This is a cliched twist, that kind that we have seen in the show before. Claire lost, Jamie frantically looking for her. Although this time the writers add in a suitably creepy scene with a ghost, a human skull and a new mystery: the skull has metal fillings which means the individual was another time traveller! The ghost, who appears to be Native American, although silent and intimidating, actually helps to lead Claire back to Jamie and as they travel through the woodland they find the perfect place to start home. They dub their new picturesque plot of land as Fraser’s Ridge.
This is everything we want from Outlander and the perfect way to end the episode; great scenery, sweet romance, a folk music score and a new mystery on the horizon.
Outlander Season 4 is now airing on Amazon Prime.