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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

a few thoughts on Outlander so far (and open thread)

outlander

I’m finally all caught up on Starz’s TV adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, including last night’s new episode. (We’re getting new episodes next-day on Amazon U.K. Prime, which means Prime members get to see it for free in the U.K. Which is amazing. AMC’s Turn is doing the same thing. I don’t see how anyone is making money on this, and everyone deserves to get paid for their fantastic work. But I’m gonna enjoy it while I can, this lack of impact on my digital karma.)

Outlander is even better than I could have hoped. I think we need to thank Game of Thrones, the incredible success of which has demonstrated that people are very happy to take entertainment from slow-paced political machinations and other drama that is both personal and has a larger import… at least as long as we get some genuine sexytime along with it. Outlander has been better than GoT in presenting a woman’s perspective, though, which is hardly surprising (though it might have been surprising not too long ago), since it’s very much one woman’s story. There’s been more female nudity than male, but the female nudity hasn’t seen eroticized when it shouldn’t be. But more important than that, I think, is stuff like the attempted-rape scene a few episodes back, which gave us a real woman’s-eye view of what was happening. I can’t recall seeing anything like that onscreen before.

The casting of Claire and Jamie is absolutely perfect. Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan — neither of which I had seen or heard of before — couldn’t be better as performers or as embodiments of characters that so many of us (me included!) have had very strong ideas about in our heads. And a special mention has to go to Tobias Menzies (whose talent I’ve long been impressed with) as both 1945 Frank Randall and 1743 “Black Jack” Randall, who are so very different from each other. I can sort of understand why some people sometimes find it difficult to distinguish an actor from the character he plays; it’s a testament to an actor’s talent, in fact. But in this case, those folks must be having their heads explode, because gentle Frank and sadistic Jack couldn’t be more opposite. Maybe this will be a situation that will make those people really get, on a gut level, that it’s all pretend, because Menzies couldn’t possible be like both of the men he is portraying here.

What do you think? Enjoying the show so far?


posted in:
tv buzz
  • bronxbee

    yay! so glad you caught up with it… i was thrilled with catriona balfe’s casting as claire — she was *almost* exactly as i pictured her (i thought she should be just a weeee bit plumper) but was hesitant about sam heughan … but he’s turned out great. tobias menzies is doing a fabulous job — jack randall is such a thoroughgoing bastard but he plays him straight, no irony, no OTT bad guy acting… which make randall even more despicable. i think a bit of credit also needs to go to graham mactavish, the actor playing doughal mackenzie… a very complex character. so far i’m delighted with the happy sex scenes and the not-happy ones are shown why they are so not happy. i just hope they can keep going and not do more of this 8 episodes now, 8 episodes 6 months from now… that definitely leads to binge watching!

  • I love how complex the sex scenes are. They are true interactions between real people, not just sexy acrobatics. I did think the makeup-sex scene was much hotter than the wedding night!

  • Drowning InScot

    I love it, its the best thing on TV for a very long time!

  • Bluejay

    Just finished the first half-season on DVD. I’ve not read the books, but it’s an *excellent* show so far, and I agree with your thoughts on it. Tobias Menzies is a revelation as both Randalls. My only previous exposure to him was as Edmure Tully on GoT (whose wedding to one of the Frey daughters turned out not to be such a happy event) so I was very pleasantly surprised to see his range here.

    I’ve also been loving the music on the show — Bear McCreary’s doing excellent work, and it’s been interesting reading about his process for this show over on his blog. And there was one early episode in which the 1700s scenes were scored with *1940s* music — an interesting juxtaposition and a great way to show Claire torn between two eras.

  • Hank Graham

    Have you ever seen “The Last Picture Show”? I’ve always considered it a high-water mark of an adult view of sex, and the various ways we approach it.

  • Pretty sad that a 45-year-old movie is the best we can do in that regard!

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