For the Dutch website, Undercover-network, I had to review the series Outlander. After watching the first episode I was hooked and couldn’t stop watching!
At the end of World War II, Claire and Frank Randall are finally back together. To celebrate their reunion, the couple makes a trip to the North of Scotland, Inverness. They visit several places which have a rich history. Since Frank wishes to know more about his roots, they are in a perfect place. At one day, Claire decides to make a trip on her own to a mysterious circle of old stones. When she touches one, she travels 200 year back in time and finds herself in a world of violence and intrigues between the Scottish highlanders and the English Redcoats in 1743. Claire is rescued by a Scottish clan and becomes their guest. When circumstances force her to marry one of these Scottish men, she becomes torn between two loves in different time periods.
The first season – consisting of a total of 16 episodes – from the historical drama Outlander, is a series that was broadcasted in 2014 on the Dutch HBO. The first eight episodes are the first ones on the DVD or Blu-ray and is based on the book The Traveller, which is written by Diana Gabaldon. Interesting fact is that this book is the first one of an eight-part series. Can you imagine how many seasons can be made if the writers follow the books? Outlander is a historical and romantic drama. The story is set around in both 1945 and 1743 and the main character is involved in a tragic romance. It’s also a bit of fantasy because time travel is at the basis of the story. With these genres in mind, the series is not suitable for everyone. But those who love a huge chunk of drama and romance on a historical background, will really enjoy themselves.
The main character is Claire Beauchamp, who worked as a nurse during World War II. The English Claire is portrayed very well by Caitriona Balfe. Claire is a woman with a strong character who has gained the necessary knowledge through her work as a nurse. Both aspects help her when she is mysteriously swept back in time. Balfe clearly shows that Claire is a strong and independent woman, who shows less emotion than you’d expect. Sometimes her lack of emotions doesn’t feel right, because it makes her insensitive. However, with the thoughts of Claire added to some scenes, the viewer knows exactly how she truly feels about the situation. Claire does have a lot of strong emotions, but she doesn’t show it very often. Only towards the end of the first part of season one, her emotions are clearly visible. During episode 7 and 8 Claire’s struggles are definitely present and when the possibility occurs to return home, I really hopes she would succeed. The build-up of her attempt to return is nicely done the scene has an amazing tension. I was screaming out loud!
The two male protagonists are Frank Randall from the year 1945, and the Scottish Highlander James Fraser who lives in the year 1743. Frank is played by Tobias Menzies, who plays an excellent double role. Besides that he is Claire’s husband Frank Randall, Menzies also plays the role of his ancestor: Jack Randall. The contrast between these two men is very big and the shock is all the greater when Claire meets him. Frank is a loving husband who worked in intelligence during the war. When he and Claire are visiting Inverness, he hopes to learn more about his ancestors. But since Claire ends in 1743 and meets Jack Randall, she is the one who learns a lot about her husband’s ancestors. Jack is known by the name Black Jack because of his strange ideas and methods. For example he sees flogging as art. One man who has to endure his flogging, is James ‘Jamie’ MacKenzie Fraser, the man who belongs to the clan which rescues Claire from the English Redcoats. Sam Heughan plays the rebellious Jamie from Scotland that belongs to the Clan MacKenzie. He has a personality – and body – the female viewers will surely love.
The Mackenzie clan is immediately impressed by Claire’s skills, but they don’t trust her yet. By gaining the trust of the clan, Claire hopes to find her way back to the present much quicker. As the series progresses, Claire is often challenged. The Redcoats, especially Jack Randall, thwart her plans and to escape them the clan comes up with the plan to wed her with one of their clan: Jamie MacKenzie Fraser. marry her late. The chemistry between the two characters is present from the start, but only towards the end of this first part Claire really starts to open up. This is also the moment when we understand why it is a 16+ series. The relationship was a predictable one, but the writers have built up this romance very good and therefore it’s strong and credible.
Besides the romance the series tells a historic story. The MacKenzie clan is trying to persuade other clans in Scotland to work together to protect their land against the English Redcoats, who wants Scotland the be under imposed on England. We see a number of fights and brutal, bloody punishments, which you’d rather not see. At the beginning of the series Frank mentions in 1945 a number of historical facts, which we get back to while Claire thinks of it in 1743. A critic note is that in my opinion the writers waited quite long time before showing how Frank Randall is doing in 1945. Is he looking for his wife and how desperate is he after a couple of weeks? Besides this point, the story is very well organized and continues to fascinate. The episodes have a duration of almost an hour, but it is never boring or tedious.
Outlander is a historical and romantic drama with a bit of fantasy that captivates from the beginning to the end. The long episodes never get boring or tedious. The developments in the story makes you want to watch the series as quickly as possible. The characters are well portrayed by the actors. Actor Tobias Menzies knows even how to portray two characters in a very credible way, who have a very different character. The structure of the story and the romance between Claire and Jamie in 1743 has an amazing and credible build-up. You can see how much Claire struggles with the situation, since she has two different lives and is caught between two romances. The emotions become stronger and more visible towards the end, which gives you more and more sympathy for the protagonist. Next Part 2!