Starz hit show, Outlander, is back for its third season, filling the emptiness of Sunday nights left by the absence of Game of Thrones. When we last saw Jamie and Claire, they were two hundred years apart. After twenty years away from Jamie, Claire learned that the father of her now-grown child did not die on the field in Culloden, as presumed. With the start of season three, the show takes us to the time immediately following the separation of Claire and Jamie, and masterfully pieces together the physical and emotional pain that they both endured. Displaying that pain, in all of it’s incarnations, was beautifully accomplished by leads Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe.
Heughan, for much of the episode, was little more than a corpse. While we got to see him in action, through flashbacks to the battle that ensued shortly after Jamie last saw Claire, the majority of his time on screen was in his near-death state, being saved by first his men, then by Lord Cumberland, despite his own wishes. The slow reveal of the identity of the dead soldier on top of Jamie on the battlefield was well-done, piecing together the moments from battle with the solemn results.
Balfe also shined, as we see Claire in the final months of her pregnancy, as she worked to repair her relationship with Frank in the twentieth century. Her journey was no less of a battle, as yet again Claire is being forced into a role of a woman that doesn’t match her spirit. Rather than being at risk of raped by highlanders, she at risk of being bored to death by the tasks of a post-World War Two housewife in America.
With both Claire and Jamie, it appears that the initial battle for survival ends at the close of the episode, as they each settle in with the families. Jamie arrives back at Lallybroch, with his sister, while Claire and Frank welcome Brianna into the world. Neither character had much control over their fate, throughout the episode, but they both appear to be at a point where they are willing to accept where events have taken them.
While Jamie and Claire went on their sad journeys, we got very little of the side characters we have met and loved in the first two seasons. As he did in the books, Black Jack Randall didn’t survive the Battle of Culloden, and viewers got to see his final fight with Jamie to the bloody end. While Rupert returned for battle, and ultimately saved Jamie from an immediate death by exposure, the arrival of British soldiers led to his permanent departure. The slow execution of all of the Highlanders that had survived the battle was excruciating. In the twentieth century, Tobias Menzies continues to survive as Frank Randall, putting into motion the research that was revealed at the end of season two, when Claire learned that Jamie survived.
The pacing and content in this first episode was slow, if enjoyable. Our heroes don’t seem anywhere near close to the reunion that fans so desperately want. If we are to live through all of the events that are to happen through twenty years of separation, before seeing the Frasiers reunite, this could be a long, painful season. However, this was a beautiful episode, with creative lighting, set design, and on-location filming that continues to give this show it’s unique feel.
Heughan and Balfe put on a wonderful performance. While it looks like we have a little while to go before they get to perform together, it should be worth the wait.