After a lengthy wait Droughtlander is finally over and the long anticipated return of Outlander hit the small screen today with episode one of season 3 entitled “The Battle Joined”. We’ve waited a long time to see what’s next for the star-crossed lovers Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall/Fraser. We want to know what lies in store for poor Frank and if Captain Black Jack Randall will finally get his due. And since I don’t want to ruin anything for you Outlander fans, be warned. There are spoilers in this review so if you haven’t had a chance to see the season 3 premiere yet, well, get on it. So if you’re ready come on in and let’s talk about tonight’s episode.
We return to Scotland and to the Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746. Charles III of Scotland, also known as the Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite supporters have been soundly defeated in a decisive bloody battle by the English. Nearly 2,000 Scotsmen were killed or wounded during this battle, and Culloden marked the end of the Highland way of life. It is here we see Jamie Fraser lying horribly injured and dying on the battlefield, pinned under his arch nemesis Captain Black Jack Randall. Who we hope is very dead. It’s a tableau of ghastly exquisiteness to see these two adversaries entwined in a macabre parody of a lover’s embrace. Especially knowing that Black Jack raped Jamie.
We’re treated to a handful of Jamie’s flashbacks and we see Black Jack and the young Jamie battle it out. As they fight the rest of the battle disappears and it really is just the two of them on Culloden settling the very personal score between them. Black Jack drew first blood and Jaime bled heavily from the wound the captain inflicted on his leg, but Jaime managed a death blow with a dagger to Black Jack’s abdomen, and unless Black Jack has supernatural powers I highly doubt he’ll survive. But who knows. He’s surprised us before.
As Jamie lies near death on Culloden surrounded by the dead Scots a ghostly apparition of Claire walks toward him through the ethereal dark. She asks him if he’s alive and it’s a beautiful, poignant moment for we all know Claire is not really on that battle field. And neither is she anywhere near his time. But her presence definitely brought him back from the brink of death. This world, it seems, is not finished with Jaime Fraser.
Ultimately Jamie is taken to a cottage with what’s left of the remaining Jacobite army only to hear his countrymen be executed by the British soldiers that find them. With the loss of Claire, the defeat of his enemy, and the end of the rebellion and in effect the Scotland he knows, we wonder what stubbornness keeps Jamie alive. Is it hope that he'll somehow see Claire again? That she'll return to his time? For now he’s safe back at home in Lallybroch with his sister and family because of a debt of honor owed to him by an Englishman, which is lucky for the young Scottish warrior.
It’s 1948 Boston and Claire is trying desperately to move on with her life without the man she loves in it. Though she’s keeping her bargain with Frank and trying to leave the past in the past, her growing belly and the baby within it is making that hard. She’s miserable and withdrawn despite her best efforts and adjusting to life in Boston is a joyless endeavor that the story made abundantly clear was a slow torture for Claire. But how do you move on with your life when you’re stuck in the past? How do you move on when you don’t know the fate of the love of your life? How do you leave a love like Claire had with Jamie behind?
To top things off misogyny is alive and well in the hallowed halls of Harvard where Frank is newly employed and it’s running roughshod over Claire’s nerves. Can you just see Claire biting her tongue and most likely squeezing the heck out of Frank’s hands? Even 200 years in the future women’s rights seemed to hardly have advanced at all, even amongst the so called intellectually enlightened. And she must live in this world? If not for that child I don’t know what Claire would do. Would she leave Frank? I hope her baby fills her life with joy, and that somehow she can embrace a new purpose beyond just motherhood, and in so doing she can find some semblance of peace and happiness and accept and adjust to life without Jamie.
Jamie and Claire
Jaime and Claire are worlds apart. These star-crossed lovers have both time and space between them. I can’t see how they will ever overcome these circumstances and I feel terribly for both of them. This endless yearning and heartache they must suffer for an impossible love. It’s so heartbreaking. It’s the worst break up ever and they didn’t even really break up so the love is still there. And though love may know no bounds, the physical body and physics both do and unless lightning can strike twice Jamie and Claire will remain forever separated by time and space. So, Claire will have to learn to live in the now and embrace the new. She has no choice. And what about Jaime? We know there will be no other woman for him. And that just sucks.
Claire and Frank
Another element making it hard to watch is Frank’s obvious pain and devotion. How guilty must Claire feel? The more Frank wants to be close to her and embrace her and the baby that is not his own, the farther and farther away Claire retreats from him. Even going so far as to recoil from his loving touch. Ouch! I have to give Frank credit. It takes a very, very unique type of man to forgive a wife’s infidelity and accept a child not his own. No matter the special time travel circumstances involved it would still be hard to do. But Frank seems determined to do it, though Claire is not making it easy for him.
Despite all this, Frank starts to write a letter to help Claire find closure. How will his search for the fate of Jamie Fraser pan out? Will it work out the way he wants it to?
It’s so obvious how much Claire misses her life in 18th century Scotland. It was a relief when they finally fought over the state of their marriage. In a way, the battle was joined between Frank and Claire. But will the birth of the baby be the new beginning they so desperately need and that Frank so desperately needs and wants? Jaime, Claire, Frank and the agony of loss in this episode is almost too much for us to bear so how will these characters do it?
In the End…
All in all it was a solid episode, slow paced except for a few moments of Jaime’s recollection of the battle. Yet tonight’s episode did give us a very clear realization and feeling of the loss of separation and the pain and agony it has caused all of them. It was heartbreaking to see the anguish all three characters suffered. I don’t know who suffered more, but if I’d have to say, as bad as I feel for Claire and Jaime, I feel worse for Frank and I think he is suffering the most due to these magical time travel events and an unrequited love with his wife. A wife who did love him once.
In the end, in a love triangle there is always one man out, and in this instance that odd man is Frank. Which is sad because Frank is a good man. Claire is lucky to have had two great men and two great loves in her life. The dilemma is that she loves Jaime more. Jamie is the one for Claire, and for Frank, Claire is the one. And Frank has the misfortune to look like a despised enemy, which isn’t helping to fan the flames of love Claire feels for him.
So how will Claire learn to love Frank again, especially when he bears the face of such a horrible transgressor? How will Claire find a modicum of peace and happiness knowing that the man she loves is long dead and gone but her love for him is still very much alive? How will Jamie regain the will to live again? Is that awful rapist Captain Jonathan Randall dead and gone for good, or will he reappear like a dark wraith once more? And where in the world is Murtagh? And what will happen to the dragonfly locked in the amber stone that Jamie was clutching like a talisman and dropped when he was carried from Culloden Field? I guess we’ll have to watch to find out.
Check out this preview for “Surrender” next week’s episode of Outlander, airing Sunday, September 17th and tell us what you are most looking forward to this season and what your biggest questions for this ill-fated love triangle are.