What Droughtlander? Outlander roars back with a ferocious first episode
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! The Droughtlander is finally over and our beloved Outlander is back on screen. We open with the brutal aftermath of the battle of Culloden. Jamie (Sam Heughan) is alive but he’s pretty severely wounded. As he slips in and out of consciousness we see long sequences of the runup to the battle and the savage battle itself. This includes the long awaited confrontation between him and Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) where Jamie is wounded but finally manages to fell this archenemy from seasons 1 & 2. He is found by Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) and takes shelter in a shack at the edge of the moor before they’re all found by the British. They’re being executed one by one but in an amazing stroke of luck, Jamie is found by Hal, Lord Melton (Sam Hoare). He owes a debt of honor to Jamie for saving his baby brother John during season 2, so Jamie is spared and sent home to Lallybroch.
The rest of the episode we spend with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) in her new Boston home Frank (Tobias Menzies) purchases. She has to adjust to the twentieth century. She has to adjust to America. And she has to adjust to the misogyny of the postwar period which seems greater than anything she’s ever experienced before. She’s still keeping her distance from Frank and he isn’t happy about it. They have a tremendous fight and Frank sits down to write a letter to his old buddy the Reverend Wakefield asking him to find out about Jamie. Claire goes into labor and has the baby. In this post birth afterglow, she and Frank vow to start over with a fresh beginning. Just as they’re settling down to enjoy new parent bliss, a nurse asks them where the new baby got her red hair. Oops!
There’s so much in here. Let’s do this, Outlander fans!
Andee (@andeesings): Writer for TV After Dark. Ginger, lover of all things nerdy, always up for a Renaissance Faire and a quick flight to anywhere.
Jamie (@jamiesrule): I’m Jamie! I think I’m funny. I’ll probably need a lot of vodka to get through a season of Outlander.
Dee (@OL_America): Educator, mother of two sons, and Outlander enthusiast. Just returned from a trip to Scotland to get in touch with my roots.
Heather (@taterbug160): 33 years old, NC – read Outlander about 12 years ago and been hooked ever since.
Carole (@cbraunnj): Newbie to TV After Dark roundtables. Costumer, history geek, travel affectionato, teacher and lover of great stories.
Jenni (@freckledjenni): Jenni likes television, Ireland and purple. She has a lot of freckles.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander): Freelance TV/Film professional and Outlander addict (please can I have some more?). Owner of The Urban Outlander.
1. After hyping the Battle of Culloden for two seasons, did it live up to your expectations? Did anything surprise you?
Andee (@andeesings): The battle was really better than anything I expected. It had better be, after all that hype! I guess what surprised me was how brutal it was. I’d imagined it, and knew it would be. But there’s still just something about watching soldiers skewer wounded men on the ground that made me cringe. It was really sad. It was definitely filmed better than I ever could have imagined. And let’s be honest: I could’ve watched Sam Heughan’s raspy close up breathing for hours.
Jamie (@jamiesrule): My expectations for Outlander are pretty low so I think it will take quite a bit to impress me. The Battle of Culloden was good but it still lacked something for me after all the hype. I wanted more! I did think the opening scene was well done and the way the camera panned over all the bodies was a chilling way to start.
Dee (@OL_America): Having just recently visited the Culloden Battlefield, seeing the battle come to life on screen was especially moving. It exceeded my expectations. Also, a discussion of the battle wouldn’t be complete without addressing the incredible acting talent involved in those scenes, especially Sam Heughan’s performance. How many actors can convey such absolute despair utilizing only grunts and facial expressions? Award worthy performance.
Heather (@taterbug160): In the books we don’t get any of the actual battle, so I wasn’t sure how much we’d actually see in the episode. With that in mind, it was portrayed better than expected. Enough battle to get the point, with enough break aways to Jamie face up on the ground to let you know how it’s going to end. I thought it was very well done, and I’m glad they didn’t spend some incredible amount of time on it.
Carole (@cbraunnj): It did live up and beyond. The cannonballs flying, the dirt showering everyone. The stacking of the bodies, looting of valuables. Seeing the Scots mowed down by gunfire was awful. But hardest part was having the men and boys in the cottage systematically shot. What surprised me was having the battle told in pieces and flashbacks. I had thought it was going to be linear, one long bloody battle. But it was actually better the way it was shown. It gave a better sense of the horror and of Jamie’s pain.
Jenni (@freckledjenni): Sorta. For viewers not aware of the history of Culloden, I don’t think the show describes the gravity of what historically happened. This battle wiped out the Highland culture. The country will never be the same and I don’t think they did that justice. The British are dicks & we’ve always known that, I wish they showed more of how the Highlanders didn’t just lose, they lost everything. Also, Bonny Prince Charles is annoying. I could never buy into his character. He’s a space case and needs to shut his mouth more. The gaping mouth hanging open is gross. I keep waiting for drool to slip out of the corners of his mouth.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander): The battle was fierce though coulda been longer. The pleasant surprise was how long it took before any dialogue was spoken. They really took the time to allow sound and visuals to set the story right outta the gate.
2. Let’s talk about that long awaited Black Jack/Jamie confrontation. Jamie, turning in the light, seeing Black Jack… What was that sequence like for you?
Andee (@andeesings): The best. It was like watching an elaborate ballet. And when Jamie finally stabbed Black Jack and Jack reached out for him!! I actually almost expired. And when both of them cocked their heads when they saw each other? It was like, “Oh yes, let’s do this.”
Jamie (@jamiesrule): The Jamie/Black Jack confrontation was pretty amazing. The way they used the sunset to highlight the two characters and the scene gave me the chills. At the end of scene when Black Jack was reaching for Jamie was a powerful moment. I’m happy they gave the Jamie and Black Jack the time they deserved, I was worried it would feel anti-climactic.
Dee (@OL_America): This scene represented what Jamie had wanted for so long. It was his chance for revenge, and it was probably what kept him alive through the battle, that one last thing to live for, a least for a short while. Justice finally prevailed.
Heather (@taterbug160): I heard that the sunset lighting was a happy accident, and it was the lighting (and Tobias) that made this scene for me. Seeing them lock eyes and charge each other was thrilling, but it’s the moment where they are both wounded, and BJR reaches for him one last time, and they both fall together in an exhausted heap. There was something really beautiful about it, and super satifying.
Carole (@cbraunnj): BJR’s last stand. They saw each other and tuned out virtually everything else around them, which is a great talent with that battle. They fought almost like lovers, in a weird sick way.
Jenni (@freckledjenni): I loved seeing Black Jack & Jamie’s smirks when they realized they would be fighting to the death. Finally, Jamie has BJ in a vulnerable place and will be rid of him forever. You can see the excitement in BJ’s face knowing he might have control over Jamie once again. Black Jack is so obsessed with Jamie it’s fitting his last fight is with him. Black Jacks’s face when Jamie stabbed him in the stomach is what stole the scene for me. His face is distraught knowing Jamie won and BJ lost his power over Jamie.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander): It’s the final showdown between two characters who share an intense history. I felt their fury and enjoyed watching them doggedly tear into each other albeit exhausted. The moment as Black Jack looks at Jamie before collapsing on him is filled with sorrow, longing, and ultimately defeat. Strangely I felt sorry for him.
3. Speaking of fighting, Tobias did quite a bit of that in this episode. Talk to us about the Claire/Frank fight.
Andee (@andeesings): What’s crazy is, I was never sympathetic of Frank when I read this part in the books. I’ve never been sympathetic during the show, either, even though I do feel like they tried. But this was the first time I really felt like he had a solid point. I felt awful for him. And I’m really happy they pushed the “Frank writes a letter asking about Jamie” to this point instead of revealing it later like the books. Good change!!
Jamie (@jamiesrule): Tobias and Cait are incredible on screen together. They have amazing chemistry! I love when those two have a heated exchange whether it’s as Claire and Frank or Claire and BJR, which is why “The Garrison Commander” is probably my all time favorite Outlander episode. But back this episode, I really felt for Frank because he is trying so hard and Claire isn’t having any of it. It’s easy for me to separate book-Frank from tv-Frank. And I absolutely adore tv-Frank!! I feel like a traitor or something, haha! Of course I want Claire to be with Jamie, but I’m looking forward to more Claire and Frank scenes in the next few episodes.
Dee (@OL_America): Frank was stunned when Claire threw the ashtray. Jamie wouldn’t have been surprised, as he had been on the receiving end of one of Claire’s flying objects, but Frank seemed shocked. His surprise seemed to indicate the imbalance in that relationship. Jamie wouldn’t have made the comment in the first place, but if he had he probably would have ducked before he finished the sentence. Frank just doesn’t understand Claire.
Heather (@taterbug160): This fight was a long time coming. Frank tries multiple times in the episode to just keep the mood light, don’t upset Claire, trying to get her to let him IN, and she just pushes him away, time and time again. At the same time Claire is a sad shell right now. She feels like Frank has trapped her so anything domestic she does for him she resents. Do I think Frank crossed a line by saying she’s the one who was f*cking other people? I’m still not sure. He HAS a point, even if it’s Jamie we all love. I think sometimes it take a big blow up argument for people to start communicating, and Frank telling her listen, you can go or you can stay, but make sure it’s what you WANT, it going to show her she’s not his prisoner, so stop acting like one.
Carole (@cbraunnj) Frank is trying very hard to salvage their marriage. He’s ready to be lets have bygones be bygones, but Claire is still in mourning. He has a lot of simmering anger toward Jamie, and maybe a bit of doubt that he existed in the 18th century. Claire is feeling more trapped in a mid 20th century marriage than she did in her 18th century one. But Claire has excellent pitching skills and Frank definitely knows how to duck.
Jenni (@freckledjenni): Frank is completely valid in his frustrations/fears. You’ve got to give the man some credit for accepting his wife who disappeared and comes back pregnant with another man’s child. He’s trying to connect with Claire but she keeps her distance. This forces Frank to walk on eggshells and wonder if his wife even loves him anymore. For Claire not to understand, even a little, Claire’s point of view is ignorant in my opinion. He wants her to be happy, with or without him, but she stays. I don’t believe it’s fair for Claire to stay knowing she can’t give him the emotional support all partners need in a marriage.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander): The elephant in the room becomes loud and clear! Kinda like how Frank’s frustration comes to a boiling point (he must be angry if he uses the F word) and Claire exercises her throwing arm. You clearly see two people torn and fighting inner battles and then each other. He yearns for the woman she was and she yearns for a man he can’t be.
4. There was a lot of misogyny Claire battled this episode, between Dean Jackson, Claire’s “wake up and you’ll be a mother” delivery, 1940’s neighbor and Claire’s own housewife life. Who did you want to punch the hardest?
Andee (@andeesings): Where to start?? I have to go with the doctor on this one, for literally TALKING OVER CLAIRE to Frank about her labor even though he CLEARLY knew nothing about. What a totally jackoff. I have a feeling all of the scenes in the 40’s, 50’s & 60’s will make me feel like this. Rage approaching.
Jamie (@jamiesrule): I don’t know who I wanted to throat punch more in this episode, Dean Jackson or Claire’s doctor. I think since I’m a mom, I’m more inclined to want to scream all the cuss words at Claire’s doctor. Claire exhibited much more self-control than I would have with Dean Jackson. Haha!
Dee (@OL_America): The obstetrician who delivered Bree gets my vote for the smack down, though the Dean comes in a close second. Oddly, Claire was often shown more respect in the eighteenth century than she was in the twentieth century.
Heather (@taterbug160): This is such a toss up between the dean and the doctor! So frustrated for her!
Carole (@cbraunnj): I wanted to punch that Doctor!! He was looking at Claire as though she was a drugged incubator. Had no sympathy for a woman who went through a miscarrage as well. I did like the fact Frank wasn’t too happy with the Doctor as well. I personally wish on that Doc kidney stones. The closest thing a man could know what labor is really like.
Jenni (@freckledjenni): Both, at the same time. I can’t imagine a marriage where it’s big deal if dinner is a surprise. Hell, would be me stuck with a room of women who only talk about their lives the way Claire’s neighbor did. Also Dr. Condescending needs a punch in the throat by Black Jack Randall.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander): Dean Jackson. Take those spectacles and shove them down his patronizing throat! Then turn around and stab the doctor with an injection and tell him there’s no reason to panic.
5. There were a few times where you couldn’t help but audibly gasp or shed a sorrowful tear this episode. Which moment gut punched you hardest?
Andee (@andeesings): Rupert, for sure. I didn’t get too upset when Angus died so Rupert’s death actually creeped up on me. SO sad when the gunshots rang out. I also shed a bit of a tear for Frank during this episode, if you’d believe it. I felt really bad for him. When he said, “I love you” to Claire when she was in labor and she said nothing… Ouch.
Jamie (@jamiesrule): I’m probably dead inside but the only part that got a real physical reaction out of me was the moments leading up to Rupert being executed. I will definitely miss Grant [O’Rourke], he was a consistently good part of Outlander.
Dee (@OL_America): That’s a tough one, as there were so many. #1 – When Jamie sees Claire on the battlefield; #2 – When Rupert says goodbye to Jamie and we hear the shot fired for his execution; and, surprisingly, #3 – When the nurse notes Bree’s red hair and inquires about it’s origins. That simple question took Claire and Frank out of their temporary bliss and slammed them back into their reality. Bree would always be a constant reminder of Jamie and a past that Claire cannot totally erase from her being, regardless how much Frank wants it.
Heather (@taterbug160): At first I wanted to say when Rupert forgives Jamie and volunteers to be executed next. But honestly it’s the parallel between the Faith and Bree baby scenes. Claire wakes to find no baby, and is worried she’s dead. But she’s alive! And when Frank brings her into the room and she’s alive and well THAT scene, the realization she does have a piece of Jamie, and she’s alive, that gut punched me in the most bittersweet way.
Carole (@cbraunnj): When Claire woke up after the delivery and was starting to go through what she did Faith. It was seconds but it hurt.
Jenni (@freckledjenni): Watching Claire fight for the birth she wants, then being overtaken by modern medicine is heartbreaking. I can’t image the fear she was feeling not having control over her body or her baby.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander): Rupert. “I mean to set a quick pace so try to keep up.” He was always the comic relief but in this episode he was honorable which made it harder to say goodbye.
6. In a change book readers will notice right away, we never see the fate of Murtagh! Theories about why that is?
Andee (@andeesings): Oh I have one. I don’t think he’s dead. Mark me! I’m hoping he’s not dead and he’s switch out with another pretty useless book character we meet in book 4. I just needed to put this out there for posterity.
Jamie (@jamiesrule): Honestly, I don’t have any theories about Murtagh other than there’s no way they would end that role like that so I’m pretty sure he’s gonna pop up at some point. Or! Jamie encounters someone who recounts the events of Murtagh’s death and the audience sees a flashback. Okay, so I guess I do have some theories.
Dee (@OL_America): As much as I love Murtagh, I believe he perished on the battlefield. In some of the shots, it looks like we see glimpses of Murtagh’s body, but it’s difficult to tell for sure. Allowing that character to survive would have resulted in some major story deviations, and although some changes have been great so far, it is dangerous to implement major changes that result in a significant deviation from the source material. Production members have said that the intent is to follow the books as closely as possible, and it seems that such a major deviation would not be necessary in terms of the screen adaptation.
Heather (@taterbug160): Admittedly I saw Caitriona [Balfe] live tweeting about this and she said we would see him again. I don’t know for sure that I think he LIVED, but I think we’ll see him again in some form, be it a flashback or something else. Interesting though that after all the fan pleading to save him, they would not confirm his death that day…
Carole (@cbraunnj): In the books, we don’t find out the fate of Murtagh until much later. I believe the show will follow along with that thinking. We all know that Murtagh is dead, he was definitely not going to be taken alive. He was going down swinging. But pieces and info about the battle are going to be dropped in small ways in later episodes, Ron & Co will just give us enough nibbles to bring us along throughout the season, culiminating with the fate of Murtagh.
Jenni (@freckledjenni): Because the show will bring him back in some way. This was an easy way out and it will make the return episode super dramatic and viewers will be having happy tears of joy while cuddling their Jamie & Murtagh body pillows.
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander): I think Murtagh died on the battlefield and we’ll see the final goodbye between him and Jamie in a flashback. There’s only so much heartache we can take in one episode! He’ll probably say something really sweet about Claire as he takes a final breath…Now excuse me while I runoff and cry into some cake.
7. There have been some fan complaints about the show being unbalanced between scenes with Frank in the 40’s and life in the Highlands with Jamie. How did you feel they did with this premiere?
Andee (@andeesings): Finally, they got it right. Both Jamie and Claire’s stories felt so fully fleshed out. Each actor had the opportunity to shine, nothing really felt ridiculous and out of nowhere. In terms of writing I definitely feel like this was the strongest episode by far.
Jamie (@jamiesrule): I thought the premiere had a good balance between time in the highlands and the 40s’s. For once in what seems like the first part of season one, I felt like the episode flowed pretty nicely. I hope that trend continues.
Dee (@OL_America): Admittedly, I’m not a huge Frank fan (although I love Tobias), but the Claire/Frank scenes are necessary to show viewers the contrast in the two marriages. Claire and Frank struggle to achieve to level of happiness, but we need to see that it is indeed a struggle. We have to know that Claire doesn’t simply go back to Frank and live happily ever after. It is necessary to see that Claire and Jamie are incomplete in each other’s absence.
Heather (@taterbug160): I thought the premiere was perfectly balanced.
Carole (@cbraunnj): This was a brilliant start to Season 3. I never felt that there an unbalance between the Frank/ Jamie scenes. I’m glad the show fleshed out Frank, that they didn’t pop his character in the closet and took him out as needed.
Jenni (@freckledjenni): I liked the back and forth of the episode. Watching what they were both going through in equal time makes it easier to follow the story. I LOVE the first episode! I’m super excited about this season. I hope the rest lives up to episode one!
Jordyn (@urbanoutlander): It is officially two stories running parallel in the beginning of this season so guess what Frank haters? You’re gonna get more Frank! The show needs a balanced view and you can’t have Claire without him. Besides, we all need more Tobias Menzies in our lives.
Final Verdict: Outlander Season 3 Premiere – The Outlander episode we dreamed about
This episode was a total win from beginning to end. We waited for that battle and boy did we get it. The writing was great, the acting was great, the cinematography- well, you get it. The episode was balanced beautifully between action and smaller, character driven moments. And the scenes in the 40’s really propelled the story of Claire’s life without Jamie: seeing the moment she made the decision to become a doctor and Frank’s decision to write to Reverend Wakefield to get information about Jamie were great teases for what’s coming in the weeks ahead. Jamie is back at Lallybroch where if you’ll recall he is no longer laird and still a pretty notorious Jacobite. We can’t wait to see how Claire fights the patriarchy, either. What happened to Murtagh? How on earth can they possibly live apart?? One down, twelve to go Outlander fans!
Outlander returns next Sunday, September 17th at 8/7c on Starz!
All the Outlander!Stick with us this season for our deep dive in-depth Outlander reviews (because we cannot get enough of Sam & Tobias either) and our weekly Outlander roundtables!