During the course of the series premiere of Outlander, I did several things. I stood up and applauded, I loudly (startling the animals with whom I reside) yelled “ROMANCE!” I made quite a few unasked for geeky criticisms of the televised adaptation in comparison with the books, I maybe joy-cried once, and I despaired over Claire’s voiceovers which were numerous and terrible.
It was a very exciting time for all parties involved. By which I mean, it was a very exciting time for me, and, to a lesser degree, my roommate who continually threatened to Vine my reactions throughout if I did not calm down. In short, the first episode was a treat — but that doesn’t mean I’m letting my tendency towards fandom give it a free pass.
You can’t ever judge a show by its pilot. Remember, the pilot isn’t for you and isn’t for me. It isn’t even for your grandmother who tends to prefer marathons of NCIS and softly baked apple dishes. Pilots are written for T.V. executives. They are often broad and packed to the gills. They hold the viewer’s hand, because they are assuming the viewer doesn’t understand the basics of television storytelling. You owe it to the makers of a show to watch at least three episodes. If each episode after the pilot continues to feel off, then, as a good rule of thumb, it’s not you — it is, in fact, the show.
That’s why I’d ask you to patient with Outlander. I’ll warn you, as an ardent fan of television myself, it might not be easy for you to do. The first thing that comes to mind is the giant red flag (which I’ve already mentioned) of Claire’s voiceovers. They are plentiful and unnecessary. I think there was quite literally not one moment when they added anything to the story or to the character that the actions on screen were not already conveying quite effectively. With any luck, this is something that will dissipate as the show goes on. Of course there’s always the possibility of them going full-on Dexter with it, in which case I shall have to prepare my own kill-room and quietly invite the Outlander scripts inside to accept responsibility for their crimes.
The world of Diana Gabaldon’s series as realized by Ronald D. Moore is beautiful and seems promising. There was very much a Wizard of Oz feel to the production. While Inverness is beautiful regardless of the time period, the contrast between the low-saturated, dull look of Claire’s life in the 20th century and the vivid textures, colors, and light of her 18th century life was otherworldly and perfect. I also thought it was smart of their team to use a less-is-more approach to Claire’s actual journey in time. The simple white out was perfect and, in its way, just as disorienting as it needed to be — for both Claire and the viewers.
The cast is perfect. Caitriona Balfe is dead-on awesome as Claire and Sam Heughan is a great Jamie. I’ll be honest — I’d like Sam’s hair to be longer and for him to be roughly a whole foot taller, but I am also a crazy person. We didn’t get time for a real chemistry check between the two, but I can see that existing. I kind of suspected all of this based on repeat viewings of all the trailers, but it’s stellar to see that I wasn’t wrong. I hate being wrong.
It’s worth noting that Starz should be applauded for embracing Claire’s sexuality, and not backing away from it. Her sex drive is a huge part of her character, and while I think some of their exploration of that was a little on the nose (*cough cough* oral sex in the ruins *cough cough*), it’s refreshing to see a fully realized female protagonist who isn’t afraid of her body. The other surprise for me was Tobia Menzies’ portrayal of Frank and Jack Randall. I’ve always found Frank to be pretty tiresome, but for the pilot actually made me like the man, and feel vaguely sympathetic towards him. That said Menzies clearly enjoyed sinking his teeth into the juicy and malevolent role of “Black” Jack. I can’t wait to see more.