This review contains spoilers.
4.6 Blood Of My Blood
Though Outlander gets rightly lauded for its successes as one of the only true romantic dramas on TV, it doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its family drama. Anyone who is familiar with either genre shouldn’t be too surprised that, if a story is good at and interested in one, then it is probably good at and interested in the other. After all, romantic and family dramas are cut from the same narrative cloth: the exploration of and prioritisation of the interpersonal.
Outlander rocks at all of it, which is why Blood Of My Blood—an examination of the complicated yet caring dynamic between Jamie, Claire, Lord John Grey, and William Ransom, the illegitimate child of Jamie and Geneva Dunsany—is so damn good.
If you need a refresher on how William showed up on the scene, Geneva Dunsany forced Jamie to have sex with her back in season three ahead of a marriage with a gross older man. Instead, Geneva became the gross person, blackmailing Jamie into taking her maidenhead by threatening to tell her parents about his true identity as a wanted man. Willie was the result of that non-consensual rendez-vous. When Geneva and William’s supposed father died, Lord John Grey, who was married to Geneva’s sister, Isobel, took responsibility of William and has been raising him ever since. Now we’re all caught up!
When we meet William again, now at the tender age of 10, he still does not know the truth of his parentage. This dramatic irony makes the nuanced emotional drama of Blood Of My Blood that much more effective, as Jamie spends time with the boy who means so much to him, unable to properly explain to young William.
For Jamie, it is a painful joy that he wouldn’t give up for anything to see Willie again. At first, the boy doesn’t remember the groom he affectionately called “Mac.” Slowly, though, he recalls how much the man meant to him. This is a missed blessing for Jamie. On the one hand, it is a relief to know his son still remembers him in some capacity, to know that he made a positive mark on his life thus far.
On the other hand, it makes William reticent to let Jamie back into his heart, given the betrayal young Willie felt when Mac left Dunsany Estate when Willie, who had just lost the only two parents he’d ever known, probably felt like he needed Mac the most. At age 10, William is an adorable brat. He is trying so hard to be good, but he is quite clearly learning how to be an aristocrat, which is to say: how to wield and hold onto power.
Murtagh, the Frasers’ other house guest, is understandably not impressed with the arrival of the English lord who was once his prison governor and his lord-in-training. When the discussion of local dissent and protest against unfair taxation comes up over the dinner table, Murtagh and Lord John only barely contain their disagreement. William is fascinated. Frankly, it makes for great television.
Poor Murtagh, who has only just reunited with his godson after being torn apart due to British imperialism, is unable to understand how Jamie could willingly be friends with Lord John, could welcome him into his home. The reveal that William is his son is maybe the only explanation Jamie could give to silence Murtagh, who still leaves, unable to be under the same roof as his former and current antagonist.
Of course, Jamie’s affection for Lord John goes beyond their mutual love for William. When John comes down with the measles that have been killing colonists, Claire is given the chance to properly interrogate a feverish John on the subject as she works to keep him alive. I like that Outlander makes Claire somewhat unlikeable here. She is not very empathetic towards John—not because he is with the king (though, that would be a bit hypocritical, too, given where she and Jamie got their land), but because he desires the man she desires.
Claire is jealous, even though Jamie is not only straight, but also madly in love/lust with her, as we’ve established over three plus seasons. Giving an 18th century closeted gay single father who may or may not be on his deathbed the cold shoulder is not a good look. But, hey, we can’t always find the empathy we’d like to in moments like these (#relatable), and John hits a lot of Claire’s buttons: He was able to spend time with Jamie during their 20 years of separation and, now, he is raising Jamie’s child. Lord John is super self-aware and observant and points these things out to Claire through his measles-y fever.
Eventually, the two find a bit of common ground bonding over their respective experiences in passion-less marriages. For Claire, it was her relationship with Frank, post-Jamie. For John, it was his time with Isobel, during which time it is implied he had sex with his wife, even though he wasn’t sexually attracted to her.
John admits to Claire that, when Isobel died, he didn’t feel anything, which is quite a statement to make. He may not have been in love with Isobel, but he did know her from when they were both small—the two were raising a child together. I judged Lord John a bit for this reveal, but it does nicely sets up his next emotion-bomb: That he came to Fraser’s Ridge not only so Jamie could see William, but so that he could see Jamie… in order to determine if he was still capable of feeling anything anymore. The verdict? He totally can. Jamie’s sexual magnetism is strong.
John ends up surviving the measles, and surviving Claire’s judginess. Before he leaves Fraser’s Ridge with William, she tells him he deserves his own passionate happiness. Agreed.
While Claire and John are working through their awkward issues, Jamie gets some proper one-on-one time with William. To keep William safe from the measles, the two basically go on a tour of Fraser’s ridge: camping, fishing, hunting, etc. Jamie has a chance to teach Willie in the way he once did, imparting as much knowledge and skill to him as he can in their six days together.
Of course, it will never be enough, which is why it’s so important for Jamie to see that Lord John is doing what Jamie is able to judge as an acceptable job. When William kills a fish on Cherokee land, the Cherokee demand a blood sacrifice. Jamie tries to take the punishment for his son, but William won’t let him, stepping in to spare Jamie the pain he feels should be his own. The Cherokee simply nick William (I kind of love this subversion of “savage” expectations), but it scares the bejesus out of father and son. The two embrace, and this show has rarely been better.
The moment may just be surpassed by Jamie and William’s final moment together (for now). When Lord John and William ride away, Jamie must wait to see if William will look back… to determine if he is in the boy’s heart or not. To determine if he should have hope for seeing him again or he should pack away hopes that he will ever see his son again to the same place he did his hopes he would ever see his daughter.
William looks back, perhaps hinting that he feels the connection between himself and Jamie, even if he is yet to fully understand it.
Read Kayti’s review of the previous episode, Savages, here.