This review contains spoilers
This week’s Outlander episode, “The Happiest Place on Earth”, covers a lot of ground in terms of action and character development. The extended cold open closes the chapter on the Christie family saga, which allows the remaining part of the episode to set up re-introducing William Ransom as a young man who will have his own story, as well as setting up the main obstacle for Brianna and Roger to overcome this season.
After Tom Christie’s death, Alan reveals to Claire that he was the one who killed Malva. He was motivated by jealousy that Malva was trying to break off their incestuous relationship and her failure to get child support cash out of Jamie. Ian believes Alan is about to attack Claire, so he shoots him dead with an arrow. Claire feels guilty, but a passer-by tells her Alan deserved it for his actions.
Brianna gives birth to a baby girl, Amanda Claire Hope Mackenzie, shortened to Mandy. Jamie and Claire love their first granddaughter. Claire unfortunately detects that Mandy has a heart defect because of discoloration in her nails. She doesn’t have the equipment to perform the surgery in the 18th Century but she knows her colleagues from the hospital in Boston would be able to help. Brianna and Roger decide the safest thing to do would be to travel back to the future for the best chance for Mandy’s recovery. They travel to Wilmington to find additional gemstones for the journey. Jemmy confirms to everyone he can hear the stones buzzing and that Mandy can too even though her reaction is babbling.
While in Wilmington, Brianna runs into Lord John Grey and William Ransom. William is waiting for his British army assignment and Lord John tagged along to take care of business. Brianna meets William then tells them she’s on her way to Boston. Once William leaves, she asks Lord John if the truth of his parentage will ever be revealed and he tells her no, because of the risk of his position in society. Bree feels differently because developing a relationship with Jamie didn’t mean she forgot about Frank. Lord John fails to persuade Jamie to join the British Army but he gives him the last gemstone needed for the stones.
Brianna and Roger prep for the journey back to the future by saying their goodbyes to everyone on the Ridge. Jamie and Claire take them to the stones at Okeracoke where Wendigo Donner failed to return. The Mackenzies touch the stones then see an airplane overhead which means they made it back to the 1970’s.
Jamie and Claire return to the Ridge and try to make new happy memories with Ian and the other residents. Lizzie Beardsley has given birth to a little boy, Rodney. Unfortunately, their peaceful life is disrupted by the return of Wendigo Donner. Donner is angry about Roger’s refusal of direct assistance and demands a gemstone to help him travel back. Claire and Jaime say no, and he responds by setting the big house on fire. The ether in the surgery catches fire and results in a massive explosion. The episode ends with the chaos of the fire and explosion.
In terms of wrapping up the Christie saga, the cold open was extremely uncomfortable to watch, especially the flashbacks to Alan and Marva in bed. However, it is possible non-readers did not pick up on some of the subtle hints in Alan’s behavior last season. In addition, it makes clear that Tom was definitely sacrificing himself because he believed what happened was partially his fault. Ian shot Alan to defend Claire from harm, but it’s also a karmic reminder that he was the only one last season who wanted to take responsibility for Malva’s baby. Claire’s guilt reminds the viewers that while she is a healer, she can’t undo years of psychological damage and abuse.
It’s not a stretch to say this is the best episode yet for fans of Brianna and Roger. While they are faced with a huge decision to make regarding their family, the Mackenzies are united and their situation will win sympathy from even the most hardened of critics. Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin are incredibly convincing playing worried parents.
Jamie and Claire attending Mandy’s birth may not seem like a big deal for show-only viewers, but their lack of attendance at Jemmy’s birth was seen by novel fans as a missed opportunity to show the bond between the Mackenzies and the Frasiers. This episode makes up for that with the birth scene as well as afterward, showing Claire and Jamie bonding with their new granddaughter. These moments make the reveal of Mandy’s heart condition more heartbreaking.
Many fans will likely pick the firefly garden scene as their favorite, and for good reason. The gorgeous cinematography evokes the feeling of one of the night parades in Disneyland. Jamie and Brianna’s conversation about his dreams of the future ties in the episode title, and also reminds the audience that their relationship is a very close one.
Each scene builds up the emotional tension leading up to the Mackenzies touching the stones. The fear of what challenges may be waiting by returning to the future, along with the fear of what’s to come for Jamie and Claire as the war is approaching, sets the trajectory for the rest of the season’s split plotline. It was a good idea to show that our time travelers made it back to the 1970’s in this episode versus waiting until the following episode, because it drives home the eventual danger from Wendigo Donner’s raid of the Ridge that they narrowly escaped.
Along with the Mackenzies decision to leave the 18th Century, the episode sets up the beginning of adult William’s plotline. Brianna being the first to meet adult William leaves viewers with an air of mystery. Future circumstances may lead him to finding out the truth of his lineage despite Lord John’s and Jamie’s best efforts. This mystery will entice viewers to follow William’s storyline for future interactions with Jamie and other established characters.
“The Happiest Place On Earth” is a strong follow up to the season premiere. The intensity of the plot twists is balanced with greater understanding of the characters’ familial and friendship ties. Viewers know that the rest of Season 7 will be split into two concurrent timelines. Ending the episode with Donner’s revenge for Roger’s decision to directly intervene serves as a great cliffhanger to encourage viewers to continue to watch.