Maybe it’s just because I have access to Starz, but it seems like everyone was in a tizzy about the premiere of this show. Of course, I guess when a fantasy/romance/historical fiction book series has been running for 20+ years and a network decides to make a TV show out of it, plenty of loyal fans will be paying attention. I decided to give the premiere a try because why not? Here are a few of the particulars.
What I liked:
- Leading lady Claire (Caitriona Balfe). She’s a likable, take-charge character. As a woman of the ‘40s, it’s kind of surprising that she’s as feisty as she is, but given her intriguing background—growing up with an archaeologist uncle and serving as a nurse during WWII—it makes sense that she is as cool as she is.
- All the beautiful images. The mountains at the beginning of the episode, the sweeping landscape shots, the women dancing with lights by large, ancient rocks—it’s all really neat to look at. The opening credits have a lot of images like these, too, and I dig it.
- Claire’s marriage. It’s actually a fascinating aspect of the story. We meet Claire and her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) at an awkward time. After being apart for five years because of the war, they’re just now beginning to get to know each other again. They’re unconventional in that way, but I think it makes them more interesting.
- The presence of Dwalin the dwarf! Sorry—as a Tolkien nerd I had to point this out. Graham McTavish, the actor who plays Dwalin in the Hobbit films (see my review of The Desolation of Smaug here) plays Scotsman Dougal, who seems to be the leader of the little group Claire happens upon. I don’t know much about Dougal yet, but he seems like he’s going to be important.
- Handsome Jamie (Sam Heughan). None of the ladies who watch this (including myself) are going to have any trouble looking at him each week. *dreamy sigh*
What I didn’t like:
- I didn’t necessarily have a problem with this, but I will say there’s some pretty unpleasant stuff in this first episode. A graphic leg surgery, a near rape, and the resetting of a bone, for instance. If these things make you queasy, you might want to think carefully before watching.
- There’s this scene with tea leaves that’s a little convenient and silly. I realize it’s probably straight from the book, so I can hardly pick on the TV show for it, but I was still like, “Oh. Ominous tea leaves. A little heavy-handed, are we?”
- Again, this is something I know the book does (because I was told so), but two characters in different time periods are played by the same actor. I know why it’s done, and I understand it. But I just find it a little…corny. And, again, somewhat heavy-handed because I can already see the future implications of this double-casting. It’s not a huge thing, but it does bug me a little.
- I could do with some subtitles. Not so much for the accents (although, admittedly, there were a few times I had to strain my ears), but the Scottish guys speak a lot of Gaelic. Can’t we find out what they’re saying? Meh. Maybe I’m just being nosy.
- I’m gonna write exactly what I wrote when I was taking notes: “Frank breathes like a pug.” Bless him, it’s true. He’s got some serious sinus issues going on.
The Potential: From what I’ve seen, this show has plenty. Outlander has a lot of things going for it—a great lead character, clear chemistry between the actors, fantastic scenery, and unique source material that spans multiple genres. I’d like to keep up with this one because so far I’m into it.
My Grade: A-