I’m not certain yet how far I intend to recap the Starz network’s time-travel romance ‘Outlander’. Probably not very far. However, I felt it worth mentioning that I found the second episode more interesting than the first.
I detailed some of my problems with the show’s premiere last week – mainly that the first half in the 1940s was very boring and the second half in the 18th Century was very silly. Although episode ‘Castle Leoch’ doesn’t necessarily solve all these issues, it’s more consistent in tone throughout and finds a comfortable middle-ground between the grounded seriousness and the trashy romance fantasy.
In terms of plot, not a tremendous lot happens. As the episode opens, Claire is brought by her Scottish rescuers/captors to their castle fortress. The 20th Century woman spends most of the episode trying to acclimate herself to life in 1743, while doing her best to maintain a cover story about being a society widow en route to visit relatives in France when she was accosted by highwaymen, who stole her clothing and possessions. Conveniently, she has been well versed in the history of the era by her dreadfully dull husband. Nevertheless, Laird of the Castle Collum MacKenzie finds her story dubious and attempts to poke holes in it. He thinks that she’s an English spy.
Claire asks to be taken back to Inverness, and is told that she’ll have to wait five days for a merchant who makes deliveries from the town and can give her a ride. In the meantime, she bides her time by tending to the wounds of and ingratiating herself with the handsome hunk Jamie. Very much to my surprise, they don’t start boning yet, though I’m sure that’s not far off.
When a young girl of the castle is accused of being “loose,” Jamie steps in and offers to take her punishment himself, so as to spare the girl the shame and stigma. This results in a good beating, which he takes in stride. You see, he’s both studly and sensitive. He’s the total package. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the girl throws herself at him afterwards.)
At the end of the week, Claire prepares to leave, hoping to make her way back to the magic Druid stones and find a way back to her own time. Unfortunately, Collum insists that she stay, allegedly because her nursing skills are needed. When Claire asks if she’s to be a prisoner at the castle, he responds: “Only if you try to leave.”
Over the past week, I’ve been having a debate on another site forum about whether the nudity in this show is gratuitous. Defenders argue that it’s not, because it’s motivated by the story and the characters. I have a hard time buying that, especially with this episode, which sees Claire strip down to the buff for no other purpose than to show that she’s changing her clothes. Was there really no other way to convey that action without the actress needing to flash her naked tits and bare ass? Not that I object to the nudity, mind you (hey, I’m a big fan of ‘Game of Thrones’), but it feels very contrived and out-of-place in this production, which could otherwise easily be edited to air on the Hallmark Channel.
With that said, this episode was able to hold my interest enough that I won’t find it painful to watch again.