Some Thoughts on Outlander Season 1 In Retrospect

Sometimes it’s a good idea to let a post sit in the draft folder for a while before continue writing or even posting it. Of course that also means that you might have to re-write it, because you realize that the first draft didn’t really convey what you wanted to say :-).

Some time ago I started listening to the Outlander audiobook again to freshen up my memory before I start listening to book #2 “Dragonfly in Amber” in preperation for season 2 next year. When I wrote the first draft of this post earlier this week, I sort of wrote myself into some over-critical, negative mindset regarding the changes Ron Moore and the writers made in adapting the Outlander novel for the TV show. And I’m glad I let the post sit in the draft-folder for a while. Because the thing is: it’s not really a big deal. Overall I enjoyed the show, always trying to remember that it’s just one version of the story and that the books are “the real deal” and if I don’t like the TV version of events, I can still go back to the books, because they will always be there.

By the way, I’m glad I’ve reached that state of mind as it’s such a more relaxing way to be a fan of anything. To not care too much about some things. But still care enough to write the occasional post about why I personally would have loved to see the TV show stay a bit closer to the book in some regards :-)

From what I’ve gathered in conversations with friends or online discussions after the first few episodes, I know that the use of Claire’s voiceovers is a somewhat controversial issue. I always tried to defend the voiceovers with stating, that the first book is told from Claire’s point of view and while the readers knowsome of her thoughts/feelings which are important for the plot, the viewers do not. And that some of these thoughts/feelings might not be conveyed through action or dialogue as well or quickly as a voiceover might do. I know there is no right or wrong side of the voiceover “disagreement”. Some like them, some don’t, some didn’t really mind one way or the other. Like stated above, I was fine with the writers’ choice to use voiceovers in the show the way they did. And in general I still am.

Except for one pivotal scene in which they did use a voiceover but not in the way I wish they had!

It’s when Jamie and the Highlanders take off to meet Horrocks and Claire is told to wait for them, but then she realizes she is close-ish to the Stones and takes off to get back to her own time. The basic elements of the plot are the same in the book and the show, but while I listened to it once again, I realized one essential element that I missed on the show. The lack of it might have subconsciously tainted my opinion of the whole Frank/Claire at the stones sequence, which doesn’t happen in the book, only on the show and which I didn’t like all that much. Not when it first aired and not later. It had always been too much for me. Too cheesy. Too over-the-top. Too…. everything.

So, then I listened to the book version and heard things like

I couldn’t hide from myself my growing attachment to Jamie; to wait longer was to risk a greater pain from leaving – or to risk never leaving. My stomach gave a sudden lurch as I thought of Jamie. God, how could I do it? Leave him without a word of explanation or apology? Disappear without a trace, after what he had done for me?
I knew that I would never be able to forget Jamie, but for now I must put him out of my mind, or I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the job at hand, which was tricky enough.

And I realized that this is another thing that bothered me a bit with the TV version. That Claire doesn’t stop for one moment and think about Jamie. Because by now even on the the show it is apparent that she has some feelings for him. Maybe not love yet, but something. But she still just takes off to run to the stones and doesn’t spare one thought for him. It would have only taken one wistful look back to the trees, cut short her race to the stones and add a few more words in the voiceover, which was going on anyway. But they choose not to include her deliberation on the show and I really wish they had. That’s all. Basically :-)

Or not quite: because I realize I also prefer the book version of the aftermath of Jamie punishing Claire over the way they choose to tell this story on TV. On the show, the conflict between Colum and Dougal and how Colum was willing to not react in the traditional way play a part in Jamie’s decision to not want to keep up with all the traditions he was taught.

“Colum chose to look weak. Publically changing his position, because peace was more important than costum. I saw a rigid man bend. That made me mindful…”

In the book Jamie tells Claire about his own experience of how he was disciplined by his father. It’s not about Highland traditions in the 18th century in general. The whole conversation is much more personal.

As I walked, considering the stories he had told me, I couldn’t help but admire the job he had done. Without one word of direct explanation or apology he had given me the message he intended. I gave you justice, it said, as I was taught it. And I gave you mercy, too, so far as I could. While I could not spare you pain and humiliation, I make you a gift of my own pains and humiliations, that yours might be easier to bear.

TV Jamie also states

“[…] wifes obey their husbands and husbands discipline them when they don’t. That’s how it was with my father and his father and on and on and on back. But maybe for you and me it has to go a different way.”

which makes it look like the realization that disciplinary measures won’t work for this relationship is one that Jamie comes to by himself and then he kneels down to swear an oath to that regard. In the book it’s a realization that Claire enforces when she gets out her knife and threatens to “cut out your heart and have it for breakfast” if he ever lay hands on her again. Only after *that* Jamie sweares his oath to her. On the show Jamie swears the oath first and then later during the makeup sex Claire takes his sword and threatens him.

It might seem like just a tiny change of moving scenes around on the timeline, but to me this order of events makes a difference and sets a different tone for it. Because in the book Claire is more in charge of prompting that oath from Jamie which makes her more of an equal part of coming to the realization that in this marriage there won’t be any more corporal punishment.

Like I said above, I still enjoy(ed) watching the show, but refreshing my memory of the book by listening to the audiobook again makes me see some events on the show in a slightly different light.

And I still can’t wait to see Season 2 next year!

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