Droughtlander is over, so welcome to our Outlander recaps for the second half of the first season! After reviewing the first few episodes of Outlander and being warily optimistic about it last year, I regretted not transitioning to weekly recaps as the series wore on, because I came to really adore it. Better late than never!
And by the Scottish moors, the Season One Part 2 premiere, “The Reckoning,” is one hell of a way to start. I haven’t read the book series, but I also haven’t been a militant avoider of spoilers. As such, I knew that the key events of “The Reckoning” were coming. Still, having not read the text I can’t compare the show’s version to how Diana Gabaldon presented it (tonally, etc), though I do know that it was controversial, and will surely be even more so after this episode.
Truthfully, “The Reckoning” was a strange hour. It picked up exactly where things left off in Part 1 of the season, which was of course mid-attempted-rape. For those who hadn’t directly watched the preceding hour, it was extremely jarring and disorienting to leap right back to Claire, breasts bared and bent over a table, about to be assaulted by Captain Jack Randall.
The major change, though, was that we are now experiencing these events from Jaime’s POV, with his voiceover. I don’t know whether or not this is going to continue throughout the rest of the season, but it was a little off-putting. Outlander‘s insistent voiceovers have never been the show’s strongest suit, as they talk us through the emotions and dilemmas instead of letting us experience them alongside the characters. But even still, it was an odd episode to make the shift given the subject matter — we needed, more than ever, to hear Claire.
The change in POV coupled with the disjointed pace of the rescue itself (and the difficult-to-distinguish nighttime raid) made for a messy entry back into Outlander‘s world, which was only muddled further by the aftermath of Claire’s safe return. When Jamie chastised her for running away and jeopardizing herself as well as his compatriots (saying that a wife should listen to her husband), she goes ballistic, and engages in a tirade about not being his property, and women not meaning anything in his world. It felt sharply out of place. Claire, a modern woman, knows that that modernity is at odds with Jamie’s 18th century thinking. She also knows that Jamie is easily impressionable, and that she has ability to change his mind about things. Maybe it was all down to the harrowing attack by Randall (following her deep desire to return home) that brought out her intensity against Jamie (who broke down and spoke about his love for her), but that coupled with the ham-fisted dialogue made it a bizarre outburst.
This all culminated in the strangest part of the hour, when Jamie set about to punishing Claire. It’s easy enough to understand the motivations behind Jamie’s actions, thanks to the overly-pointed explanations about “that’s the way we do things,” (as Jamie was doing what he felt he had to because of pressure from the group and their rules). But what was with the light-hearted music and comically-played spanking? There wasn’t anything funny about it — Jamie beat her with a belt. He then ultimately laughed and said he was enjoying it (later admitting he was, apparently, a sadist), and then there was a cutaway to the next morning.
What the hell? Claire, for the rest of the episode, was then portrayed as being petulant about the whole thing. The men made fun of her as she pouted in the corner with a sore backside, and then she was largely pushed to the side for the rest of the episode until the end, where her freezing Jamie out of sex made her seem petty. Obviously, she’s not being petty. She was violently assaulted by Randall, and then violently assaulted by her husband. She had to fight tooth and nail, quite literally, to stop him from lashing her, and then things cut away to the next morning.
Everything moved very fast in “The Reckoning.” Jamie rescues Claire, beats Claire, and then later begs for her forgiveness (and all, it seems, is fine). The sexual scene between the two told a better story than any of the dialogue did. She starts out on top of him, and threatens him with a knife, then the two continue having sex on an equal plain, before he changes the position to be on top of her. It was like a tiny metaphor for their entire relationship.
The same was true for the problems within Clan MacKenzie. Colum is angry at Dougal for betraying him and the crown by collecting funds for the Jacobites, which starts to incite rumbles of civil war among the ranks. Jamie immediately douses the flames of insurrection, though, by counseling Colum to seek peace, and to give his brother what he wants (with the gold) and let him “play the rebel.” In the end, poof! Both Colum and Dougal are appeased in their understanding, much like Claire and Jamie.
That rush to sew up these plots left both feeling hollow. There wasn’t enough time to feel the weight or gravity of Colum and Dougal’s fight (where Dougal admitted to being Hamish’s father in front of Ned and Jamie), and certainly not enough to get any sense of what was happening from Claire’s POV. It was a very odd time to change the episode’s voice right when we needed, more than anything, to hear Claire’s side of things after the beating.
One thing I like about the Outlander story is that a marriage isn’t the end, but only the beginning. Claire and Jamie have a lot to work out in their complicated relationship, but “The Reckoning” was not a place where much sense was made of it. I’m genuinely sure Outlander is happy to have that scene over with in order to move on to other things (the political machinations of the red coats and the voodoo practices of Laoghaire to name but two), but all told it made for a very strange and uneven return.
Episode Rating: ★★ Fair
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Really interested to know what book readers thought about how the scene was handled.
— “It never occurred to me to kill a helpless man, even one such as Randall” – Jamie.
— I was completely distracted during that standoff between Jamie and Black Jack because of Claire’s breasts. We saw a lot of them in this hour. Don’t get me wrong, they’re really great, but seriously, Starz.
— Again, I have no problem with Jamie and Claire arguing about women’s rights in general, but the dialogue was just so clichéd.
— “Justice done, problem solved” – Jamie regarding the beating.
— Soooo Hamish is Dougal’s son, like we all guessed, and apparently the whole affair was partially a favor to continue the bloodline. I felt like they just glossed over that, though.
— Laoghaire really stepped up her seduction game in this episode, going fully busty and virginal on Jamie, but he still refused her. Apparently she turned to voodoo as a backup plan.
— Despite the beating, Jamie still seemed young and wrapped around Claire’s little finger, as he professed so many times that she belonged to him, that she is his home now, and that he loves her so much it scares him. She hasn’t really replied much to that. I know things are complicated because of Frank (who?) but still.
— Aww at Jamie learning English words like “fucking” and “sadist.”