(This article was originally featured on The Columbia Journalist on April 4, 2015)
(The cast and crew give opening remarks at the Outlander midseason premiere in New York on April 1. From left to right: Executive Producer Ron Moore, actors Gary Lewis, Lotte Verbeek, Graham McTavish, Tobias Menzies, Sam Heughan, and Caitriona Baife. Photo: Amanda-Rae Prescott)
Imagine the horror of knowing your mortal enemy has captured your spouse, who is only moments away from torture and sexual assault.
This is the nightmare for Jamie Frasier that kicks off the return of the Starz series “Outlander” after a seven-month hiatus.
The first seven episodes aired last summer and set up the tale of Claire Beauchamp (Caitriona Baife), a British doctor from 1945 who visits stone ruins in Scotland only to travel back in time to 1743. She uses her medical skills and emotional fortitude to survive in a strange and dangerous world. Highlanders loyal to a deposed king fight against British rule. Her Scottish guardians convince her that marrying a Scot named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) will protect her from army harassment.
Political strife and the threat of capture by the British is the dominant theme of the second half of the season. The last scene before the hiatus shows Jamie risking his life to save Claire from the evil Capt. Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). The episode effectively uses flashbacks and alternate points of view to connect the two halves.
Jamie narrates the moments leading up to his encounter with Randall. He orders Claire to stay in a safe place while he goes on a potentially dangerous mission. Claire realizes she’s close to the stone ring — where she had traveled through time — and disobeys Jamie’s orders so she may investigate. But before she can get there, she is captured by British troops. Jamie, though angry that Claire disobeyed him, plots to free her.
His narration about choices and consequences serves as the thread that binds the major events of the storyline. After he rescues her, Jamie believes that Claire needs to be physically punished so she will understand the danger of not obeying his orders. This conflicts with Claire’s more modern ideas of marriage, and she fights back when Jamie tries to hit her with a belt. In 1740s Scotland, husbands had total control of a marriage; corporal punishment was considered a husband’s right.
Heughaan and Baife’s chemistry and ability to portray several emotions simultaneously are key to the overall storytelling. Many viewers have read the “Outlander” series of novels by Diana Gabaldon on which the TV show is based, and expect the couple’s relationship to unfold the same way as it does in the books. Although Jamie and Claire have an arranged marriage, they learn to understand each other.
The continuing tensions between members of the clan and the leaders are the secondary plot of the new episode. Jamie’s bold action to rescue Claire has the potential of getting the entire clan in trouble with the British army.
Overall, the midseason premiere is a strong continuation of the themes introduced last season.
“Outlander” premieres April 4 at 9 p.m. on Starz.