After months of teaser images, trailers, character introduction shorts, and fansite casting debates, Starz finally premiered their epic historical drama/romance/fantasy sci-fi series Outlander on Saturday night. With strained bodices and baited breath, the rabid fans of the decades-old book series tuned in with checklists in hand: Did they get the story right? Was the casting perfect? Shouldn’t Jaime have redder hair? Did he look/touch/think about her in just the right way that the book described on page 29, paragraph 3?
I’ve read the books. Consumed them, actually, one after the other; I was rereading the first book when I paused to watch the first episode. I wonder if there is anyone watching, or even interested, in the show who hasn’t read them? When I say this book has a fan base and a following, I’m not sure how to properly convey it. 20 million copies in 23 years, plus the subsequent 7 adventures, several offshoot novellas, even a graphic novel, all aimed at adult ladies who have wanted more out of a female driven book than repetitive sex scenes and vapid dialogue (No shade, 50 Shades of Grey: I read those, too).
But this is about the TV show.
SPOILER FREE (even though I know what’s going to happen, I’m going to keep it to myself. It makes me feel all powerful and omniscient.):
WWII is over and Claire Beauchamp Randall, a British combat nurse, and her husband Frank Randall, some sort of MI6 operative, are taking a second honeymoon in Inverness, Scotland. Frank has taken a job as a history professor at Oxford, so this is one last hurrah before school starts. More importantly, it’s a chance for Claire and Frank, estranged by the years and duties of war, to reconnect to each other and rekindle their marriage.
Amidst all the honeymooning and rekindling (and sexy rekindling, at that!), Frank spends his precious time researching his famous ancestor Captain “Black” Jack Randall, a British officer famous for suppressing a highland rebellion in the 1700s. While he has his nose buried in dusty historical documents, Claire goes flower picking among the ancient standing stones of Craigh na Dun and accidentally slips through a crack in time and space to land in 18th century Scotland.
Not that she knows it at first, or would believe it if she did. Would you? It’s not until Redcoats start shooting at her that it becomes clear something is very wrong. She runs for cover and runs right into Frank… except that’s not Frank. It’s Captain Jack Randall! Randall, lacking the refinement of his latter day counterpart, goes straight in for the rape, but Claire is saved at the last minute by a hairy little Scot in a skirt.
Away from the skirmish, Claire and her Scottish “rescuer” join the rest of his group in a darkened, hushed farmhouse. Saved from another potential rape by Dougal, the group’s leader, they determine that while she may not be a “hoor”, she is definitely British and she is coming with them. Unable to keep her sassy 20th century mouth shut, she speaks out just in time to prevent them from breaking one of their own’s arm in an attempt to reset a joint. Her prowess as a nurse comes in handy and she relocates the man’s shoulder, and in that moment a million sighs are heard ‘round the world as we meet the beautiful redhaired warrior Jaime.
They ride all night, and the next morning ride past a landmark that Claire remembers from one of Frank’s history lectures–that one about the British hiding behind a rock and ambushing Scots. She relays that memory to Jaime, who is sharing his saddle with her, and all of a sudden she is presented with the perfect opportunity to escape while the Highlanders ride to fend off the villains. Jaime catches up to her, though, and “convinces” her to come with him. The men, drunk with victory and probably also whiskey, toast Claire as they ride, but when night falls Jaime slides off his horse, worse for the wear. Turns out he’s been shot, and Claire mends him as best she can while verbally abusing him for being an idiot and getting himself hurt again against her express orders to do otherwise. A mere seven hour horse ride later and they arrive at Castle Leoch, a proper 17th century castle surrounded by peasants and lots of thatched roofs.
Things you should love from Episode 1:
1. Claire. Claire is a strong, plucky, sexy modern woman who drinks and swears and gets her shit done, thankyouverymuch. She kicks ass and doesn’t care much about taking names. Hope you like her, ‘cause she is in every single frame of this episode!
2. The scenery. Scotland is very much its own character, and even in a layer of damp and filth the rolling, lush valleys and misty forests and mountains are hard to miss. If ever I were going to have a dramatic/romantic/fantasy time travelling adventure, I can think of no prettier place to end up. Thank God she didn’t get sent back to 18th century Florida.
3. The voiceovers. Normally just a handy way to convey information without having to invest in an actual scene, Claire’s voiceovers really set the tone, balancing between wonder and shock at her predicament.
4. All that sexy rekindling Claire and Frank had. This is clearly a woman intent on reigniting a spark with her husband. I don’t know how historically accurate all that action was, but aren’t we better people for knowing that there is a way to go without panties and still keep your clothes from getting dirty?
5. Jaime. There’s not a lot to know about him yet, but the way he looks at Claire…and then the way he talks to Claire…that accent. That kilt. He cracks sexy Scottish jokes when he’s been shot, and shouts a blood-curdling war cry when it’s time for a good fight. Let’s all agree that Prince Harry just lost his “Sexiest Ginger” title.
Outlander Episode 1 will be available for free on Starz.com until September 28, 2014.