Aug 10 2014

Outlander –“Sassenach” Review. I’ve Died and Gone to Scotland!

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Outlander title art (featured)Season 1, Episode 1

Air Date: Saturday, August 9, 2014 at 9PM ET/PT only on Starz

Rating: 

“So far, I’d been assaulted, threatened, kidnapped, and nearly raped, and somehow I knew that my journey had only just begun.” – Claire “Beauchamp” Randall

Claire and her husband Frank have no idea what's in store for them.

Claire and her husband Frank have no idea what’s in store for them.

Yes! Being a fan of the novel Outlander, Starz’s newest series of the same name, that is the only word I can think of when watching the opening scene to “Sassenach.” Yes, I now know how to pronounce the words I was only guessing at in my head. Yes, I finally get to see the world author Diana Gabaldon weaved together with her lyrical prose and in-depth descriptions. If you are a lover of her books, you know what I mean but in case you aren’t, welcome to the world that is Outlander.

“Sassenach” begins with narration by our heroine, Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) as she recounts the days leading up to her disappearance. Honeymooning with her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies), she ends up in a time not her own, only to be thrown in with a group of Scottish warriors, including the redheaded Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Of course, along the way she runs into her husband’s doppelganger, Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall (Menzies). And things are just getting interesting.

Claire may come across as cold but she isn’t. She’s a woman from an age where her independence defines, not hinders, her. She doesn’t need a man to survive and can take care of herself. Of course, falling into 18th century Scotland is a wakeup call. Going from a time period where your independence isn’t balked at to one where men are MEN and women are seldom more than cooks, nurturers, and bed warmers would shake anyone up. So yeah, Claire may seem a little rough around the edges, but most of what she shows others is a well crafted façade. Balfe does an excellent job portraying a woman who’s fallen through time but is in so much shock, she doesn’t realize the gravity of her situation yet. Can you imagine beginning your everyday routine in the modern world, then waking up to find yourself in the middle of a gun battle?

I love Claire’s introduction. The overhead narration adds a poignant touch to scenes that need a little more explanation. The story is told from Claire’s point of view so it makes sense to have her show, not just tell, us what she’s experiencing. So far, “Sassenach” is staying verra close to the pages of the Outlander novel. Any liberties taken with the plot aren’t unwelcome as they flow seamlessly into the story being told. I’m looking forward to seeing what else writer/creator Ronald D. Moore has in store for us. He takes his job seriously, and paints the picture of Claire and Jamie’s world with a precise hand.

Characterizations

There is more to Claire than meets the eye.

There is more to Claire than meets the eye.

I am enjoying Balfe as Claire. She has the charisma needed to make you fall in love with her and stays true to who Claire is. Her mouth may be foul but it’s a defense mechanism, or a quirk. Claire turns to being tough and gruff instead of being looked at as a delicate flower when faced with the unknown. I think she’s brave for jutting out her chin, squaring her shoulders, and showing this newfound group of men she’s worth her salt. She comes to be surrounded by a group of armed, kilt-wearing ruffians who could easily overpower her. So she makes it known she won’t go down without a fight. As for her physical appearance, it’s not quite what we readers of the novel are familiar with. Book Claire has amber eyes and a big bum (Jamie’s words, not mine). While not major differences, part of the playfulness that develops between Jamie and Claire stems from the odd color of her eyes and the size of her rump. Maybe these won’t play a big role in the TV adaptation, but I would be remiss not to mention them as a diehard fan.

Menzies doesn’t fit my ideal for Frank/Black Jack Randall but surprisingly, I like him in the role. As Frank, he is the protective, attentive husband. He’s the perfect balance for Claire as she tends to be a little on the naive side. Now, as Black Jack, he takes on a more authoritative role, coming across as more bastard than beau. I’ll be interested to see Menzies’ take on the captain as the episodes play out.

As for Jamie, we don’t get to see much of him in the premiere, but I believe Heughan fits the bill. The redhead doesn’t get to shine much as we’re still just discovering who Claire is. Dinna fash, as because the best is yet to come.

Random Tidbits

The sound of the first gunshot scared the crap out of me. I felt as if I were right there with Claire as she finds herself in a new place. So yeah, I jumped. Sue me. The action scenes are definitely packed full of gunfire, battle cries, and blood.

Is Bear McCreary an amazing music composer or what? The man can write a song to fit just about any scene. From the haunting title opener to the rousing bagpipe charge, every note adds a touch of whimsy to the moments defining the Outlander tale.

Memorable Line

Frank to Claire, after a foreboding conversation about infidelity: “Nothing you’d ever do could stop my love for you.”

This, I think, will come back to bite him in the arse.

Overall

This is only the beginning.

This is only the beginning.

This scientific, dramatic, and, at times, humorous series is bound to have something for everyone. You want action, adventure, time-travel, and a little bit of romance, you’ve come to the right place. “Sassenach” is only the beginning. I cannot wait until episode two to see where Claire’s trip through time will lead her next. The costumes are spot on, accents genuine, and soundtrack haunting. I don’t have too much to complain about here. I love that every aspect of “Sassenach” is done with precision in order to stay true to the novels it is based on. If you watched the series premiere of Outlander, drop me a line in the comments section or tweet me @ellemoe to discuss.

Tune in to Outlander, Saturdays at 9PM ET/PT, only on Starz. For more on the show, visit the official site.

Follow Outlander on Twitter, using #Outlander.

LIKE Outlander on Facebook.

Photo credit: © 2014 Starz Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

© 2014, Elle. All rights reserved.

Writer, mother, realist, cloud lover, daydreamer, dessert enthusiast, sweet tea addict, perfectionist, and lover of life and Christ, but not in that order. http://www.fanfiction.net/~vikingloverelle

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