Outlander Season 3, Episode 1
“The Battle Joined”
Posted by Kim
Our long international nightmare is no more. The Droughtlander has FINALLY ended and Claire and Jamie are back in our lives. SCOTLANDDDDDDDDD.
So where were we?
OH RIGHT. The Battle of Culloden is nigh, Claire told Jamie she was pregnant, they banged, and then Jamie sent Claire back to the future. Claire becomes a mother fucking SURGEON and she takes her red-headed daughter to Scotland where (welp) Brianna learns that her father was an eighteenth century Scottish Highlander. Brianna sees Geillis Duncan go through the stones and realizes her mother isn’t lying. After spending twenty years believing that Jamie died on the battlefield, Claire learns that Jamie didn’t die and there’s a big possibility she can get back to him. She pulls a Jack Shepard being all “I have to go back.” as the sunrise breaks over Craigh Na Dun.
And that’s what you missed on Glee.
One of my favorite things about Outlander as a show is how it manages to balance time, story structure, and keeping things fresh and exciting when your audience knows SO MUCH ahead of time. We KNOW Jamie survives the Battle of Culloden, because Claire finds the records in the 60’s. (And because there is not a show without Sam Heughan, soz.) But what we DON’T know is what Jamie went through in the aftermath of the battle and the emotional journey he took. That is the interesting shit and that is the stuff that Outlander is truly the best at showing us.
What I love about “The Battle Joined” is that we open with Jamie’s perspective for the first time in the series. It’s a QUIET opening as we take in the aftermath of Culloden, which was just as bad as we knew it would be, if not worse. (It is such a lovely contrast to last season’s opening with Claire arriving in 1948 disoriented and sobbing hysterically.) It’s a fucking massacre; bodies of the Jacobite army are literally in piles and the Red Coats are looting for valuables AND killing anyone they find alive. (YIKES.) Jamie is among the piles of bodies, shielded from view by the body of Blackjack Randall. (I love how the show chose not to show Blackjack’s face for a good while, even though we all knew it was him. ALSO the delicious beauty that Blackjack ended up SAVING Jamie is something I’m gonna think about for a long time.)
As Jamie waits for death to claim him, we get glimpses of what exactly got him here. We see him in the moments after Claire vanishes, sadly smelling their sex blanket. (If it were ANY OTHER character, I’d be like EW GROSS but with Jamie Fraser, I’m all “Look how sad he is!” I need help.) We see Bonny Prince Bitch Baby waiting until the last-minute to pull the trigger on his troops to GO, which most definitely condemns them all to death. We see the Jacobites charging, sword raised, running directly into the waiting line of rifles and bayonets. (I don’t understand battles, you guys. Why in the HELL is running into a human wall of guns EVER a good idea? Like who thinks they can actually get past that?) We see Murtagh saving Jamie’s ass and living his BEST life. (SPARE HIM.) And then we see this…
Okay, this is HORRENDOUS to say considering Jamie and Blackjack’s history but it’s also a very deliberate choice on Outlander’s part that the moment that Randall and Jamie see each other across the battlefield feels like that sweeping moment in a romance where the crowds part for the lovers at the opposite ends of the room. Fuck, even the LIGHT agrees with me here, with how that orange sunset just bathes them in glorious light. To borrow from A Streetcar Named Desire, Jamie and Blackjack Randall have had this date with each other since the beginning. They were always going to wind up here. Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan bring so much to this scene that goes beyond the surface. There’s rage and there’s desire and there’s pain…and in those final moments there’s even a flicker of peace? (I can’t get over the fact that Tobias IMPROVISED the reach for Jamie. GOD.) Jamie and Blackjack’s embrace also reminded me of the final moments of Legends of the Fall where Tristan and the Bear embrace right before his death. It’s a moment of acceptance, a moment of becoming one with that part of him that was forever tied to the bear. I think it plays out this way for Jamie too. It’s a way for Jamie to get his vengeance and but also get some closure for that horrendous chapter of his life. I’m not saying that Jamie forgives Randall but I think at last Jamie accepts that this is what happened to him and he’ll find a true way to move on now that he’s not weighed down by the promise he made to himself. The thirst for revenge is a very heavy burden to carry. (Just ask Hamlet.) I’m glad that it seems like Jamie’s finally going to be free of it.
So what is left for Jamie now that he’s gotten his vengeance? From his behavior for the rest of the episode, he clearly believes nothing is left for him. He lies on the battlefield and sees Claire coming for him like some sort of guardian angel waiting to escort them to the other side. (How gorgeous was this whole shot by the way? I mean the whole episode was beautiful, but this was especially so.) Jamie is ready to die, that much is clear. He’s so ready that when he realizes that it’s Rupert coming for him and not Claire that he begs him to leave him there. Rupert, BLESS HIM, even after the whole Dougal thing, refuses to let Jamie die in the mud. He takes him to a barn where a handful of survivors are hiding out and the whole time Jamie is basically saying “I just want to die, bro.”
Because in his mind what is there to live for? He made sure that Jenny and her family were taken care of in regards to Lallybroch before the battle even began. Claire is gone. His vow of vengeance has been fulfilled. His clan is gone and now he has to watch the Red Coats kill all the survivors in the barn one by one. Jamie has defined himself by three things: his honor, his clan, and his wife. He has his honor through his vow. He’s lost his clan and he’s lost his wife. In his mind, he doesn’t have anything left. Sam is so brilliant in all the scenes in the barn because you can see his weary and broken heart in every twitch of his face. It’s such subtle and difficult work because he literally is only limited to a few words and conveying everything through his (beautiful) face.
Jamie’s so ready that he doesn’t even want to write his a letter when given the chance. (Me: BUT JENNY! Don’t you think your sister deserves to know? WHAT ABOUT FERGUS OMG?) He’s so ready that he doesn’t even flinch when Gordon takes his leave. He just offers him a simple “I’ll see you soon.” It’s so much. But of course, this is not the end for him. Remember the young British soldier John Grey that Jamie spared in Season Two? It turns out that his brother is the Captain that’s been in charge of executing everyone in the barn. Harold Grey, while he has been carrying out the orders of not allowing any of the Jacobites to live, HAS been treating all these men with a sense of honor this entire time. You can tell that he doesn’t relish his assignment. He’s offered the men chances at dying like soldiers (rather than just killing everyone right away) so he can give them some dignity. He’s offered to let them tie up loose ends with letters. And the moment he realizes that Jamie is RED JAMIE, the man who spared his brother, you can see his expression shift to a “Damn my sense of honor” kind of expression. You see, John Grey made Jamie a promise. a ‘debt of honor” as his brother puts it. Jamie tried to deny it (because he just WANTS TO DIE), telling Harold that John actually promised to kill him, but Harold knows better. He spares Jamie, even if it’s reluctantly. In his mind, bribing someone to get him out of there is just prolonging Jamie’s suffering. He’s so close to death that there is no way that he’ll actually survive the journey home (so it’s like he’s killing him like he’s supposed to, but he’s doing while fulfilling the promise his brother made. Just this once, everybody wins.)
So that’s how a dying Jamie ended up in the back of a wagon that took him home. It turns out he’s stronger than Grey thought he was because the next thing Jamie knows, he’s waking up to Jenny practically climbing into the back of the wagon with him.
“Is this heaven?”
“No. It’s Lallybroch.”
Or that’s how it went in my head anyway.
In my recap of “Dragonfly in Amber” I bemoaned that Frank Randall had been reduced to a footnote in Claire’s life thanks to the time jump past his death. SILLY ME to think that Outlander would deprive me of such delicious angst. “The Battle Joined” takes us through Claire’s pregnancy and their move to Boston. Frank, bless his heart, is TRYING. He buys a beautiful house for them in Boston; he tries to banter with her about cooking with a terrible American accent. He’s trying. I know I’ve been singing his praises his whole recap but Tobias Menzies is so brilliant, you guys. Frank is a thankless part. None of us want to see Claire with him. Hell, Claire doesn’t want to be with him. Not any more. But she DID love him at one point, and that’s what Frank is really clinging to here. I feel for the guy, honestly, because even as I type this, I’m thinking of the way Frank deals with some of his emotions and I’m all “he’s the worst.” But at the same time, I think the way Frank reacts is so painfully HUMAN. It’s the same for Claire. You can see that she’s trying too. She puts on a smile and a brave face during the house tour and even manages to banter with him a bit but the thing is you can’t control grief. Because that’s what Claire is dealing with here: a grief that’s painfully deep. And it’s not just a grief for Jamie. She’s mourning him, sure, and he’s the biggest part of it, but she’s also mourning the life she had built in Scotland.
Just look at how much she’s frustrated by modern “conveniences” now. She may have been a modern woman, but Claire truly found herself in the Eighteenth Century, so naturally it’s an adjustment for her to come back. (Also I relate to her struggles with the stove so much because my pilot light goes out all the damn time and it’s frustrating as hell.) Also, strangely, 1948 feels a bit more backwards when it comes to women’s rights. Claire is met on all sides with people telling her that she should be content to cook and keep house and pop out baby after baby. Her lovely (and well dressed) neighbor watches Claire with bemusement as she (BLESS) cooks dinner in the fireplace, telling Claire about her OWN husband. “He’s really no different from most men in this world who don’t want their wives doing anything out of the ordinary. Just cook, clean, raise the kids, look pretty when they meet the boss.” WELP. (Also, I WISH we had seen Frank’s face when he found out that Claire cooked in the fireplace. I feel cheated that we didn’t.)
And then there’s this asshole who basically pulls a Gaston when Claire tries to join in on a political conversation. “It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas…and thinking…”
If there were a special award for the Internally Screaming Shade Face, Caitriona Balfe would have shelves of them. I love how all the words that come out of Claire’s mouth during this conversation are pointedly polite while her eyes are screaming “Imma cut you, bitch.” The Dean fucking TAUNTS her (and judges Frank, who just kind of stands there being like “Ummmm…she’s gonna blow, bro.”) saying that the next thing you know, Claire’s going to want to go to Harvard Law like it’s some massive joke that a woman would want to pursue a career over babies. She pointedly brings up Harvard medical school going co-ed and the dean basically pats her on the head saying “Oh honey. Stick to babies?” Claire’s response even as she claims that she’s very happy to pursue domestic happiness? “Did you just dare me to go to med school? I think you did.”
Things come to a bit of a breaking point with Frank and Claire when she expresses her desire to become an American Citizen. They’ve shared breakfast together, where Frank has waxed poetic on British tea being better and scoffed at how America is obsessed with the latest and greatest. I get that he’s just trying to make conversation, but it shows a bit of emotional cluelessness on his side because for Claire the concept of “the past” means more than tea in a tin and the good old days. For her, the past is Jamie…and her constant forward thinking is just her way of coping with Frank’s demand that she not live in the past. So, no, Frank. Claire does not want to talk about the good old days. And frankly, I think her desire to become a citizen has a hell of a lot to do with her wanting to put as much distance as possible between her and the British Isles. It’s a whole lot easier to not dwell in the past if you aren’t constantly bombarded by it.
The conversation takes a turn when Claire says “I want our child to have a real home.” Frank reaches for her belly and she flinches away from him, making it VERY clear who the “our” is in her mind. I had been waiting for the flinching the ENTIRE episode. (Ask Sage, I had just texted her about it right before I got to this scene. And then I texted her saying “There it is.”) What’s painful about this scene is that it’s very real on both sides. Grief is not something that can be wrapped up in a pretty package or given a tidy end date and that’s where Frank is insensitive when he asks her when she plans on coming back from the past. Claire is TRYING, which is why she loses her shit here. Because believe me, I don’t think Claire wants to be sitting around with this gaping hole in her heart. But she is LITERALLY carrying Jamie’s child at the moment. He’s actually a living breathing part of her, which just magnifies the pain of him not BEING there. So of course she’s going to flinch away from Frank’s touch and get HELLA offended when he implies that this is about sex.
(Also bro, she’s nine months pregnant. Give it a rest. Her hormones are wreaking HAVOC.)
That’s what this comes down to really: Frank still can’t get past the fact that Claire is carrying another man’s child. Not in that moment anyway, because he throws it in her face like her marriage to Jamie was something sordid or it was just about fucking. He deserved the ashtray in his face, y’all. But what makes this HARD is how he reacts after she lashes out. It’s such a brilliant acting choice by Tobias to have Frank go quiet and calm here.
Frank: I didn’t force this bargain on you, Claire. I didn’t force you to come to Boston. And I’m not forcing you to stay.
Claire: I never thought otherwise.
Frank: Go or stay. But please do it because it’s what you really want to do.
That’s why you can’t hate Frank, y’all. At his core, he is a good man and he’s not forcing Claire to stay with him. He still LOVES her and he wants to be there for her…is it so unfair for him to ask that from her in return? They WERE madly in love at some point. (Never forget the oral sex in the castle.) But in the same vein, shouldn’t Frank have patience with her? I mean, Christ, it’s only been a few months. If she were over it already, she would be a ROBOT. So basically, no one wins in this situation. They’re both right and they’re both wrong. And they will both be miserable unless someone GIVES here.
So that’s what Frank does. He finally comes to the realization that Claire is never going to be able to move on without getting some form of closure regarding Jamie. So he writes a letter to the Reverend, asking him to see if he can find out what happened to Jamie. (It hurts knowing that Claire never KNEW he did this for her until after he was gone.) Frank’s writing is interrupted by Claire going into labor and things shift between them once again because Frank finds out there’s so much more going on here than meets the eye.
Not only is Claire dealing with the loss of Jamie, she’s still processing the loss of her first daughter, Faith. Frank’s reaction is here is so much because it’s like he has a sudden revelation that Claire has been through so much he doesn’t know about because he didn’t ASK. (Maybe you should have, my guy.) I love how the show managed to make allusions to “Faith” without being heavy-handed about it. It’s why Claire fights the anaesthesia (I still can’t believe this was a common practice back then) because it’s so close to what happened to her with Faith. It’s why she panics when she wakes up without her baby in her arms. She’s been through this loss before and it’s so heartbreaking that her first response when she wakes up is whether or not her baby is dead.
Despite his misgivings, it’s love at first sight for Frank and baby Brianna. It’s love at first sight for BOTH Frank and Claire. Maybe they’ll never be passionately in love with each other again (I do think too much has happened for that to be a possibility) but they CAN make a live together that’s filled with love for this little girl. “This is all that truly matters now,” Frank declares. “Maybe this right here can really be a new beginning,” Claire agrees and they are both so fucking hopeful I want to cry.
And then the nurse has to go and ruin the party by asking where the red hair came from.
Damn those Fraser genes.
Swoon Worthy Jamie Fraser Moment
Can we just continue to appreciate the LOVING way in which this show lights Sam Heughan? GOD.
Dragonflies in Amber
- I appreciate that Bonny Prince Bitch Baby got one last “MARK ME” in there before everything went to hell.
- This person who hasn’t read the books is hoping against all hops that Murtagh got out alive. I mean, look at their face! We need him. LET ME HAVE THIS FOR A WHILE, I KNOW IT’S UNLIKELY.
- I don’t understand how this show hasn’t taken home BUCKETS of awards for its cinematography. Those battle sequences were stunning. And the way they lit Jamie and Blackjack’s last battle, all bathed in that golden orange? Get the fuck out.
- Speaking of stunning, I appreciate how the whole beginning was basically a loving ode to Sam’s bone structure.
- Forever obsessed with how they do the transitions from Jamie to Claire whenever they are separated.
- RIP Rupert. You will be missed.
- When Claire started talking about America being eager and looking towards the future, I couldn’t help but think she would have been a massive fan of Hamilton. She’s young, scrappy, and hungry and she is not throwing away her shot.
- Claire’s camel coat when they are getting ready to go to the hospital? GIMME.
- Childbirth in the 40’s was BARBARIC.
- I love how Frank tells Claire he loves her right before she goes into delivery and he doesn’t even flinch when she doesn’t say it in return. HE’S TRYING.
And that’s our premiere! What were your thoughts on “The Battle Joined”? Let us know in the comments.
Featured Image Source: Starz