Are you ready? The Frasers are, or they are at least on their way to being ready. This episode was a great step forward in advancing us to war. The first hint to me that the mood was changing was the imagery in the opening titles. The kilted warriors charging into battle was an ominous sign to say the least. All of our favorite Scots are back together as they march to meet up with Charlie’s troops. While this episode definitely dealt in some heavy subject matter, I did not find this one as consistently gut wrenching as several other episodes of late. This episode felt like the early rounds of chess as pieces get moved in preparation for the real battle. I honestly thought we would get to some fighting before the hour was done, but we didn’t quite reach all-out war.
- I had two favorite themes that carried throughout the episode. Again Caitriona brought her A game. As Claire observes the men she has grown to care about preparing to face a well-organized army she begins to have flashbacks to the war she has already survived. I have never struggled with PTSD myself, but between her performance and some excellent camera work, I could easily step into her shoes. One moment that really jumped out at me was right before her full meltdown and the camera was spinning around her. I suddenly understood everything. This is how panic attacks feel. I also loved the way her previous life was tied into her current situation. The parallels drawn between Angus and Rupert and her American soldier friends from WWII made it so easy to see what she was thinking. Given that much of the book series is told from her perspective directly, I am constantly impressed at the creative ways they can cover so much ground without resorting to voiceovers.
- My other favorite theme to the episode is the power struggle between Jamie and Dougal. From the very beginning of the episode we can tell that Jamie is determined to prepare his men the best he can. If they are destined to lose at Culloden he will not let that happen due to inexperience. Dougal is a little more old school in his technique, preferring to charge into battle more like William Wallace. Being that the unit is comprised of Fraser men, Jamie shuts down his uncle’s attempts to take over at every turn. My favorite scenes of this struggle are when Dougal “recruits” extra soldiers that turn out to have been coerced, and the scene near the end when Jamie takes the punishment for the failures of the camp in general. I also really enjoyed the lat moments when Jamie allowed Dougal to lead the procession into camp and announce their presence. There was no better way to show that even though he was the boss, he still loves Dougal and understands his passion for the cause.
- New character in the house! This is not a drill! One of the more complex and intriguing characters of the book series arrives near the end of this episode. I had to rewrite this entire segment because I realized what is common knowledge to me is spoilers to some of you! The scene is very similar to the book. Introduced to us as William Grey, Jamie catches the baby faced teen attempting to cut his throat. Quickly realizing that the young man may have useful information, Jamie begins interrogation. After finally breaking his will (more on that later) he sends him back to his men. Mr. Grey mentions that he now owes a life debt to Jamie. And the camera angles alone are enough to tell you that will be VERY important down the road! I have one further observation about this character that book readers can read at the very bottom, beyond the asterisk. Sow-only fans should avoid it. Because spoilers.
- In a slight change of plans from the book, Claire is the one who comes up with a clever plan to convince William Grey to talk. The scene is so well acted, and it was a delightful combination of humorous (to us and Murtagh) and horrifying (to William.) Here are the lines Claire and Jamie said through facial expressions:Claire: I have an idea. What if he thinks I am a prisoner too? He seems honorable and will want to help me.
Jaime: Good idea! I will pretend to take advantage of you.
Claire: Whoa! Way to take it too far. Step off.
Jamie: You are very good at acting.
Claire: No. Too far. Step off. I will knee you in your man parts to make my point.
Jamie: Oh! Too far! Got it. It’s ok he is talking now.
Claire: I am so mad.
Jamie: It was your idea! Kiss kiss!
Claire: Oh you think this is over?
Turns out it was pretty much over because by the time Jamie returns from raiding the British camp using Grey’s information Claire is asleep and there isn’t even time for hanky panky because they need to break camp. In the book the trick on Grey is Jamie’s idea and Claire is furious. I think they will just move on from here in the show. Bigger things are on the horizon.
- I found this episode very interesting from a historical perspective. It is a very strange concept in modern times to think of a group of normal people traveling for weeks to meet up with a larger army. I think taking the time to see what these farmers with pitchforks have to go through will make for a much more compelling story in the long run. All along we have known many faceless men stand to lose their lives. By taking the time to demonstrate he training, and through the eyes of Claire’s PTSD, we already have a much more human face on the cost of war. Something tells me it will be all the more heartbreaking come Culloden.
The overall pace of the episode was a welcome relief to me after the last few tumultuous weeks. Next week’s episode is titled Prestonpans and one google search will tell you what that will be about. I am grateful that we had this episode of personal preparation for Claire and Jamie before the larger pieces begin to play. TV fans, stop reading here, I will be back next week! Book fans, continue below the pic!
*The part I realized I needed to sensor was William’s real name! The writers never used the name John nor did they indicate his rank. But just for you: Lord John is here! Lord John is here! The actor playing him in this scene is only seventeen. I am assuming they will recast him, because the next time we meet he should be around twenty five. That is too bad for this kid, because I thought he was very good.