“Outlander” premiered online on Saturday (Aug. 2), and if you’re a fan of the books and got a chance to watch, read on. If not, bookmark this until after the television premiere on Aug. 9, because there’s about to be some spoilers.
As a longtime fan of the “Outlander” book series, there are seminal moments from the story that “Outlander” the television show just had to get right in order for me to be satisfied. Selfishly, I’ve waited to see these heart-stopping moments happen “in real life” for too long. They had to look enough like my mind’s pictures, these paper characters being “fleshed out” before my eyes to woo and hook me, or, hopefully, be better than I’d ever been able to imagine. Watching the story unfold, with a change or a different subtext here and there, was a personal joy.
Even though it was tough to choose, here are five things from the “Outlander” premiere episode that did the book justice, and one that it didn’t.
1. Frank and Claire
Frank is more fleshed-out on the show than he is in the first couple chapters of the book and that’s actually a very good thing. Jamie, obviously, is the protagonist and male lead, but the audience has to fall in love with Frank enough to identify with Claire’s longing to return home, and make her tough decision later on in the series plausible.
And it works. Tobias Menzies wears Frank well and faithfully to the text, but is given the opportunity to be more than the Frank we’re familiar with. He’s sexy, endearing and as warm as a British scholar can be. We, too, miss him and feel for him after Claire’s disappearance. I was never a fan of Book Frank. I’m a fan of Show Frank. And hello, ruins of Castle Leoch scene (no, that wasn’t in the book, but are you going to complain about it?)
2. The Ghost
Frank returns to Mrs. Baird’s and catches a kilted man in the square, gazing up at Claire through the window. While it’s never been discussed in the books after it happens, it’s obviously Jamie, somehow (and I hope author Diana Gabaldon somehow references this moment again before the series ends.)
This scene in the show is done so well. It’s quiet, and spooky with a longing sadness. It doesn’t in any way foreshadow what was about to happen to Claire, but it sets the “anything is possible in this land” feel. It is perfectly captured.
Have you ever thought that maybe it’s not Jamie, and that’s why we don’t see his face? Maybe someday we’ll find out (but it’s something I’d love to know more about.)
UPDATE: Many wrote in to tell me that Diana has said the discussion of the ghost will be the last scene of the series, which just made me cry. So … thanks?
3. The Dislocated Shoulder
It’s no wonder they released this scene early online. Claire the nurse asserts herself after being dragged to the cottage, helping young Jamie and resetting his shoulder. It’s not only our first glimpse of Sam Heughan as Jamie, but it introduces Dougal, Murtagh and the other men as well.
But it is Jamie’s face, lit from the firelight that was, well, beautiful. “Outlander” fans have waited for this first-glimpse moment, and it didn’t disappoint. Which leads me to the second big Jamie moment I was waiting for …
4. Dressing Jamie’s Wound
After riding through the woods for a day, and getting shot during in a skirmish, Jamie falls off his horse and gets attended to again by Claire, who is more ticked off at her predicament, and more ticked off at Jamie, who is bleeding away without a care. She lets loose some awesome profanity, shocking the old Highlanders with her brazen tongue and demands.
Later in the book, Jamie professes that it was this moment that made him start falling in love with her. As such, this scene was pivotal. This second of screen time, with Jamie staring up at Claire like she’s an alien angel, cemented Sam Heughan as Jamie for me. See that glimmer in his eyes? He captures that awe Jamie feels for Claire, for her sharp tongue, her stubbornness, and her skill. She’s unlike anything he’s ever known before, and we see it here.
5. The Music
No, this wasn’t a scene or a moment from the book, but in all honesty, the music from this show is perhaps the biggest heartstring-pulling delight.
Too many musical moments! From the opening credits theme song to even the big-band horns playing in Frank’s car, the music raised goosebumps again and again. The otherworldly stone circle song is breathtaking. And of course, the bagpipes! Didn’t you get a chill when they started up after Claire narrowly misses getting shot when she first appears in the past?
Composer Bear McCreary has created an “Outlander” character we didn’t know we were missing. And since I’ve seen a few more episodes into the series, believe me, it’s only going to get better. Some moments actually made me gasp.
And while I didn’t specifically choose the stone circle ceremony or Claire’s falling through the stone into the past as one of my top five moments, the music, to me, is the decidedly best part of those scenes, and made them solidly better. It was the music that makes them come alive, and as such, deserve recognition over anything else.
So what was the one thing, in my opinion, that the show didn’t get right?
While I love Caitriona Balfe’s look as Claire — the hair especially, and also her youthful yet worn and tired expressions — she is, well, very thin. Really thin. Hollywood thin.
Specifically, she doesn’t have a “jug arse” that Jamie references many times in the books. One fellow Zap2it Sassenach Andrea Reiher points out that she believes the creators may have thought about casting a very thin woman because once they added the 18th-century costume on top of her frame, she would then appear “normal” sized. Maybe that’s true. This is Hollywood, and there are allowances for actors and scenery.
However, I also have to admit, it didn’t trouble me for very long. In episode 2, there is a scene that seals Balfe as Claire for me (much like the “dressing the wound” scene did for Sam as Jamie in this episode,) but alas, I’ll miss hearing Jamie’s affectionate references to Claire’s arse.
What say you, “Outlander” fans? Did the first episode get everything right? Nothing? What was your favorite part? Sound off in the comments!