by Diana Vaccarelli
I’m a romantic at heart and after seeing a promotion for the new Starz show OUTLANDER, based on the series of books written by Diana Gabaldon, I had to give it a chance.
The first season is over now, but what a ride it gave us!
The TV series, like the books, follows the story of Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743 Scotland . Claire is thrown into a time that she only knows through the history books. Her heart is torn the life she knows and Frank, her husband, and her new timeframe…and newfound love, Jamie Fraser for Jamie the Scottish warrior she is forced to marry in order to save her life.
What I enjoyed most about the show was how it showcased both time periods. The 1940’s were filmed gray and dark, and when Claire went back to 1743 the cinematography was brighter, with more color. Not only did this give the viewer a clear and understandable contrast between time periods, it also provided a metaphor for Claire allowing her heart to open up and her life itself to become brighter.
I also loved the casting of this series because each actor brought the book’s characters to life in such a way as to allow us to see exactly how Diana Gabaldon envisioned them. Much of this has to do with the excellent casting and the decision to use actors unknown to American audiences, which meant that viewers had no preconceived notions to overcome.
Caitriona Balfe plays the heroine, Claire Randell. Caitriona brings passion and fire to this character and does it with a grace and elegance that is not usually seen on television. Sam Heughan portrays young Jaime Fraser our hero and one of the two men our heroine is in love with.
Sam shows both the tough side and the romantic side of Jaime. In one scene he takes a whip to the back and doesn’t shed a single tear or beg to make the pain stop. In others he is tender and sweet – and charming – as he displays his love for Claire. Watching him as this character, I too began I fall for him.
Tobias Menzies is brilliant and award worthy in the duel role of Frank Randell, charming husband to Claire, and Frank’s pole opposite ancestor, Black Jack Randall. Frank is loving and faithful and stops at nothing to find his missing wife. Black Jack is cruel and has no compunction about torturing anyone who gets in his way.
But the two characters are, in fact, more complex than they may sound here. Menzies shows us the darkness in Frank when he can’t find Claire. And the unexpectedly vulnerable side of Black Jack.
The writers of the show have done a brilliant job bringing the book to life. They follow the story, but also have added new elements to attract the audience and also give us a deeper understanding of Claire’s inner turmoil. One added scene, in which Claire and Frank run to the stones, stands out in particular because of the way it clarifies the relationship between the two of them.
The show will return to Starz Network April 4, 2015, which seems very far away. I don’t know what I’m going to do until then!