Outlander Review: Sassenach and Castle Leoch

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I’ve been reading Outlander books for over twenty years now. They’ve been a guilty pleasure that have turned into an obsession. To say I am attached to both Claire and Jamie, among other characters, is putting it mildly.  I have been along for the ride for a very long time now and they are like family.

That’s why when I heard they’ve was going to be a TV adaptation I was excited while still leery (see what I did there?) about the results. Would it do the books justice? Would they get Jamie right? Would they get Claire right? Would they change it into something that wasn’t Outlander? 

The simple answer to this, as of the end of episode two is yes, they’ve got it right.  They’ve got the heart of it with some added things that have made me as a book reader very happy. 

It’s starts with Claire in 1940’s with Frank her husband trying to rekindle they’re marriage after being apart during World War Two. Anyone who has read the books know that this is the most tedious part of the series. It’s essentially the set up for the whole story.There’s a lot of Frank,  a lot exposition and a lot of Frank. I’ve recommended this book to numerous people and this is always the part where they come back to me and ask  “Does it get better?”.  My answer has always been a resounding YES. 

The same bears true for the first episode.  A lot time is spent in voice-over and setting up the story.  We do get see a few things that make book readers happy like Mrs Graham reading the tea leaves and the mysterious Scotsman watching Claire through the window, but it’s not till she gets to the past that the story starts to move, which in and of itself is remarkably true to the book. 

The second episode picks up with Claire reaching Castle Leoch. It’s one of Jamie’s lines in this episode that really brings out the danger Claire is in “Just remember, you are in English in a place where it is not a pretty thing to be”.  Claire is walking into a lion’s den of people who don’t trust her on principal yet are outwardly polite and accommodating to her.  It’s a fine tightrope she has to learn to walk on and this episode shows instead of tells us this perfectly. 

As a book reader I was surprisingly pleased with the additions of non-book material so far. Both the scene of Claire during World War Two and Frank going to to Craigh Na Dun searching for her were additions and I found myself thoroughly enjoying both of these scenes especially seeing Reverend Wakefield with him at Craigh Na Dun. Which brings me to my next point. Book!Frank versus TV!Frank.   

Book!Frank is easily my least favourite character. He is a great part of why the first part of Outlander is tedious. TV! Frank has started out far more promising than Book!Frank. He’s surprisingly likeable and engaging due in part to the fine actor playing him, Tobias Menzie (Edmure Tully GoT if you’re wondering why he looks familiar).  Seeing what he brings to the role in future episodes could very well end up being the highlight of season one.

The first two episodes give the show a solid beginning, it stays true to the source material while bringing added light and nuance to the story.  As far as the rest of the season goes it looks promising, I’ll be watching and crossing my fingers it continues to be this good. 

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