Friday, September 12, 2014

First impressions – Outlander

WARNING: If you haven’t read the books or seen the TV series, there are a few spoilers ahead. Not many, but...well, I’ve warned you!

Long-time readers of this blog know I love the book series by Diana Gabaldon. (see here, here and here) The world she creates, both in the 18th century and the 20th are vivid, rich, and filled with characters I’ve come to love. When the rumored TV series came to fruition, however, I was concerned. Would any actor be able to do justice to Jamie and Claire? Especially Jamie. I’m as much in love with him as Claire is. Gabaldon herself admitted she felt the same way about him. Could the director and producer find someone to fit my image of him?

The series found a home on the pay channel STARZ here in the States. First episode was free, the rest you have to pay for. So I watched the free episode and, while it was a little slow in places, I found myself drawn in. The first section, with Claire and Frank, sets up much of what’s to happen, but the pacing plods a little. Mostly in the dialogue. Claire often speaks first and then thinks and I didn’t see that so much in this part. Of course, she and Frank are still feeling their way, so it didn’t bother me a whole lot.

I liked the color choices...the fact that her memory of the war was in brighter colors than Inverness of the late 1940’s, the bright greens of Scotland when she makes the jump to the 1800’s. As if her time with Frank was the memory and everything else was her real life.

Dougal fit my impressions of him exactly. Commanding, rough, demanding. I didn’t realize where I’d seen the actor before until someone pointed it out to me. Graham McTavish also plays Dwalin in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. A credit to his acting that I didn't make the connection right away.

As for Frank...well, he was appropriately milquetoast enough. I did like, however, how the narration brought out the fact that he’d sent men to their deaths in the war and he didn’t speak of it now. It was a point I’d glossed over in the books, but I think it’s one I want to remember. Toby Menzies, the actor who portrays him, also plays Jonathan Randall and I liked him better there.

And then there are Jamie and Claire. Sam Heughan plays Jamie – very well. He’s young, but then, Jamie’s only 22 in the first book. I think I have to agree with Diana Gabaldon, he very well might be my Jamie. My fears are somewhat allayed. I could wish him a little taller, or wish Claire (Caitriona Balfe) a little shorter. I want him to command her height a little more. Picky, picky!

Based on that first impression, I talked my husband into buying the STARZ channel. It isn’t tremendously expensive - $8.99/month. That breaks down to $1.25 an episode during the months it airs. And, if you watch any other the other hundreds of movies that are also offered, the cost becomes negligible. Or so I have justified. :)

Anyway, sat down to watch the first and second episodes with him (my husband) last night. He’s not read the books and I was curious to hear what he had to say about this series that my mother and I have talked about for years (since Outlander first came out in paperback) and that my soon-to-be daughter-in-law have been discussing recently. He’s as much as admitted that the size of the books daunt him. He prefers short, non-fiction books on philosophy. Something he can read in a week and carry in his head for a month.

While he felt that the pacing of the first episode could be faster (a point I agree on), he was surprised that time travel was involved. He had no idea she went back in time. The whole time she was with Frank, he kept wondering who this “Jamie” was that I spoke of. Now he knows – and was eager to watch the second episode.

I won’t go much further, don’t want to give TOO many spoilers, but suffice it to say, Jamie’s heat is much stronger in the second episode. Readers of the book will know what that means (picture me grinning wickedly and wagging my eyebrows!).

A point about language: much of the scene where Colin McKenzie hears petitions from his tenants is performed in Gaelic. It is a beautiful language to listen to. I cannot speak it, but was thrilled when, at the point where Jamie stands up for Laoghair, in the flurry of Gaelic coming from Colin, I heard the words “Seaumais Ruaid” – and knew they meant “Red Jamie”! I also loved, in the first episode, hearing Jamie shout “Tulach Ard!” (NOTE: in 6th grade we had to choose what language we wanted to learn come 7th grade. There were two choices: Spanish and French, and a space for "other". I wrote "Gaelic" on the line. They gave me Spanish. I have been disappointed ever since.)

To sum up: yes, I subscribed to a pay-to-view channel just to watch one series. Yes, I’m hooked on Outlander as a book series (I’m currently re-reading the entire set before I get to the latest, In My Heart’s Own Blood). Yes,I will watch every episode of Outlander and dissect it with my parents (I didn't mention, my mom got my dad watching...and now he's borrowed my copy of Outlander because he wants to read the series) and my son and his intended (my son listened to the audiobook, his fiance currently has my copy of Drums of Autumn). And yes, I’m in love with Jamie Fraser.

If you want to join the discussion, you can comment below or join me on my new Facebook page! Of course, I’m still Twittering (sometimes) as well. Let's talk books and their translation into TV series!

Play safe,

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