Outlander, and Claire’s Surprisingly Good Balance of Competence and Vulnerability

Genre: Historical/Drama/Romance (based on a novel I haven’t read, but is reputedly very good)

Synopsis: A WWII nurse gets mysteriously transported to 18th century Scotland.

Series: 1 season of 8 episodes; there will be a season 2

I’ve Watched: The first 4 episodes.

Verdict: Enjoyable

I’m really warming up to this show, fast. Instead of using the girl-out-of-her-element trope to make Claire helpless (as I usually see it used), this show is using it to make her competent. Claire is unusually well-prepared for spontaneous time travel, and it’s actually quite lucky that she in particular is sent to this time period. (I mean, let’s be honest–most of us would be doomed.)

Borrowed from edgecastcdn.net

The war created the type of environment that allowed Claire to develop medical skills in the field as a nurse, which would come in useful in any time period in the past. The biggest problem is the lack of equipment and materials, but being a combat nurse probably helps her there. And even better, Claire recently acquired the convenient  hobby of botany, extending to plants local to Scotland. Which is nice, given that she also studied up on what medicinal uses the plants have.

Claire’s husband was a historian, most recently interested in 18th century Scotland, which is exactly where his wife ends up. In addition to that, he had his own experiences in WWII including work in an intelligence agency. And fortunately, Claire appears to be a very good listener.

I’m totally okay with all these coincidences, because though Claire is an outsider, these things mitigate some of her disadvantages and even give her unique strengths that no one else in this time period could possibly have. And guess what? I like it when my protagonists aren’t completely hapless. She’s scared and she makes mistakes, yes, but she pulls through on her own merits, instead of by hiding behind someone else.

Borrowed from outlandertvnews.com

Another nice thing is that a main protagonist has a disability, that in no way stops him from being the lord (Laird) of the castle with the loyalty of his subjects. And he’s completely unashamed of it.

I’m hearing Outlander lauded as a feminist Game of Thrones, and personally, I wouldn’t have thought to compare the two on my own. Other than the fact that they both require costumes, they’re very different shows. One’s an epic fantasy and the other’s a historical (not to mention that they’re based on different time periods and cultures). Outlander is also slower paced, and more anchored to one location with a smaller number of characters. The shows definetly have different feels to them.

That said, I do understand that with the weird way HBO’s staging some scenes and adding in others not in the book, there’s a need for something that doesn’t fetishize abuse.

I’m finding Outlander has a unique charm, due to its environment and characters. The tighter focus lets it do some subtle character work, and that allows the characters to feel deeper. There’s something broiling beneath the surface of most of the protagonists, that isn’t as simple as an archetype.

Normally, by this point in the story, I’m wanting more things to actually happen, but for some reason, in this show, it works. Claire is failing to get home and becoming more integrated into this new life. She’s failing to accomplish her goal because the point of the plot is to lock her in, instead of to break her out. The slow pace could have been dangerous, if the show didn’t have so much personality.

The point is, this show requires skillful execution to work, and it’s getting it. My earlier reservations appear to be unfounded. I’m definitely going to keep watching Outlander.

Borrowed from blogspot.com

Favorite quotes:

“This is backwards. I should be the one leaving for the front lines.”
“Welcome to the 20th century.”

“I’m free. Can do whatever I please.”

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