Outlander, The Miniseries: Thoughts After Episode 1 (by Bethany)

Outlander 2014

Have any Diana Gabaldon fans out there seen the first episode of the miniseries yet? I saw it last night, thanks to my friend Kate’s TV service. (Mine doesn’t include Starz, which most of the time is fine with me. I can’t condone whimsical misspelling.) Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts:

1) It spent much more time than I expected working through the events that happened in Claire’s life before she travels back in time. The miniseries provides flashbacks to Claire’s years of service as a war nurse in World War II (“Why are they making it look like World War I?” Kate asked. “I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe they got a deal on some leftover props from Downton Abbey.”) and  flashbacks to Claire’s childhood, which she spent with her eccentric archaeologist uncle. The first episode also spent a very leisurely 45 minutes or so on the trip Claire takes with her 20th-century husband, Frank. Kate and I spent a half hour or so dissecting this choice after the episode was over. From reading the books, we both know that once the series’ main plot gets going, we aren’t going to care much about Frank Randall or World War II or the check-in clerk at the inn in Inverness who hears Frank and Claire having sex. But we also know that when the time comes for Claire to choose to stay with Jamie in the 18th century rather than going back to Frank, it will be important that the viewers understand what a difficult choice this is. Frank needs to be portrayed as smart and loving and sexy so Claire will have something at stake for the rest of the miniseries. Which brings me to my next point:

2) Frank is not portrayed in a very appealing way. He’s competent, sure. He likes to tool around the countryside in a little convertible, and who doesn’t like little convertibles? At one point, Claire’s voiceover expresses some anxiety about whether their relationship will be the same now that they’ve reunited after the war – and I don’t think this anxiety was present in the books. I would have rather seen Claire in love with Frank with no doubts at the moment that she goes through the stones.

3) Other characters are really good, namely Jamie Fraser and his entourage of scruffy Scottish ruffians. I’m optimistic that once the miniseries leaves the 20th century behind, it will be as engrossing as the books usually are.

4) I don’t actually know what “cinematography” is, but I’m thinking that the cinematography was a little melodramatic for my taste. I’m talking about some very dramatic music that I think was supposed to sound like the wind whistling through the trees, and also about several sequences that simply presented images without developing the plot. I’m not even saying that these sequences are badly done – only that I wanted to see the plot get moving more quickly. If the entire miniseries is like this, I’ll be annoyed. If not, I can deal.

5) There is something ‘off’ about Claire’s character. Kate said the same thing, but we couldn’t really put our fingers on the problem. My instinct is to say that she is too “buttoned up” – in other words, she looks and acts like a demure, innocent young woman but speaks more like the experienced professional nurse that she is (although there is one scene in which she demands cunnilingus in a ruined castle, so you should disregard this theory). But there is something missing from her character: her Claireness. That’s it – her Claireness is missing. Doesn’t “Claireness” sound like it ought to be a suburb of Inverness?

I would love to know what others thought!

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This entry was posted in Authors, Diana Gabaldon, Reviews by Bethany, TV/Film Adaptations. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Outlander, The Miniseries: Thoughts After Episode 1 (by Bethany)

  1. badkitty1016 says:

    I looked the show up on imdb and I think it’s going to be a “real” series, a la Game of Thrones on HBO, not a short one. If it does well I bet they’ll do the entire series of books!

    • bedstrom says:

      I was thinking about that too. Each book would make a pretty good season of TV. I hope it happens.

      • badkitty1016 says:

        I suspect that based on the popularity of your posts on the series the tv version will be equally popular, as long as Starz does even a mediocre job of it.

      • bedstrom says:

        I know! My review of A Breath of Snow and Ashes has shot way past everything else we’ve ever posted, and the others are really popular too. I may have to make reviews of each episode a Sunday tradition…

  2. Catherine says:

    I felt that the show was slow and tedious, but then suddenly it was over and I was looking forward to the next one. only problem is Jamie. He is larger than life in the books and way to short on screen.

    • bedstrom says:

      I think I originally had the same thought about Jamie, though I’ve ended up really liking the way his character is portrayed in the show. It’s true that he’s larger than life in the books, but he’s also vulnerable and human, and guilt and pain are such important parts of who he is, so a truly larger than life portrayal in the show would simplify his character too much. It’s funny how we perceive characters so much differently when we read about them versus when we see them portrayed on screen.

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