May 152015
 

You couldn’t fire a bit across the World Wide Web this week without hitting a preview for Outlander‘s next installment, Wentworth Prison. Scarce was the review of last week’s episode, however, save discussion of lactation. BRAVA to Laura Donnelly, whoever was responsible for creating the working prosthetic mammary glands, and everyone who had anything to do with bringing this proper demonstration of the human female breasts’ intended function, true to the passage in the novel, to television. #Freethenipple.

Unfortunately, most of the remaining talk about The Search fixated upon how little it did to advance the overarching series plot. While a lot of pastoral goings-on during the Lallybroch episodes was lost to editing, this rather brief portion of the book was expanded into a full-blown Murtagh and Claire road show to the outer Highlands.

Outlander 2014

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May 082015
 

“Cosa Nostra” is what the the Sicilian mafia calls itself. It means “Our Thing.” Short of a wholesale abandonment of the source material, Outlander is a show about strong women. Those who read the books are particularly possessive of the story. This is our thing. We guard it fiercely. This is a relatively new development in the history of television. Network shows certainly doesn’t get this kind of passion (except soap operas, I imagine).

I recently read a cute article in The New Yorker entitled “How the Sausage is Made.” With just the right amount of cleverness and snark, it detailed the way that network television shows make it from the executive retreats, to the writers rooms, to the pilots, to the air. For as commercialized and imagination-thwarting as the process is today, I am so grateful that, not only is Outlander on Starz, but that it is being made now, not when Herself published her first novel back in 1991.

The latitude of the television medium today, compared to even ten years ago, has expanded exponentially. Outlander stands on the shoulders of everything from Mad Men’s period authenticity, to Sex and the City’s female sexuality, to The Walking Dead’s grit. Game of Thrones, while equally groundbreaking (imagine if it were made in 1995!), is firmly in the world of fantasy and comes from a different lineage. Outlander was, then, and is, now, a whole new ball game.

We can grouse now and again about favorite lines that don’t make it to air, and we can momentarily lament the adjustments to character, sequencing, and plot to fit the episodic format and appeal to a wider range of viewers. We loved the story first; when we criticize, we do so do so from the impetus to protect it. I’m not in the camp of “just be grateful it’s being made at all,” but I am firmly in the camp of appreciating what this show is in its own right, as well as what it means for the future of television.

For one thing, it took going back to the eighteenth century Scotland to see mother-positive labor and delivery practices on television this week. For as perilous as childbirth was in those times, and for as precarious as a breech birth is at any time—not to mention without sanitary conditions, access to anesthesia, or a trained medical professional—it was gorgeous to see the walking, crawling, and squatting that is only beginning to make its way back into the mainstream today. The next director to take on shooting a birth scene for film or television will have to think long and hard about whether the tropes of old still apply.

There’s been a little tumult about Claire’s medical training not including anything obstetrical. I didn’t think that she’d represented otherwise. Relatively speaking, she was the best-qualified person around to administer to Jenny.

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Outlander: Just Eat Your Cake—A Study of “Lallybroch” Episode 112

Outlander: Just Eat Your Cake—A Study of “Lallybroch” Episode 112

May 1, 2015

There was a flood of new, mainstream reviewers talking about Outlander this week (E! has been on it from the start, but they’re the ones who broke the newest pictures on Thursday, the scintillating one above included). The attention is GREAT news for our series—the payoff for not only a quality show but an extraordinary, inhuman volume of PR […]

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Outlander: Bismillah—A Study of “The Devil's Mark” Episode 111

Outlander: Bismillah—A Study of “The Devil’s Mark” Episode 111

Apr 24, 2015

To say that The Devil’s Mark was a show bursting at the seams is a gross understatement. I agreed with what Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore said in his podcast; each of three events within it—the trial, the revelation, and the decision—didn’t merit their own episodes but were a challenge to execute within just one. Since the episode […]

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Outlander: You Had One Job—A Review of "By the Pricking of My Thumbs," Episode 110

Outlander: You Had One Job—A Review of “By the Pricking of My Thumbs,” Episode 110

Apr 16, 2015

In my last post, I called attention to the number of parallels among the many Outlander characters’ plot lines. I get to do something similar this week, except instead of plot lines, By the Pricking of My Thumbs delivers a cavalcade of parallel character traits. Namely, we get to see how single-mindedness plays out, for better or for worse, in […]

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Outlander: The One With All The Reckonings—A Review of Episode 109 (Part 2)

Outlander: The One With All The Reckonings—A Review of Episode 109 (Part 2)

Apr 13, 2015

Ain’ No Party Like a Leoch Party Having all but exhausted my thoughts on this episode’s first half, let’s get our arses back to Leoch, where the most awkward surprise wedding reception ever awaits us!

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Outlander: All is Forgiven—A Review of The Reckoning, Episode 109 (Part 1)

Outlander: All is Forgiven—A Review of The Reckoning, Episode 109 (Part 1)

Apr 10, 2015

I’ve tossed this episode around in my thoughts all week, and I still don’t have my head around it. I wrote and scrapped hundreds of words, hoping that some clear conclusions would surface. In turn, I’ve been ecstatic, disgusted, inspired, aroused, and pissed off by The Reckoning. I really didn’t want to dwell on the beating scene all that long. […]

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Outlander: Illusions I Recall—A Review of Both Sides Now, Episode 108

Outlander: Illusions I Recall—A Review of Both Sides Now, Episode 108

Apr 2, 2015

I’ve been rather fangirl-swoony in my reviews of Outlander up to this point. Counting the hours until the series return, I really wanted to glow about Both Sides Now, but I just couldn’t. Even this episode still outmatches virtually every other program on the air, but it I didn’t find it to be in keeping with the […]

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Outlander: Mind, Body, and Soul - A Review of The Wedding, Episode 107

Outlander: Mind, Body, and Soul – A Review of The Wedding, Episode 107

Mar 30, 2015

The phrase “Female Director” kind of pisses me off. I know how naïve that makes me. I don’t know how Hollywood works except from what I’ve read, but I do know there’s nothing inherently masculine about the title of Director. I know that every last director I worked with through school, save two, were women. The […]

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Outlander: Know Thy Enemy — a Review of The Garrison Commander, Episode 106

Outlander: Know Thy Enemy — a Review of The Garrison Commander, Episode 106

Mar 19, 2015

Writing these reviews months after the episodes’ premier dates gives me a certain latitude, but it’s not without its challenges. Sure, I have hundreds of blogs, podcasts, “behind the scenes” clips and deleted scenes at my disposal. I’ve also had this time to mull the show over in my mind, and I also have the benefit […]

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Outlander: Like La bohème, but with Less Consumption and More Live Pigs – A Review of Rent (Episode 105)

Outlander: Like La bohème, but with Less Consumption and More Live Pigs – A Review of Rent (Episode 105)

Mar 13, 2015

Definition of Rent: 1: To grant or gain temporary possession and enjoyment of something in exchange for payment. 2: An opening made by or as if by rending. 3: A split in a party or organized group; schism. 4: A rock musical based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème. I wish I were clever enough […]

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Outlander: Two Roads Diverged - A Review of 'The Way Out' and 'The Gathering' (Episodes 103 & 104)

Outlander: Two Roads Diverged – A Review of ‘The Way Out’ and ‘The Gathering’ (Episodes 103 & 104)

Mar 6, 2015

My angle in the Outlander commentary business is to compare and contrast the novel and the television series. I have to admit that this post was far more difficult to write than the first several. You’ll notice that, while I called my first two episode-specific posts “recaps,” I’m calling this one a review. Recaps are fact-based, a kind of […]

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Outlander: Majesty and Mayhem – Recap of Castle Leoch, Episode 102

Outlander: Majesty and Mayhem – Recap of Castle Leoch, Episode 102

Feb 26, 2015

The chief criticism levied against Outlander, both in print and on the screen, is that there is a substantial amount of groundwork and backstory, both prior to the inciting incident and during the rising action. This makes for a slower pace than your typical action-adventure piece. Forget the sex and violence (yeah, right… good luck […]

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