TV Review: “Outlander” – “Both Sides Now”

Written by Caitlin Cooper October 22, 2014

Outlander

If the “Outlander” episodes that have aired to-date are any indication, the show isn’t about romanticizing a time in history which is clearly rife with danger. Time and time again we’ve seen bad things happen to various characters. Claire (Caitriona Balfe) seems to have incredibly bad luck. All she wanted was a reunion trip with her husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies). What she got was a ticket to the 1740s in which she’s had to survive being suspected of spying for the English, men trying to rape her, and Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall trying to torture her into telling the truth about her identity. All of this lead to the events of the previous episode, called “The Wedding”, in which Claire marries Jamie (Sam Heughan) so that she cannot be compelled by the English to submit to an interrogation. What resulted is a blooming intimacy between the two allies and friends; also, Claire’s guilt reached a high point as she realized that now she is married to two men, though in different time periods. The mid-season finale is the best episode yet, and it solidifies “Outlander” as a must watch historical sci-fi drama.

 

“Both Sides Now” sees Claire and Jamie adapting to married life. For Jamie, it’s absolute heaven. He’s quite taken with Claire, and now he’s getting to know her much better than he ever thought he could. For Claire, it means she feels more than ever like she shouldn’t be here, because remaining in the 1740s means that she’ll be forming long-lasting relationships even though this is not her real life. When thieves attack the group at night, the men decide Claire should learn how to defend herself with more than her intellect. Meanwhile, Frank is distraught and grieving over his wife’s disappearance and the police aren’t really helping. With each passing day, he loses more hope and begins to despair. One moment, however, will bring Claire and Frank closer than they’ve been since she left.

“There are songs that tell stories of people who travel through the stones.”

It’s easy to see how far Claire has come since she touched the standing stone at Craigh na Dun and traveled to 18th century Scotland. She once felt like an outsider in the time and place, and now she’s formed relationships there that are beyond mere allies and almost-friends. She seems to be much more comfortable now than she used to be. It certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s formed a more intimate relationship with Jamie, one that has taken her by surprise. And yet, she forces herself to pull away and remember that this isn’t really her life. Her real life is in the 1940s with Frank. And the guilt of forgetting for one moment that she isn’t meant to be here eats at her until she becomes angry with herself and with Jamie for making her forget.

Outlander

While I noticed Jamie’s growing attraction and care for Claire, it wasn’t acted on until their wedding night. In “The Wedding”, they begin to bond over their new intimacy. In this episode of “Outlander”, however, their bond seems more comfortable, and it hardly seems like it’s something new since it seems like a deep bond. If you’re into the show, it’ll make you feel torn between Claire’s two husbands, too. She has a good relationship with both – though in different ways. There’s a tenderness now present between Jamie and Claire. While the interactions between them are believable and often sweet, there were some lines of dialogue that made me cringe because they sounded awkward. I’d have hoped the writers would’ve gained enough comfort of the story to refrain from including cheesy dialogue.

“I was back to the place where it had all begun. So much had happened, so much had changed.”

What’s particularly poignant about this “Outlander” episode is that we finally get to see how Frank is coping with Claire being gone. The directors favour shots of Claire and Frank’s wedding rings as a reminder of their life together. We’ve only seen Frank in flashbacks since the first episode. There’s a marked change in the once cheery yet quiet man. His anger and grief are corrupting him, and for once the character seems closer to his ancestor than ever. He gives up on ever finding her because no one has any answers. At least, none that he believes. When a local druid tells Frank stories she’s heard of people traveling through the stones to different times, he passes it off as superstition. But one spark of hope leads him to the scene of Claire’s disappearance. What follows is a truly riveting scene in which Frank calls out Claire’s name and she hears him. He even hears her. She runs towards Craigh na Dun – she and the MacKenzies are closer to the stones than they’ve been since the first “Outlander” episode – and she is literally so close to finally going back to her own time, to Frank. It is by far the best scene of “Outlander” to date. The scene is stunning and gripping. I literally leaned forward during it.

Outlander

Reverend Wakefield’s wife is a druid of sorts, and she explains the legend behind people traveling through the stones at Craigh na Dun. The scene in which she tells Frank of this legend is the first time we get more concrete information about what happened to Claire. The only problem is that it offers no help for Frank getting Claire back, and Claire has failed in trying to get back to the stones more than once. But for once there are characters getting closer to the truth. That means the plot is getting more progression in terms of dealing with Claire’s situation.

“Promise me, Claire. Swear you’ll be here when I get back.”

Overall, the mid-season finale of “Outlander” is the best episode of the show yet. There’s one thing that detracts from the episode: the fact that Claire is almost raped twice in the same episode. This is becoming an over-used plot device in the show. Aside from that, “Both Sides Now” is evidence of how good “Outlander” is. The acting is top-notch thanks to a stellar cast. The script and editing of the episode make some scenes particularly moving. “Outlander” is a story worth experiencing, with a riveting plot and complex characters. If it wasn’t clear before, it is now: “Outlander” is one of the best new TV shows of 2014.

My Rating: 9.5/10

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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