TV Review: “Outlander” – “Rent”

Written by Caitlin Cooper September 24, 2014


What would a historical show be without a journey or two? “Outlander” has taken us from the 1940s to the 1740s in Scotland, from Inverness to Castle Leoch with the protagonist, Claire (Caitriona Balfe). Now, it’s taking us all over the Highlands as Dougal (Graham McTavish) collects rent from tennants, and shows off Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) scars against his will to gain even more money from Highlanders. Whilst this is all going on, Claire gets to learn more about the way in which 18th century people live. Dougal and his men unfortunately still treat Claire with cruelty no doubt in part because they’re suspicious of her. All of this time spent with these Scottish people makes Claire feel horrible for knowing the horrors they’ll go through in just a few short years.


While there haven’t been many episodes of “Outlander” yet, it’s easy to see we’ve only had a glimpse of the different people living in Scotland, and of the political tension between the Scottish and English. We know that the Scottish don’t trust the English at all because Claire has essentially been held prisoner by the Laird (Gary Lewis) of Castle Leoch until he could ascertain her innocence, or lack thereof. In “Rent”, we finally get to meet people beyond Leoch which allows us better insight into the way of life in the 1700s. People have to give whatever they can to pay rent, even if it means their baby will have to go without milk. The Watch raids small homes. The English torture and crucify any Scots they believe traitors to the English crown. And redcoats are hiding in plain sight, deeply unhappy when an Englishwoman should be mistreated. All of this knew knowledge of the time in which Claire finds herself adds more depth to the show, and helps to heighten the sense of danger Claire finds herself in by having traveled to this particular decade.

“Do you treat all your guests this way?”

With each episode, we learn more and more about Claire. She’s observant, has a strong sense of justice – like arguing with Dougal over taking away milk from a baby -, and she struggles with her knowledge of how history plays out for Scotland. There’s a particularly poignant scene in which, in a flashback, Claire and Frank visit Culloden. Culloden is the infamous battlefield on which many Scottish men died fighting the English in a bloody and short-lived rebellion. How can she live with the knowledge that the people she’s spent months with will most likely be killed in a few years? Would telling them of the country’s tragic fate help? To see Claire struggling with this provides more of an anchor to this part of the story; she’s already clearly anchored in the 1940s with the back-story provided in the first episode. Whether Claire likes it or not, she’s becoming invested in this time. Also, there’s apparently a hint of budding attraction between Claire and Jamie.


There’s plenty of drama in this episode. One source is Dougal. He repeatedly tells tales of the horrors the English commit against the Scottish, and what better example than showing off Jamie’s back? But Jamie is quite clearly uncomfortable with this violation of his privacy, and he endures it night after night as Dougal makes countless speeches. There are subtleties in the acting which makes these scenes incredibly poignant. Another source of drama comes with the way Dougal and his men treat Claire. To be frank, they treat her horribly. They want her to be docile and obedient. Claire is, understandably, not going to adhere to this. She’s a strong, independent woman and having men try to control her doesn’t sit well. But the show tries to show us that these men aren’t so black-and-white. They defend Claire against some perverted and crude men. When she finds out this is why the men started a fight, she feels a little more comfortable around them. This enables her to censor her wit a little less: she cracks a suggestive joke and it goes over well with them.

“Would I have to reconcile to live the rest of my life among strangers 200 years in the past?”

Everything in “Outlander” seems so authentic. The dress, the methods of healthcare, the ways in which things are carried out with the limited knowledge and technology of the time. And my oh my is Scotland ever a beautiful country. Many shows are set in one place but actually filmed in another country. “Outlander” can proudly boast that it’s actually filmed in Scotland. The opening scene is serene and shows the simple beauty of the land. If you didn’t previously think about visiting Scotland, “Outlander” is sure to have made it to your travel wish-list.


Overall, “Rent” shows how strong “Outlander” continues to be. There’s increased drama, more attention given to politics, and we see Claire struggle with her knowledge of how history plays out. The episode leaves off with a tense cliffhanger that’s sure to result in a dangerous situation, at least for the Scots Claire travels with.

My Rating: 9/10

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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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