TV Review: “Outlander” – “Sassenach”

Written by Caitlin Cooper August 26, 2014


What do you get when you mix a combat nurse, time travel, and Scotland? New show “Outlander”. The highly anticipated sci-fi drama with a dash of romance has already been renewed for a second season. American audiences have simply flocked to the show, and now it’s Canada’s turn. Why should “Outlander” be on your weekend itinerary? It’s set half in the 1940s and half in the 1740s. There’s a strong, capable, and witty female protagonist. We get to explore a strange time period with our time-traveler protagonist, and there’s a mystery to solve: how she ended up in the 1700s.


“Outlander” tells the story of Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a combat nurse in the 1940s. The war has just ended and she is on a reunion trip to Scotland with her husband, Frank (Tobias Menzies), whom she hasn’t seen in years. Their trip just so happens to coincide with Samhain – otherwise known as Halloween – a time in which ghosts are free to roam about, and anything can happen. So when Claire is suddenly transported to Scotland in 1743, she knows she must figure out how to get back. It’s a dangerous time to be English in Scotland; the two countries are enemies. Complications arise when she meets Black Jack Randall, then is found by the family of a young Highlander named Jamie (Sam Heughan). Claire finds herself in hot water, and instead of returning to Craigh Na Dun she’s held prisoner by unpredictable Scottish men.

“The war had taught me to cherish the present because tomorrow might never come to pass.”

“Outlander” is largely a character-driven story. Claire is an intelligent, strong, and outspoken woman who has had a rough life. She’s seen first-hand the consequences of war, and her separation from Frank has been hard. She’s confident and unapologetic. Even when completely terrified after traveling back in time she stands up for herself (and usually uses colourful language). She and Frank seem to be so much in love, and it’s wonderful to actually see a healthy, loving relationship depicted in film. Having them as the anchor for the show makes it easy to invest in the characters. The introduction of Jamie is also a strong aspect. While he’s severely wounded more than once, he’s also quite intriguing. He trusts Claire very quickly after they meet, and this creates a bond between them that will likely help Claire as she tries to navigate this strange time and place in order to return to her own time.


“Outlander” boasts a strong cast. Balfe is largely unknown in the acting world, having only minor roles in films like “Escape Plan” and “Now You See Me”. Heughan has appeared in various British TV shows, but he’s relatively unknown in Hollywood. Though neither have a very long acting resume, they are wonderful at bringing their characters to life. That being said, the best acting of the episode can be seen during the interactions between Claire and Frank. They seem believably in love. Huge props should be given to Menzies who plays not only Claire’s husband, but also Black Jack Randall (Frank’s ancestor). He carries himself completely differently as the barbaric English captain than he does as sweet and nerdy Frank.

“My journey has only just begun.”

The source material has so much going for it. It’s complex, funny, smart, romantic, and dark. A lot of fans have been worried the show would stray too far from the book, but it seems like they needn’t have worried. Much of the dialogue is right from the book, and I can’t think of any scenes which have been cut so far. Staying so close to the source material wouldn’t have been possible if it had been made into a film. It’s lucky that Ronald D. Moore was adamant that he make an “Outlander” TV show. I predict this show will continue to be a big hit with fans of the novel, and those who are new to the world of “Outlander”.


Overall, “Outlander” has started strong. While the pacing is a bit slow, everything is interesting and engaging. “Sassenach” sets up ideas, story-lines, and relationships so that we have something to cling to and root for when everything is turned on its head. The characters are wonderful, the plot interesting, and the acting top-notch. “Outlander” should be added to your Sunday itinerary.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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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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