TV Review: “Outlander” – “The Garrison Commander”

Written by Caitlin Cooper October 03, 2014

Outlander

Ever since the first episode of “Outlander” in which Claire (Caitriona Balfe) touched a standing stone at Craig na Dun and traveled back to 18th century Scotland, Claire’s found herself in danger. The political interactions between the English and the Scottish have pretty much assured she’s caught in the middle of a brutal time in history. In the previous episode, called “Rent”, Dougal (Graham McTavish) and his men continue to treat Claire with cruelty; this time, there was a witness. This witness happens to be a redcoat and is determined to help out Claire. But Claire isn’t sure who she can trust, and her web of lies is being spun faster and faster.

 

Aside from the plot, the best thing “Outlander” has going for it is its stellar cast. Thus far, I cannot say there’s been any particularly weak acting, and this has made it easier to become engaged in the story. It almost seems like the role of Claire was made for Balfe because she does so well in bringing the character to life. Claire’s go-to mode of conversation and survival tactic often involves a battle of wits – though she’s no stranger to breaking a stool over someone’s head if they attack her. This episode, perhaps more so than any so far, requires that Claire rely on this talent. She has to lie and charm the English so they’ll help her be free of the MacKenzies. This is probably her best opportunity to finally be on her way back to the standing stones so she can travel to her own time. As an Englishwoman, she’s welcomed…by all except for Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), who makes a surprising appearance and shakes up the foundation she managed to build with the other Englishmen.

“I do hope my adventure is now over.”

I can’t say this enough: Menzies is one of the best actors on “Outlander”. He’s been tasked with portraying two very different characters, and he plays each role well. His talent really shows, however, when he’s donning the wig, red coat, and mocking smile. The thing about the acting in this episode of “Outlander” – and the script – is that we all want to believe the Captain isn’t all bad despite trying to force himself on Claire. No character can be so black-and-white, right? Claire clearly wants to believe this too because her husband, Frank, is a descendant of the Captain’s and the two have an uncanny likeness. In short: he’s a master manipulator who sees through Claire’s lies. For her, that means extreme danger especially since he seems to find torturing people to be a form of art. Despite the Captain’s darkness, we almost fall for his act until he fully drops the facade and reveals that he actually is cruel 100% of the time.

Outlander

The interaction with Randall also gives us more insight into how Jamie (Sam Heughan) got his scars. We already knew Randall was the one to scar him, but in “The Garrison Commander”, we get to see it done. The flashback scene is dark and gruesome which is exactly the intention of Randall. This flashback also provides a more fleshed out background of Jamie. He suffered excruciating pain, but managed to be snarky despite his fear. The sequence brings us closer to Jamie since we are better able to sympathize with him now that we’ve seen exactly what he experienced.

“I can only legally refuse to hand you back to Randall if I change you from an English woman to a Scot.”

Since Jack doesn’t trust Claire, and fairly ruins the other Englishmen’s opinion of her, she finds herself in more danger than ever. She can’t even rely on the English; indeed, it seems everywhere Claire turns she finds people who suspect her of being a spy. It’s clear now more than ever that she desperately needs to leave the 1740s and go back to the 1940s, but how can she do so when she’s never really left alone by any of her captors? Dougal’s plan to save Claire is to force her into a difficult decision that isn’t much of a decision at all. What Claire does next will determine her fate.

Outlander

Overall, the latest episode of “Outlander”, called “The Garrison Commander”, is one of the best yet. The script and acting is very high quality, and we learn a lot about various significant characters. I, for one, am interested to see where this show will go and if Claire will ever really be safe.

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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