Monday, November 5, 2018

Outlander 4x01 Review: "America the Beautiful" (The Notion of an Infinite Circle [Contributor: Araceli Aviles]

"America the Beautiful"
Original Airdate: November 4, 2018

“There’s something about the notion of an infinite circle that fascinates me.”

These are the words Stephen Bonnet says midway through the premiere of Outlander’s fourth season premiere. With this one statement, Bonnet’s words lay the course for the season ahead.

The symbolism of a circle is everywhere. Whether it’s in the journey that brought Claire to, from, and back again to Jamie in the 18th century, or in the two rings she wears for the commitments she made, the pattern is the same. Things that were thought lost can come back full circle. Why else would the first scene of the season be at a new set of stones, in America, in 2000 B.C.? I won’t spoil the season for all the non-readers, but seriously, read between the lines.

The very first teaser released for Outlander’s fourth season — almost a year ago — was Claire and Jamie sitting atop the hills dreaming of what America will become. It’s a nice story — even nicer for the Frasers given their prior knowledge that in just eight years, the British will go to war once again, and this time they’ll lose. For the families who lost almost everything after losing the Highlands, that’s some comeuppance.

However, remember where we are now: North Carolina, 1767. America is still under British control, just like Jamie’s beloved Scotland. Which means as far as the rule of law goes, we’re a long way off from fair trials. Jamie watches his friend Gavin Hayes, who killed a powerful man in self-defense, hang in the first five minutes of the hour. Yet Scottish pride is strong in the colonies, and this is one of many points which draws Jamie to America.

Though the Frasers had every intention of going home to Scotland, Jamie gets an offer to stay and become an agent for the British. Jamie would do a lot to protect his family, but given his history and knowledge of the future, there are lines. Nevertheless, there is one person drawing him to stay, and it’s not Claire. Remember what I said about circles? Recall that there is a young girl, living some two centuries ahead in time, whose home is the United States of America. Brianna Randall (Fraser) is more American than the British or Scottish she is by blood. Jamie knows this. Having never met his daughter, he’d give anything to be close to her. Being on the same continent, even separated by time, is better than nothing.

So the entire Fraser clan decides to stay: Jamie, Claire, Fergus, newly pregnant Marsali, and traumatized Ian. Poor Ian. Geillis did a real number on him, much more than we realized. It’s understandable. Ian was a sheltered boy craving adventure, and got much more than he bargained for. As it was, Geillis was a formidable opponent for Claire and Jamie and they have had their share of experience with evil. But they have each other, whereas Ian had no one. Cue the introduction of the newest member of the Fraser family: Rollo! Not two minutes onscreen, I was in love with that dog. Anyone else?

(As a side note: while Ian was negotiating his stay in America with Jamie, all I could think was, “I wouldn’t want to be in the room when Jenny finds out.”)

But we were forewarned that life would not be rosy for Claire and Jamie. If ever there were a couple who deserved a break, it would be them! It’s not as if they don’t get their time alone. Given how their passion hasn’t tempered since their wedding night, it’s not a stretch to think they’d combust if they didn’t get alone time!

The thing to be admired about Claire and Jamie is how, though they change through the years, the core of who they are remains the same. Their resilience, strength, innate kindness, and intense stubbornness make them equal in measure and will. The qualities they share have kept them alive, even if they did cause some wicked fights between them (but then the make-up was worth it wasn’t it?) And let’s just admit that a husband is pretty close to perfection when he gifts his surgeon wife a box of high-end medical tools.

It’s not as if Claire could afford to be a material person with all the traveling and danger she’s been through. As soon as Claire started talking about how much she loved her wedding bands, we should have known there’d be trouble. This season, that trouble comes courtesy of Stephen Bonnet — a pirate who pays the Frasers back for their generosity by raiding the few precious items they have, including Claire’s wedding bands. You would think the Frasers would be better at spotting a weasel in weasel’s clothing. This is NOT what Ray Charles meant when he sang “America the Beautiful.” But Claire knew that too, given how she related the displacement of Native Americans to the Scottish Highlanders. There’s that circle again.

Hopefully, after a little time digesting the unfortunate end to that opening hour, you’ll go back and re-watch the opening credits for some clues of what’s coming this season. Stop reading right now if you want to be surprised! A few images to draw your attention to for the coming weeks: the Fraser family home, Claire laying a black man to rest, a 20th century Scottish festival, a woman’s hands on (presumably) the stones of Craigh na Dun, the journey of a few Native Americans, and one foreshadowing image of a man writing notes while holding a hand-drawn portrait of Brianna.

So Outlander fans, what are you most looking forward to in season four?


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