Droughtlander is officially over, and it’s about time. (Get it?) I don’t know about you, but a whole year and a half sans Jamie and Claire has taken its toll on my memory, so before we dive into the major events of the season 3 premiere, “The Battle Joined,” let’s quickly recap where we last left off with these time-crossed lovers.
After a tumultuous season full of Parisian intrigue, loss (Baby Faith), gain (Baby Fergus), and some (but not enough, IMHO) sex, season 2 ended with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) returning to the 20th century on the eve of the Battle of Culloden. She and Jamie (Sam Heughan) have tried and failed to stop the inevitable course of history, and now, it’s time to face facts. Claire is pregnant, and won’t be able to survive the aftermath of one of bloodiest battles in British history. Jamie, on the other hand, is prepared to die for his fellow countrymen.
In 1948, three years after she first went through the stones, Claire is reunited with Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies), her first husband who is just the tiniest bit suspicious about where his wife’s been all this time. By the season finale, the two have called a shaky truce: they will raise Claire and Jamie’s baby together, and start a new life in Boston, where Frank’s gotten a teaching position at Harvard University.
And as for Jamie?
Season 3 opens on a tattered Scottish rebel flag — the same one that will later be used to represent Scottish independence in the 20th century, but of course, no one here knows that yet.
It’s the end of the Battle of Culloden, and...things are not looking good. There are piles of dead men everywhere, most of them Highlanders. The British have won, and it was bloody. Those who aren’t already lying dead are being speared like shish-kebab on bayonets.
Jamie is among the mounds of corpses strewn about the field, only he’s breathing. Barely. It’s hard to catch a breath when you have the weight of a British officer splayed on top of you. The good news is that the British can’t see him under that red coat, so he looks safe for now.
While he’s lying there, flashbacks from the day come back in snippets. Finally, we get to see the lead up to the battle. Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower) is just as insufferable as ever (“Mark me, James!”), and at this point, the only person convinced that victory is nigh. As we know, because history, it’s not. (Side note: Every time I see old battle scenes, I genuinely wonder how there are any survivors at all — how does one avoid slashing swords, musket balls, AND cannons all at once?)
I have to hand it to director Brendan Maher, the weaving of the violent battle scenes with the quiet sadness of Jamie lying half dead is very effective. In one scene, Rupert (Grant O'Rourke) and Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix, back from escorting the Lallybroch men to safety) meet Jamie on the battlefield. In another, Jamie chokes a soldier to death with a mouthful of grass.
Eventually, Jamie comes face to face with Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). In the middle of the chaos, these two mean to have it out. Interestingly, it’s the only moment in this battle that’s truly saturated with color — in sharp contrast to the outcome, which shows a dead Jack rolling off Jamie’s body in the grey night. Outlander has always been very good at highlighting the complexities of their relationship, and this scene is no different. It’s almost sensual, despite the grotesque context.
Unfortunately, Claire is actually Rupert, who has come to help Jamie escape the carnage, something he’s none too pleased about, given his whole plan to die in battle. As he's dragged out from under Black Jack, the dragonfly congealed in amber given to him by Claire falls to the ground. (I assume we will be seeing it again, perhaps in the present?)
Cue 1948, where Claire and Frank are house-hunting in Boston. They seem moderately happy, and Frank is incredibly sweet for a man dealing with an adulterous pregnancy and a wife who clearly doesn't love him anymore. (Team Frank!)
Claire is struggling with regaining the use of modern conveniences (can one still drive after three years spent in the 18th century?), and makes a new friend when her neighbor helps her carry in some firewood to cook dinner a la 18th century Scot (i.e. in the fireplace).
As it turns out, being a woman in 1948 isn’t all that different from 1746. Women are still expected to tend house while the men work, and the conversation always seems to revolve around husbands. When Claire mentions that Frank is pretty progressive for his time, Millie the neighbor laughs — her husband is not.
“He’s like most men in this world who don’t want their wives doing anything out of the ordinary," she says. "Just cook, clean, raise the kids, look pretty when they meet the boss. You’re lucky. You won’t find another man like Frank again.”
Claire makes a face, presumably because she found another progressive hottie approximately 200 years prior. Later, we see her getting ready for the aforementioned meeting with the boss. He is the worst, and suggests that Frank should watch his wife’s reading habits — she dares to have political opinions! (“The next thing you know she’ll be trying to let women into Harvard Law!”) Frank, whose progressive streak has its limits, just smiles awkwardly while very politely trying to defend his wife, with little success. No matter how open-minded he is for the time, he is still of his time.
Back in the past, Jamie has ended up in a farmhouse nearby, where he's holed up with other survivors from the battle. They’re all in pretty bad shape, and Rupert, bless him, is keeping everyone’s spirits up. No one’s seen Murtagh, or knows if he survived, which is unacceptable. FIND HIM.
Suddenly, British soldiers enter the building. Commander Lord Melton gallantly informs the Scots that they are to be shot like soldiers (not hanged like traitors — how nice), and have an hour to prepare. (Some historical context: the Duke of Cumberland, commander of the British troops and brother to King George II, made it his business to crush any hint of Scottish national pride in the aftermath of Culloden. Gaelic, tartan, and other forms of clan allegiance were banned for centuries, and all survivors found to have participated in the rising were to be executed, earning him the nickname "The Butcher Cumberland.")
In the present (which is what I'm calling anything not in the 18th century at this point), Frank is facing a similar life or death challenge, namely how to get used to American tea bags vs. English loose leaf. Claire wants to apply for American citizenship as part of their fresh start. “I want our child to have a real home," she says.
Overjoyed at the phrasing (“our child") Frank tries to take her hand, but she shies away. She’s still not over Jamie. This angers Frank, who after all, has been making an effort to forget that he is not this baby's father. The truth is that this isn't about citizenship at all. As always, it all comes down to sex — or more specifically, lack of sex. Basically, Frank wants some. Claire isn't ready, and tells him to go fuck a grad student, cementing the sentiment by throwing a vase at his head (she misses).
The British have started carrying out their orders at the farmhouse, and Rupert begs for mercy for the two youngest members of their group. They are BABIES, but apparently that's no excuse. The two give their names to the clerk for records, and go together to be shot, and I will never recover.
Gordon Kellogg asks Jamie if he wants to him to write a letter to his wife. “She’s gone," he says. Outlander does an excellent job of portraying male intimacy and feeling. Just take Kellog kissing Jamie’s hand before facing the executioner. It’s not sexual, just truly moving.
Jamie and Rupert tease us with some classic banter for a second before the latter volunteers to be next to face the firing squad. Even at the end, he is the best, and I can't accept his death. (“I mean to set a quick pace, so try to keep up.” SOB) Jamie’s face = All of us RN.
(In the midst of all this drama, Claire's waters break while Frank is writing to Reverend Wakefield, trying to get more information on one James Fraser. )
With all the ambulatory wounded dead, the British have to carry out the rest. Jamie volunteers to go first, but unfortunately when he gives his name (James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser) Melton recognizes him. It seems his brother was John Grey, the obnoxious kid Jamie spared before the battle of Prestonpans in season 2, earning him a debt of honor. (I love these oaths, “God’s blood!”) Melton, therefore, cannot kill Jamie without risking shame on the family, so instead, he dumps him in a wagon and sends him back to Lallybroch under cover of night. If he dies on the way, it won’t be on Melton’s head. Win win.
While Jamie is bumping along rough roads, Claire is in labor in a Boston hospital. OF COURSE the doctor talks right over Claire, the person who is A) giving birth, and B) a nurse, in order to get answers from Frank, whom I love but wouldn’t know a cervix if it hit him in the head.
Claire hadn’t told Frank about her miscarriage, which makes things a little awkward, but ultimately, this is a happy/scary time for both. He tells her he loves her, and she doesn’t answer, but to be fair she is in labor.
Despite her express wish not to be put under, Claire is given an injection, and sinks into oblivion. Cut to Jamie, who wakes from his comatose state and stares up at a very distressed Jenny and Ian, back at Lallybroch.
Upon waking up, Claire's first question is whether or not the baby is dead, which is brutal but also a throwback to last season. All is well this time, however — Frank has the baby, and she’s a healthy little Brianna.
Can I just say, Frank was made to be a little girl’s dad. He is gushing. Moved by his reaction, Claire apologizes for her behavior since she got back. The two reconcile, and even kiss over the prospect of a new beginning. It's all very lovely, until the fucking nurse comes in and spoils everything by asking about the baby’s red hair. Frank is... not a redhead.
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