“Outlander” is clear about the difficulty of changing history: After two seasons of striving, Culloden still happened. But it is equally clear that individual choices count, and that working toward a better future gives the present meaning. Several moments this season made Claire aware of the precarious position of Native Americans: the government’s bigotry, Otter Tooth’s ghost, Adawehi’s murder, settlers’ violent suspicions. This episode made her debt to history explicit and immediately forgot it — Otter Tooth’s worst fear coming true. So much for “New world, new ending.”
This season had its moments. The Fraser fallout was compelling, Lord John’s ascent to Best Beard in the Colonies was fun, and some supporting characters got moments to shine. But over all, the season was marked by scattered storytelling, rushed relationships and engaging history to no good end. Let’s hope next season finds focus, and remembers a few of those promises.
• Done well, the cyclical reappearance of characters in each other’s lives reflects something deeper: inevitability, mythology, the rhythms we understand and expect in stories. Otherwise, you get the Eagle River scene in “Hot Shots.” (Watch Roger process the news that the man who raped Brianna is the only other person he knew in the entire 18th century.)
• “How could you think such a thing?” The manhandling, Roger. The public arguing and manhandling is how.
• Duncan Lacroix and Kennedy sell the connection between Murtagh and Jocasta. That said, Jocasta has been an amoral force who isn’t bidding for our sympathy, and putting her with Murtagh is definitely a bid. I wonder if the “it’s better to fight than stand by and do naught while good people suffer” stuff changes her mind about the slave owning.
• It was also a little jarring to see Murtagh in bed with Jocasta immediately on the heels of this call to action — then again, it’s not as if watching Brianna and Phaedre make friends was any less awkward. The ethical implications of hanging out on a plantation is an issue this season just could not manage.
• Really good work from Bear McCreary scoring Ian’s farewell.
• I wonder about the timeline of the parallel Fraser plots. Obviously they kept back Roger’s big rescue and Ian’s farewell for the finale, but that trip was several months north and several more back. How long were Claire and Jamie trudging back without Ian or Roger while Brianna was hanging out with Lord John? Was Roger learning about Brianna’s pregnancy while she was in labor? It’s interesting to think about how a less elliptical chronology might have changed the season’s pace. Imagine several episodes of Claire and Jamie riding home alone, worried about Ian and Brianna, with Roger nowhere to be seen.