I’m not sure what it is about this season of Outlander, but the second half especially has been wobbly, with uneven storytelling and pacing. It’s a shame, since this is my favorite book in the series, and I’m left to wonder if the early renewal for a season four didn’t hurt it a bit. With previous seasons, there has been enough of an overarching story to carry it, as well as tight storytelling, but it seems this season has relied so much on Jamie and Claire’s separation from each other that it’s neglected the other relationships in their lives.
As the season closes, we see a pretty much dead Claire, floating in the oceanic abyss. Before we even have a chance to process what’s going on we pop back in time a bit to see Geillis hiding Ian away when Claire is caught snooping around the property. The two play a bit of verbal chess, with each knowing the other is lying, but neither sure of each other’s motives. Geillis is convinced that Claire is intentionally trying sabotage her attempts to restore a Scottish king, regardless of how often Claire tries to convince her that she literally just wants to live her life with Jamie. Geillis, having killed nigh on four husbands by now, doesn’t quite understand this devotion until Claire tells her that the only reason she even left before Culloden was to give birth to and protect her and Jamie’s child. And this is where I start to face palm. Claire knows Geillis is dangerous and a wackadoo. She knows she is a murderer and obsessed with a Scot king… and she tells this dangerous psychopath about her daughter? The one person who is both willing and able to travel to the future to do harm to anyone who gets in her way? That just doesn’t compute. Either way, Geillis, upon hearing about Bree and seeing her pictures (and snagging one), presumably lets Claire go, setting her up in a guest room.
Meanwhile, a somewhat incarcerated Jamie is pulled from the clutches of Leftenant Captain Leonard by none other than John Grey himself, who insults, berates, and smacks down Leonard in the most British way possible. It’s beautiful and amazing. It’s one of my favorite scenes, and if I had one regret about this season, it’s that we didn’t see nearly enough of the British officer.
Once Claire is set up in a guest room, she immediately tries to find a way to free herself and search for Ian. She doesn’t have to look far, since he’s being carried away literally outside her window. Claire hears someone coming, and is ready to clobber them, but stops short when she sees it’s Jamie. The two hustle off to save their nephew.
What follows is… I’m not even sure how to describe it. One thing I have appreciated so much about this season is the changes they have made to characters like Yi Tien Cho, making them less caricatures and more in depth, three dimensional people. That all seems utterly lost in this scene. The backdrop to Jamie and Claire searching for Ian and Geillis seems to be a ritualistic dance around a fire by Geillis’s slaves. There is a brief moment where Claire sees them and has a flash to the dancers at Craigh na Dun, but rather than the time dedicated to watching the graceful dancers in the premiere of the series, this time it’s a pretty fucking racist bit to build up the tension in the scene. It would be one thing if the audience was given any context to this ritualistic dancing and animal sacrifice, but the most we really learn is from Yi Tien Cho, who is conveniently there to rescue Jamie and Claire when they’re caught spying. He tells them that he and Margaret are there to read people’s fortunes, and I guess we’re supposed to glean from that and the flashes to the dancing witches in Scotland that this has something to do with Geillis and Young Ian in the cave. It’s a pretty broad brush to paint and a really homogenous view of Geillis’s slaves. It’s very unlikely that they were all from the same culture before being brought to Jamaica, and the scene implies that, because they are all black, then their rituals and cultures must therefore be the same. It feels like an unusually insensitive approach for the show to make, especially since it took such care to show the difference in the Scottish Highland culture vs the English back in season one.
Margaret joins them and gives some barely sensical fortune telling about Jamie and Culloden and Claire talking to birds way back when, and then seems to turn into an entirely different person. An American person who calls Jamie “Father”, says that she dreams of him and calls Claire “Mama” before becoming terrified of a “monster coming for her.” Soon brother Archie shows up and yells at Margaret for reading fortunes for free, because why not? Claire quickly surmises that Bree must be the 200 year old baby Geillis was talking about, and rightfully loses her shit. She and Jamie head to the cave Abandawe while Yi Tien Cho all casual-like kills Archie Campbell for treating Margaret like shit.
Once in the cave, Claire and Jamie see Geillis setting some gems up and Young Ian hogtied, ready to be sacrificed. Claire can feel the portal calling to her, and Jamie insists that should anything happen to him, she must go back to keep Bree safe. Geillis’s slave Hercules holds Jamie at gunpoint, but soon there is a scuffle between the two men. Geillis tells Claire that she owes Geillis a life, Bree’s life to be specific. Turns out the pool in the cave is the portal, but before Geillis can kill Ian and hop in, Claire practically decapitates her. I’m guessing there’s no coming back from that. Jamie frees Ian, and while he’s at it, grounds Claire when Geillis’s blood seems to heighten the pull the portal has on her.
When they’re outside, Claire starts to go into a bit of shock as she remembers talking to Joe Abernathy back in ‘68 about a woman who got her head cut nearly clean off some 200 years prior. The implications of this are huge, as far as time travel theories go. This would suggest that Claire is in some sort of time loop, fated to make all of her choices, since that is what her reality was in her own time. But, Outlander doesn’t delve into these yet, because there has to be some hugging and some fucking.
Jamie and Claire waste no time in hopping onboard a ship to Scotland, and enjoying their privacy while onboard. It’s an extremely sexy scene in which no sex actually happens, but Jamie explains all the things he wants to do to Claire when he has the chance. The scene is all foreplay and then cuts to the afterglow… which doesn’t last long since there’s a major fucking storm battering the ship. Soon enough Clare is swept overboard and we’re back to the opening scene, with Claire underwater, tied to a sail that is pulling her down. It is an incredibly beautiful and ethereal shot, especially when we see Jamie swimming to her. He reaches her and, I’ll be generous and say he breathes his own air into her lungs, rather than simply kissing her. He pulls her unconscious body to the surface and some debris from the now long gone ship, threatening to kill her if she dies.
Eventually, we see him wake up on the beach of some unknown land, being poked by a stick wielded by a little girl. Claire is conveniently nearby (though I’d pull my hair out if they were separated again), and Jamie is able to wake her. Soon a man and woman join them on the beach, telling them that yes, there are other survivors and that they’re not on an island, but in the colony of Georgia. We’ve made it to America, folks!!
Well, that does it for season three. There were some good moments, but overall I felt the last half really lost focus, lingering too much on certain aspects of the story (Claire wandering the island alone), and not taking enough time to let other aspects breathe (Laoghaire and Jamie’s marriage and all those implications and consequences). Like I said earlier, I’m not sure if the show suffered some from an early renewal, but I feel like once the show didn’t have the clear objective of getting Claire to Jamie again the writers lost their way, narratively speaking. There were some great things and people to come out of this season, such as John and Young Ian, an adult Fergus is absolutely someone I want to know more about, along with his new wife. Claire and Jamie together are always better than when they’re apart, of course, but I would like to see the world expanded a bit more, and Starz certainly has the talent to make it happen.
Now the question remains: Will Starz be optioning the Lord John Grey spin-off series? I would happily watch John lay the fucking smack down all over the goddamn world.
Did you enjoy season three? Thanks for reading along with me! I’ll be back in 2018 with more Outlander!