Outlander (2014) s01e02 – Castle Leoch

This episode features a scene where highlander heartthrob Sam Heughan fails to rescue a woman from being raped. It’s a flashback. Time-traveling World War II nurse Caitriona Balfe is just making intrusive conversation. The rapist is Tobias Menzies, who plays Balfe’s future husband and his present-day, eighteenth-century ancestor. Balfe mooning over memories of Menzies while his other visual representation is as a vicious rapist is another of the show’s wild swings but whatever. Let’s concentrate on the show making a point to objectify the victim.

When I thought “Outlander” was throwing the nudity into the home video releases, it kind of made sense. Dudes buy blu-rays, and dudes like pointless nudity. But “Outlander” is a show targeted at women. From a book series targeted at women. So Heughan is all heroic and fantastic for the women viewers, then there’re numerous shots of the victim’s boobs to appeal to the women’s male partners? Then there’s another pointless nude scene for Balfe.

I guess Heughan’s got very shiny pecs in a warm light scene but the show’s otherwise anti-beefcake. Just vulnerable women naked, both times without their consent. It feels very off and very odd.

The episode story pairs with the last one, with Balfe getting acclimated in the past while poorly narrating the experience. She’s overly confident in her knowledge of history, and it gets her in trouble. The show doesn’t think about the connotations of her being unreliable in her self-confidence, not even bringing in the narration being past tense so she’d be aware of her failings. There are some renaissance fair-ready costumes, an ally for Balfe in Annette Badland, and a pal in Lotte Verbeek. Balfe needs all the friends she can get because Graham McTavish is having her followed everywhere by a couple of his goons, and at least one of them definitely wants to rape Balfe. He wanted to rape her last episode; he’s ominously eying her this one; the other goon tells her to watch out because he’s rapey. So even though she’s seemingly safe, she’s not. Correspondingly, of course, no women are, and yet we’re supposed to like the dudes.

“Outlander” is very much a “the patriarchy isn’t real” type of show.

Balfe also meets the local lord, played by Gary Lewis. He’s McTavish’s brother and has a degenerative disease, so there’s a weird relationship between the two. Both give fine performances, even with the tepid writing.

Besides being boring and the narration being bad—not to mention the “but it’s realistic, so it’s okay” nudity—“Outlander”’s biggest problem is the thoughtless plotting. Also, in addition to the flashbacks, there are flash-forwards to inform Balfe’s character development. So "Outlander"'s also got the problem of being very cheaply told.

Though Heughan would make a good live-action He-Man, I guess.

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