blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Outlander (2014) s01e06 – The Garrison Commander

How are you supposed to take “Outlander” seriously? There are three severe eye-roll moments this episode, two of them so close you don’t have time to refocus. The third is right after a thoughtful half-eye-roll when someone will decide to hinge a consequential decision on utter nonsense, and the other person in the scene won’t acknowledge it.

I’ll just identify the other person—Caitriona Balfe—because she definitely ought to comment on the last eye-roll and a half since she’s the narrator, and it’s dramatically relevant. However, not having her comment on the big cliffhanger, when “Outlander” just leans in heavy on being a cheap romance novel, is the show’s biggest failure to date, and “Outlander” ’s basically just a string of failures.

Of course, the show’s other two most significant fails also happen in this episode, and it’s just a race to the bottom.

The first big fail is Tobias Menzies as the evil ancestor of Balfe’s loving husband. Menzies chews and chews at the scenery, but he never manages to bite at any. Even as the show sets him up for too-easy-to-fail moments of villainy, Menzies overacts it, and the moments—even when they’re disturbing—flop. He gets outacted by every single person in the episode, including the bit part subordinates and a non-speaking Sam Heughan.

Heughan doesn’t have a good episode, but it’s not his fault. He’s just in flashbacks for most of it, and when he’s got to figure into the unbelievably basic, silly, and obvious finale twist, there’s nothing to be done. No one could do any better with the material.

Now on to the other big fail: Balfe. Her character makes some profoundly stupid decisions this episode, decisions the episode knows are profoundly stupid and can’t present in any other way. Except Balfe narrates the show, remember—does she really not learn from her mistakes or have any self-awareness whatsoever?

It’s another episode directed by Brian Kelly; I could check to see if they ever replace him but why bother. Ira Steven Behr gets the inglorious honor of the script credit.

There’s some okay support from John Heffernan as a dipshit British general and then Tom Brittney as the one good guy amongst the British.

I guess having Menzies flop so resoundingly does make Balfe and Heughan’s performances seem better. But the only actual good acting is Graham McTavish. Bill Patterson’s got a few seconds of screen time and no lines.

It’s a silly show. Historically accurate costumes and whatever aside, it’s a silly, silly television show.

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