blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Outlander (2014) s01e08 – Both Sides Now

At the end of this episode, I momentarily marveled at “Outlander”’s ability to bore and offend me for almost an hour, then make me care about the obnoxious characters on the screen. Then I realized it was just they’d finally threatened to rape Caitriona Balfe enough; I was moved when they didn’t. Especially since the second interrupted rape involved gleeful mutilation on the part of Tobias Menzies, playing an ancestor of time traveler Balfe’s husband.

The episode’s all about Menzies mooning over disappeared Balfe in the 1940s while she’s busy enjoying marital bliss with hunky highlander Sam Heughan in the past. Well, until it turns out public sex in 1700s Scotland is less safe than Balfe and Menzies’s public sex in 1940s Scotland, and a couple redcoats ambush them and decide to rape Balfe. It gets interrupted with a godawful slow-motion action sequence, and then Balfe wanders around recovering for a bit with emphasized side boob going on. Once again, it’s Anne Foerster directing, so it’s a woman doing her damndest to appeal to male gaze. And doing godawful action sequences.

In the present, Menzies is dealing with cops who don’t care—they’re trying to do them all folksy and charming, but they’re really just terrible men who hate women and don’t care what happens to them—and finally deciding he’s going back to Oxford. Turns out the figure he saw in the pilot episode was Heughan somehow in the future. Big yawn.

In the past, Menzies will catch up with Balfe—not caring she’s married to a Scot now—and she’ll blather in the narration about how she’s going to outsmart him using her future knowledge. It’s knowledge we got in the pilot, too, but it didn’t seem significant. Though none of “Outlander” is significant.

There’d be some potentially okay character development for Balfe, but it goes to pot for sensationalism and exploitation. Heughan’s gotten blander the more he moons over Balfe—I asked regular viewers if the stars ever got chemistry together, and they said yes, but I should’ve clarified good chemistry. Balfe and Heughan are so tedious together, the supporting cast is downright endearing when they show up. Including Graham McTavish, who’s not rapey this episode, so next one, beware….

It’s an exceptionally manipulative show, like the whole gimmick is how manipulative it can get, which I guess gives Ronald D. Moore (who gets the writing credit) something to do, but it’s atrocious storytelling. And Menzies is so laughably miscast they have to promise gore to make him threatening. But he’s still worse in the present as a potential cuckold.

At one point, it seems like Balfe might leap back home, and I know she can’t because there are a million more hours of this show, but for the sequence, I desperately wished she would, and it would be over. Alas, magical thinking is just that.

Anyway, Bill Paterson’s cute; shame he’s only it for three minutes.

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