Monday, March 23, 2015

Outlander Series returns- here's a sneak peak from guest writer Spencer Blohm

The highly anticipated second half of the Outlander series is set to premiere on April 4th. Anticipation is something that this series does very well. In a media landscape largely reduced to sound bites, this series completely immerses viewers into the ancient world of the Scottish Highlands, providing an antidote to our increasing dissatisfaction with instant gratification. Based on Diana Gabaldon's award-winning series, the first half of the 16 episode first season was so popular that it set a new Starz network record, with 3.7 million viewers. Now with the second half of the season coming soon, it’s the perfect time to catch up on what happened in the first half. Obviously if you haven’t seen the first half, this will contain spoilers but you can quickly catch up on the series through platforms like DTV and Vudu.

Successfully blending romance, historical, and science fiction, the story begins with Claire Randall,(Caitriona Balfe), a British army nurse, being transported by the ancient magical stones at Craigh na Dun from WWII era London to the year 1743 in the Scottish Highlands. As a result her husband Frank's (Tobias Menzies) life is transformed into a never-ending search for her. Shortly after she’s dropped in the Highlands, she is rescued from falling into the clutches of Captain Jonathan (Black Jack) Randall, an ancestor of her husband and a British commander, by the MacKenzie clan.

Along with Claire, whose survival depends on it, viewers learn the complexities of the clan's familial relationships and political affiliations within its historical context (the series takes place during the peak of the Jacobite risings). The core of the clan consists of its leader, Colum Mackenzie (Gary Lewis), his younger brother Dougal (Graham McTavish), second cousin Rupert (Grant O'Roarke ), and nephew Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Membership and it's privileges are earned through loyalty, as in the case of Jamie's godfather, Murtagh Fitzgibbons (Duncan Lacroix) and occasionally, marriage, as in the case of Ian Murray (Steven Cree), married to Jenny Fraser Murray (Laura Donnelly) Jamie's older sister.

Although the clan suspects Claire of being a British spy, her healing skills, honed as a nurse during WWII, help her earn their protection, as well as Jamie's devotion. She is, however, a protected prisoner at their castle, as clan members use various methods attempting to extract information from her. Geillis Duncan (Lottie Verbeek), also a healer, uses subtle interrogation, while Angus Mhor (Steven Walters) prefers a knife to the throat. Claire's knowledge of future history and her well-intentioned attempts to dissuade them from what she knows to be the ultimate futility of their political goals further arouse their suspicions of her.

In response to the internal conflict caused by her attraction to Jamie and her desperation to return to Frank, Claire tries unsuccessfully to shift Jamie's attentions to Laoghaire Mackenzie (Nell Hudson). As Claire's attraction grows, so does her desperation to escape the castle and her proximity to him. She finally succeeds in escaping from the castle, but is prevented from returning home.

British suspicions that she is working with the rebel Jacobites result in Captain Randall calling her in for questioning. Her responses anger him, which prompts Dougal to suggest that she and Jamie marry to avoid further questioning. Their wedding night provides an equal opportunity for release of all the sexual tension that has been building between them since they met.

After Jamie saves Claire from an attempted rape, he teaches her how to protect herself. Killing the next man who tries to rape her leaves her in shock and desperate to return to her own world, despite her love for Jamie. Just as she reaches the stones, through which she can hear Frank crying out for her, she is captured by Captain Randall. The season ends with Jamie arriving just as he is about to assault her.

Frank's character, more developed in the series than in the books, has won the sympathy of viewers. There are now perhaps just as many viewers anticipating her return to him as there are anticipating her future with Jamie. To further fuel our anticipation Starz has released new promotional images (with a very significant difference from the originals) as well as a new promo clip for the new episodes, leaving us practically salivating with anticipation. Well played, Starz, well played.

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