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[Warning: This story contains spoilers ahead from Saturday’s Outlander episode, “The Reckoning.”]
Saturday’s return of Starz’s Diana Gabaldon epic Outlander featured a shift in its point-of-view — both literally and figuratively. The sweeping romance of Claire’s (Caitrona Balfe) narration and overall point of view in episodes like “The Wedding” has been replaced with the voice of her husband, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), in an action-heavy return for a series that has, up until this point, been far more romantic in tone.
With that shift comes Saturday’s midseason premiere, “The Reckoning,” both literally (it’s the title) and figuratively speaking. The gallant Scot is forced to encroach on enemy territory — Black Jack Randall’s (Tobias Menzies) lair — after we last saw Claire trying to reach for the stones that sent her back in time in the first place. Only … it didn’t exactly go as planned, sending her 1740s-era husband on quite the dangerous and involved quest order to save his wife from certain brutality.
Only, in an interesting twist, to result in their facing a marital brutality all their own: an epic fight and the subsequent punishment of the belt-on-skin variety. It’s a moment of abuse not previously seen in the otherwise largely romantic and idealized relationship. And it sets Claire, determined as ever, on a path toward asserting equal footing and respect in her relationship with Jamie. It’s a battle that doesn’t take sides in its storytelling, but certainly has its considered reasons as each character is concerned.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Heughan spoke about taking charge of the narrative, Jamie and Claire’s biggest problem and the darkness that awaits viewers in the second half of season one.
It’s nice to finally see the inner workings of Jamie and Claire’s unconventional relationship from Jamie’s point of view.
The first half of the season is all from Claire’s POV, and therefore we sometimes forget that this is only what she’s thinking or seeing. This is the first time we start to see that there’s another side, and so we see everything that Jamie goes through to get to the point that he ends up at the window, which is a cliffhanger from the first half. The fallout from that is the argument and the fact is he has to punish her and we had to understand why exactly he does that and what danger she put them through. It will certainly get people talking.
That’s what gives the show its dynamic, because as complicated as Jamie and Claire’s relationship is, it’s also incredibly — and sometimes shockingly — honest.
That’s right. He’s a very straightforward kind of guy and in that way he’s very lucky. He almost instantly fell for her in the first part of the season, but it’s a very complicated issue because she has this past and they’re from different time periods and therefore they never really see eye to eye — there’s always that barrier between them. We’re starting to learn that he may not be as clean cut or perfect as he may appear in the first part of the season. We start to realize he has his past as well, and some failings: he’s stubborn and he’s proud and he has relationships that he hasn’t dealt with in the past, so we get to see a lot more of the other side of him and his character.
What did you think of doing an entire episode narrated in Jamie’s voice?
It really marks the beginning of the second half of season one, and the change that’s coming. We discover a lot more about Jamie’s past and [the series] really begins to show the background of these characters. The second part of the season really digs into the relationships and the tests and challenges they face.
He’s always been shown as someone who’s so moral and proud — do you think his morality gets in his own way? It seemed to in this episode, when he insisted on giving Claire that bum-lashing.
(Laughs.) Absolutely it gets him into trouble. Especially his pride and that’s one of the enduring things about him, when he puts his mind to something that’s the way it is and he can be quite stubborn about it, but in that way so is Claire and that’s the constant source of conflict for them. Since they’re both very stubborn and headstrong, ultimately what happens is they fall out and have to work really hard to come to some sort of agreement. I think that’s the mark of a healthy relationship and actually it feels like a very modern one in that way.
Do you think that Claire’s modernity is rubbing off on him? The diplomacy and forward-thinking he displays when he resolves the Colum and Dougal standoff felt different from the Jamie we’ve seen prior.
I think so, yeah. I think he’s really growing up. Every relationship that you’re in always teaches you about yourself and how you react to other people and certainly in the Colum/Dougal relationship, you see it lead him to better understand his relationship with Claire and what he needs to do in order to find a resolve. We see a man who basically grows up — or at least he goes from being a man with no responsibilities to being the one to make the choices about who he wants to be: Does he want this relationship and where it is going in the future? It’s a journey that every person goes through at some point in his or her life. [Sometimes] you have to really make some choices
That touches on this idea that the show works with so often: using sex and power subversively to angle and give depth to its characters. What is it like being an actor in those final moments of the episode when Claire has Jamie by the throat and balls?
I think it feels strong. If it wasn’t there the show would be completely different and maybe something else. It’s really important and unsettling as an actor — we’re constantly having to ask to reassess who we are and who our characters are — and it’s amazing. I don’t want to give too much away for the end of the season but, it calls into question a lot of the things we think we know about the characters and I think it’s going to constantly surprise people and I think that’s an important thing in a show, so the audience doesn’t get complacent.
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz. What did you think of the episode?
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