[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Outlander” Season 3 Episode 5, “Freedom & Whisky.”]
If the second episode of “Outlander’s” third season was a showcase for Jamie and the important things he’s been through during his separation from Claire, Sunday night’s fifth installment was all about bringing Claire back to the forefront of the conversation by all but ignoring Jamie until the hour’s closing moment. Following Frank’s death, it was hard to feel sympathy for Claire, so this episode also served as a form of redemption. We followed her work and home life following her visit to Scotland and saw what a bleak, Jamie-less future could potentially mean for her, but that outlook didn’t last long when Roger returned with some not-so-shocking news about one A. Malcolm, the Edinburgh printer who wrote of whisky and freedom.
The holidays are often a brooding time for those who have lost loved ones or feel alone, so showcasing the Randalls’ first Christmas without Frank felt entirely appropriate in terms of exploring how Brianna is coping with the shock of it all. Searching for Jamie gave her purpose and a desire to learn about her own identity; when that search proved futile she was forced to return to a world in which not one but two of her fathers were dead. Add in Claire’s long hours at the hospital and Brianna lashed out at her mum as Frank predicted before his death, as the daughter moved out and dropped out of school in order to follow her own path.
In the end that was one of the narratives that needed to happen in order to make Claire’s return to the past once an acceptable one, both for audiences and for Claire herself. With her daughter out of the house and starting her own life (presumably with Roger in the near future), Claire had an easier time saying farewell to her daughter, knowing that she would be all right.
Going Old School
Although the scenes at the hospital felt a touch pointless (we all know Claire is a surgeon now), it was cool to see some of the older equipment used during that time as she and Joe operated. Not “The Knick” kind of cool, but it was definitely an impressive set for the little time we spent on it.
In terms of standalone scenes, however, we’re still scratching our heads over the jarring montage that was Claire sewing her perfect new outfit. Why we needed an entire scene — set to the period-appropriate “Batman” theme song, nonetheless — is unclear, but it felt out of tune with the rest of the episode. Especially since, at this point, we’re all just waiting for the Claire and Jamie reunion, and anything extraneous leading up to that moment feels like pointless filler.
Lobster Rolls and Boston Cream Pastries
For every extraneous Claire moment, the scenes featuring Brianna finally gave us new and much-needed insight into that character. Given how little time has actually been dedicated to getting to know Jamie’s daughter it was a welcomed change, one that perhaps wouldn’t have been possible in the narrative had Claire rushed back in time. Now that Claire is back, though, and Brianna and Roger seem to have found their groove together (what’s more intimate than spending Christmas together, anyhow?) the rest of Season 3 could easily leave the budding lovers behind in order to focus on Claire and Jamie’s adventures as a newly reunited couple. That’s a shame for those who still feel the verdict is out on Brianna, but at least we know she can source a killer lobster roll and Boston cream pastry.
Muddling the Puddle
Meanwhile, Claire’s actual transition to the past felt rushed, and didn’t carry any of the weight of what going through those rocks actually brings. We know it’s hard for her to make the journey because she’s said as much to her daughter, but the story glossed over that by using a monologue about puddles from the book instead, automatically transporting Claire from one vehicle to another.
It was a beautiful transition, to be sure, but after spending so much time talking about the plan it would have been nice to see it come to fruition rather than simply jumping into it. As it stands the quick treatment at least allowed a quicker reunion between Claire and Jamie — if you can call Jamie fainting at the sight of his supposed dead wife a reunion, at any rate.
By the Book
Brianna never leaves Roger in Scotland when Claire returns in Diana Gabaldon’s third novel, “Voyager,” so all of the Boston scenes, school scenes, and Christmas scenes were completely conceptualized for the show and to give Brianna more depth. Since the third novel never really follows Brianna’s point of view (save one conversation with Roger told from his point of view, in which she admits to feeling alone) it was a way to open up the character and allow viewers in. Meanwhile, Brianna was a huge driving force in why her mother eventually went back to the past to reunite with Jamie, even surprising her the morning of her journey back at the rocks and insisting that if Claire didn’t go through, Brianna would.
Now isn’t that a journey we’d all like to see.
Next week: Jamie and Claire finally reunite but a happily ever after isn’t necessarily in the couple’s cards. “Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz and on W Network in Canada.