Sorry to those of you in the U.K. who can’t watch the show, and for those of you who aren’t caught up, don’t read — there are lots of spoilers in this review.
As a quick aside, sorry also to my Scottish readers who were hoping for a “yes” vote this week in the referendum. See this post on i09 for an interesting discussion of whether the referendum is one reason the UK didn’t pick up this show.
For a good review that focuses on the sexuality of this episode, see the AV Club’s review. They cover it better than I can. Still as you’ll see below, I almost think it was too much about the sex.
So I’m going to focus on book versus show. In general, the show has been remarkably true to the book. Here are a few key differences:
First, the episode opens up with the wedding night and then tells the wedding in flashback. I found it disconcerting – why start there? Clearly, given limited time the focus here is on the wedding night, not the wedding itself. The other reason I can think of is to eliminate any tension around “will the wedding actually happen? Will something come up at the last minute?” It’s already happened and now you can just focus on what comes next.
A small thing, which I didn’t remember until I reread, the book has Claire and Jamie actually getting married in the same place Claire and Frank did 200-some years later. A ridiculous coincidence, so I’m happy they changed it. Claire and Frank’s war-time wedding in London makes a lot more sense. Really, there’s no need to freak Claire out any more than she already is — having the weddings in the same location is just piling it on.
Dougal propositioning Claire (again) was not in the book, but an interesting addition, especially as Dougal and Claire seem like a fascinating match for each other. Dougal’s power and intensity contrasts with Jamie’s youth and instability. On the other hand, this is probably more about Dougal’s competition with Jamie and his need to power-grab more than a sincere interest in Claire.
Last big difference, but this one’s important. Book-Jamie is a good deal wiser and more self-assured than TV-Jamie. Not in the sexuality department, but in the general relationship department. Sure, Claire’s been married before, but she’s a wreck, and he’s not. Book-Jamie is much better at saying the exact right thing at the right time. For example: he begins their wedding night by asking Claire for one thing in this marriage: honesty.
“I know there are things ye’d not wish to tell me, Claire. Perhaps things that ye can’t tell me.” … “There are things that I canna tell you, at least not yet. And I’ll ask nothing of ye that ye canna give me. But what I would ask of ye – when you do tell me something, let it be the truth. And I’ll promise ye the same. We have nothing now between us, save – respect, perhaps. And I think that respect has maybe room for secrets, but not for lies. Do ye agree?”
While the show has been great about using dialogue straight from the book, there were a lot of omissions in this episode. I understand there are time constraints here. For example, we get a montage about Jamie’s family rather than hearing about it, which bothered me. I really want Claire to hear about Brian and Ellen and Jenny, but I know they couldn’t cover all that in one hour.
Book-Jamie also asks Claire about Frank. I kept wanting Jamie to ask because Claire is so clearly obsessing about Frank. Book-Jamie doesn’t ask to make her feel worse, he asks to get it out in the open and let her know he understands. Which is a pretty big deal.
“Why did you ask about my husband, though?”
“Well, I knew ye must be thinking of him. Ye could hardly not, under the circumstances. I do not want ye ever to feel as though ye canna talk of him to me. Even though I’m your husband now – that feels verra strange to say – it isna right that ye should forget him, or even try to. If ye loved him, he must ha’ been a good man.”
Arguably, all this dialogue isn’t needed because the actors are conveying all this without words, but I still wanted it… if you haven’t read the book, what do you think?
As for the sex, I give this episode a thumbs-up, not just for the sexy parts, but for the painfully awkward parts as well. I love the way Gabaldon writes about sex. I’ve tried to explain why to my husband but have a hard time putting it into words. I’ll just say this – sex in Gabaldon’s world is messy and sometimes painful and sometimes one person needs it more than the other person. It’s not sex on a cloud, perfect every time.
On this theme, did you notice how prominent Jamie’s back scars are in this episode? Even at his sexiest moments, we’re not just looking at the nice parts, but his back as well. Which is important because it’s who he is.
Jamie’s first go-round looked painful for Claire. Watching her face, I found myself thinking of the hundreds of things that must be going through her head. One, she has to get the first time over with, so there, she’s done it. Two, she’s pretty disappointed but he is a virgin, after all. Three, she now has a tough choice to make. Once Jamie says, “well I heard women don’t like sex all that much”, she can go one of two ways. She can keep having perfunctory, quick sex with Jamie and not enlighten him to what she really wants. Or she can teach this guy who clearly wants to please her. If it sounds like an easy choice, remember that by enjoying sex with Jamie, she’s betraying Frank. Jamie is clearly all in when it comes to this relationship, but Claire’s got one foot out the door and her loyalty is to another man in another time.
If she moves this relationship to the next level, she betrays Frank and will ultimately hurt Jamie when she leaves. But here she is on her wedding night with this beautiful, kind man who clearly loves her.
As for Jamie, I will say this. I don’t know how one pulls off playing the world’s sexiest virgin without it being completely cheesy. But Sam Heughan does. Like Claire (Caitriona Balfe) he manages to convey a lot on his face without saying a word.
In the next chapter of the book, Claire writes this about Jamie:
As a lover, Frank was polished, sophisticated, considerate, and skilled. Lacking experience or the pretense of it, Jamie simply gave me all of himself, without reservation. And the depth of my response to that unsettled me completely.
Okay, now I’ve made the book sound like it’s all romance and sex, and it’s really not. But this episode certainly was.
Hope you’re enjoying the show! What did you think?