[This is a review of Outlander season 1, episode 4. There will be SPOILERS.]
Any series, even one as well-produced as Outlander, is nothing without a strong cast to hold up its foundation. In this week's episode, titled 'The Gathering,' the men take center stage proving that they have the chops to keep this sprawling story from collapsing under the pressure of its own grandiose weight.
Claire continues to be brilliantly portrayed by Caitriona Balfe, with Ronald D. Moore and his team of writers crafting one of the better female characters currently onscreen. Ms. Balfe, like Tatiana Maslany from BBC America's hit-series Orphan Black, is a welcomed newcomer to the world of dramatic television. Do you agree?
Okay, so let's get back to the men of Outlander; specifically Dougal MacKenzie. Actor Graham McTavish (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies) possesses a wonderfully ambiguous strength, which makes his character difficult to read. 'The Gathering' shows us several versions of who this man might be. When drunk, he turns into a cliched brutish pig of a man who thinks only with the wrong extremities, as he attempts to sexually assault Claire in a darkened hallway.
In contrast, toward the episode's conclusion, after seeing Claire gracefully usher one of his fellow comrades into the afterlife, Dougal does his best to "apologize," or at least thank her for her kindness. So, which instance better fits the man? Perhaps a little of both? It will be interesting to see what happens between Dougal and Claire on their trip.
With any good drama, like Game of Thrones or even Mad Men, characters who choose to live in the "gray" moral spectrum are far more interesting than those clearly marked as good and evil. Thankfully, Outlander has chosen this path for its diverse set of characters. Jamie is another player in this story whose motivations still remain shrouded. What is our handsome young Scotsman looking for?
From the very first time we witness Jamie's thrashing while trying to defend his sister's honor, it's clear that he's no ordinary man. He's highly educated, as he speaks fluent French to Claire this week, and his skills at politics are also keenly sharpened.
The scene when Jamie had to choose between pledging fealty to Colum or choosing not to was well-directed. Jamie's choice to honor Clan MacKenzie the way he did was a smart move. Colum now adores him more than ever and Dougal no longer sees him as a threat to become the new leader. Dougal and Jamie's fight at the end of the episode was heartwarming, as the two seemed to put their complicated pasts behind them, for now. How long do you think their peace will last?
With Claire, Jamie and Dougal all going on a "road trip" next week, there should be some exciting adventures on the horizon. Will Claire get any closer to the stones at Craigh na Dun? Also, what did you think of the cameos by author Diana Galbadon and creator/executive producer Ronald D. Moore?
Outlander continues with 'Rent' next Saturday @9pm on Starz. Below is a special look at Diana Galbadon's cameo: