Starz’s Outlander Both Sides Now TV Show Review. Outlander: Season 1, Episode 8: Both Sides Now was a culminating episode, bringing together the best and the worst (in a good way) that the series has offered the viewer so far. New elements were added to the show through this episode including increased violence (of the fist-of cuff variety and of a sexual nature) and burgeoning love.
The stabbing / knife lesson scene was an enlightening moment and a surprising one. The viewer had been given no impression that the Scots knew detailed anatomy and organ placement to an exact degree, so much so that they could target those organs. Most people know where the heart and lungs are but what they mentioned showed an unbeknownst level of anatomical awareness.
It was a bit cliché that the stabbing lesson was immediately put into play within the same episode but it was used to visceral effect. It was unclear whether or not Clair’s assailant had been successful in his attempt to enter her but my guess is the latter. Her level of shock could have simply been the result of nearly being raped and killing someone for the first time in her life. Either way, the shakes and her analysis of them were interesting to see and hear, especially from someone so used to bloodshed and the results of armed conflicts.
Despite her best efforts, Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) feelings for Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) seem to be growing and growing. Regarding her morals, is it permissible for Claire to love one man to one degree and another to a far greater degree? If it is, Claire is the beginning stages of accomplishing that feat.
Like Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall (Tobias Menzies), Frank Randall is a character with limited exposure on Outlander. Because of that, he is one of the characters that the viewer has gotten to know the least. If he had been given the same screen-time as Claire up to this point, he would not have been as fascinating to watch as he was within Both Sides Now. His dialogue bestowed upon him intelligence and a doggedness when it came to the search for his absconded wife. The viewer also saw his growing disillusionment with his endeavor though he put on a brave face to all the eyes looking at him with sympathy.
It was the attempted robbery and Claire’s voice-over during it that added significance to the thievery scene. The idea of genetic pre-desposition for certain behaviors, while Frank lost control, using the skills taught to him while in the military, was the pay-off for all the episodes where he was not present. Even as he pulled back and mentally restrained himself, the viewer was rewarded by that action as well.
The second rape moment between Black Jack and Claire, presented in Both Sides Now, was far more graphic than the one in Sassenach, sharing lineage with the scene in Synder’s The Watchmen. Caitriona Balfe was brave in the nudity she displayed, making the scene authentic in its brutality. The scene also showed the viewer that monsters can wear the uniform of nobility. What went unexplained is Black Jack’s incessant need to rape Claire. How will that get him the answers he seeks? Will rape loosen her tongue? Or was he simply interested in the act?
The verbal chess matches, in this instance, the game of wits before the rape attempt, is one of the elements that makes Outlander a joy to watch. Claire continually gets the upper hand on Black Jack through words where he in turn must result to brute force, intimidation, and torture to get what he wants. The truly deplorable part, shown at the end of their “match” is that Black Jack possesses the intelligence to extract the answers he seeks through verbal methods but chooses to employ other, dishonorable techniques. When you have a rich benefactor, it would seem, you get to indulge your dark impulses to the extreme.
The rescue at the end of the scene was storybook in its execution, the relief it ushered in (to Claire and the viewer), its timing (good thing she screamed her location), and was as predictable as a Swiss-made clock. The last minute, last second rescue is classic storytelling seen innumerable times throughout cinema. It’s Screenwriting 101. It’s basic. There was nothing new added to this incarnation of it. How could there be? You can not reinvent something that is continually tweaked and modified endlessly. Jamie’s window moment was cool (for lack of a better word) though. Very Errol Flynn.
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