Outlander The Battle Joined Review
Starz’s Outlander: Season 3, Episode 1: The Battle Joined featured a pivotal battle spoken of for multiple seasons of this TV series. The Battle of Culloden did not live up to the hype but what surrounded it and ran through it did.
James “Jamie” MacKenzie Fraser (Sam Heughan)’s survival of the Battle of Culloden was never in doubt (especially with the promotional materials released for this season). How Jaime survived became and remained the tantalizing quandary to be answered during The Battle Joined. Much like the deleted Sutter Hill battle scene in The Last Samurai, Jaime utilized his state and the dead to escape death, which had encroached all around him before and after darkness had enveloped the battlefield. “Mark me,” the flashbacks in The Battle Joined were effective but the way they were situated throughout the episode was less effective as they increased in number. I didn’t want the writer to give me everything at once, I wanted the writer to dole out key events for maximum effect. That happened with dramatic panache during the season premiere of The Walking Dead: Season 7 but in The Battle Joined, it might have gone on for one scene too long.
For all of his sexual viciousness, Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall (Tobias Menzies) turned out to be a lackluster swordsman and knife-wielder. His fight with Jamie Fraser was more operatic than cinematic, their mutual hatred for each other on full display as each tried to gain the advantage over the other.
When each seemingly delivered mortal wounds to the other, each holding themselves upright by sheer force of will, wanting to be the last man standing, it was the apex of their battle (and unsurprising, no one else took part or tried to interlope on it – a common trope in films and TV shows). As one of the combatants collapsed onto and into the arms of the other, it was a twisted version of a loved one falling into their beloved, to die in the arms of the person that cared about them the most. Horror TV show viewers saw a version of this in the series finale of Hannibal yet it was no less potent in The Battle Joined. In both TV series, the main characters despised each other on some level. In Hannibal, the chief male protagonist and antagonist also had a level of respect for one another. In Outlander, there was only animus.
Even in near death, neither Black Jack or Jamie Fraser wanted to let their hatred go. It was left ambiguous whether Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall was dead or not. It seemed as though he had not moved in hours. That and clotting may have kept just enough blood in his body for Black Jack to survive. Black Jack had escaped death and had been seen unconscious so many times in Outlander it was difficult to know if it was definitive or not, even with Claire Beauchamp Randall/Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) saying that the Battle of Culloden would include the moment of Black Jack Randall’s death.
Claire Randall’s disharmonic home life in the 20th century with Frank Randall in The Battle Joined wasn’t ambiguous. Frank still held onto the hope that the Claire that disappeared over two years ago would return out of the sheer force of his will, understanding, and an overabundance of kindness showered onto her. What Frank had erroneously discounted was the fact that he looked and sounded like the vilest, most violent, and loathsome human being that Claire Randall had ever met. That very same man attempted to rape her on multiple occasions, raped Jamie Fraser, raped Claudel ‘Fergus’ Fraser, and beat his own beloved brother’s corpse to a pulp. That was who Frank looked like. That was who Frank sounded like. That was whom Claire saw and heard when she was in Frank’s presence.
After Claire told Frank everything that had happened, an emotionless, honest Frank would have said that there was no way that a person so traumatized could ever love him or not recoil at his touch. Android Frank would then have packed his bags, filed for divorce, said goodbye, and would have never seen Claire again (for the peace-of-mind of them both). Frank Randall was no android. He was not emotionless. He loved Claire as much as he did when she first disappeared. Frank wanted that Claire back. He didn’t want to be believe that that Claire was gone, that that love was gone. It was. Fighting that truth was fighting reality itself.
Before Claire gave birth in The Battle Joined, Frank Randall had come to realize that (hence his stay or go statement). Brianna “Bree” Randall’s healthy birth was a fire hose of joy into Claire Randall, especially after everything that Claire had lost that year. That joy supplanted common sense and the past in Claire so that for a moment, she was able to place the past in the past and see Frank Randall for who he was and who he had always been – a man that loved her and wanted to share in her joys and pains. Under that sheen of jubilation, Claire said things to Frank that gave him hope again. Claire rekindled a fire in Frank that had almost puttered out from lack of nourishment. It was a tragic moment in a moment of exultation, one on which Frank Randall would potentially subsist for years.
Regardless of the state of their marriage, what neither Frank nor Claire could subsist on or abide in The Battle Joined were the antiquated notions about women propagated at a social gathering. Watching one of the academic heads of Frank Randall’s university drone on and on in condescension about women to Claire and all the people gathered around would have been hilarious if those views weren’t shared by many in power during that era. Those around the caveman, including Claire, tolerated what they heard because of the power the caveman wielded, nothing more, nothing less. No one was going to endanger their position at the university by directly speaking out or against the caveman. They indulged his notions while their eyes and facial expressions spoke volumes, especially Claire’s. After what she had been through, including surviving two wars, I was surprised (at first) that Claire was able to hold her tongue. After being forced to be in the presence of so many truly evil men (in Jamie Fraser’s time period), tolerating the caveman must have been a walk in the park for Claire Randall.
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