Outlander – Season 1 Episode 1 – Sassenach – Review

Outlander (2014) is a historical multi genre television series based on the best-selling novels written by Diana Gabaldon. This was developed by Ronald D. Moore, and the opening episode was directed by John Dahl.

Starring John Heffernan, Nell Hudson, Caitriona Balfe, Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan.

Synopsis: The story begins in 1945 with combat nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) 6 months after the conclusion of World War II. She peers into a shop window and receives a flashback of her time there. We witness her nursing a dying soldier, and the harsh realities of war. After hearing the war has finally come to an end, there is much celebration.

Back to reality, and Claire travels with her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) to Inverness in Scotland to bridge the time they have spent apart since the war. He has accepted a teaching position at Oxford University which he is due to start two weeks from then. It is apparent their time apart has made an impact, and this is somewhat of a second honeymoon for them. They explore the sights, and become better acquainted.

After exploring the forest on her own for plants, Claire begins hearing strange buzzing noises. After inspecting further, they seems to be descending from a large standing stone. She edges closer and touches it.

Darkness, and Claire wakes up on the ground in what appears to be the same place; however, she has travelled back in time to 1743. After exploring, she sees red coat soldiers engaging in gunfire. They shoot in her direction causing her to run away. She stumbles across the double of her husband dressed as a red coat, and his name is Jonathan Randal (also played by Tobias Menzies). This is clearly an ancestor of Frank’s. He tries to rape her when suddenly she is rescued by a Highlander. After she screams for help, he knocks her out. She awakens and is taken to a safe house with other Highlanders. She gives a fake last name for safety, and meets a handsome injured Highlander named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). After helping him, she gradually begins to realise that she is no longer in the 20th century, and must find a way to return home.

After hearing rumours of these novels being adapted for years, it is good to finally see this story onscreen. As there is currently eight novels in this series, it is clear to see why this has been adapted for television.

I was impressed with the initial episode of this show. The majority of this episode establishes the protagonist Claire and her current life as well as some backstory. We see the trauma she has gone through during the war, but her resilience at getting on with her life.

It does seem like the target demographic of this show is aimed towards women due to the romantic elements along with a female protagonist; however, this would not deter me from watching the rest of the show and enjoying this story.

Caitriona Balfe is relatively new on the acting scene, and has recently come to prominence in movies such as Now You See me (2013) and Escape Plan (2013). She is very likeable, and there will not be a problem with an audience connecting with her. Her chemistry with Sam Heughan who plays Jamie Fraser (the main love interest in this story) is good, and this initial spark in the opening episode paves way nicely for the rest of the show.

Male or female, if you like a good love story, then I would recommend this show. It will not be the next Game of Thrones but seems to be shaping up as a nice adaptation to the popular novels.

By Robert Spence

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