Based off the novels by Diana Gabaldon, “Outlander” follows the story of Claire (Caitriona Balfe, “Now You See Me”), a young army nurse whose single touch to a henge circle transports her to the Scottish Highlands in 1743. Torn between two worlds, Claire must make the impossible decision to remain in the past or return to the present, where a previous life awaits her return. This dualism, emphasized often throughout the series, was especially poignant in the premiere of the third season of the steamy series, as both Jamie (Sam Heughan, “Doctors”) and Claire struggle to adjust to a life without one another.
This is mainly accomplished through quiet scenes that are able to speak volumes, sometimes without uttering a single word. Moments as simple as a man playing bagpipes on the corner of the university reminds viewers of the double life that Claire has not only lived, but continues to live. A Scottish song playing quietly and unexpectedly on the streets is the perfect metaphor for the new lifestyle which Claire is struggling to adapt. Though she has returned to her own time and is living happily in Boston with her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies, “Game of Thrones”), a part of her still remains in the Scottish Highlands with Jamie. Cooking over the fire rather than on the stove, she responds almost automatically that her husband much prefers it — the line that once separated Jamie from Frank is beginning to visibly blur.
What makes a series like “Outlander” so different from shows of a similar nature is its ability to portray the historical reality of gruesome battle scenes. It’s easy to create a wonderfully brutal battle scene from scratch, but to portray a moment in history alongside the familiar characters is something special indeed. The Battle of Culloden, from which the aftermath is depicted in the first half of the season premiere, is one of the most significant clashes in British history in a struggle against the Jacobite rising. Gruesome and bloody, “Outlander” holds nothing back in depicting the battle and the fall of many of last season’s heroes. Most of which is told through flashbacks as Jamie relives the most gruesome moments of battle in his isolation. From walking through the woods to lying atop a pile of fallen Jacobites, Jamie is obviously living in his own personal hell, mourning the loss of Claire all the while.
Though each season brings a new chapter into the lives of Jamie and Claire, one thing that fans can always count on are the misty eyes that are likely to occur when watching “Outlander.” Whether it be through Jamie’s anguish conveyed in a single look or the young Jacobites who are physically led to their own execution, this season is no exception to the pulling of the heartstrings. As much as Jamie suffers, as does Claire, which is, of course, reflected in a more modern sense. Deciding to complete her education in medical school, she faces blatant discrimination which serves to remind us of a time not so long ago. But it’s not only her professional reputation that suffers under the weight of another life. At home, Frank smoothly accepts Jamie’s child as his own, though he struggles to share Claire with Jamie. But with good reason. Even in the throes of passion, Claire cannot look Frank in the eyes, preferring to simply make love to her husband. Except her husband lies separated in the past by 200 years and far across the Atlantic.
Not only does the “Outlander” premiere encompass the best of the series, but also the best of the reality of Claire and Jamie’s situations. While it’s obvious that Claire’s marriage to Frank is all but destroyed by her devotion to her rough and rugged husband, it’s a sharp blow to see the mournful reality of a marriage destined to fail play out on screen. However, as Jamie struggles more than we’ve ever seen him, we cannot help but anticipate a welcome reunion between the lovers. After all, history does have a tendency to repeat itself.