End of the Season Review: Outlander Season 3

Droughtlander has officially begun, and I’ve taken some time to cultivate my thoughts on the latest season of everyone’s favorite time-traveling, Highlander drama (and my second favorite show of all time).

I’ve got quite a bit to say, mostly focusing on the finale since it’s fresh in my mind. Though I’ve got plenty to say about the rest of the season as well.

First, we need to start off by taking a moment to appreciate the masterpiece above. This season’s main promo poster makes me want to cry. It’s so beautiful, and I think I did honestly tear up a little when I first saw it. Outlander has some of the best promotional posters.

I could easily break this review into two parts because the season is noticeably split between the first and second half. I’m going to keep it as one review though. The 3A and 3B storylines come together really well, whereas last season’s A and B storylines felt much more cut off from each other. Basically, you know you’re starting a new “season” when the opening credits change.

We ended Season 2 with Claire declaring that she “to go back”, but that’s not where the new season picks up. We go back farther and get to see the lives that Jamie and Claire lead during their 20 years apart. Mind you, both characters believe a future reunion is impossible. Claire thinks that Jamie died in the Battle of Culloden, and Jamie thinks he’s lost Claire to the stones. He knows that technically she’s still alive (just 200 years in the future).

I did talk a little bit about the beginning of this season on my Tumblr. I was a little frustrated by how painfully slow and flat everything felt, but I also noted that I think we’re supposed to feel that way. The tone is purposeful. We’re supposed to feel like something is missing. We need to feel the same heartbreaking loss that both Claire and Jamie feel during their time apart. Their anguish truly resonates with viewers. It’s a risky move, but it pays off. The show feels hollow without Jamie and Claire together, which makes their reunion that much better.

Once again, A+ acting from Catriona Balfe. Claire’s modern day storyline would’ve been almost unbearably boring to watch without her stunning screen presence. She holds every single scene with a unique mixture of strength, brashness, and grace. Honestly, she’s one of my all time favorite actresses to watch on screen. Tobias Menzies is also a joy to watch. Those two make a monotonous storyline, rooted predominantly in emotional turmoil, and create something riveting. You can’t pull off that type of storyline without amazing acting.

Obviously, you don’t want to drag that on for too long though… and I don’t think they do. Each episode starts to pick up the pace as the first half of the season progresses. Granted, I find Jamie’s storyline (once he’s in prison and onward) a lot more interesting and entertaining than anything Claire’s doing, but good on her for becoming a doctor and staying with Frank for Brianna.

One of my favorite lines of the season…

Regardless, I still love Jamie’s storyline more. That is, after he gets to the prison and meets John Grey. Everything before that is reminiscent of Claire’s emotional arc. It works for an episode, but then you need to change it up, which they do.

Sam Heughan shines, as per usual. He’s so unfairly overlooked by award shows! I don’t understand it at all. His big episode with the Dunsanys was the one that would’ve (and should’ve) gotten him the nomination this year, but alas… snubbed. Though if they didn’t give him anything after the Wentworth episode in Season 1, is there really any hope? My favorite moment is when he leaves Willie. The facial acting is top notch.

#SamHeughanSnubbed

I’ll probably keep saying this until I’m blue in the face, or award shows come to their senses, but Outlander is extremely overlooked and snubbed by award shows. If it were on any other big network, like HBO, they would be racking up the nominations. I talked more about this topic in my piece of about STARZ as a network and the evolution of its shows.

Outlander has reached the point of getting a huge amount of media coverage, winning polls, and being the shining glory of STARZ, yet still no awards. It’s considered one of the most bingeworthy shows on television and beloved by critics, yet still no awards. It makes no sense.

The second half of Outlander’s Season 3 is where the season really started to get good for me, and why it’s probably my favorite season thus far, though that may not be a popular opinion. As a whole, Season 3 is quite the feat.

To summarize: We start off with Jamie and Claire separated by 200 years. We see all of the 1940s-1960s events with Claire, Brianna, and Frank. We also see Jamie’s 1740s-1760s events with the battle, prison, Willie, and John Grey. Claire travels back, and we get the Big Reunion. Some Edinburgh drama ensues, peppered with some Jamie and Claire drama. Then we’re on the ships sailing to find Young Ian for awhile. Jamie and Claire are separated again. Claire gets stranded on an island and almost dies. Another big Jamie and Claire reunion. Everything that happens in Jamaica. Geillis returns. More time on the ship. The hurricane hits. Claire almost drowns. And finally… we conclude in the American colonies. That’s an insane amount of ground and story to cover in one season.

 

The Good:

You compare the first episode to the finale, and it’s a totally different show. They cover 20 years in one season. And we travel to a lot of locations. It’s quite an adventure, and that’s why I simply adore this season. The stakes are high. The romance is stronger than ever. And, aside from one part that I’ll mention below, the pacing and tone fit the story perfectly. We start very slow and then go barreling head first into new territory. It’s refreshing and exciting to watch.

1. John Grey

A beautiful angel. I love him so much. He’s also the #1 Jamie Fraser Stan, which is highly relatable.

I look at Jamie Fraser the same way too.

2. The Whole Second Half of the Season – aka The Voyager

There’s so much adventure, and I’m a sucker for sea-faring storylines.

3. Any and all focus on Jamie and Claire’s romance. 

Let’s be real, the plot is great, but this is what carries the show to its True Glory. Without Jamie and Claire’s top notch chemistry and passionate connection, there would be no Outlander. All of this is heightened by their separation at the beginning of the season. As the audience, we can really feel that loss. Watching the show, you feel a little empty, like something is missing, and that’s purposeful.


4. Jamie & Claire’s Reunion

This technically goes with everything I just mentioned above, but I feel like it deserves its own shoutout as well. The reunion was one of those moments where the tension has built up so much that you can’t even believe it’s finally going to happen. And it’s only five episodes in. Everything about it is exceptional. Also, this reunion refers to Claire and Fergus as well. The Fraser Fam is together again. Well… minus Brianna.

That moment when you’re not sure if the episode is gonna end
just before she reunites with Jamie

5. Jamie and Willie

I love seeing Jamie as a dad, but it breaks my heart that he hasn’t been able to have a normal relationship with any of his children. Faith died. He’s never met Brianna. He has to pretend to be a servant to Willie, and then leave. At least he got to raise Fergus, but even they’re separated for awhile this season.

6. The Return of Geillis Duncan 

I spoiled myself by accident, so I knew she was coming back. I knew she was the decapitated skeleton. But wow… her return is truly visionary.

Geillis’ scenes are filmed so wonderfully. I know that I rave a lot about the acting, but honestly Outlander has some of the best performances on television right now. Lotte Verbeek switches effortlessly back and forth from the terrifying black widow we see when she finally graces our screens once more, to the tender friend we saw back in Season 1. She’s a puzzling character, which is why I love her. The link back to Claire’s life in 1960s Boston is my favorite part of this. It’s just awesome storytelling.

7. The Underwater Scene

He kisses her to give her air! I started bawling on the spot. Everything about that scene is riveting. Claire’s voiceover, the music, the cinematography, and the kiss itself. It’s such a magical moment in what was a pretty lackluster finale overall.

8. Jamie and Claire’s Chemistry

The look they share right before the wave hits the ship. The look they share at the Governor’s Ball. The look they share on the beach after they almost die. And Jamie gazing at Claire under the stars on The Artemis. All of these moments are subtle, yet filled with so much passion and emotion. I didn’t think Sam and Caitriona could have anymore chemistry, but somehow there seems to be even more woven into their scenes that truly depict the longing they felt after a 20 year separation.

 

The Bad:

1. New Fergus

I just… I don’t know if I’m feeling it. The actor is good, but I grew so fond of young Fergus. The change is alarming and borderline unbelievable. There are just too many times where I don’t believe that we’re watching Fergus Fraser. I think it also doesn’t help that his romance happens just as alarmingly fast as the casting change. I always prefer slower burn relationships.

2. The Finale 

There is such a thing as an amazing season with a not so amazing season finale. And I felt like Outlander fell under this curse last season as well.

The Season 3 finale felt so rushed. It’s almost like they realized it was the finale and scrambled to tie up every loose end into a neat, tidy bow. The pacing doesn’t match the rest of the episodes at all. You could easily split the finale into a part one and part two. The second half is phenomenal. The scene where Claire is drowning and Jamie rescues her is one of my favorites from the entire season. I think the scene where the pacing is most obviously rushed and messy is the ritual with the island natives. It felt like a staged play where Important Characters come on stage and everything unfolds, but it just doesn’t work here. I’ve said that Geillis’ return is one of my favorite parts, yet her motives, or rather the show’s motives, are super weak. It does tie in with the overarching time travel plot of the series, but it also feels super random and weird. 

3. Why on Earth is Jamie Fraser a fugitive AGAIN?

Just WHY? I’m so tired of that storyline. We finally wrapped all of that up in the beginning of this season, but now we’re back to it again? When is he NOT a fugitive? I get that him being a fugitive fuels a lot of the plot in the latter half of the season (Claire jumping off the ship for instance), but I’m ready for Jamie to be a free man.

 

I’ve seen people complain that Voyager, the book, has too much going on, and this season didn’t have enough episodes to cover it all. Aside from the extremely rushed finale, I disagree. I love that the pacing starts slow and then speeds up. Most comments I’ve read about the season are extremely nit-picky. If your biggest issues are tiny details that “don’t make sense” (most of which can actually be explained pretty easily), then you really don’t have much to complain about. This is a historical, time- traveling, drama… suspend your disbelief a bit.

Let me delve into some of them…

“How do Jamie and Claire survive the storm?” 
Jamie is able to save Claire because they’re in the eye of the storm. The water is calm enough for him to find her. Them washing up on shore is definitely a toss up for realism, but it’s also not that unlikely. That’s the part where I can suspend my disbelief because historically that probably did happen to some very lucky people.

“Why does Jamie kiss Claire underwater?”
To give her air! I thought that was rather obvious (and such a beautiful shot). He doesn’t just peck her on the lips and stop. He’s literally kissing her as they float to the surface.

“How does Claire know that the pool is the time conduit?” 
Well… for starters, it’s glowing. There isn’t much else in that cave. And also Claire’s smart.

“Why is it always about Jamie and Claire? Why did they just stare at each other on the beach?”

If you thought their intense stare during the final scene on the beach was weird, selfish, or awkward, then you’ve completely missed the mark on what this show is truly about. Outlander is a romance before it’s anything else, and that scene is a perfect representation of the show as a whole. They may be washed up on foreign land, but they have each other. And for Jamie and Claire, in a season that started with them separated by 200 years, that’s all that truly matters.

Ultimately, the show is about them (for now). Until we dive into Brianna and Roger’s story, which will start next season, all other characters are secondary to Jamie and Claire. In Outlander, the world revolves around them. They’re passionately encapsulated with each other, and so is the show.

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A born and raised Marylander – My talents include: passionately defending under-appreciated women in history and fiction, looking at the clock when it’s 11:11, and collecting shades of red lipstick.

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