Starz released the first episode of Outlander online before the official release date, and of course I watched it immediately. Here are my random thoughts on the first episode.
I’m really going to say it: the show is better than the book! If – like me – you enjoy some aspects of the book but have serious reservations about others, then give the show a go anyway. Like me, you might enjoy it more.
Outlander starts in the Scottish Highlands in 1945, but then sweeps us back two hundred years in time. It is gorgeously-filmed, with great music, fantastic casting, and a sense (if you haven’t read the book) that you have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next.
A few points:
- The first half of the episode if a bit slow. Don’t give up on it. It’s slow because it’s trying to condense the long, boring opening sequence of the book. The backstory is needed to set up future things, but yes, it’s a tenth as interesting as the second half of the episode. It is saved, however, by:
- The great casting. The character of Frank, Claire’s first husband, never made much of an impression on me in the book, and I got the impression Claire didn’t think he was all that great either. But he is perfectly cast, and I really enjoyed Tobias Menzies in his scenes (and how different he is when playing the other character). And speaking of Claire:
- This is the casting I thought was going to ruin the show. What kind of crazy person casts a supermodel with essentially zero acting experience to carry an entire, epic television show? Yes, Catriona Balfe is FAR TOO TALL for the role. She looks a little ridiculous next to some of the actors, and characters (like Jamie) who are supposed to be very tall (and the actor IS) look short next to her.
- However, I should have given Balfe the benefit of the doubt, because she’s really good in the role. Claire in the book isn’t a particularly nice person, and I think her character has been tweaked just a teensy bit in the show to make her a more sympathetic heroine. This is a Claire I can cheer on.
- Then there’s Jamie. The #1 reason most women will be tuning in. I thought Sam Heughan would be good in the role, and he has the credentials to prove it. But I didn’t think he would be GREAT. And I think he is. Having seen him do a lot of interviews and promotional things, as well as seeing him in some other roles, I was prepared for one type of Jamie. What I didn’t realise was that he’d totally transform himself. This is Jamie in the show, not Sam playing Jamie.
- The opening credits will get stuck in your head for days on end – I guarantee it. Do yourself a favour and research the reason the song was used.
Outlander holds up well on the screen. No, it outshines the book. Why? For starters, because the book is as thick as ten phonebooks piled on top of each other (I exaggerate a little), and it’s dense with too much irrelevant detail. The show gets us down to the essentials of the story and the characters, but also stays so, so true to the source.
The show is still told from Claire’s perspective. I was worried about the voiceovers I knew they were using, but they usually work. However, we’re also able to get outside Claire’s head, which means I don’t have to put up with selfish and mean thoughts!
There are some truly ridiculous moments coming up in the book, and because of that, this show is never going to be 100% perfect. However, I’m definitely on board for this version of Jamie, Claire and Frank’s story. I already like it a thousand times more than I expected.