Outlander Season 3 Premiere Review: “The Battle Joined”

Two words exited my mouth when I finished watching the Outlander premiere, ‘The Battle Joined’: Good Lord. To be fair, it’s a phrase I often use when I witness something that doesn’t seem to have words that match an experience. Frankly, Outlander’s season 3 premiere was less an hour or so of television, and more an experience through Jamie and Claire’s eyes.

There wasn’t a second wasted, from beginning to end, especially the riveting and beautifully shot battle scene intersected between Jamie lying in the field among dead bodies, to the carnage itself. Beautiful and carnage are not words that often, or ever, go together, but that’s the power of Outlander.

As much as I’d like to detail every single part I noticed, I’m going to do things a little differently for the premiere, so it’ll be between Jamie, and Claire’s stories.

Jamie

James Fraser, even if he 100 percent believed otherwise in those moments lying on the field, is a survivor. Sam Heughan, you wonderful man, I truly don’t have any words to accurately describe the phenomenal acting in those scenes: from the scenes while the fighting was going on, to lying there weak and hurt. His final fight with Blackjack, matched eye to eye with the wonderful Tobias Menzies, is the kind of storytelling you can’t fully praise because there aren’t enough positive adjectives in the English language.

I had no idea how the battle scene would play out, and when I initially watched this episode squeezed into a seat next to my friend Lizzie, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. She later made fun of me for not speaking a word, but that’s the kind of miracle Outlander pulls off from just a battlefield fight with Highlanders and the English.

His vision of Claire was ethereal and heartbreaking, because you knew it couldn’t be her, while simultaneously wishing with everything you’ve got that it was. Skipping to the hideout, you could see in his eyes he accepted that he was likely going to die. I’m not ashamed to admit I was bawling when he made peace with Rupert and how he marched to his death trying to take care of everyone till the very end. I’m going to miss you Rupert.

Even though I had read the book and had a vague memory of how Jamie would survive, I was still surprised at how it played it on screen. You imagine it in your head when you read the words on the page, but everything they did blew my own imagination out of the water. Jamie wanted to die, hurt, heartbroken and defeated, but in a twist of fate, because there’s no other word for it, he was sent home to Lallybroch. The start of his 20 year journey was a tough one but God bless Sam for making it absolutely real.

Claire

Catriona Balfe has long since climbed the list of actresses I will watch in whatever they act in due to her ability to pop out of the screen. Claire is back in the time she left by accident three years prior, and while she made her choice to put down roots, it’s easy to see how hard it was to leave the ones she’d believed she’d never leave, two centuries behind.

Despite my heartbreak over her and Jamie’s separation, her willingness to survive and even live with Frank was the equivalent of staring at someone who was given a life sentence they didn’t ask for and is literally making the best of it. I don’t mean to say it’s a harsh one, not by any means, as Frank, bless his heart is trying as hard as he can, for a man who saw his wife come back after three years pregnant with another man’s child.

Sadly, and portrayed with as much subtlety as it was said plainly, they’re divided by Claire’s former life, and reconciling what they had before doesn’t seem like a possible goal. But the effort, and their immensely palpable joy at meeting Brianna, tugged at my heartstrings, and I found myself hoping it would be alright. Kudos to the writer’s team for breaking that bubble by asking about where the red hair came from.  

Final Thoughts

I’ll cut to the chase, ‘The Battle Joined’ was a masterpiece of a premiere. Setting Claire and Jamie’s journey as if they are standing back to back facing their futures without each other and surviving in completely different but somehow equally difficult ways. The directing, writing, everything was so spot on, I barely missed the teasing from Lizzie after first watching she couldn’t get a word out of me afterwards, haha. Outlander has that effect, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of it plays out this season.

Outlander returns with an all new episode next Sunday, September 17, at 8pm, on Starz.

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