Outlander Season 3 premiered with lots of action and the birth of a character that viewers met during the finale of Season 2. Written by Ronald D. Moore, who developed Outlander for television and previously wrote for such science-fiction favourites as Star Trek: The Next Generation and the 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica, “The Battle Joined” didn’t answer many questions about what direction the show will take, but it did show viewers Jamie’s return to Lallybroch and added some tantalizing layers to Frank and Claire’s often tense relationship.
Rather than recapping “The Battle Joined,” I’ll talk about my impressions of this episode and how things might unfold over the next eleven. So grab yer shield and sword, lads and lassies. It’s time fer battle, ye ken?!
“The Battle Joined” – The Never-ending Sword Fight
This episode bordered on poetic: the parallelism of Jamie’s meeting Black Jack Randall in combat at the Battle of Culloden while Claire struggles to reclaim her 20th century life with Frank worked to great effect. That both Jack and Frank are played by the talented Tobias Menzies made these parallel struggles plain enough for even the most casual of Outlander fans. Claire and Jamie may be separated by a couple centuries but their struggle is practically identical. Both must stave off their insatiable hunger for each other during their respective battles with Jack and Frank. But playing against expectations, although Frank is a decent man who loves Claire and Jack is a homicidal maniac, it might just be Claire who has the harder fight ahead of her.
In the 18th century, we see Jack and Jamie doing battle for what seems like hours: they grapple with and slice at each other long after the battle and its other combatants have died down. Having both scored crippling blows to each other early on in their combat, they eventually collapse on a heap of corpses in a macabre lovers’ embrace. But even though viewers last see Black Jack lying face down in a corpse pile after Rupert rescues a weakened but very much alive Jamie from the battlefield, one can’t help but wonder if the interminable psychopath will come sneering back into Jamie’s life at some future inopportune moment. Let’s hope!
“The Battle Joined” – Time to Buy A New Ashtray
Back in Boston in 1948, Claire has difficulty adjusting to modern life. The workings of her gas stove confound her and the prospects of her social life seem pretty grim. Her only companionship throughout the days promises to be limited to infrequent visits from a nosy neighbour who seems to loathe her own husband. And, trying to make an impression on the dean of Frank’s department at Harvard, Claire is reprimanded for reading The Boston Globe.
For his part, Frank is relatively patient with Claire as she adjusts to the chauvinistic customs of the ‘40s but Claire’s somewhat withdrawn habits and the couple’s complete lack of marital intimacy weighs heavily on Frank. A few ill-considered words about Claire’s 18th-century infidelity wins Frank nothing and terminates the functionality of a perfectly good ashtray when Claire hurls it at his face — luckily, he dodged it.
“The Battle Joined” – A New Beginning … ?
Viewers are treated to a faint ray of hope for Claire and Frank after giving birth to Brianna. Although Claire has to put up with a lot more chauvinism and a forced sedation from the doctor delivering her baby, Brianna is born healthy and the unfortunate couple has a rare moment of bliss. The two resolve to put aside their differences and begin again. But like many similar promises made by many couples throughout time, the saying is easier than the doing.
A nurse walks into the Randalls’ hospital room to ooh and ahh over the newborn. The proud parents, especially Frank, are happy to oblige but Frank’s happy countenance clouds over perceptibly when the nurse, admiring the happy brown-haired couple, asks where their daughter got her red hair from. Oops. Let’s just hope the Randalls have a lot of ashtrays.