Image: Outlander (Starz) Outlander is a show that largely consists of dramatic reunions and coincidences. And damn it makes them…
Image: Outlander (Starz)
Outlander is a show that largely consists of dramatic reunions and coincidences. And damn it makes them good. One might think that the show might have gone away to make an unexpected opening of someone from the past exciting and emotional, but here we are well into the fourth season and the show triggers a tower crash of a reunion between Jamie and Murtagh. Like many of the reunions of the show, this enters into drama, Murtaghs returned to us a long distance before the great revelation. And then Sam Heughan puts us right in Jamie’s emotional reaction to seeing an old friend again.
Although coincidental, unnecessary and unlikely run-ins are happening all the time on this show, it usually does not feel like just a comfortable storytelling tactic. Running into people from your past seems almost fundamental to this show and its ethos. There is an underlying message that forms an invisible thread between us and the people we touch – whether it’s good or bad – and remains over time. Claire and Jamie never really lose each other, and they never shoot anyone else.
On that note, Savages also makes an excellent job of making Brianna’s prominent arrival a subtle but tight presence in the episode. She does not pass through the rocks until the end of the episode, but the hum of her sudden closeness is restored, from the beginning when Adawehi tells Claire that her daughter is here. Claire thinks that this means that Brianna is present in Claire’s heart. And maybe that’s partly what she means, but it feels like something more, especially once followed by Jamie, that he had such a living dream of Brianna that he even saw her birthmark, which he did not know before. Outlander takes the time to merge its two timelines, but the excitement it builds is captivating. And the last shot of Brianna that disappears through the rocks is wonderful.
Claire runs some problems in Jamie’s absence. She delivers a baby to a German settler family who is very grateful to her but suddenly becomes angry when a group of Cherokee stops at the creek near their cabin to collect water for their horses. The family patriarch, Gerhard Mueller, expects to “steal” his “water”. He feels entitled to the water and the land and later reveals that he believes that the native people deserve to die because they do not believe in their God. Claire has to play the peace broker and asks Mueller not to shoot Cherokee and throw between them.
She keeps the peace but only briefly. When Mueller’s family dies of measles, he blames Cherokee and claims that they have cursed his family. A pastor warns Claire for Mueller to avenge, and Pioneer Claire reads her rifles for protection. But Claire probably would have realized that she would not be the goal of Mueller’s retarded thirst for revenge. He eventually turns out, but not damaging her, to spoil the proof of his monster: Adawehi’s scalp.
In view of the end of the last episode at the beginning of this, it appeared that Outlander could make some significant advances in domestic entertainment on American television. But unfortunately, it’s only in the same conventions as so much media does by moving these native characters to mostly background roles and seeing them through a white lens instead of giving them their own story. Most of Cherokee on the show so far has been countless roles, extras fill out the background of Claire and Jamie’s story. Adawehi initially suggested something more, the potential for a fully realized native character. She got a name, a profession, a clear and meaningful relationship with the protagonist, and she was played by an Indian actor. But these details are all a rather low pile of strong representation.
Killing Adawehi in “Savages” reinforces the bad tropics media, so often dealing with native characters and women of color in general. She was killed as a way of spurring a character change for Claire, to develop the white protagonist. She was killed as a way of showing the violence of the white settlers racism in this part of history. But all in all, Adawehi seems more like a propaganda than a fully realized character with an arch and story of himself. The bond between Claire and Adawehi at the beginning of the episode is really beautiful, a credible friendship forged by their shared knowledge of medicine and their call to heal. But afterwards, it just feels incredibly manipulative. Outlander introduces this new relationship only to quickly destroy it and give Caitriona Balfe its great momentum.
I do not say that characters can never die. In a series like Outlander characters should die to keep the bets high and sell the story’s action adventure page. But how Adawehi’s arc plays out – do it more about Claire and develop the character only to make her death dramatically – just lazy writing, made even waste of how it continues the historical setting of originators to background roles. Outlander seems desperate to tell a story about race and colonialism and still can not get a strong understanding of the conflict. It sends mixed messages and tries to humanize Cherokee as a contrast to how Mueller sees them, but only does it through Claire’s eyes, once again place her as a white savior. Adawehi deserved better. Outlander should aim for better if it will address the really serious and important themes that this season seems to be intact and not yet fully equipped to handle. Watching Claire goes about his day as Pioneer Claire can be fun little filler, but it also serves to figure out what the real consequences of Fraser Ridge are.