Watched Part 1 of The Outlander on Showcase last night. This morning I saw a Tweet dissing it. Having read almost all of the series, I thought, as an opening, it was well done. True, they went on at length about Claire’s time with Frank, but every time I started thinking: “Get on with it; get to Jamie!” I’d realize that it was a necessary set-up. In a time travel story, using flashbacks wouldn’t work, so the long set-up was necessary. Then when we reached the Jamie part, I recognized something I hadn’t fully understood from the novels: how important Claire’s time as a war nurse during the Second World War was to the plot itself.
When Claire finds herself fleeing the Eighteenth Century English army, and captive of the Scots, trapped in that time, she responds to the situation like the Twentiethy Century war nurse she was; she commands, demands, and swears. She’s focussed on emergency medicine, and used to being in charge. The Scots are bemused by her, but the leader lets her fix Jamie’s shoulder, and, later, his bullet wound. They are puzzled by her swearing and wonder if she’s a “whore”. She’s completely outside their experience, but her very confident, impatient demands while she’s treating Jamie ‘sells’ her competence to them. The skills and attitudes she developed during her war nursing experience are central to the Scots’ recognition of her as a significant human being.
The physicality of her relationship with Jamie begins immediately. Although she and Frank are presented as having a very sexual relationship, with Claire often taking the lead, there are clear gaps in the rest of their relationship. It is a relationship with problems, which allows the readers / viewers more comfort when Claire is forced into time with Jamie.
Claire’s training and experience as a war nurse is present in her first moments in contact with Jamie. Just before she moves his arm back into its socket, she makes eye contact with him, looking for acknowledgement of what she’s about to do, and permission. He nods. Already they are in physical contact, but it’s communication, and tough healing.
Their communication is blunt and forthright from the start, and a contrast to Claire’s careful conversations with Frank. When Claire finishes fixing Jamie’s shoulder, she gives him the kind of graphic and profane instructions that she must have given to the wounded soldiers she’d treated. As Jamie and Claire ride horseback in the rain, he insists she share his plaid, and warmth, a physically forced by circumstance. When the redcoats approach, Jamie literally dumps Claire off the horse and goes into battle. When he returns, she berates him about his using his shoulder against her instructions, and appears unphased by either the blood on him or the way he’d simply dropped her off the horse. They are equals; both are pragmatic and tough, each in their own way, and they respect each other. What a great start to what will be, as I know from reading Diana Gabaldon’s novels, a loving partnership.
I have one criticism: Jamie’s hair isn’t red enough.