TV

Should You Be Bothered Watching: Outlander

Come for the hot men in kilts, stay for the historical drama.

Welcome to ‘Should You Bother Watching’, Junkee’s new column that helps to answer the streaming age’s biggest question: is this show for me? Do I spend my precious time watching this? Today, we tackle Outlander.


I know what you’re thinking — how could a television adaptation of the paperback sitting on every middle-aged mum’s bookshelf ever appeal to me?

But hear me out — Outlander is more than just your average bodice-ripper.

If you’re not familiar with the premise, Outlander follows Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), an English ex-combat nurse, who is on a second honeymoon with her husband, Frank, (Tobias Menzies) in the Scottish Highlands in 1946. But, after encountering a mysterious circle of ancient standing stones, Claire is transported back to 1743, a turbulent time featuring a bunch of tension between the Scottish Highlanders and the British Redcoats.

Back in the past, she meets dashing Highland warrior James Fraser (Sam Heughan).

Warning: This article briefly discusses sexual assault and contains mild spoilers for seasons 1 & 2.

Pros:

Handsome Ab Boy

Two words: Sam Heughan. To get the obvious out of the way, Outlander’s appeal largely comes in the form of perfectly-crafted specimen, Jamie Fraser, played by Scottish actor Sam Heughan.

But Jamie is more than just a piece of kilted eye-candy. Aside from being incredibly stoic, intelligent, funny and passionate, Heughan also manages to bring such a vulnerability and charm to Jamie, that it makes it incredibly hard to resist falling for him.

A Focus On The Female Gaze

Outlander is told through the eyes of Claire: a fairly modern, free-thinking woman who is thrown back to a world of oppression and danger, particularly for women.

Although it’s interesting to watch Claire navigate this world, she doesn’t always fit into the ‘strong female character’ trope. She’s flawed and makes mistakes that have repercussions, but still has badass moments that will make you slow-clap at the screen.

Outlander’s ‘The Wedding’ episode has become one of the most lauded moments of television in the last few years, due to its focus on female pleasure in its sex scenes. Compared to other shows, Outlander doesn’t always present sex just for the sake of shocking viewers.

Although it’s fun to watch two extremely attractive people *get it on*, the beauty in these scenes comes from the tender passion both characters share.

A Sweeping Musical Score

The stellar cast are brilliant at realising their characters on-screen, but it’s undeniable that Outlander’s soundtrack gives the show its breath of life.

Composed beautifully by award winning composer Bear McCreary, the combination of bagpipes, strings and ethereal vocals emotionally transports you into the world of Outlander. Aside from ‘The Skye Boat Song’, which plays during the opening credits, I recommend listening to the tracks ‘Dance of the Druids’ and ‘The Key to Lallybroch’ for a taste of how stunningly crafted the music of Outlander is.

You Can Learn Some Facts While Your Heart Is Torn Apart!

Outlander is as much a drama as it is a history lesson.

Instead of filling your head with a fictional encyclopedia, Outlander invites you to uncover an aspect of history that you may not have been aware of beforehand. The story takes place within a turbulent time of British history, and although most characters are works of fiction, both the show and its source material feature real-life individuals.

The book’s author, Diana Gabaldon, researched meticulously for the series, and her attention to detail has most definitely carried over to the adaptation.

Cons:

A Slow (But Worth It) Burn

Outlander is most definitely a slow burn, as the episodes are fifty minutes to an hour long.

The show can lose pace at times, particularly in the first half of season 2. If you’re into 20-minute fast-paced serials, maybe Outlander isn’t the show for you.

It Can Get Incredibly Graphic

Although I’ve sold Outlander as a Casablanca-esque love story set in the Scottish Highlands, it can’t be denied that the show gets incredibly graphic.

Outlander doesn’t shy away from blood-and-guts, but it’s a violent and gruesome depiction of rape in the season 1 finale between Jamie and the sadistic antagonist of the show, Black Jack Randall, that sees the show at its darkest. Although this can be incredibly off-putting, the show later explores the repercussions of sexual violence.

So, Should You Bother Watching Outlander:

To put it simply, Outlander is more than just a historical drama or love story. One of the best things about the show is that it’s almost impossible to put into a box.

It follows a slice of British history when tensions were at their highest, and at its core, is an exploration of the feminine mind. If you have an affinity for history, beautiful scenery, amazing production design and a willingness to open yourself to a well-developed, deeply intense partnership, maybe it’s worth giving Outlander a go.

Outlander seasons 1-3 are currently streaming on Netflix.

Meg Kennedy is a Melbourne-based journalist and freelance writer. She tweets @megkennedy15