Every week brings more information that one of our main characters is a cosmic chewtoy. Nothing has gone right for Jamie, ever. Even his love for Claire is marred by the, you know, time travel parts.
This week, we add dead brother to Jamie’s dead parents, crippled best friend, price on his head, whipping, and attempted sexual assault backstory. In the present, he’s got blackmail and an ambush coming for him. The universe just does not like him.
For a show that has covered as much ground as it has, “The Watch” really feels like we’re treading water for a bit. Maybe that’s just what happens when we leave the intrigue-filled halls of Castle Leoch.
At this point in the show, we all have to admit that Jamie is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, right? He should literally never be parted from Jenny, as I’m pretty sure she got all the common sense in the family.
The cliffhanger from the last episode is easily resolved as the men pointing guns at Jamie are revealed to be the Watch, which everyone pays protection money to and would out Jamie to the English without a second thought.
Jenny flies in to establish Jamie as her cousin — not her outlaw brother — and starts preparing all the things the Watch demands. Jamie is super-dickish about the way that the Watch has leverage over Lallybroch. And he cannot keep it to himself. He’s all pissy when he’s dealing with one of their lame horses and then gets in a giant fight when they burn hay.
And, yes, the Watch are assholes but Jamie needs to be so much smarter since he’s the one with everything at stake. Jenny and Ian are well-practiced at making pleasant faces while dealing with the Watch, another sign that they’re better suited to be in charge to Jamie.
Another problem arrives in the form of Horrocks, the army deserter who Jamie met with right before Claire got grabbed by Black Jack’s redcoats. He tries to blackmail Jamie, but Ian runs him through.
Best acting awards this week go to Steven Cree as Ian — his traumatized response to killing so long after he’s left military life is very well done — and Douglas Henshall as the leader of the Watch, Taran. The rest of his group are sort of typical fighters, but Taran is very canny and unpredictable in every scene. He pokes holes in the story that Ian and Jenny tell to explain Jamie. But he pays for the hay the Watch burns. When Horrocks dies, he says he never liked the guy anyway. But he does want another hand for their raiding, so off Jamie goes with them. And so does Ian.
Henshall’s got a great grasp on what Taran knows and what motivates him, and it simmers under the words he actually says very well. It almost made this plot worth it.
Then we learn that the deception wasn’t necessary since Jamie comes clean about having a price on his head and Horrocks threatening his family — although he takes the blame for the killing from Ian. And Taran explains to Jamie later that he does what he does because he’s a fighter, and this is how he does that now that he’s not at war. And that he’d never turn someone over to the English.
As is now traditional, Jamie ends up in mortal danger. The spot for the raid that Horrocks picked out — which really should have been a clue — is actually the spot for an ambush. Ian makes it back, Jamie, of course, is captured.
As for Claire and Jenny, most of this episode has to do with Jenny giving birth and Claire helping her with the breech birth. Claire is at her competent best here and Jenny, when told Claire will have to turn the baby inside her, just goes with “I’m going to need a drink.” Claire says the baby might be born drunk, too. Jenny: “Then he’ll be born a real Scot.” I love Jenny the most.
As for Claire’s anguished admission that she doesn’t believe she’ll be able to have children, that’s, whatever. For women of both her time and the one she’s in, feeling like a failure for that would be normal. I’ve spent my anger over this particular way of using infertility as drama in other places this weekend.
As much as I love Jenny, I have to admit that the Lallybroch plots have been far less interesting than the Castle Leoch ones. We spent so much of the beginning of the season there and with those characters, it’s hard to muster up too much enthusiasm. I just want to know what’s going on with drunk and in mourning Dougal. And Colum’s politicking. And, seriously, what was up with Geillis? What happened after she confessed and was burnt? Did the Duke ever actually deliver the accusations against Black Jack?
All of which we’ve left behind for a week of “Jamie makes bad decisions, almost dies/gets captured, but we all know he’ll be fine come next week.” What happened to lovely layered show I used to love? I have faith we’ll get back to all that, but I think you could skip “The Watch” and not lose much of anything.
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