We've seen the sexy, sexy premiere of Ron D. Moore's time traveling romance series Outlander. And it was fantastic. We loved it so much. Here are our spoiler-free first impressions.
Given that this is the first series that Moore has created since Battlestar Galactica, we were already intrigued. And it's based on the bestselling book series of the same name by Diana Gabaldon. So that's a good combination.
The premise of Outlander is...interesting, to say the least. You come for the dirty men in kilts, and stay for the wonderfully complicated and all-consuming love story. The series pilot, however, didn't spend too much time with mud-scraped, exposed knees bent in the heat of passion. It was more of a delicious slow burn. We got a buttoned-down look into a couple and their marriage, marred by the bloodshed of World War II, and then the time traveling.
A World War II nurse (Claire Randall) and her MI6 husband (Frank) head to Inverness, Scotland on a second honeymoon to reconnect after a 5 year split due to the war. While on their vacation, Claire is magically transported back to 18th Century Scotland. And there she meets Jamie MacTavish, who takes her under his wing (so to speak). Lost and alone, Claire has to survive in an ancient world. And also make lots of sexy times.
Since we can't really (and don't want) to spoil anything from thing from Outlander, here is our gut reaction to the pilot.
If you don't think, "Wow we all need to immediately head to Scotland, right now," after watching the pilot of Outlander, then your eyes are broken. This series is astoundingly beautiful. Thanks primarily to the fact that Moore and company filmed just about everything they could on location in the actual Scottish Highlands. The crew traipsed through the mountains, valleys, and ancient castles — and rebuilt ruins with CG to give real places a time traveling facelift. The opening shot is a simply stunning view of the blue mountains of the isle and it works amazingly well.
Pair the amazing background with the painstakingly accurate set design, costumes, and makeup and you have one lovely-looking drama. Every storefront, old timey automobile and dapper hat only adds to the world this crew is trying to create. It becomes an immersive experience, especially when the gears shift from sepia-toned 1940s to the bright world of 18th Century Scotland. Outlander relentlessly shoves beauty in your face, and it's a delight.
Not The Same Old PTSD War Story
My biggest takeaway from the pilot was is how well they've handled the "after the war" personality shift. We've seen countless "the soldier returns" stories where a jaded hero returns to wreak havoc on their family. Post-traumatic stress is real, and very serious. However this couple (Frank and Claire) were dealing with their reactions to the war in a way I haven't seen before. It's a quiet struggle, and very intriguing. You know these two truly love each other, and you want them to reconnect, but it's taking time. I couldn't help but root for Frank and Claire to have polite (but still hot) sex for the first time. My guess is that this subplot will be abruptly dropped, as the main character spends most of her time in the past. But I think it's indicative of the script taking new turns at old tropes.
Bouncing off of the quiet drama and slow reconnection the series itself has a great pace. The beginning pilot takes time with the characters and sets up who they are and what they want. Plus the gentle humping was, dare I say, tame for Starz. I'm glad we're not forcing the protagonist into bodice ripping sex scenes that have absolutely nothing to do with the emotional state she and her husband are clearly in. It was slow burn sex, and I was shocked by the tastefulness of it all.
That being said, this is a slow burn. And if you're a book reader you know that what Outlander is building up to is exactly the kind of bodice ripping page turners that you loved from this series. But not right away. The characters are going to have to earn it first.
Claire Randall (played by the stunning Caitriona Balfe) is the female protagonist you've been waiting to return to television. She's clever, brave, wickedly impulsive but smart enough to know when to lie. Claire worked in the field tents very, very close to the front lines during WW2, so she's not afraid but also no dummy.
She's also torn between the different lives she could have had. In the pilot she pauses to muse over a vase she couldn't have because she never made a life with her husband in one place. This is partially do to with the war, but I suspect other factors are at play as well. Thankfully, Outlander doesn't spell it out for the audience in the first few minutes — we'll have to figure it out for ourselves (or at the very least wait for it to be revealed in time).
Tobias Menzies (whom you may remember as the unfortunate Edmure Tully from Game of Thrones) plays, well, I don't want to spoil it so let's just say he's amazing in everything that he does in Outlander and the big reveal for his character in the pilot had me quietly clapping all to myself. It's exciting, it's good, but it's also bad. Very bad — he's a very bad person.
Sadly the pilot didn't spend too much time with Sam Heughan as Jamie Frase but I can say with certainty that he is very attractive. Which is important. And can handle a horse and sword quite well.
This is Bear McCreary's moment. If you're familiar with the work of the Battlestar Galactica alum you know that the folksy sounds of the Highlands have always inspired and peppered his works. And now he's been totally unleashed and it is amazing.
The music is an integral part of the suspense and mystery and it cuts through you like a knife. Plus it just sounds absolutely delightful. Suffice to say I'll be jamming to this soundtrack very soon whilst twirling and tossing petals across my apartment. Listen for yourself — above is a clip from Outlander's titles which McCreary created from a traditional Scottish tune. Just listening to it makes my old weary bones ache for the foggy forests of Scotland AND I'VE NEVER EVEN BEEN THERE.
Overall, it was so great. Seriously this is the standout premiere at San Diego Comic-Con and everyone should be watching this series when it premieres in August.