The final episode before the “mid-season break” (or 6 month chasm as the rest of us want to call it) is a greatest hits of all of Outlander’s good qualities: there’s a correlation between what’s happening in “contemporary” (i.e. post-War) times with Frank and the events in 1743. There’s action and adventure, with the attack on the Mackenzie camp and the subsequent training of Claire in how to defend herself; there’s romance between her and Jamie, and another of the show’s realistic sex scenes.
And there’s the inherent nastiness of life in the eighteenth century – both in the scenes where the deserting Redcoats try to rape Claire, and find she’s not as defenceless as she seems, and with Black Jack Randall. Those last scenes at Fort William are likely to have you hollering at your TV screen as Claire falls for one of the oldest tricks in the book and delivers herself into Randall’s power, but then cheering as his sadistic treatment and attempted rape are thwarted by Jamie’s arrival, every inch the dashing romantic hero.
Tobias Menzies gets more screen time in this episode than usual, with development of Frank’s story at last. We see what he’s been up to since Claire vanished, and it’s clear that lurking inside Frank is the genetic inheritance of his forefather. He efficiently beats up the punks who try to get the reward money he’s offered for information about the highlander who was looking up at Claire’s room in the first episode (who I must admit I hope was a time-shifted Jamie). Even after investing so much time in the Claire/Jamie romance, you do feel a pang for him as Claire is foiled from crossing back to the twentieth century.
Outlander has been a very different sort of genre show, and full credit to Starz for not pushing Ronald D. Moore and the production team into speeding things up. The story has developed at a natural pace, and the chemistry between Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan has built as Claire and Jamie have become closer. April 2015 can’t come quickly enough.
Verdict: A highly effective concluding part that will ensure audiences return for the second half of the season. 9/10