The romance between time-travelling Claire and highlander Jamie is as timeless as ever. Season falls flat with a focus on their daughter, some rushed storylines and poor handling of more serious themes.
‘The American Dream for some…a nightmare for others.’
This season continues the story of time-travelling WWII nurse Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and her 18th-century Scottish highlander husband to the New World, with hopes to finally find a place to call home. After visiting 18th-century Scotland, France and the Caribbean, America is the next place that Outlander explores.
As Claire and Jamie try and find out what home means to them, they face the looming threat of the American war of Independence, ties to the British ruling classes, displaced Native Americans and threats from Stephen Bonnet, a man bound for the gallows who they unwittingly aid, a decision that comes back to haunt them. Amongst the new faces that we are introduced to, some old faces pop up as well, which will surprise and please fans of the show.
Shots of the sprawling American wilderness and emphasis on the natural beauty of the land made this season feel more like Season One, where audiences were entranced by the raw beauty of the Scottish highland rather than the glittering ballrooms of French court. The crackling fires, the dense woodland, cosy woollen costumes and autumnal setting made the setting more immersive and believable. As usual, the season is at its strongest when the focus is on the two protagonists, Jamie and Claire.
Whilst Claire and Jamie start to make a home for themselves in North Carolina, their daughter Brianna and on again/off again historian boyfriend Roger start searching for their whereabouts, whilst learning more about each other. The scenes between these two characters fall flat, as they don’t have a spark of chemistry compared to Claire and Jamie’s bonfire. At some points I felt like we were meant to actively dislike Roger, as some his dialogue felt outdated and cruel, like when he slut-shames Brianna for wanting to sleep with him before they are married. I found myself disliking Roger, then disliking Brianna for fawning over him so much.
The season dips its toe into some darker themes like slavery and the treatment of the Native Americans, but for me, it wasn’t explored enough. Although Claire expresses her disgust at keeping slaves, headstrong and modern Brianna doesn’t mention it but does paint a pretty picture of one of the slave women. There was so much potential to explore more about the Native Americans, but we only really saw them as aggressors, and Ian’s decision to live with them felt rushed and unexplained.
The writers of Outlander have an extremely difficult job of translating Diana Gabaldon’s huge novels into 13 short episodes, and so it is inevitable that the show would have to skim past some themes and storylines. However I felt that this season should have had more time devoted to exploring the lives of the slaves or the Native Americans, who for the most part were just background decoration to remind viewers that the show is set in the past. Amongst the shots of the American wilderness and cosy hearths, it should have been more important to point out what Jamie says in the trailer, that it was only ‘the American Dream for some’ and it ‘was a nightmare for others’.
Outlander (Season 4) is available to watch on Amazon Prime now. Watch the series trailer below: