Upfront disclosure. I've never read Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series. And before the Starz media blitz had never even heard of it. Somehow despite utilizing both time travel and historical fiction — two thing I love reading about — I missed it.
So based only on the ad campaign, I know this is a historical sci-fi drama about a WWII era British woman who gets mysteriously thrown through time to 18th century Scotland. Somehow her modern immune system manages to instantly adapt to this bacterial utopia (life finds a way!) and our plucky heroine is forced to navigate her new reality.
We open in Middle Earth. Sweeping vistas of the Scottish highlands are breath-taking but somewhat marred by our heroine’s voice over narration. I keep looking for the Fellowship but alas, Gandalf and the Balrog are on a smoke break. Bagpipes play as Claire laments how people vanish all the time...and sometimes, they’re never found.
Cut to Farrell's General Store. Narrator Claire waxes poetic over never having lived somewhere long enough to own a vase. Meanwhile her onscreen self gazes forlornly into the shop window. Look, I’m not going to tell Claire how to measure the quality of her life but maybe chill out about £.35 flower pants.
Suddenly there is flashback within this flashback. Double flashback all the waaaaaaaay. Gone is Scotland with its existential crisis vase, replaced with a makeshift WWII hospital. And shit just got real. Claire is trying to stop a femoral artery bleed-out, slipping in blood while the patient writhes and screams in a puddle of his own gore. Dude this show needs a “Saving Private Ryan” style PTSD disclaimer.
A shell-shocked Claire is still literally dripping blood when a fellow lady solider runs up with a group of exuberant cohorts. The war is over! Which is kind of a George Bush “Mission Accomplished” level gaffe when extras are still bleeding to death on the hospital tables. Claire is smart enough to know this and chugs a bottle of celebratory champagne like the jaded field nurse she is. Guys, I think I just fell in love.
And just like that, the magic of the moment is broken. Claire is back on about the blue vase. So is this vase important? Is blue important? Blue roofs, her blue dress, blue gargoyles on the town well. Is this like red in “The Sixth Sense?” Will blue be the context clue for Important Shit™?
We return from the credits to strains of 1940s music as Claire and husband Frank drive though Middle Earth. It’s supposed to help set the mood but since modern audiences are more likely to associate post-war pop hits with with video game dystopias like “Fallout” or “Bioshock,” I instead feel the need to shoot bandits or splicers.
Upon reaching the quaint village they’re vacationing in, Claire is 100% unfazed by bloodstains on the door frames of the villagers’ homes. Maybe this IS a video game dystopia?