What's the Best Season One Outlander Episode?

Written By: Janet Reynolds



The premiere of season two of Outlander is less than one month away according to the calendar, but obviously something weird has happened with time. Because the days until the April 9 premiere in the U.S. are clearly no longer just 24 hours each. Just pointing that out.

In the meantime, what's an irrational devoted fan to do? You know, beyond the obsessive checking of various online sources for the tiny tidbits that get thrown our way periodically by Starz? Why, rewatch season one, of course.

Note, I did not say rewatch for the first time; I just said rewatch. It's between you and your confessor how many times you've seen certain scenes, and for the record, I am not judging. For this particular rewatching, I told my husband, who not-so-secretly thinks I may have a bit of an Outlander problem, that I was doing research. I was deciding, I told him, which was the best season one Outlander episode — all for the good of this blog and fellow fans of course. He may or may not have smirked. Anyway, after much obsessive watching thoughtful research, I have made my choice. Hint: It's NOT "The Wedding."



First let me say "The Wedding" is one of the most beautifully depicted episodes in the entire series. Ron D. Moore took a very creative approach in how he told this story as a flashback of sorts rather than a linear structure and it really worked. We relive Claire and Jamie falling in love in a completely beautiful and believable way. And that's without talking about the sex.

But in that sense, "The Wedding" was almost too easy to recreate on the small screen. While Moore took an interesting approach, it was a simpler one overall.

More complicated is depicting Claire and Jamie's growing relationship and the challenges they face amid an increasingly complex story line. And it is for these reasons that — after doing a LOT of wavering between it and "The Devil's Mark" — "The Reckoning" gets my final vote for best Outlander episode.

The reasons start with the decision to change the point of view from Claire's to Jamie's for the first time. Doing this helps viewers get inside the changing environment Jamie and Claire are experiencing, a set-up that's clear from the opening images of Jamie putting on his kilt, a perfect metaphor for what's about to come. Jamie is literally in this episode learning to become a Scottish man. Viewers, meanwhile, need to fully feel and understand the impending threat of the Redcoats in general and Black Jack Randall in particular — both critical to establishing a credible storyline. And what better way than from the show's lead Scot, who also has a price on his head for a killing actually done by none other than BJR himself?

Seeing the world from Jamie's point of view enables viewers to better understand clan culture. The loyalty that is so critical to the Highland way of life is brought to life so perfectly in this episode, from the way Rupert, Angus and, of course, Murtagh help Jamie save Claire and the unswerving loyalty Jamie has for Claire as he rescues her with unloaded guns and his bare hands, to, finally, yes, the strapping scene.

"She does not understand what she nearly cost us," Murtagh tells Jamie as the men celebrate the successful rescue in the tavern, ignoring Claire. "Aye, and she needs to," Jamie replies.


In the bedroom, as Jamie prepares to teach Claire her lesson with his belt, he says, "You've done wrong to all the men. You must suffer for it and it's my duty as your husband to make it happen."

That Moore et al didn't omit or sugarcoat this scene is another reason this episode gets top billing. It's a risky and tricky step to portray a behavior so clearly unacceptable in the 21st century world. Indeed, many fans cried "foul" that it was done at all and/or how it was done. To have omitted it, however, would have been to miss an opportunity to get to the heart of the fidelity that is so much the heart and soul of Outlander characters and many of their behaviors.

The scene also provided the fodder for the real growth that occurs in this episode between Jamie and Claire, another reason why the episode ranks number one. In earlier episodes we have young love Jamie and Claire. That their relationship might be unusual is hinted at in "Both Sides Now," when Jamie innocently asks, "Is this usual, the wanting you?" And Claire responds, ultimately, "No, this is different."

As "The Reckoning" proceeds, though, we get to see the full potential of that difference — for them individually and as a couple. It is an episode of dramatic personal growth, and, as such, is so rich. At first it seems as if Claire will have to conform to 18th century standards or, literally, get whipped into place. The glade fight gutsily illustrates this as they yell and scream hateful words they ultimately take back — such terrific acting by Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe! — as they sink into each other's forgiving arms.


The strapping scene shows the superficiality of that detente, however. Love in the 18th century clearly means more than saying "I'm sorry." And yet, Claire stands firm. As a 20th century woman, she knows she is Jamie's equal. Alone in a foreign world and time, she refuses to give in to this final insult, frostily pushing Jamie out of her daily life and their shared bed.

Claire's behavior forces Jamie's hand. It is time, literally, to man up. Earlier in the episode we see Jamie navigate Colum and Dougal's challenging relationship and watch a laird-in-training as he shows Colum how to maintain face and keep Dougal in his place regarding the brewing Jacobite rebellion. "Let him play the rebel as long as he does it quietly," Jamie tells Colum. "Let your brother whisper of a free Scotland for now while you watch...Dougal may be war chief but he knows only you can cry for war."

But it is in his own relationship with Claire that we see Jamie truly grow up and into love. Having seen Colum, "a rigid man," bend, Jamie realizes that he and Claire need to forge their own path for married life. "Colum risked looking weak publicly because peace was more important," Jamie says to Claire. "It made me mindful."

"Wives obey their husbands. Husbands discipline them when they don't. That's how it was with my father and on back," he continues. "Maybe for you and me it has to go a different way." Jamie then renounces the path Highland men took for generations and throws himself at Claire's mercy.

And Claire, too, grows up. Yes, she has one more moment of making it clear she's in charge — the dirk at Jamie's throat while they're in the middle of amazing make-up sex — but, ultimately, Claire has her own epiphany. Here, she realizes, is a man who, unlike Frank, is willing to meet her on common ground. "I am your master," Jamie says, "and you are mine." Their partnership of equals is cemented.

All this in an hour and with so many other tiny moments of excellence in between. Pretty damn impressive.



Do you think I missed the mark with "The Reckoning"? What's your pick for best Outlander episode? Tell us what episode you loved and why. It will help us all get through the final days of #Droughtlander.

24 comments

  1. For me there were two pilot episodes, Sassenach and The Reckoning.

    It was essentially the S1 Part B Pilot episode, so that is why it's so strong. It set up the last and darker half of the season.

    And of course, the incredible Matt. B. Roberts wrote this episode. Say no more.

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    1. Interesting idea Holly about the pilot concept. Hadn't thought of it that way but now maybe I need to watch again :)

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  2. Yes!!! VERY well put, thank you!! The Reckoning is a masterpiece in my view. It has absolutely everything: danger, rescue, intrigue, politics, punishment, temptation of another woman, reconciliation, and the hottest sex scene ever put to film. (starring 2 of the hottest actors ever on film). This one episode is the culmination of everything Outlander stands for and explores. And the line "I am your master and you are mine. Seems I cannot possess your soul without losing my own" is the most resonant line in all of Outlander-it is everything.

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    1. That last line gets me every time! So wonderful. Thanks for reading.

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  4. Their chemistry in this episode is off the charts - the fight scene, the makeup scene, any dialogue, etc. I mean, they always click but this episode really showed all the different ways. Solid pick! If we had to put them in categories, the Devils Mark is my favorite non-Jamie/Claire episode. SO GOOD. I always love your posts, Janet - thank you!

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    1. The Devils Mark is awesome too. Such great acting in the trial. And one of my fave Ned Gowan moments. And then of course the woods when Claire tells Jamie the truth. I love his reaction so much.

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  5. Wonderful anaysis! The Reckoning is my favorite episode also, for all the reasons that you put so well here, and a few other moments, too. A point I don't recall seeing before is the reckoning faced by both Jamie and LAOGHAIRE in their scene by the stream. Ms L. truly believes that Jamie has been removed from her by forces out of his control, and expects him to concur, um, heartily. As ticked off as I was to see his hand lingering on her breest, and his lips hovering near hers, and as aggravated as I was to learn that Jamie's affirmation of being happy about his marriage was cut from the scene (right before L says "You don't look happy"), still, he makes it clear that anything between them is over and done with. Another Reckoning to be dealt with.

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  6. Very interesting analysis Janet,so well written,yes I loved the reckogning,for me the most powerful was ep.15-16,it truly showed their great love & willing to do all for one another!

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    1. I agree re 15-16--it really shows the depths Jamie and Claire will go for each other. And the acting was amazing on so many levels. Sam Heughan looks completely different with his eyes; he's that into his character. So impressive. And Tobias Menzes is scarily evil as well. So hard to watch though.

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  7. I agree with your choice, Janet. The Reckoning is my best favourite episode in season 1. Strange as it may sound, the scene I've rewatched again and again is the fight by the river. I feel like there are so many feelings at stake there and so much intended but not explicitly said. Awesome acting and remarkable writing. The first time I saw it I was truly overwhelmed. The Reckoning is followed by The Wedding and To Ransom a Man's Soul in my top 3.

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    1. Maria--that fight scene is so amazing. So gutsy in their acting. They really take it to the edge in their anger and then to the full depths in their forgiveness. Just wonderful. I am impressed Ransom is one of your top three. It is AMAZING acting so for that alone it's impressive. It is just so hard for me to watch. I 've seen it twice, both times with the sound off at various points and my eyes shut....

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  8. I found the longer bluray DVD version of The Reckoning to be not as powerful as the one hour episode that aired on TV...interesting how less was more.

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  9. Joyce that's interesting. I didn't realize the bluray DVD version was different. I only have the regular DVD, which seems the same as the show on TV. What did they add that detracted from the episode for you?

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  10. Among other bits, There was a scene with Gellis and Jamie where she scolds/threatens him for whipping Claire...seemed out of place. The pacing of the final version was just right.

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    1. Thanks for getting back to me Joyce. You're right--that Geillis bit sounds totally weird--for the storyline as just a TV show and certainly for an avid book reader (which I am). Here's to a wonderful season 2!

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  11. I have at least 4 favorite episodes but the "Reckoning" is definitely one of them. The rescue at Fort William is as suspenseful as it gets. And, the fight by the river -- well, takes your breath away how powerfully that was acted by both Sam and Cait. And, the make-up scene -- was again, just amazing. You see the power and the passion between these two people. It's astonishing. But, most of all, the BRILLIANT soundtrack for this particular episode makes it for me. Bear McCreary's genius shines here -- absolutely SHINES. The Rescue at Fort William composition is amazing, emotional and brilliant. So much to love in this episode. I will always remember and cherish it as I saw it in person in NYC at the Mid-Season premiere. A wonderful experience for all the senses.

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    1. I so agree about the music Anne. Really makes such a difference in creating tension during the rescue and then in th strapping scene actually releases the tension appropriately. Bear is brilliant.

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  12. As soon as I saw the question, I answered with "The Reckoning" in my head. I have probably re-watched that episode more than any other because it had such an impact on their relationship. "You're tearing my guts out, Claire" nailed me to the wall. I also loved Ep 2, especially when she is mending his gun shot wound by the fire. The lighting in that scene was amazing.

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    1. I'm so glad you agree. I agree with you on the relationship bit. Because they come to a new understanding in this episode, Jamie is able to believe Claire in The Devil's Mark (my other fave episode).

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  14. I would have been torn between that and the Devi's Mark is well. The point about Jamie's perspective is great. We get so much information we wouldn't have gotten any other way. In the beating scene we, and Claire, really understand the dangers of 18th century, including the life and death importance of the clans and their leadership. On that, without moving to Jamie's POV, we could only have gotten all the intricacies of clan and Jacobite politics from dialogue involving Claire, not very exciting TV. Show don't tell meant we saw the leader side of Jamie as well as his sharp intelligence. More sides and extent of his strength. It took that intelligence, imagination and strength to recognize what was going on with Claire and truly adjust to make it work - just like he did with Colum to heal the rift in the clan. All possible only seeing and hearing Jamie. (Have to mention that hearing anything in Sam Heughan's voice is a pleasure so add that perk.) Everyone has said it but the fight by the stream, wow, both of them were great but the millisecond in which Sam's face changes as he starts to sink down to fully bare Jamie's emotions...I sat up and said holy crap, this guy has a whole 'nother level of acting (beyond already great), and he hasn't proved me wrong yet - continuing with the deliver of the rest of the great dialogue there.
    Finally, given how upset I was that the show seemed to feel (and I know this view isn't held by all) that it had to weaken Jamie in Season 2 in order to show Claire's strength, it's interesting to me that, in this episode that fully explores Jamie's strengths, she is also shown at her kick ass strongest. It wasn't "Jamie's Episode" as some call it. They match each other blow by blow, passion for passion, and with the guts to find each other again. A theme that binds the whole Claire And Jamie story. It certainly isn't the last time we see it portrayed brilliantly, even in some of the best S2 scenes, but a highlight throughout this whole Episode.

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