Premiering on September 10, the third season of Outlander sees the Starz drama based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels goes bigger, deeper and geographically grander than ever before and to great success. As I say in my video review above, this year Outlander also features two fingers of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in many welcomed ways as the series moves to the cable big leagues of Sunday nights.
As those who’ve read Gabaldon’s 1993 novel Voyager (from which the current season draws) or were among the lucky fans at San Diego Comic-Con this summer when executive producer Ronald D. Moore showed a preview of the opening episode know, this 13-episode run picks up almost exactly where the second season left off in one sense. Mixing the new world and the battle-strewn highlands more than ever, Caitriona Balfe’s Claire and Sam Heughan’s Jamie Fraser are now separated by the centuries. The former has returned to the 20th century and is raising their daughter with her first husband Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies), while the haunted latter seeks to rebuild in the 18th century in the aftermath of the battle of Culloden.
Add some old friends, the changing America of the Eisenhower and Vietnam eras, cobbled Scottish streets, the introduction of the pivotal Lord John William Grey (David Berry), amorous broken noses, a bit of the booze trade, broken hearts and literally love across the ages, and you have yourself the big, traditional, no-holds-barred melodrama of classic Outlander. Then there is a bit more, an important addition that scales the Golden Globe nominated series to a new level. By that bit more, I mean that Balfe and Heughan are stronger than ever this year, as is the excellent Menzies. I also mean (and Heughan fans hear me out) the doomed heart of the early part of this new season, which Moore has called transitional: the grinding reality of Claire’s loveless, faithless but child-rearing marriage to her first husband and Black Jack descendant Frank in the Boston of the mid-20th century.
Moving back and forth through emotional mists, Balfe skillfully negotiates her character fighting to find a life and career for herself and fighting what a woman’s role should be and what she wants for herself with Jamie assumed dead in the past – a fate she discovered to be untrue in the 1968-set Season 2 finale. At the same time, as they raise red-headed Brianna in the U.S., Balfe and Menzies perform an almost cruel and often booze-drenched dance with each other reminiscent of Edward Albee’s famed play. It’s a heartbreaking dance where the latter pines for the former over chilly decades, and Claire keeps her heart for a lover lost to the ages. Amid infidelities of the soul and flesh, at the center of this is Brianna (Sophie Skelton), whom Frank has raised as his own even though he knows she is not.
Like The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones, Outlander often hits the target because of its brazen approach. Yet, to its credit and craftsmanship, in this latest chapter of Claire and Frank’s tale there is an empathetic and insightful touch the series previously only hinted at in its bodice-bursting passions. It’s a touch that makes Season 3 of Outlander something you’ll want to see this fall.
So, take a look at my video review above for more of my review. Tell us what you think of the series and if will you be watching this weekend.
This review was previously posted on September 7, 2017.
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