“Sassenach” S1:E1|Outlander Thoughts

August 14, 2014 Outlander Thoughts 30

Outlander 2014 S01 banner

Airing on Starz, Saturdays at 9PM EST

I rarely watch a show as it airs, but I’m making an exception for Outlander. I’ve really enjoyed this series by Diana Gabaldon and am eager to follow this series. Since I’m both excited and opinionated, I thought I’d share my thoughts after each episode. This will be a running commentary, so I’d expect some spoilers. With that in mind, I’ll plan on doing these posts on the Thursday afternoon after the episode has aired, giving a fair amount of time to watch before reading. I’m not a professional television reviewer or critique by any means, so know that all views come from a book worm enjoying one of her favorite series coming to life on the screen. Enjoy & feel free to weigh in 🙂

“Sassenach” S1:E1


Image taken from Candida with permission from artist.

Episode Synopsis: In the series premiere of this cable drama, a married British combat nurse time-travels from World War II to 1743 Scotland, is kidnapped by Highlanders and tends to an injured young warrior.
Original Air Date: Aug 9, 2014
Length: 1 hour 4 minutes

Overall thoughts about “Sassenach”

To start with, all said and done, I totally loved this episode. It lived up to the book in so many ways. I love they way they are portraying Claire, Frank, Black Jack, and of course Jamie. I think they’re doing Scotland proud, giving us incredible views of the scenery. It’s breathtaking. The use of language is fantastic. It has everything that I loved about reading Outlander.

I rate “Sassenach” a 3.5 / 5

The Nitty-Gritty on “Sassenach”

However, “Sassenach” got off to an surprisingly boring start for me. We open up with Claire staring into a store front, looking at a vase and thinking about how she would like to own it. I think this was supposed to be a poignant moment about the choices we make and how, no matter how much Claire wanted one life, she’s happy with the life she ends up with too. Or something like that. For me, it just felt like a very awkward start. Maybe I was too excited, I don’t know.

This boring moment was only made more boring by the music and voice-over. If I were to have only one complaint, Claire’s voice-over would be it. I felt like it was often unnecessary and disrupted what was often otherwise a good scene. I don’t like having everything explained to me – it took away the opportunity to form your own opinions and interpretations. Show me, don’t tell me. Isn’t that supposed to be one of the great advantages of film, after all?

So the first 38 minutes take place in 1945 Scotland and had a very halting pace. Lots of voice-over and strained back and forth between Claire and Frank. I think the awkwardness between Claire and Frank was on purpose and made lots of sense – they are a couple reunited after 5 years apart and changed by their war experiences – but it does make it difficult introduction to the series. I think that it shows how much Starz is banking on fans watching. Would you have been sucked in if you hadn’t known what was coming? I wouldn’t have. Their second honeymoon – though sweet and sexy enough – doesn’t make for a gripping tale. To be fair, I remember this being the part of the book that I wasn’t particularly engaged either. If it hadn’t been for high hopes, I don’t know if I would have made it to the good part of the book either.

There were some moments I really enjoyed in the first half of the episode, though. For one, it was neat being shown details that we would later see again, but completely different in the 18th century instead. I liked the moment with the reading the tea leaves and the scene with the Druid women at the standing stones was absolutely beautiful.

Druid Women

The Druid Women at the standing stones was stunning.

A particularly great scene is the haunting moment where we see the ghost. It was done well and was a nice direct adaptation of the book (although I don’t remember the rain). And, while their relationship is somewhat awkward, the sex scenes between Claire and Frank worked for me. For one, they established Claire as a modern woman (even more modern than we would expect considering that this is 1945… I mean that scene in Castle Leoch? Tell me you weren’t surprised by that?) and they also show us that Claire loves her husband and hopes to have a future with him. Too bad we had a voice over telling us that they used sex to connect, because I kind of was already getting that and the voice over made it feel cheaper somehow :/

The moment where Claire passed through the stones was very disappointing for me and was, IMHO, a wasted opportunity. Instead of giving us this very awkward slow-motion car accident (again accompanied by that annoying voice-over), why not take full advantage of the visual medium to show us what we’ve always been curious about? At least, I’ve been so curious about this moment – what did it look and feel like? To me, this felt like a cop-out.

Thankfully they don’t make us wait until the second episode to get to the REALLY GOOD stuff. Once we hit the 18th century (at 39:22/1:04), Sassenach (the episode and Claire) was off and running. If only those voice-overs had stopped, it would have been perfect! I can’t believe I’m saying this – but it was like they were trying to be TOO FAITHFUL to the book through those voice-overs.

The moment Claire stumbles upon Black Jack is fantastic and I loved seeing her cussing up a storm. The actor who plays Frank & Captain Jack (Tobias Menzies) did a fantastic job – I had no trouble believing he was two different people with the same face.

I loved Claire’s “rescue” and they way they had the men speaking Gaelic without giving us any interpretation. Talk about really showing us how out of place she must have felt. Once again – and I’m sorry to beat a dead horse – but the voice-overs were really too much. For example we get a voice-over telling us that she “decided to keep using her maiden name” just before she says that her name is Claire Beauchamp. Now, even if you haven’t read the books, you know her last name is not Beauchamp, but Randall. That has been established. Sure, you don’t know that Beauchamp is her maiden name, but was that necessary information? Because it really disrupts the flow of the scene IMHO.

Claire’s interactions with Jamie are fantastic from the get-go. I can see why everyone in the production stages said that these two actors (Caitriona Balfe & Sam Heughan) BECAME Claire and Jamie – perfect casting!

Spunky Claire

This was a great moment! Claire is so spunky and the chemistry between her and Jamie is right on!

And I loved the action and seeing the same sights we saw earlier in the 1940s again in this new setting. And her having to adapt to this new environment- particularly as a nurse – was done well, with Claire’s own brand of hilarious mouthing off. I don’t think Cait has completely nailed the Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ yet, but maybe it’s just going to sound awkward because who says that nowadays?

My final thoughts on “Sassenach”

If the last 25 minutes of “Sassenach” are what we can expect from the rest of the season, I’m thrilled. It got off to a slow start, but one I can readily forgive.

Do you agree with me? Who else is ready for the next episode NOW?

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About Berls
Berls has been a book lover her whole life. She reads pretty much every genre and is currently working hard at making her childhood dream of becoming an author come true. She loves sharing her thoughts about books, blogging, and just random fun stuff. She's a challenge and read-a-thon junkie, so it's no wonder that she loves co-hosting the COYER reading challenge. Leave a comment, Berls is always happy to chat!

30 Responses to ““Sassenach” S1:E1|Outlander Thoughts”

  1. Rose

    so for some reason, I just NOW realized you were recapping these… so yeah, I am going back reading all of them… I agree with you 100%. it felt like they were trying to be too faithful to the book and NO, I would not have been sucked in had I not already been a fan of the book. However, I DID love the last quarter hour or so.
    Rose recently posted…That’s what HE said Thursday- October 16, 2014My Profile

    • Berls

      Hehe I’m glad you found them 😀 I was worried for the first part of this episode, but that last quarter hour gave me hope. And the episodes have gotten better and better.

  2. Tabitha (Not Yet Read)

    unfortunately I haven’t read the series though my friend Maggie has been harping on me for years and years to read it. I’m just not a huge historical fantasy / romance fan so I doubt I ever will. I hope the show turns out great – though I likely won’t watch it. I thought I might maybe someday when its first season is on streaming. I’m a binge watcher when i finally do watch TV shows.
    Tabitha (Not Yet Read) recently posted…Guest Review: The Black Prism by Brent WeeksMy Profile

    • Berls

      I tend to be a binge watcher too – if I hadn’t read Outlander I’d probably be doing the same thing. I would say that the series (reading at least) doesn’t really feel like just a romance (and not at all fantasy, shockingly), it kind of defies categorization. It’s one I think pretty much anyone would love, though it’s long, so I understand being hesitant to pick it up.
      Berls recently posted…Scent of a White Rose by Tish Thawer | #COYER Audio ReviewMy Profile

    • Berls

      Hmmm – dreamlike. Yes, I think that’s probably a really good way to put it! And appropriate for time travel for sure. I have a friend who watched it and has never read the books and she said it wasn’t boring for her at all. She said it was all information that she felt she really needed, so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was just me because I knew I wanted to get to Jamie 😉
      Berls recently posted…Sunday Post | 54th EditionMy Profile

  3. Kathy

    I loved it but I do agree with everything you said. It did start out slow but that is exactly how it was for the book. I guess because I’ve been waiting for this so long I wanted it to go faster to see Jamie. I was disappointed that they didn’t show little Roger, when Claire & Frank were with the Reverend. He’s an important character later, so it is odd they didn’t include him. I loved the ghost scene (it is one of the many scenes I was looking forward too). I did wish they had subtitles for the Gaelic but after reading your comment it does make sense to me now! I can’t wait to see more episodes!
    Kathy recently posted…Book Review – CinderMy Profile

    • Berls

      “I was disappointed that they didn’t show little Roger” < ---- Oh my, how could I have forgotten about little Roger? That is quite an oversight! Seems like he could have even just been playing in the background or something simple like that, with his name being called and a brief sentence or two about the minister raising him. The first bit was slow enough, they had room LOL. It'll be interesting to see if they try to fix it somehow later. Berls recently posted…“Catle Leoch” S1:E2 | Outlander ThoughtsMy Profile

  4. Melanie Simmons ( @ mlsimmons)

    Having not read the book, I really felt that the first half of the show was boring. Like you said, I was not a fan of the voice over. Unless Netflix picks this up, I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to continue the series. I don’t have Starz, nor am I going to pay for it. Great review of episode one.
    Melanie Simmons ( recently posted…Those Who Wish Me Dead Audiobook ReviewMy Profile

    • Berls

      Thanks Melanie! Thankfully I felt that the second episode was a lot better, though the pace was still slow. I’m glad I’m not the only one who had a problem with that voice-over because several of my friends loved it and told me I was being a critic LOL.
      Berls recently posted…“Catle Leoch” S1:E2 | Outlander ThoughtsMy Profile

  5. Julie S.

    I definitely think this episode lives up to the book, but I had the same complaints about the episode as the book – too slow of a start. But once we meet Jamie, we’re set! Yum. Did anyone else scream “yes” when he asked her if she wants to be thrown over his shoulder? LOL. Also, I think Cait’s accent is too strong, and the Jesus H Roosevelt Christ was hard to hear, not how I hear it in the audio books or picture her saying it heh.
    Julie S. recently posted…That’s what HE said Thursday- August 14, 2014My Profile

    • Berls

      Yes, me too Julie – the first bit of the book was painfully slow and I think I was propelled through it by promises that this book would be amazing. Hopefully the show will do the same – I’m already very happy with the second episode.

      LOL – yes! “Throw her over your shoulder already!” (I’m pretty sure that’s what I said, almost verbatim). Claire’s JHR didn’t work for me either, and I haven’t listened to the audiobooks, so I imagine it’s worse for you. I don’t think she said it once in the second episode though…
      Berls recently posted…“Catle Leoch” S1:E2 | Outlander ThoughtsMy Profile

  6. Lexxie

    I’m actually really excited about this TV series! I have some friends who have read the Outlander books, and they loved the first episode very much – some have even watched it several times! Sadly, there is no news about it being aired in Switzerland yet, and since it’s not up on iTunes, I won’t be able to watch it for a while myself.
    I’m really happy you enjoyed it, though, Berls, even if the voiceovers kind of annoyed you. Not sure How I’d feel about those, guess I’ll have to wait and see, eh?
    Lexxie recently posted…Audio Review: Unholy Ghosts – Stacia KaneMy Profile

    • Berls

      That stinks about it not being available in Switzerland yet 🙁 If I could I send it to you! Hopefully it will be made available – it seems like making the show available internationally would be to their benefit, especially since the books have been translated into so many languages and has such a huge audience all over the word.
      Berls recently posted…“Catle Leoch” S1:E2 | Outlander ThoughtsMy Profile

  7. Felicia the Geeky Blogger

    Loved it! To me the top acting award does goes to Tobias! OMG did he pull that off. I knew he would because he was excellent in Rome but that is still the hardest role to play. I think overall the casting was dead on and the voice overs are annoying (but to be honest they were annoying in the book too–but necessary there where maybe not so much on TV).
    Felicia the Geeky Blogger recently posted…ReRead Review: Red Dragon by Thomas HarrisMy Profile

    • Berls

      Yes, Tobias was fantastic! I wish he had a more dominant role honestly. I hadn’t seen him in anything before (still need to watch Rome) so I was more surprised. I hadn’t thought about the voice-overs in the book and it’s been so long since I read it that I can’t remember how I felt about them, but I can see them bothering me too.
      Berls recently posted…“Catle Leoch” S1:E2 | Outlander ThoughtsMy Profile

  8. Stormi

    I think you were spot on and from someone who hasn’t read the book, if it wasn’t for that last 25 minutes I might not have wanted to tune into the rest of the show. I kept watching and thinking..ugh this is boring, I think I am glad I haven’t tried that really thick book. It hasn’t totally redeemed itself for me since I haven’t read the book, but I will watch the next episode as I am one of those that thinks a new series needs more than one episode to let me know if I am going to like it or not. 🙂
    Stormi recently posted…Release Day Blitz: Whisper by Heather HildenbrandMy Profile

    • Berls

      Yeah, I had a feeling it might not really grab new audiences too well. My stepsons mom enjoyed it and hasn’t read the books, but I think she’s particularly drawn to Scottish highlands and the druids, since that’s in her ancestry. So I think it’s more that curiosity that satisfied her.
      Berls recently posted…“Catle Leoch” S1:E2 | Outlander ThoughtsMy Profile

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