Boar Hunting is Idiotic
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
I have reached a conclusion. Boar hunting is one of the most insipid things I have ever witnessed on screen and the realization that it’s a real thing doesn’t help much. There has to be a better way to prove one’s masculinity without the proposition that you have to nearly die in the damned process. Anyhow, there’s that. The Gathering is so far Outlander’s weakest episode simply because its many parts don’t come together as connected by a common thread as the previous three. The voiceovers are perhaps the most annoying yet, mostly due to their usage being largely unnecessary. We as an audience don’t need to hear everything at every waking moment. I did like her meticulously plotted escape, but everything else was kind of bloated in terms of voiceover. That considered, this was still a great episode that saw the author of the Outlander series Diana Gabaldon make an appearance and Claire and Jamie declaring their love for each other – just kidding, that last bit didn’t happen. But Geillis did hint that she knows something about Claire – what could it be? Lotte Verbeek as always makes her character remarkably memorable.
There were three distinct threads in this episode and the first one belongs to the most urgent of them: Claire’s attempted escape from Castle Leoch. It’s well-orchestrated and she has impressively remembered the most minute of details, also accounting for geographical obstacles and guards. What she didn’t account for were two details that frankly no one could have arguably kept in mind and one that should have been kind of obvious in hindsight. She stumbles into Jamie (unexpected), who reveals that Collum was foresighted enough to add extra guards just in case Claire tried anything. That latter bit reveals how much Claire has to learn about her Leoch fellows and Collum’s intimidating intellect. Nor could she have realized she would be set upon by multiple men on her escape only to be rescued by Dougal who would then attempt to rape her in turn. She slams him unconscious with a chair or something. Jamie finds her taking down of Dougal hilarious, but Claire’s attempted rape by multiple men in the span of seconds speaks volumes about the sheer danger women faced when it comes to sexual assault and in many ways still do.
The second distinct thread takes us to what the episode’s title refers to. The Gathering is where the men of Leoch swear fealty to Collum, the current leader of the clan. The next clan leader isn’t selected by traditional English primogeniture – they’re elected based on whom is considered to be the best leader. Jamie isn’t there but is forced to arrive in the hall when he helps Claire get back to the castle. This is where the episode loses a point. The politics of the Leoch succession are muddy at best and unless you’ve read the books or some reviews, you’re not going to get the whole gist of things most likely. Dougal wants the position, but Jamie is a favorite to win (why, I assume we’ll find out later). If Jamie takes the oath, Dougal is likely to kill him. If he refuses to take the oath, then he is likely to be killed by Collum. The only way he can survive is if he misses the gathering altogether. But then Jamie creates a clever solution out of thin air and immediately all of the attention is sapped from the scene. It’s an incredibly beautifully shot scene, the camera angles and the lighting especially are delectable, but the content just sort of sinks after the Jamie-the-brilliant moment. It’s a narrative cheat that feels unearned because the tension was literally introduced mere minutes as relating to the gathering itself.
The final third (sort of) is relating to the hunt. To prove that they’re really as manly as they seem (completely ignoring that they are obviously men), they go on a hunt. There’s a sort of touching scene where Claire handles a dying man, but it’s more touching because we love Claire and not because there’s a damn to be truly given to the man who died in a stupid pursuit. I don’t fault him for it, as a societal construct it’s vapid. It touched Dougal, however, and perhaps to atone for his attempted rape he invites Claire on a trip on the road. Is her escape nearby?
This was a solid trip for Outlander, but one that was the weakest of the series so far. The acting was great, the visuals as usual were impeccable, and the characters continue to enchant. The first three episodes had threads uniting the entire story so they felt more cohesive but The Gathering felt as if it just needed to get the story moving along so they stuffed three story lines in it without weaving them together properly. It’s still a good episode, just not a great one. We’ll be back next Saturday and I’m told that Episode 6 is a doozy. I can’t wait.
Episode Title: The Gathering
Writer: Matthew B. Roberts
Director: Brian Kelley
Image Courtesy: IGN, iO9, Hypable, Professional Fan Girls, Spoiler TV