Everyone Owes Something
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Outlander returns with a full blast of history. The Jacobite Rebellion that’s on the horizon is one that is going to go disastrously for the Scots – three years from the show the Battle of NAME would take place and Bonnie Prince Charlie would be defeated and most of the men surrounding Claire would perish. One of the closing scenes showed 1945 Claire looking acutely at the tombstone marking Clan MacKenzie, not knowing how closely her own fate would be tied to that very stone. It’s a chilling scene but not before a British spy discovers Dougal and Claire. “Are you here of your own free will?” he asks chillingly and the screen fades to black.
Continuing the tradition of Outlander episode titles that are quite literal, Rent directly relates to where Clan MacKenzie under Dougal’s direction collects rent from those that live within its dominion. The rent is collected in various forms (coins, pigs, etc.) with the help of their taxman Ned (no, he does not die even though with that name it was completely expected). Claire cleverly notices that there are two record keeping books and surmises that Dougal is lining his own pockets. She’s disgusted and that disgust only deepens with Dougal using Jamie’s scarred back as a collection tool for lack of a better phrase. The rent scenes are interesting but towards the latter half of the episode, they have a tendency to drag a bit.
The trip on the road, Claire’s first treatise away from Castle Leoch, starts off well enough for her. But the consistent mockery of her behind her back grows on her, her increasing frustration lashing out at everyone else. Ned makes not of her strong independent will and fierceness at debate, remarking jokingly that a few centuries would pass before women would get the right to vote. “Only two,” Claire remarks dryly. But Claire undergoes a realization over the course of the hour. Constraint ultimately to a certain extent is necessary – 1743 isn’t nearly as kind to independent women as 1943 is.
Claire finds a group of women at the village, joining in their wool making. It’s nice to her relaxing a bit amidst the turmoil that surrounds her. Until Angus rudely whisks her away, that is. Angus undergoes a nice mini-arc this episode, going from an ass who threatens Claire with a knife to a man who uses that same knife to start a fight over her honor. He’s crass, but not that bad. In accordance to men, however, Claire makes a mark of the political nature of what Dougal is doing and the fierce passion of the men around her for an independent Scotland. In doing so, however, the episode almost calmly forgets that Dougal tried to rape her last week. There’s a spark of resentment there, but it almost washes out by the end of the episode.
The realization of the Jacobite Rebellion cues many flashbacks to Claire and Frank, the notes of the impending doom playing beautifully across Caitriona Balfe’s face. She tries to warn Dougal, yelling that she’s trying to save his life even though everyone is pretty much convinced that she’s an English spy. The haunting discovery of two Scots hung on crosses by the English doesn’t help her reputation. Here Outlander hits the historical fiction where the fiction and real history collide with a forceful momentum. How much power does Claire truly have? And even if she does, would she alter the entire course of history? And will the picture below come true soon? There was way too much sexual tension in that one scene. Rent, languid in pace from time to time, is a solid outing that ends in a true shocker of a cliffhanger. It is also the most gorgeously shot episode of the series yet, each stunning frame of Scotland’s impeccable landscape brimming with absolute beauty and history. The beauty itself is full of irony. Soon enough those fields will be full of blood.
Episode Title: Rent
Writer: Toni Graphia
Director: Brian Kelley
Image Courtesy: Film Trophy