While I was not lucky enough to attend the Red Carpet Premiere of Outlander in NYC, I did get to attend an advanced screening here in Seattle on Monday evening. Without giving too much away, I will say this: everything you have heard or read about the show being amazing is absolutely true. To celebrate the early premiere being just days away, here are some of the things that will make you fall in love with Outlander, whether it’s for the first time or in a brand new way.
1. It stays true to everything fans love about the books
This is a good thing whether you’ve read the books or not. Ron D. Moore has said “We’re not here to destroy this work, we’re here to honor it.” And the show honors the book in every way it possibly can. It translates the books to screen beautifully. There are things that are changed, but it is never done just because. It is done artfully, and in a way that makes you excited to see a recognizable scene come to life in a way that you may not have imagined before. It is truly Ron Moore’s vision, and a take on the story from someone who is clearly a fan. If you love the books, you will immediately see that this is a show made by someone who loves them as much as you do. And if you’ve never read the books, you are in for so many amazing things.
2. There will be bagpipes
When it comes to Outlander, I spend a lot of time going on about the music. I am filled with unrepentant love for everything Bear McCreary does, and I was BEYOND ecstatic to find out he would be doing the music for the show. With McCreary’s love for bagpipes (he was known to drive around blasting them from his car as a teenager) and the fact that he is an actual Jacobite, his soundtrack is sure to push all of your Scottish, highlander-loving buttons. I can’t say a great deal about the first episode, but I will say that when Claire falls through time and you hear those bagpipes start playing for the first time, it will send countless shivers down your spine.
3. Costumes created by a long-time fan
Terry Dresbach is a brilliant costume designer. Among countless other things, she has designed costumes for ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Carnivale’. More than that, she is a long time fan of the books, and it shows in the work she is doing on Outlander. Terry has stated that her job as a costume designer is to help tell the story, to help tell who these characters are. The costumes designed for the Redcoats and the Highlanders during Claire’s first encounter with them are absolutely exquisite, and add to the feeling of being transported to a different time, a different world. After seeing the care that went into Claire’s 1940s costumes, I am jumping up and down with excitement to see everything else that Terry Dresbach has in store for 1740s Claire.
4. You’ll fall in love with Scotland
I’m a tad biased here, having grown up in a very rainy, very cloudy, very green city. Ron Moore has mentioned many times that Scotland itself is “a character in the show”. As a fan of the books, hearing this incited a particular excitement in me. I love the way Diana Gabaldon paints the lush landscape of 18th century Scotland in her prose. There is something wonderful about imagining our world before it was touched by industry and commercialization. Ever had a love affair with a geographic location? No? You’re about to.
5. Not in Kansas anymore
One thing I noticed about both the trailers and the first episode of Outlander was the use of color. Specifically, the lack of it in the beginning. As Claire first begins telling her story, the colors appear muted and cold. I don’t know if this was intentional, but I suspect it was. When Claire awakes again and peers up at the stone, everything becomes suddenly saturated and vivid. It ‘s the same landscape, but far more lush, more green. This creates a sort of ‘Wizard of Oz’ feel to Claire falling back in time. It lends a dreamlike quality to the shift from the 1940s to 1740s that I absolutely loved.
6. The one that’s left behind
If there is one complaint I have about the first ‘Outlander’ book (and I’m hard-pressed to come up with one), it’s that there isn’t a great deal of time devoted to the relationship between Claire and Frank. Having read Outlander multiple times, I really don’t mind this. Knowing where it’s leading I (like many other fans, I’m sure) am always anxious to get through the first couple chapters and get to the stones already. That said, there isn’t a lot given in the books to make you care about Frank, and understand why Claire feels so torn between the life she leaves behind and the life she is so violently thrust into.
This isn’t the case with the series. From the very first episode, the stage is set for the juxtaposition between Frank and Black Jack Randall. You can already see the turmoil Claire goes through as she meets Black Jack Randall, witnesses what he is capable of, and attempts to reconcile this with the fact with that he wears the face of the man she loves (and wants so desperately to return to).
7. A badass lead character
Claire is a role model, and we could use a lot more of those in a world where our daughters know what twerking is but think feminism is a dirty word and that the glass ceiling is just a reference to ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’. I had no idea who Caitriona Balfe was until she became involved in Outlander. But she IS Claire, and that’s really, REALLY saying a lot.
8. The slow burn
One thing that we Outlander fans love about Jamie and Claire in the books is that they don’t just meet eyes and that’s it. This, like any lasting relationship, starts with a slow friendship. It’s a friendship that develops out of necessity. Claire is obviously so alone in this foreign world. In a different way, Jamie is, as well. Even the small moments we see of their interactions in this first episode hint at this, and you instantly see that they are drawn to one another.
At the same time, you immediately sense that these are two people that will fight to the death for the things they believe in without ever, ever compromising. The incredibly tense, charged interaction between Jamie and Claire in the forest as he stops her attempted flee during the ambush at Cocknammon Rock gives us a taste of the fire that will slowly ignite between them. It couldn’t have been captured more perfectly, both through the writing and through the actors. Speaking of the actors…
9. The completely brilliant actors
I cannot say enough good things about the cast of Outlander. It is evident just how much time and care went into finding actors who truly embodied the epic characters readers of the books have fallen in love with.
In the very first scene that we see Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) together on screen, Claire is thrust unceremoniously into a cabin with quite a few dirty, disheveled Scotsmen and one very injured man. Claire and Jamie only exchange a few words (and one very painful interaction) in this scene, but there is still a palpable connection. These are actors who know their craft, who know how to speak volumes with a single look. Dougal (Graham McTavish) lends an air of authority to the entire scene and immediately establishes himself as the guy who isn’t going to take any shit from anybody, ever. Check out the clip Starz released from this scene, and just wait to see him flinch (hint: you won’t).
10. Because when the episode ends, you will want to rewind it and watch it again
Watching the first episode in the theater, there was a pause when it ended. A pause that said “I really love this, and I am so angry that it isn’t still happening.” I could almost hear a collective intake of frustrated breath before the applause started, one joined by my own sigh of frustration. But in that good way. In that way that leaves you thinking “I can’t wait to see what they do with the next part.” And I’ve read the books. I know what’s going to happen. But I’m still excited and incredibly impatient to see what happens next.
Outlander is so clearly a labor of love and the hard work of many, many people. It is truly work of art, and you won’t want to miss a single moment.