Despite my small problems with it, Outlander gets better as it goes on. The sixth episode is especially well done, and I predict it will be hailed as one of the better hours of television this year. I wish I could recommend just skipping to that one, but it’s a highly serialized show. It’s a surprising, brutal episode that is, nonetheless, on the right track. What is most interesting about Outlander, however, is the way it’s almost a gender-reversal of most TV dramas, specifically prestige dramas on premium networks. Even visually, it’s different: the camera seems to prefer to sexualize Jamie — shirtless and bloody and tortured Jamie! — instead of Claire.
As the rules dictate, Jamie is a Troubled Male With Demons, but this isn’t his story. Outlander is, without a doubt, about Claire. Claire is such a refreshing character. She is extremely well rounded, exhibiting all the very real qualities that exist within very real people. Claire is smart and strong but still scared, and is sometimes guided by pure emotion. She is — surprise! — a sexual being who takes the lead with her husband and makes no apologies. Sometimes she is saved by a man; sometimes she saves herself. In her present time, she’s a skilled nurse, which helps her to win over some of the 18th-century Scottish brutes as she tends to their wounds (Outlander can get pretty bloody). Claire is smart enough to know how to begin adjusting to this new (and highly misogynistic) location and time period, all while plotting how she can return to the life she knows and misses.
Outlander may not be a show for me, but it’s the best kind of Not For Me show in that it’s one that I can fully recognize is good — maybe not great, at least not yet, but definitely good. It hits the right sweet spots, especially if you’re a fan of historical fantasy and/or attractive people exchanging smoldering, teasing glances every few minutes. Its main characters are what make Outlander stand out, not only among Starz’s recent, middling attempts at original programming but also among the wider television landscape.