I have never enjoyed a single episode of television as much as I enjoyed watching the Season 5 premiere of Outlander. It, in my humble opinion, surpassed the Season 1 “Wedding” episode and here are all the emotional reasons why.
First, let me address those of you who think I’ve taken leave of my senses and forgotten about “The Wedding”. It’s one of the most beloved episodes evah. I have not and, if I’m being honest, that episode has gotten me through more than one lonely night (if you know what I mean). That episode will forever rank as one of my favorites. However, for its’ “circle of life” theme and its honoring of the past, this wedding episode has my heart.
James Fraser as Wedding Planner
Prior to Jamie and Claire’s wedding we see Jamie’s clansmen trying desperately to carry out his orders. Angus and Rupert (may those lovable goofballs rest in peace) bully a blacksmith into providing same-day ring service. Ned Gowan does some sketchy stuff in a brothel to get Claire’s wedding dress. Murtagh calls on a widow for Jamie’s wedding kilt. It isn’t the wedding that Jamie wants but it’s all he can do in the circumstances.
Jamie appears to be involved in every element of his daughter’s wedding. He doing for Bree what he didn’t have the chance to do for Claire. He gathers the requisite old (Ellen’s pearls), new (Whisky! How awesome is that?!), borrowed and blue (are those forget-me-not’s?) items for Bree’s ensemble. He shaves Roger to ensure that he doesn’t look like he’s “been to the war and back.” He also commissions Murtagh to design a ring that far surpasses the “copper and brass” that Roger was expecting.
I am a fan of all the iterations of James Fraser; warrior, lover, philosopher, laird, and husband. This James Fraser as doting father is one that we haven’t seen much and I love it. Of course, major props go to Sam Heughan for infusing this vulnerable side of book Jamie into the screen version.
That Pearl Necklace
Do you remember when Jamie first draped Ellen’s pearls around Claire’s neck? Her face tells us she’s wondering what she’s gotten herself into. At the same moment, a naked Jamie walks behind her, places the strand over her head, and lets the pearls fall around Claire’s bare breasts. I’m sure you remember the rest. If not, you should rewatch it but definitely not if you are at work or there are small children or prudish adults around, or if you need to do anything productive for the next 45 minutes.
This time around, we see Jamie tenderly fasten the strand of pearls around his daughter’s neck. Brianna, the child he sacrificed his greatest love for, the one he thought was lost to time, is here in front of him and you can see the wonder of it all in his face.
Jamie and Claire’s wedding ceremony is one of the most beautiful scenes from any season of Outlander. The candlelight, the looks of fear and trepidation on the faces of both Jamie and Claire, and that kiss, are worthy of a re-watch or three.
At their own wedding, Jamie and Claire have no idea what the future holds for them. It’s a marriage of convenience, after all, and not exactly a foundation for a happily ever after. Viewing their own wedding through the lens of their daughter’s wedding gives us all the opportunity to recall what it has taken to get them to this point; twenty years of separation, imprisonment, a loveless marriage, forced servitude, and a shipwreck. Jamie and Claire have come a long way in twenty something years and their own wedding is as clear to them on this day as it was all those years and traumas ago. Sigh.
Nods to the Couples That We’ve Come to Love
During the ceremony and reception, we catch glimpses of the couples that we’ve come to love in the last two seasons. Fergus and Marsali beam at each other whether they are standing side by side or across a bonfire. I called them “Frasers 2.0” in an episode recap and I’m standing by that. These two represent the joy and playfulness of young love in the same way that Jamie and Claire do in Season 1. Speaking of something “new” it looks like Marsali has another baguette in the oven. Didn’t Claire teach her about birth control?
We also get a glimpse of Jacosta with her Gray Fox turned Faerie King. This coupling shouldn’t exist because, in the book, Murtagh dies at Culloden. It’s hard to be mad about the dramatic change when these two are so cute together.
The Return of the Warrior and Laird
You gasped when Jamie appeared wearing a kilt didn’t you? I certainly did! The kilt has been stored with Jamie’s other regalia (don’t spend too much time thinking about how it got there from Lallybroch) and he opens the top with such reverence that we can imagine how infrequently he has allowed himself to gaze upon these relics from his past life.
Tryon throws down the gauntlet and Jamie knows that he will soon support a side that will force him to betray his oath to the British government. He’ll do it for the protection of his family and friends and all the occupants of Fraser’s Ridge.
Gearing up for battle, means putting on your uniform and Jamie does just that. In donning the kilt, he summons the strength of his ancestors and calls upon them to help him navigate these turbulent waters.
We owe Bear McCreary a standing ovation for the re-introduction of “Sa Mhadainn.” I have always been captivated by Griogair Labhruidh‘s vocals and how this song so perfectly prepares the viewer for the battles to come in Season 2. It serves the same function here in Season 5.
Calling the Clans and Claiming the Family
I still get a little bit mushy when I think back to Fergus and Marsali’s wedding. When the priest asks for Fergus’ full name he pauses, not having a family name to give. Jamie tells all who are gathered that Fergus’ last name is Fraser. I wrote about this in one of my Outlander Life Lesson’s posts and you can read that to know why I find this so beautiful.
Poor Roger, is constantly minimized by Jamie for all the reasons that fathers torment their daughters’ partners but also because Roger thinks for a minute (or a month but who’s counting) about whether or not to come back to Bree to raise the son that may or may not be his.
Jamie publicly claims Roger and Fergus at the burning of the cross by calling out to them and asking them to stand with him.
“Roger MacKenzie, be a shield for your family and mine; son of my house.” Roger steps toward Jamie with uncertainty but it all vanishes when Jamie puts his hand on Roger’s shoulder and calls him “Captain.” With this gesture, Jamie not only gives a public approval of Roger but he signals to the residents of Fraser’s Ridge that Roger is a man to be respected.
And then there’s Fergus. Jamie calls to him, “Stand by my hand Fergus; son of my name and of my heart.”
Jamie leaves no room for questions about the place that these men occupy in his mind and their importance to the ridge.
As long as we’re bringing things full circle, take a moment to think about the first season when Jamie made his oath of fealty to Colum (sort of). Now, Jamie stands in front of his own “clan” receiving that same pledge from its members. Jamie and Claire exchange a few glances that make you believe that, just for a minute, they are back at Castle Leoch all those years ago.
The Circle of Life
I wasn’t entirely sure about the baby Jamie and young Murtagh exchange at the beginning of the episode. Standing here on the other side, all I can say is what an excellent way to bookend sixty, emotional minutes.
Both men have referenced Murtagh’s oath to Jamie, and life choices have tested it, more than once. Still, Murtagh has always been Jamie’s fiercest protector. As evidence, he goes into battle with Jamie at Culloden fully expecting to die by his godson’s side.
At the end of the episode, Jamie tearfully releases Murtagh from his oath. Jamie offers Murtagh the only protection that he can while still maintaining his own oath to Tryon. These two are bound by honor and loyalty and you can see the weight of both etched in their faces. Jamie begs Murtagh to be “hard to find” and they go their separate ways. The godson is long past needing the protection of the godfather but, as in real life, what we need and what we want are two very different things. On a side note, I’ve always been thought we would all be better off if each of us had a Murtagh running interference for us.
My boss is an Outlander fan and I asked what she thought of this episode. She said it was too sappy. Given the number of tears I cried while watching it I certainly get what she’s saying.
My rebuttal is that given the hardships of the past four seasons (the death, the loss, the separation, all the pain) wasn’t it nice to see the characters that we love bask in love even for just one episode? If you’re a book reader you know that tragedy is lurking just out of frame. The Fraser’s and MacKenzie’s won’t enjoy this glow for long. If we have to get gut punched (and we do), then I’m thrilled that we, first, get to spend an hour on the ridge marinating in joy.
The joy, the tears, the spoken love, the implied love, the gathering and claiming of family, and all the honor paid to the past makes this Outlander wedding the best Outlander wedding.
What were your favorite moments from this episode?