A few weeks ago, Entertainment Weekly released its Outlander Season 4 cover images and a few additional images to go along with them. They were meant to provide succor to parched Droughtlander sufferers but my thirst was not slaked, not even a bit. The images felt boring and similar to the ones from previous years. And those Scots puns (Too Scot To Handle, Some Like It Scot) are beginning to feel like dad jokes; I giggled politely the first three seasons but now I only have an eye roll. These photos made me question whether or not I was ready for Season 4. Maybe I didn’t deserve these photos because I wasn’t desperate enough for the show to return? What if I no longer cared about what happens to Jamie and Claire as they Brave the New World? What if my Outlander obsession is gone? I pondered these questions until I saw what I didn’t even know I needed; the Starz photos released by Vanity Fair. After seeing those photos and then spending some time gazing lovingly at them each time they popped up on my Facebook feed, I realized that my Outlander love was intact. At that point I was left to question why the Vanity Fair photos connected with me in a way that that the Entertainment Weekly photos didn’t.
I don’t want to throw too much shade at Entertainment Weekly. I can’t even imagine the undertaking involved in these shoots and the collected creativity that it takes to get these covers on store shelves. These are just my thoughts on why the EW photos failed to evoke an emotional response from me and why the Vanity Fair photos made me feel like my favorite friends were coming home after a long trip to Scotland with a brief stop in Jamaica, and then washing up on shore after a hurricane.
Why is Jamie Trying to Eat Claire?
Why does Jamie look like he’s going to eat Claire and not in a Season 1 sort of way (you’re welcome)? I know they’ve been through some stuff but Claire has on that fancy dress and they appear to be in a fancy home so surely there is some food around. Right? This looks less sexy and more menacing to me. Also, why is Jamie so dirty?
At This Point I’m Questioning Jamie and Claire’s Money Management Skills
This is Claire’s third dress and Jamie is still wearing that shirt. I understand that money is tight for the Frasers and that Claire makes a “verra fine ornamental jewel box” but perhaps Claire could be a tad lass ornamental and they could use that freed up cash to buy Jamie another shirt, or two, or three. Also, why is Jamie still dirty? Claire has had time to make two wardrobe changes and Jamie couldn’t sneak down to the river and freshen up?
So Much to Unpack Here
I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this photo. It was impossible to focus on the hotness of Jamie…err…Sam (which is what I think I’m supposed to be doing) because of all the questions in my head. Why is his shirt open? What is his hand doing? Is he trying to show me his boobs? And Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ why on earth is he so freaking dirty? He’s leaning up against that wall with his dirty self and I can literally hear seven generations of my Southern grandmothers yelling for him to get out of their clean house with his filthy clothes.
Let’s move on to the Starz photos published by Vanity Fair.
This is My Mind’s Idea of Jamie and Claire
This photo represents everything that comes to my mind when I imagine Jamie and Claire in their new world. I didn’t fall in love with these two because they dined with the king’s men. I’ve got other books for that. I fell hard for Jamie and Claire because they are blood and guts, dirty fingernails, and kissing with morning breath. This photo is Jamie and Claire against the world. I think for most fans (myself included) we love this aspect of the characters because we either see it in our own relationships or we aspire to it. Struggling against nature, political forces, and warring human factions isn’t pretty and neither is Outlander. Faces steeled against the world around them and bodies clinging to each other for protection and support; this defines Jamie and Claire.
I Take Back All the Things I Said About That Shirt
Jamie has somehow managed to keep himself cleaner while chopping wood than he did while nuzzling up to fancy pants Claire but I digress. Seriously y’all this is sexy. A partner who provides for and protects their family is sexy; end of story. A man chopping wood to keep to keep the family warm through the winter is double sexy. Knowing that he could also take out any woodland beasts (perhaps a bear) that threaten the homestead is just an added bonus.
I Feel Like I Should Give Them a Moment But I Just Can’t Look Away
My favorite moments in the books and the series have always and forever will be these stolen moments of intimacy for Jamie and Claire. These two are at their best when they are alone and they can each lay down their weapons for awhile and lose themselves in each other. Remember that great campfire scene in the Devil’s Mark where Jamie said he wanted to “watch” Claire? What about the “the glade” scene before it was so rudely interrupted by the redcoat deserters? And who among us hasn’t used “bolt the door” when we need to keep the rest of the world at bay for just a few minutes? Ok, you’ve probably never used the line but you knew exactly what Claire was feeling in that moment. Right?
This photo sums up all of those past moments and prepares us for the intimate moments to come. This is the Jamie and Claire that I love and this photo is precisely why I’ll be tuning in to the first episode of Season 4 on November 4.
When I think about Outlander, I think of scarred hearts and scarred lives. I think of dirt and grime and blood and fruitless toil. I think of struggle and hardship. I also think of honor and devotion. I think of commitment to a cause greater than oneself and I think of commitment to love. I think of passion and desire and I think of love that lasts more than one lifetime. This is no more true than in Drums of Autumn where Jamie and Claire find themselves at odds with the world around them while trying desperately to leave it a better place for their daughter. I saw all of that captured in the Vanity Fair photos and it’s just one of many reasons that I can’t stop looking at them. Kudos to you Starz for turning all of those feelings into images and kudos to Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe for continuing to epitomize Jamie and Claire.