Wedding bells are ringing as Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is married for the second time.
Let’s bitch it out…
I found myself immediately disappointed when, following the flashforward, we open on Claire and Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) post-wedding kiss. “Wait…we don’t get to see actual wedding?!” Initially the decision to frame the wedding as a series of flashbacks felt a bit more like a novelty – a way to defer the big reveal of the dress and the vows. In hindsight, the structure of the episode is very deliberate and while I’m not sure I really liked it, it does make sense considering what we’re meant to take away from this episode.
Up until this point Jamie has remained a bit of a mystery – he’s been on the fringe of the group, assuming the occasional role of Claire’s protector, but we don’t actually know much about him (including, it turns out, his full name). ‘The Wedding’ goes a long way to helping us get to know the big hunk, which makes sense considering that this is Claire’s first real opportunity to get to know him and she is the audience surrogate. All of her moments with Jamie throughout the night, including the sexy bits, go a long way towards establishing them as a viable, legitimate couple. It also puts Claire’s anxiety at the ceremony into perspective by contrasting how far she’s come.
The storytelling aspect of Claire and Jamie’s long “getting to know you” is also important because it reframes the wedding as something more than just an opportunity for the two to get their sex on. Obviously this is an event that’s occurring as a necessity given the events of the last episode, but the flashbacks to the various transactions and financial costs required to expedite the wedding offer additional valuable insight into the world. I admit that I thought it would be as simple as pulling a few people and items together, but it’s much more difficult than that. The budget associated (in the form of both promises and coin) for the father, the ring and the wedding gown all reinforce how the economic system works.
It also brings to light the continuing issue of sex(ism) and gender, which has been such a dominant topic of discussion in the series and in reviews about Outlander. There are repeated instances throughout the episode when the men joke about having sex with Claire and while that’s not exactly something new (her gender has marked her for disturbing sexual encounters throughout the seven episodes thus far, including Black John’s [Tobias Menzies] attempted rape in the first episode), it is something that I expected would change once she was a) accepted into the clan and b) a married woman. We could brush aside the sexist comments as jokes and reflective of the times, but our alignment with Claire (and her modern sensibility) means that we know there is more to it than that. The defining moment occurs near the end of the episode when Dougal (Graham McTavish) tells Claire to her face that her marriage doesn’t prevent her from sleeping with him, which undermines both the institution of marriage we know she buys into (hence her struggle with getting married a second time) and the endeavour of mounting the wedding in such a short time. To Jamie and Claire the marriage is legitimate; to Dougal, it’s ceremony – flexible, negotiable and non-binding. Consider the scene when Jamie goes to get food and Dougal reminds him that he has yet to be thanked for partnering Jamie with Claire, as though she is little more than property that the men can barter for – just like the ring and the wedding dress. If anything, Dougal’s role in executing the wedding now makes him feel entitled to retribution.
It’s an extremely uncomfortable and revealing moment that says as much about Dougal as it does about Claire’s new situation on the show. Although Dougal punches Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) in the face for a lewd comment only a moment later (suggesting that he does respect her honour), there’s no denying that marriage does not remove Claire from danger and is no less of an Outlander. At this point, with only one episode remaining in this first half of the season, Outlander continues to surprise not only in its assured execution, but also in its willingness to explore and complicate the minute details of Claire’s predicament. It’s a much deeper show than I was anticipating and despite the fact that Claire is seemingly in a better position than she has been in all season, I doubt that this marriage will prevent further conflict or danger.
- Can we talk about the dress porn shot? There’s a hilarious moment that occurs when Claire arrives outside the church and her jacket is removed to a host of long, lingering looks. It’s a hilarious slow motion tilt up and down so that we can admire the whole ensemble and while I don’t doubt it is meant to factor into her continued sexualization by the McKenzie men, it’s also a very “fashion”-y moment wherein we’re asked to gawk and appreciate the spectacle of a wedding dress.
- Moment of heartbreak: Claire’s quiet moment as she takes off her first wedding ring before entering the church to get married a second time. Aside from that opening scene, Frank and her first marriage do not hang over the proceedings as heavily as I thought they would, though there is a melancholy poignancy here and in that final haunting image as Claire inspects the matching bands on both hands.
- Ladies, help me out here. Is that second sex scene hot? The move to immediate penetration is always a bit mystifying to me. Like, where’s the foreplay? Claire’s cries certainly sound enthusiastic, but a part of me can’t help but wonder about the chafing.
- Side Note: I kept expecting Claire to use her modern day sexual experience to educate Jamie about how to pleasure a woman, but to no avail. She does bring a touch of twentieth century sexuality into the mix when she performs fellatio on him, but I would thought she’d at least make him reciprocate. Guess they do have a lifetime to get to know each other in as many ways as they can.
- Finally, an unintentionally funny moment: Jamie gives Claire a pearl necklace (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it!)
- Jamie (reassuring Claire that he’ll protect her): “And, if necessary, protection of my body as well.” Yes, well…we’ll get to that in a bit.
- Jamie (clarifying when Claire suggests they go to bed): “To bed…or to sleep?” Wink wink, nudge nudge.
- Jamie (when Claire asks where he learned to kiss): “I said I was a virgin, not a monk”
Your turn: did ‘The Wedding’ fulfill all of your expectations? What about the increasingly intimate sex scenes? Did you like the way the financial transactions were built into the flashbacks? Is the sexism a dominant or an underlying subtext in your viewing experience? And what terrible adventures lie in wait for the mid-season finale? Sound off below, but for those of you who have read the books, please keep it spoiler free for the rest of us!
Outlander airs its mid-season finale next Saturday at 9pm EST on STARZ