This review contains spoilers. You can read Becky's spoiler-free review of the first eight episodes here.
The first half of Outlander's season ended with Claire quite literally in the hands of Black Jack Randall and Jamie bursting in to her rescue. The second half picks up again with this moment, but takes us back to Jamie's perspective, crafting the episode with his narration. He is meeting with the Redcoat deserter who promised to give him the name of the man who actually committed the murder when he gets news of Claire's capture and dashes off to rescue her. The rest of the episode deals with the consequences of her actions and expanding on Jamie's character.
Twisting the format slightly to allow for the episode to take place from Jamie's perspective proves to be a bit of a masterstroke considering The Reckoning's subject matter. Jamie's narration revolves around the choices a man makes in his life and he meets varies problems throughout; Colum and Dougal's rift over the Jacobite gold, Laighoire throwing herself at him despite his marital status and the actions he must take over Claire's disobediance. Sam Heughan adapts Jamie easily to each situation from the noble diplomat that takes on Colum and Dougal to the flustered man faced with a woman in nought but her corset.
It's the situation with Claire that could have potentially been massively mishandled within the episode and it's a scene that I know a lot of book readers were sort of dreading. Because she has not only endangered Jamie, she has also endangered Dougal's men and the clan MacKenzie, who don't think she realises just quite how much trouble she has caused. It leads to the first monumental argument of the Fraser marriage as both Claire and Jamie go at each other tooth and nail in the woods; she is indignant at his assertions she did it on purpose whilst he is furious that she can't seem to realise how huge it was that he revealed himself to Black Jack Randall in order to save her.
Heughan and Caitriona Balfe play the escalation of the scene beautifully, with Heughan in particular excelling through Jamie's shifting emotions. What is also so refreshing about Claire in this episode is how unaware she is of the traditions she violates with her early twentieth century attitude. Too often in these kind of stories, people learn to adapt quickly by virtue of education, but Claire blunders her way through and it's the first episode where that has major consequences for her. Balfe gives Claire an insolent air as she faces the consequences of her actions and the thrashing scene is much better for building Claire up in this manner.
Whereas the argument between the two is played entirely seriously, the bedroom based and potentially contraversial thrashing is played as a farce. The music in particular gives the impression it's a reel around the bedroom as Jamie circulates the bed in which Claire prepares to mount her defence. It's a very fine line to tread but the episode manages it, giving it the serious edge that such a scene requires whilst also mining it for the wry comedy that has characterised much of the series so far. The cut aways to the men downstairs listening to the chaos of the bedroom provide some well-judged laughs too.
That this is from Jamie's perspective also softens the scene somewhat; he feels it is something he has to do because he has always been brought up to believe it. Claire challenges his assumptions and choices constantly, none more so than when she refuses to sleep with him after the event. The power shifts in the marriage is something that Jamie didn't expect amongst the choices that he talks about throughout his voiceover, but before the end of the episode, another negotiation takes place between the two of them that addresses the imbalance caused by Jamie's adherence to tradition. And in this second negotiation, Claire is very much on top in more ways than one.
The final moments of the episode set up another potential hurdle for the couple to deal with in the form of Laighoire's 'ill wishes' as well as the possibility that a tonne of Redcoats could come after Claire at any second. It's all very exciting.
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