We gave it an A-
The Droughtlander is over, Sassenachs, and I, for one, am thirsty. Despite Outlander’s much-anticipated return for season 3 (heralded by EW’s TV critic Jeff Jensen as “TV’s best romance”), our travel canteens aren’t overflowing just yet. Because as you’ll recall from the season 2 finale, our star-crossed lovers are now separated by two centuries, as Jamie sent Claire (and their unborn child) back through the stones at Craigh na Dun to keep them safe from the impending Battle of Culloden.
About that battle: The premiere opens in its aftermath, with Highlander bodies strewn across the moor, some piled two, three, four high. Red Coats pick through the carnage, running bayonets through the near-dead and scavenging valuables. Said soldiers pass Jamie’s body, but he’s not a corpse just yet. As he lies battered and broken, we flash back to the battle. We see Bonnie Prince Charlie, as peacockish as ever, striding among the assembled Scots promising victory. We see the ill-prepared clansmen, who’ve brought swords to a gunfight, charging to their death. And through the cannon smoke and blood splatter, we see Jamie spot the one man to whom he owes his revenge: Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall. The two lock eyes and take up arms. Black Jack slices Jamie’s leg, and things don’t look good. That is, until Jamie stabs him viciously in the side. Two of the last men standing, they finally topple over together.
Black Jack may have died on that moor, but Jamie will not. He is found by Rupert (whom he initially — wishfully — mistakes as a cherubic Claire) and is dragged, despite his protests, to an outpost where other surviving Highlanders have holed up. (The dragonfly in amber, gifted to Jamie by his bride, unceremoniously falls out of his bag and onto the field, presumably left to the scavengers.) Jamie is not long for the outpost before the English, led by Lord Melton, find them with orders to shoot the traitors. The men are given an hour to prepare themselves. Rupert says his goodbyes to Jamie, finding solace in the idea that he will soon see his friend, the dearly departed Angus. Jamie, lying on the floor awaiting his own fate, hears the fatal shot meant for Rupert. He then volunteers to be next, but when he gives his name to the record keeper, it perks up Melton’s ears. He confirms that the man before him is, indeed, Red Jamie.
“I’ve been called that by my enemies,” Jamie confirms.
Melton then asks for a different volunteer before sidling up to Jamie to ask if the name John Grey means anything to him. Astute viewers (or ones who watched the “Previously On” reel) will recall that Jamie spared that young man’s life in a season 2 episode, and a debt of honor is owed him. And, as it so happens, Lord Melton is John Grey’s brother. All of which means that instead of executing Jamie, Lord Melton sends the very ill Scot back to Lallybroch — again, despite his protests that he just wants to die (sensing a theme here?) — and into his sister’s safe keeping. (Recap continues on page 2)