If you haven’t been watching Outlander, you need to rectify that situation right now. It is hella good fun. Here’s the set up: The series begins in 1945, just as World War 2 ends. Claire Randall, a combat nurse, is recently reunited with her husband, Frank, with whom she is very much in love. They go on a trip to Inverness where she touches a magic druid rock and is sent back in time to 1743, where she must survive by her wits and try desperately not to fall in love with a dashing rapscallion named Jamie. You should watch this show. Here is why:
1. It has an amazing geek pedigree. It was adapted from a hugely popular series of fantasy novels written by Diana Gabaldon. It was developed by Ronald D. Moore of the “I made that amazing Battlestar Galactica series everyone loved” Ronald D. Moores.
2. It is mostly set in the Scottish Highlands in 1743, and if you’ve ever been to Comic-Con you know one thing is true: Geeks love kilts. Comic-Con is basically the largest gathering of Utilikilt wearers in North America. Can’t get enough.
3. That set up could be a cheese factory, but it isn’t. Outside of the precipitating magic event, everything is very grounded. The Scottish Highlands were cold and dirty in the 18th Century, and the show reflects that. Claire earns a place by using her nursing skills, and while she is aided by her modern understanding of sanitation, she can’t miracle cure everyone she meets.
4. The show is patient without being slow. Most of the pilot is spent watching Claire and Frank on vacation, not doing anything much. And while you may wonder when they're going to get to the kilts and muskets portion, it isn’t boring. Plus, the time spent with the couple pays off down the road when the audience needs to understand exactly what Claire has lost and why she is desperate to get back home. And although Claire and Jamie have insane chemistry and are inevitably headed for each other, it doesn’t feel like they are being kept apart for contrived reasons.
5. Caitriona Balfe is lovely in both periods. She is lively and smart and fierce and oh so aware of her precarious position. She is thoroughly modern, faced with the sometimes barbaric practices of the past. She doesn’t compromise, but she also can’t stick her neck out too far. It is fun to watch her high wire act.
6. Sam Heughan’s Jamie is the platonic ideal of boyish manliness. Quixotic, devil may care, handsome, and totally in love with Claire within about 15 minutes. As well he should be. Really, everyone should be. He is seriously dreamy, and there is already an entire fangirl army calling themselves the Heughligans.
7. Tobias Menzies as Frank may be the short leg of the love triangle, but he is appealing enough that you sort of hope Claire finds her way back to him someday, just not until she’s spent some time in the stables with Jamie.
8. It keeps you guessing. In the second episode, after a reasonably auspicious start, Claire wrongfoots herself in a conversation with the local Laird. I am still not sure what exactly she said that tipped him off, but he knows that she is lying. By the end of the third episode she has realized she can’t trust someone she thought was an ally, and by the end of the fourth episode, which airs tomorrow night, she has earned the respect of someone unlikely, and everything on the show changes.
9. It is fiercely feminist without being didactic. In some ways, Claire’s slide from 1945 to 1743 is an exaggerated exploration of the way working women were pushed back into the kitchen when the war ended, but Claire’s frustration about that is never on the surface. The often appalling treatment of women is there — I think that every episode features an act of sexual violence — but it’s handled softly, although not lightly. The wrongness of the violence is underscored by Claire’s powerful sexuality in her own time, which highlights the injustice of her predicament.
10. At the end of every episode I want to see more. That’s the main thing. After every episode I am sad that it is over.
Outlander airs Saturday nights on Starz.