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article imageReview: Outlander debuts on Starz August 9th

By Kathleen Creighton     Aug 8, 2014 in Entertainment
But fans of Diana Gabaldon's epic book series don't have to wait. The first episode of the Starz series, which brings the first book to life, is available now!
Die-hard book-lovers counted the minutes until Midnight on August 2nd to watch the first full episode of Outlander online. Starz went the extra mile of not just offering a teaser/trailer or behind the scenes documentary to whet hungry pallets. No! They rolled out all 64 minutes of Episode 1, "Sassenach."
As one of those fans, there were high expectations and deep fears. Just like with Harry Potter, would the director do the story justice? Would it be cast correctly? Would it live up to the books?
Casting? This reader had forgotten how young Jamie was at the beginning. Sam Heughan has the right balance of roughness and good looks and is the right age. So far he is very convincing as Master Fraser. Caitriona Balfe as Claire? The jury's still out on this one. One minute, her portrayal is stoic, strong, and determined but then it turns flat. It will be interesting to see if she can really evolve into the passionate and clever Claire Beauchamp Randall of the books. Also, hopefully, there is some actual chemistry between Balfe and Heughan in future episodes because in this offering there was not nor was there much between Claire and Frank. The personal favorite is Graham McTavish as Dougal MacKenzie. Dougal was a critical character even though he was not the Laird of the clan. His position as War Chieftan sometimes required more power than his brother and also offered him the opportunity to not have to be politically (or socially) correct. McTavish has this character down pat.
There are saving graces though. For one; as the director has stated, location filming for this series was critical. The Scottish Highlands are an actual character in this endeavor. Especially with the fact that they kept with the season that the story begins, the land is drab as Fall wanes from its brief burst of color to the gloom of Winter. Then there is the quiet coziness of 1940s Inverness. One has to love that Europeans are not quick to level old structures. Much of the village in the film required little set dressing. It all plays well into the production.
The other thing that makes at least this episode very good is the musical scoring. Bear McCreary, who holds the credits to music for Battlestar Galactica and Walking Dead, channels many current Celtic musicians. Raya Yarborough singing the theme of the series sounds very similar to Loreena McKinnit and one can easily include these tracks in a playlist that includes Clannad, Natalie McMaster and Enya. All together the music draws the viewer deeper into the story.
Feedback from viewers at this time has been a mixed bag. Hopefully, future episodes will improve. If they do, Starz can count on an increase in their subscriptions. They have gone all out on marketing it; having cast members attend San Diego ComicCon, contests for trips and books and blasting social media with #putakiltonit. Diana Gabaldon has been doing a lot of online interacting with fans. In other words, Starz has invested a great deal in this series and are working hard to see a good return on that investment. This amateur literary and film critic gives "Sassenach" 3 stars and would consider giving Episode 2 a chance.
More about Outlander, Starz, Claire Randall, Jamie Fra, Diana Gabaldon
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