When it was originally on: 2014-present
Original network: Starz
Where you can stream it now: Netflix (Season 1-3) or Starz (Seasons 5)
Had I seen it before: I had seen the beginning of the pilot when I attempted to watch it earlier in the project but fell asleep.
What IMDb says: An English combat nurse from 1945 is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743.
Why I picked it: There is perhaps no non-HBO premium cable drama more successful at the moment than Outlander. I know there’s a lot of qualifiers on that sentence, but I still think that counts for something. When writing The List, possibly the hardest void to fill is premium cable shows that AREN’T HBO, and Outlander was the first one that came to mind.
The show also just has a cool premise that seems like the kind of thing that needs premium cable to thrive. I just can’t see CBS or NBC doing a steamy romantic drama with time travel back in time.
What I liked: Claire is a super easy protagonist to rally behind. She’s smart. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go get it. She asserts herself when she’s surrounded by men who try to dismiss her. She’s nice and compassionate while still being strong, and all too often female protagonists are forced into one box or the other. Claire is the kind of character I want to follow anywhere, even when none of the other characters surrounding her are particularly interesting (and at least in the pilot, they’re not).
I also love how the show does a great job of showing us Claire’s life in 1945 before transporting her to 1743. The pilot isn’t focused so much on what happens to Claire so much as who Claire is. How does she make her decisions? What’s important to her? Why is she the way that she is?
I also think it’s great that the show doesn’t try too hard to explain why Claire traveled back in time. When stories have magical or supernatural elements, writers sometimes try to say “but this is WHY these magical elements are here” and oftentimes that just raises more questions and causes more confusion. The fact that Outlander essentially just says “yup, she time traveled, okay, moving on now” really worked for me. Sure, maybe it can dive deeper into questions of how and why later in the series, but for the pilot, that wasn’t necessary. The writers here understood that getting us invested in Claire and her journey was far more important than trying to address every little nitty gritty detail we could possibly have about the show and its time travel .
What I didn’t like: Not a fan of all the voiceover, but then anyone who follows this blog semi-regularly probably could’ve guessed that so I don’t want to dwell on it.
What I do find a bit strange is that after Claire gets transported back in time she seems oddly content with it. Claire seems incredibly intelligent and resourceful, after all, she was a combat nurse in WWII. And yet we don’t really see her try to figure out why she’s in 1743 or try to come up with any plan for getting back to 1945. Again, I don’t necessarily think the show itself needs to answer any of these questions right away, and would probably cause more problems for itself if it tried. But based on everything I know about Claire so far, it seems odd that she would be content to not know these answers. That being said, it would be really easy to correct this with one more episode, so I’d still give the show as a whole the benefit of the doubt.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes. I like our protagonist and the show has an intriguing premise. I’d definitely be curious to know what happens next.