In episode five of Outlander, “Rent”, we pick up where we left Claire and Clan MacKenzie: on the road to collect the dues of farmers across MacKenzie land. As Claire experiences life on the road, she makes a new friend in Ned Gowan, keeper of the MacKenzie accounts. Meanwhile, tension arises between Claire and the clansmen as she grows increasingly doubtful of the men, their behavior, and their intentions. Ever passionate and outspoken, Claire’s defiance tests the clan’s already fragile trust and puts herself at dangerous odds with some of the less accepting men, particularly hot-tempered Angus. Along the road she’ll uncover not only new observations about the MacKenzie, but a new understanding of the dangers posed by the threat of history as memories of exploring Scotland’s Jacobite Risings with Frank resurface.
This episode brings us into much of the political history of Scotland in the mid-1700s, a subject crucial to the story of Outlander as the political leanings of Dougal and many of the MacKenzie are revealed. Through the series so far we’ve seen the men as family, as clansmen and tradition-keepers, but now we see them as aspiring soldiers, brimming with the energy to defend and restore what they believe to be the true heart and power of Scotland in direct rebellion against the British – the most powerful army in the world. Claire becomes the helpful eyes through which we see all of this; her keen observations and sharp understanding are guiding lights in the viewer’s journey into the history. Not contented merely as a device, however, Claire steps through the story with her unwavering voice and resilient pride intact. She continues to be as refreshing of a heroine as in the novel, her brassy confidence in full force as she heeds neither the stern eyes of Dougal, nor the kindly guidance of Ned, nor the gently chiding words of Jamie.
One of the wonderful things about this adaptation – and one truly highlighted in this episode – is that, despite being at turns a love story and an historical story and a wartime, political, fantasy, time-travel story, this is Claire’s story, and we viewers feel a closeness to her that beautifully evokes the closeness we felt to her in her narrative of the novel. I love that we experience everything as she experiences it, discover things as she discovers them; her bravery and boldness bound from the screen much as they bounded from the pages of the novel. Additionally, those of us fans who’ve been quietly (or not-so-quietly) fawning over Terry Dresbach’s costume designs get even more of Claire’s wardrobe in this episode, beautiful knit shawls and fur-lined capes aplenty. But as much as this is Claire’s story and we’re seeing that so strongly represented, we can also delight in seeing the relationship between Claire and Jamie take its hesitant, curious steps in the direction their chemistry inevitably pulls them.
And with Claire leaving us in a bit of suspense this week, I’m sure we’re all wishing on the next episode with haste. In the meantime, you can catch this episode again OnDemand and find more at Starz.com. Until next week, Outlanders!
Disclosure: Access to programming was made available for the purpose of review | Photos: © Starz