TV Review: Outlander (Season 3, Episode 3)
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In All Debts Paid, the cost of the bargains that Claire and Jamie have struck begin to materialise, with wider ramifications than perhaps either of them realise. First, let’s focus on Claire, who’s learning to deal with the disintegration of her marriage. Claire and Frank adjust to their newly open relationship, now that all hope of reconciliation is lost. Frank is discreetly dating around, but Claire is still too wrapped up in Jamie to ever consider someone new. We see Claire's discomfort at the arrangement, even as she suppresses her natural reaction. It’s an irrational reaction, but she’s smart enough to know it and pragmatic enough to accept the new bargain. The gloves are off, however, when Claire’s graduation goes awry. At a celebration for family and friends, Frank’s new girlfriend Sandy (not Candy) accidentally arrives early and embarrasses Claire. The newly qualified doctor confronts her husband, who admits there was some malice in the action. Yet, it’s difficult to be truly mad at Frank- this is undoubtedly a moment of weakness for him, but Outlander resists making Frank a clear-cut villain. He’s not characterised as a bad man, but instead as someone whose life has gone awry and isn’t wholly perfect. Frank and Claire contemplate a divorce, but Frank can’t bear the thought of being separated from Brianna, and doesn’t trust Claire to allow him access to Brianna. Instead, both parties carry on in a miserable compromise. It’s only once Brianna has graduated from high school that the floodgates open for Frank. Now Brianna is an adult, he wants to divorce Claire and make an honest woman of Sandy, a woman who can truly love him in a way that Claire can’t. The request is not altogether unreasonable, but Frank has also been offered a position at Cambridge and wants to take his daughter with him to England. He believes she’ll say yes, because Claire has been so distant and absorbed in her work. This brings me to my first major qualm with this episode. Although the scenes between Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies are compelling, and the relationship between Frank and Claire is fascinating, Outlander hasn’t spent enough time establishing Claire’s life outside of her marriage. All Debts Paid doesn’t invest the time in portraying Claire’s life as a doctor, and so the rift between her and Brianna isn’t as convincing. Given that this relationship is crucial to the direction of the series, it’s unnerving that so little screen time is given to this mother-daughter dynamic. Hopefully next week’s episode will do right by this crucial relationship. For now, the series focuses on saying farewell to one of its principal characters. Frank’s death in a car accident foils his chances of happiness back in England, and cements the melancholic position he holds within the show.
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Outlander: Season 3 is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, with new episodes arriving weekly.