Outlander S3 postmortem: The good, the bad, and Ugly Jamie


Season 3 might be over, but Claire and Jamie are always in our hearts. Here is Culturess’ wrap-up of Outlander’s third season, including what worked, what didn’t, and what was up with Jamie’s terrible beard.

First, let’s acknowledge the bearded, powdered-wigged elephant in the room: Obviously Sam Heughan is an objectively gorgeous man. Ergo, Jamie Fraser is an objectively gorgeous man. I have 20/20 vision, so I know full well how lovely Jamie is with or without a gross Paul Bunyan beard or a possibly-too-small-for-his-head powdered wig. My grievance is, why? Outlander is a romantic fantasy and Jamie was created to be almost annoyingly good-looking. There was simply no need to give him a Bereaved Beard or a Whimsical Wig. That’s not what we’re here for, Outlander. Let Jamie be the bonny man he is.

There, now we can get down to the business of wrapping up Outlander‘s third season. Here is our ruling on the high and low points of season 3:

The good: “A. Malcolm”

There was a lot riding on this episode, which could be nicknamed, “Jamie and Claire Are Back Together — YAYYYYY!!!!” And “A. Malcolm” didn’t disappoint. It had it all: feminist sex scenes, heart-skipping romance, and a grown man fainting from intense love. If you had to choose one episode to rewatch from season 3, “A. Malcolm” would be the only way to go.

The bad: Outlander‘s treatment of race

Image from Outlander 313. Image via Starz.

Whether it was Yi Tien Cho making a truly baffling speech or Joe Abernathy getting short shrift or Claire and Jamie moonlighting as white saviors, Outlander really bungled its race-related stories in season 3. Racism and slavery were either glossed over or quickly forgotten. As I’ve said before, the show is better than this — a lot better. So let’s hope that the nuanced depiction of racial dynamics is a top priority in season 4.

The good: Outlander‘s treatment of grief

Claire and Jamie’s 20-year separation did a lot of damage to them and their families. Claire was never emotionally present for Frank or Bree. Jamie was so heartbroken, he spent most of the time living as someone else, someone who didn’t lose his wife. And the pain doesn’t seamlessly evaporate once our heroes are back together. Grief is a long-term process, something that’s rarely acknowledged in pop culture. Kudos to Outlander for portraying it as the complex, always-evolving emotional state it is.

The bad: Sex with Lady Geneva

I’m shuddering just thinking about it. Here’s a tip for Outlander and all other TV series: If you’re putting together a sex scene, pick a mood and stick with it throughout the entire scene. Don’t turn your entitled sexual assailant into an insecure, confused naif halfway through. Look to Black Jack Randall if you need inspiration for creating moral ambiguity without causing tonal whiplash.

The good: Jenny

Laura Donnelly (Jenny Murray) – Outlander 308. Image via Starz

Whether she’s doling out tough love to her depressed brother, giving the cold shoulder to her suddenly not-dead sister-in-law, or being the only person to call out Jamie and Claire’s self-absorption, Jenny kills it in every scene she’s in. I’m serious, Starz. All I want for Christmas is an Outlander spinoff that’s all about Jenny.

The bad: The pacing

Frank was killed off three weeks into season 3, yet two whole episodes were spent at sea. Roger was given more than his share of screen time — enough for us to know that Dark Shadows is his guilty pleasure — but Temeraire entered and exited the series in the blink of an eye. And the finale (not very adeptly) forced several episodes’ worth of story into one hour. Need I say more?

The good: Fergus and Marsali

Lauren Lyle (Marsali), Cesar Domboy (Fergus)- Outlander 312.jpg. Image via Starz

They are just adorable, like a pocket-sized, less tortured Claire and Jamie. Actually, Starz, I have a quick addition to my Christmas list. If you could have César Domboy and Lauren Lyle recreate Outlander‘s most famous Claire-Jamie scenes as Fergus and Marsali, I would be eternally grateful.

The bad: The Artemis

Richard Dillane (Captain Raines), Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser)- Outlander 310. Image via Starz

I was about as enthusiastic about Outlander‘s voyage to Jamaica as the severely seasick Jamie. Even though it was only two episodes, it felt like it would never end. Honestly, I think a lot of season 3’s problems could have been solved if “The Doldrums” and “Heaven and Earth” had been combined into one episode. The trip to Jamaica would have been cut in half, the troubling Yi Tien Cho scene could have been avoided, and Jamie wouldn’t have had to think up and abandon a half-baked mutiny plot.

The good: The comedy

Outlander has always been skilled at integrating comedy. It makes the romance more fun and the darkness more bearable. Season 3 was no exception. In no particular order, here are some of its funniest moments: Drunk Frank mocking Claire in “All Debts Paid,” Claire talking to a coconut and Jamie’s Ardsmuir buddies getting meta in “Uncharted,” pretty much everything that Geillis said, and, of course, Geordie just being Geordie.

Next: Outlander S3 finale recap and review: Eye of the Storm

What are your favorite moments from Outlander this season? Your least favorite? Share them with us in the comments!