Outlander review: When romance met idiocy…


Outlander continues to confuse self-flagellation with selflessness in the penultimate episode of the season, “Providence.”

As Roger was making the big speech about how all his grand romantic gestures have been nothing but foolishness, I found myself thinking that Outlander is trying have its cake and eat it, too. Roger owns up to his knight in shining armor complex when he confesses he pursued Bree this season out of some misguided determination “to prove to myself and the universe that I did love this woman.” Even when she told him to leave, even when he had chances to go home and back to his life, he kept returning to her, or trying to. And he was an idiot for it.

Yes, Roger is self-aware enough to know his chasing Brianna has just as much to do with his ego as it does real love. It’s nice that he cops to that, but the show isn’t really reckoning with how creepy Roger’s behavior is. If he did follow Bree across time and space just to convince her to be with him — and not to tell her of her parents’ fates — that’s stalking, plain and simple.

It’s not him being an idiot; it’s not him tracking down the lover he was cruelly taken away from; it’s not romantic.

I don’t think Outlander understands that, and Roger certainly doesn’t. The show is under the impression that, if Roger admits he made mistakes with Brianna and ignored all the signs suggesting they shouldn’t be together, he’s a relatable dreamer. It’s not acknowledging the deeper, darker aspect of his arc.

As problematic as that speech is, I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed how the show uses the trappings of a Jamie Fraser-esque romantic declaration (swelling music, a slow zoom-in, etc.) for a monologue about how love is stupid and everyone should “look out for number one.” Outlander can be hilarious when it wants to be, and this scene is a great example of its capacity for tonal irony.

Roger, of course, cannot follow through with his vow to only care about himself from now on. While being held captive by the Mohawk, he meets another prisoner, Father Alexandre Ferigault (Yan Tual), a disgraced priest who fell in love with a Mohawk woman and refused to baptize their child because of his sins. As punishment, the Mohawk tie him to a stake with plans to burn his feet until he dies from the pain. Roger, in mid-escape, hears Ferigault crying out in agony and heads back to the camp. He speeds up the father’s death by throwing a barrel on the fire, causing it to engulf Ferigault. Then Johiehon (Sera-Lys McArthur), the Native American woman Ferigault spurned, puts her baby down and walks into the fire herself.

This scene is supposed to be tragic and moving — in the vein of a heartbroken Juliet stabbing herself when she discovers Romeo dead — but I just found it deeply, deeply stupid. Ferigault speaks about his love for Johiehon (which he is deeply ashamed of, by the way), but we never get her perspective on their connection. She’s smart, kind and loves her daughter, but there’s nothing about her character hinting that she can’t go on without her man. That came out of nowhere and is extremely regressive, even for a show set in the late 1700s.

From the way their stories are depicted, I think we’re supposed to read Roger’s latest idiot move as heroic and Johiehon’s suicide as tragically romantic. Personally, I see it as the characters torturing themselves for no apparent reason.

In that way, “Providence” is reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale‘s season finale. Roger’s noble act is just a device: his interference in  Ferigault’s torture and (unintended) role in Johiehon’s death mean his life will be even more miserable with the Mohawk.

Also at the intersection of self-flagellation and selflessness is Bree’s visit to Bonnet, the man who raped her and robbed her parents. He’s been sentenced to hang and, even though she’ll “rest easier once [he’s] dead,” Brianna forgives him and reveals she’s pregnant, assuring him that some part of him will live on.

That’s an incredibly generous thing for her to do, but it’s also sure to come back and bite her. I’m fairly certain Bonnet survived the explosion at the jail and will be back in Bree and her child’s life very soon. Her moment of self-sacrifice means her assailant will continue to torment her for at least another episode.

But, hey, at least Murtagh is out of jail!

Related Story. Claire, Jamie and Bree would be lost ‘If Not For Hope’. light


  • It was heavy-handed, but Outlander finally let its Native American characters be actual characters in “Providence.” There was some conversation among the Mohawk and some insight into their treatment of Roger: as they see it, if his own people sold him, he must be a very dangerous person. This episode doesn’t make up for the show’s many previous missteps regarding race, but it’s an improvement.
  • Wow, Fergus and Marsali, who are still the best, practically worship Claire and Jamie. I half-expect them to be sporting WWCAJD? (What Would Claire and Jamie Do?) bracelets next episode.
  • Jamie narrates as Bree reads his letter, and there’s a small glimpse of him, Claire and Ian en route to Shadow Lake. That’s all we get of our heroes this episode. Disappointing.
  • Despite their rift being due to Jamie’s own idiocy, Bree feels guilty that she never told him goodbye, which is a sweet, subtle parallel to her remorse concerning Frank’s death.
  • The Mohawk call Roger “Dogface,” which apparently isn’t as insulting as it sounds. But it sure made me laugh.
  • Bonnet is irredeemable, but I like that he displayed shades of humanity by giving Bree a gemstone for his child’s “maintenance.” Black Jack Randall was given similar nuance when, in season 2, it was revealed how devoted he was to his brother.