The third season of “Outlander” is out on Netflix. It’s a fantastic show with compelling characters and a mind-bending plot that covers Scottish history, intense love, war between two countries, and everything else in between.
You should immediately binge-watch all three seasons this winter. Here are four reasons why.
1. To Get Through a Dry Spell
“Outlander” is “Braveheart” meets “The Time Traveller’s Wife,” or part “Game of Thrones,” part “Dr. Who.” Now that “Game of Thrones” is over, give this a try, you might like it.
Based on a series of books by Diana Gabaldon, “Outlander” first aired on Starz in 2014. Now the first three seasons are available on Netflix, and the fifth season will air on Starz in February 2020.
A summary for would-be fans: Claire Beacham and her husband Frank are on holiday in Scotland in 1946 when Claire is somehow transported back in time 200 years to 1743. She’s captured by a group of Highlanders, meets James Fraser—a handsome Scottish stud—and essentially marries him out of necessity. The two fall madly in love, but especially Claire.
Claire not only marries Jamie but assimilates entirely into his society and time period, which is both intriguing and endearing. She gains favor with the clans by using her skills as a World War II nurse during a time when nobody knew much about medicine.
When the story propels forward into the 1940s, which it occasionally does, (sorry, fans) even that era looks nostalgic. Although it does torture Claire, who still wants to be with Jamie in the 1700s, and definitely tortures her husband Frank, because he of course still loves her, despite the fact that she’d rather be riding a horse than driving a car. The story is romantic, gritty, and impossible, as you can see.
A warning: There is a significant amount of sex and violence throughout occasional episodes. I think the series went too far in displaying a terrifyingly sadistic rape scene in season two that I recommend skipping entirely if you’re binge-watching from the beginning. That said, most of the sex here is within marriage, loving, and appears organic to the story and character development. Also, did I mention Jamie wears a kilt? It takes a real man to do that.
I realize how insane this all sounds, but the plot is interesting and the main characters are compelling and it was shot on location in beautiful Scotland, so you’ll easily suspend belief.
2. To Dispel False Notions of Toxic Masculinity
Mary, queen of Scots, where do I begin? James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser isn’t just any Scottish rogue with a brogue. In the books, Galbadon calls Fraser “The King of Men” and it doesn’t take long to see why. Fraser displays how a powerfully masculine, yet ultimately morally good, strong man treats his fellow men, family, country, and the woman he loves.
Fraser is the epitome of endless dichotomies, and his popularity shows just how Americans, especially women, would welcome a character like this in our entertainment (and definitely in real life!). Jamie isn’t just tall, handsome, red-headed, and muscular (but of course he is!) he’s also fiercely loyal to his country and clan, a warrior on the battlefield for Scotland’s freedom, a tender, kind husband to Claire, and a devoted brother, son, and uncle.
He has a temper, but he’s still warm and gentle. He rallies his clansmen to war but whispers to the woman he loves. A far cry from a one-dimensional character, James is what men aspire to be and women want men to be.
It’s Jamie’s purpose that enables him to be such a loving husband and the fact that Claire loves him well gives him boldness to pursue his calling as a warrior. Plus, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that no woman wants to be a man’s mission, but instead wants to find a man with a mission to join.
3. To Enjoy 18th Century Scottish and American history
“Braveheart” pulled Scottish history to the front and center of American minds when it was released 20 years ago. Actually, one could argue it actually reminded Scotland of Scotland’s history. “Outlander” will do the same for you.
If you’re like me, when you watch historical fiction, you’ll be googling as you watch and then next thing you know, borrowing books from the library or looking for documentaries that explore the same themes. This one, called “Outlaw King,” is about Robert the Bruce, who took over in the fight for freedom after William Wallace. It stars Chris Pine and is on Netflix.
Scotland is a tiny little country unable to exercise political independence from England, and its people’s grittiness and spirit makes their history fascinating. There’s a common theme in Scottish history: Freedom is worth dying for—and that’s certainly evident in “Outlander.”
A peek into Scottish history at this time ends up bleeding into American history, because naturally Claire and Jamie—spoiler alert!—end up in America right about when it’s starting too. These scenes remind observers that America in 1776 isn’t at all how it was today, and may inspire people to do a little digging about their own ancestry.
People of a range of ethnicities, came here in search of freedom and the better life that comes with it, not just the British: At least 50,000 Scots came here between 1773-1776 and with them their traditions, spirit, and thirst for freedom. Season three sets the stage for that journey.
Not to mention, you get to hear Jamie call Claire “Sassenach”—Gaelic for an English person or an outsider—with his adorable brogue at least a dozen times. Picking up another language is educational, is it not?
4. To Remember the Power of Sacrificial Love
This is a powerful story of freedom, political power, and a search for independence, but the heart and soul of “Outlander” is love and sacrifice. Each angle shows the wonderful, mysterious, and sacrificial ways family members, lovers, and clansmen aid one another.
If you told me a woman from the 1940s falls in love with a Highlander, choosing to go without her husband, running water, and a car to live alongside his primitive journey, I wouldn’t believe you: But Claire and Jamie’s love seems so compelling, it’s also believable, even endearing. You might find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the couple to “fall out” of love, but they simply never do. In fact, the two become more sacrificial toward one another, more attuned to each other’s needs, and they grow in respect and admiration.
Sacrificial love is shown via other characters as well. James allows himself to be viciously flogged by villain Black Jack Randall to save his sister Jenny from receiving that dreaded fate. Early in the series, he’s also publicly beaten instead of another woman, who ends up repaying him by obsessing over him. Despite knowing (from Claire) that the Battle of Culloden will signal a massive defeat for the Scottish, James willingly goes to battle to show his clansmen solidarity and strength.
While Jamie and Claire’s love is intense, it isn’t without difficulty or flaws, making it seem all the more like “real life” despite the time-traveling storyline. Still, despite conflict, arguments, and a bid Claire makes for James “never to lay a hand on her” via a sword in one particularly wild scene, the two share a sense of humor, intense passion, and sacrificial commitment any modern couple would love to imitate.