This is what happens when you leave off in the middle of a season for SIX MONTHS.There is a new meltdown in fandom that rivals even Ring Gate. This one I may understand a little bit better, because I agree to some degree. I’m just not melting down about it because I suspect the reasons for it are solid, and it will be repaired later.
FRANK RAGE. Seriously. Folk are PIIIISSSSSSED.
I’ve expressed a few times that I just don’t care about Frank (beyond Tobias Menzies’ AMAZING performance as both him and BJR), and I wish there wasn’t so much time wasted on him (WHERE IS MY JAMMF GODDAMMIT!?), but that I understand it hasn’t necessarily been wasted. RDM & Crew. have a purpose in developing Frank and Frank/Claire. She HAS spent the vast majority of the first season so far desperately (although I started to kind of thing the lady doth protesteth too much, myself) trying to escape the horrors of the MacKenzies and their Land of Constant Threat of Rape and Flogging (aka the 18th century) to get back to her beloved husband, Frank. It HAS only been 7 weeks, at least on the 1945 side of the stones. A month and 3/4 isn’t long enough to get over someone that you’ve loved for years. It just isn’t. No many how many amazing, hot red-heided Scots there are that you’re married to who bang you into every available surface whenever they get the chance.
Now… unless we had more backstory than the book really lends to Frank and Claire’s relationship, onscreen it would look really ridiculous that she’s been trying so hard. (In writing, we talk about “show vs. tell” — the former is always better than the latter. Rather than write, “Frank was a nice man with some dark layers who was deeply devoted to Claire, and she to him,” you need scenes that demonstrate those statements in order to be effective.) Anyone who writes knows that the basis of any good (let alone great) story is CONFLICT. Conflict both outer and inner. Outer conflict abounds in 18th century Scotland, of course. BJR and assorted Red Coats, both enlisted and deserters, hide behind every rock and tree (or so it seems). Even Jamie’s family can’t really be trusted. Jamie almost literally has the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head, and those around him are in a constant state of danger as a result.
That leaves the internal conflict. Let’s face it, by the time the first section of the book is done, most of us are 100% Team Jamie. Frank isn’t… fleshed out that well, and we don’t feel more than a pang for what must be terribly pain he’s experiencing. We only get to imagine that pain, we never see it. What we do see, and hear, are Claire’s thoughts about the matter. Meanwhile a true and intimate, respectful friendship is developing between Jamie and Claire. The internal conflict in the book comes from Claire’s direct POV, in the first person, which we don’t get in the show without voiceovers. There is, whether we like it or not, narrative necessity to developing both Frank and Claire’s relationship with him. Otherwise, Claire looks like a fickle, unreliable character (although Alastair and Lani from The Scot & the Sassenach make a good point in saying she IS an unreliable narrator, that’s a more complex discussion for another time during the ENDLESS HIATUS.) Claire’s internal conflict is Frank vs. Jamie not only as men she cares about and is now married to, but as symbols of very different worlds and lives. Which one does she belong to? As she asks herself on the show, which Mrs. does she really want to be?
I’ve heard more conservative viewers/readers say they don’t like the fact that Claire is developing a relationship with a man who is not her husband (and worse, who BECOMES her husband — although I still contend that her marriage to Frank doesn’t technically count because he hasn’t been born yet, but I think people are talking about sins of intention, not technical ones.) She has points against her in some viewer/reader’s eyes from jump. To have her go on and on about how much she misses Frank and wants to get back to him without giving the viewer some insight into the truth of that would give lie to her whole struggle up to this point, and when she eventually chooses Jamie, that would then would be a cheap decision, ripping off the depth and beauty that the Jamie/Claire relationship will become. In order for her choice to believably be Jamie, and for that choice to be meaningful, Frank has to have been shown worthy of some confusion on Claire’s part. If he was a jerk, she might just shrug the whole thing off, and the internal conflict would lose a LOT of its power. She and Jamie could just go skipping off into the grass for a more Mmmphm.
In the book, when Jamie takes Claire back to the stones after rescuing her from the witch trial at Cranesmuir, she tells him the truth about who she is and what has brought her here. He believes her, without question, no matter how wild the story seems to him.
(I think, actually, that Frank’s dismissal, then momentary lapse into desperate hope, then acceptance of the “fact” that the stones are bunk vs. Jamie’s resolute, immediate belief of her story may be a purposeful choice on RDM’s part, somehow. A statement of the men’s respective respect for what is possible with the woman they love? I don’t know, I totally made that up. But it does serve as a perfect end point to Frank’s search. In fact, I’m almost POSITIVE it will really pay off later in the series, when Claire returns. Frank adores Brianna when she’s born, but before that, and after, he sees Claire as a responsibility. We’re never quite sure if he still loves her, and he definitely doesn’t respect her if he’s banging all of those students behind her back. Although I guess you could say it’s respectful to at least *try* to hide it. Anyway… it will make more sense onscreen that he’s so cold to her if we see his agony trying to find her, and his absolute belief that she ran off with another man — especially when she tells him she sort of did.)
Anyway, in the book (and I believe in the show due to photos I’ve seen), Jamie brings Claire to Craig na Dun. He brings her back to the stones, and asks her how the whole thing happened. She tells him. He tries it out for himself. Then he has Claire try it again, and she “starts to go, somehow.” Jamie flips out and pulls her back. Now he REALLY believes it, and insists that she has to go back.
At last he turned to me and grasped both my hands. He raised them to his lips and kissed each one formally.
“My lady,” he said softly, “My… Claire. It’s no use in waiting. I must part wi’ ye now.”
My lips were to stiff to speak, but the expression on my face must have been as easily readable as usual.
“Claire,” he said urgently, “it’s your own time on the other side of… that thing. You’ve a home there, a place. The things that you’re used to. And… Frank.”
Which brings me back to sort of being annoyed that they didn’t talk about Frank on the wedding night, but we’ll set that aside for a second.
After Claire tells Jamie about Culloden and he walks away (homeboy is totally hoping she’ll come down to the shack, we all know it), she sits there, literally, for HOURS trying to figure out what to do. She tries logic. She tries emotion. Even duty takes it’s place in her long arguments with herself:
I had given Frank a wedding vow, and had meant it with all my heart. I had given Jamie the same, meaning to betray it as soon as possible. Which of them would I betray now?
But in the end, it’s the urge of her instincts that make the decision.
I would have to rely on something else; just what, I wasn’t sure. I turned toward the split rock and took a step, then another, and another. Pausing, I faced around and tried it in the other direction. A step, then another, and another, and before I even knew what I had decided, I was halfway down the slope, scrabbling wildly at grass clumps, slipping and falling through the patches of granite scree.
Now, this whole thing is a pretty heart wrenching scene. Of course we know how it’s going to end, because… Jamie and Claire. But the way it’s written, and the way Herself has set it up, we also feel Claire’s confusion, even if we don’t fully buy it, simply because we’ve known what was going on in her mind this whole time. She’s thinking reason, emotion, duty. She’s still attaching Frank not only to her marriage, but to the entire world she comes from — its civilization and safety. Her home, until now.
She ain’t getting that here in Scotland. And while she says in the book that she doesn’t really need the comforts due to her upbringing and years on the WWII front, the trappings of modern life really are ingrained in a person, I believe. Not to mention safety. At this point she has been shot at, held prisoner (several times), almost raped (several times), almost stabbed, threatened, beaten, etc. etc. etc. She’s just almost been burned at the stake after being kept in a dank, filthy hole for days with freaking CRAZY ASS Geillis Duncan (who we love, but seriously. She’s a class A nutbag.) Her world must look even shinier than ever at that moment when Jamie forces her to decide. So of course she’s going to give it serious thought. And Frank is a symbol of all that. In the split second that Jamie holds her hand to the stone, she feels Frank in the void. BUT, interestingly, she also feels JAMIE in the void. She is well and truly torn.
On the show, we honestly don’t get to see a lot of these things. If we just stuck to the Frank stuff that appears in the books onscreen, we would already be like, “Who gives a crap! HAVE AT THAT GINGER!” It would lessen Claire’s dramatic weight as a character, and when, in the series, she DOES choose Jamie, it wouldn’t solidify her love for Jamie as much if we thought Frank didn’t mean anything to her in the first place.
Now, all of that being said — and I know it’s a lot — I ALSO get the upset of JAMMF fans, especially those who have been on this wild literary ride through the whole series, up to two decades back or more. In the books, we have had a GREAT DEAL more Jamie development, and the development of Jamie & Claire’s friendship/romantic relationship by this point in the story. There were important bits and pieces that could easily have been included in what we saw on the show that would have gone a long way toward giving us a better, more three-dimensional picture of our beloved hero. Those things would have avoided a LOT of this hand wringing.
At this point, it still feels like we don’t know him very well, and that worries a lot of people. How will we ever get to the point onscreen where Jamie FEELS like not only the right choice, but ultimately the ONLY choice for Claire at the stones? That not only is she choosing this marriage, she is putting life, health and limb on the line to be with THIS man over the one she knows back in the 20th century?
Those of us who love him already don’t need anymore characterization. We know him from the books. A lot of us (including me) have known him for 30 years of his fictional life, and may indeed have a problem separating the 60-ish year old King of Men with this young guy we’re getting to know now. He’s not seasoned yet. He hasn’t had everything he believes put to the test over and over again. He hasn’t gained and lost all he had, or had the love of a great woman who he loved in return. We aren’t going to see that guy for a long time.
But I wonder… shouldn’t we see more of him by now? We see the chevalier, the brave, braw, charming, flirtatious, stubborn, gorgeous, sweet, proud, sometimes shy outlaw that has been the only real friend Claire has. But we don’t *know* him. Even those characteristics seem… almost surface at this point. I’ve loved the scenes with Jamie, but it feels very much like, “Okay, let’s include this scene because it shows he’s chivalrous. This one shows he’s brave. This one shows he’s proud. This one shows he’s a BAMF.” Etc. There’s something not quite organic about it. It’s jerky in a way that his book development is not. The only major exception to that, of course, is The Wedding. We got a GREAT DEAL of excellent character development about Jamie in that episode (not just sexytimes!), even though we may have lost some important details as well (and I ain’t talking about the ring or the necklace, kids. You know of which I speak.) We saw inside some of the more intimate parts of Jamie. We started to really get to know him, and I found that satisfying. It went a long way toward alleviating my irritation that Jamie had been shuffled to the background to give us more Frank. But not completely. So I feel the pain of JAMMF fans.
Just because I know the rational reasons doesn’t mean I’m HAPPY about them. All of which ALSO does not mean that I don’t love the show, because I PSYCHOTICALLY LOVE THIS SHOW, flaws and all. But I have seen all of these truly upset fans wondering if they are watching their favorite story be flushed down the metaphorical toilet.
I don’t know if I’ve helped at all with this discussion. I just know that this is how I see it. We are only halfway through season 1 — it’s basically like reading half the book. We haven’t seen the story in its entirety yet I don’t know how much more Frank we will see in the future, but I would be willing to bet it’s only going to be in occasional flashback from Claire’s POV, and only as it’s relevant to her life as it moves on WITH JAMIE. From the next episode on, we all know that their relationship will deepen and develop — Frank will matter less and less both narratively and literally on the show. We had to have an end piece to Claire’s active longing for her original husband. From this day until the end of the Outlander universe, it is Jamie & Claire 4EVA (with notable exceptions, of course, which I’m very curious about when it comes to how they’re going to portray it on the show.)
But I know for sure that Jamie is going to have his day (poor Frank). We are going to get to know him in ways we never expected. Or… I guess we sort of did, considering his POV eventually grows in the books. I think season 1.5 is going to be amazing, and I hope people’s upset about the Over-Franking of it all won’t turn them off. It’s a long haul until April, so let’s talk it out!