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  • Tara Ariano 5:00 pm on 2019/07/17 Permalink
    Tags: cafe meetups, , hulu, , Ofmargaret, , , , TV   

    What Hints Does Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale Give Us About Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments? 

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    Last month, Barnes & Noble stores across the country hosted the first in a series of Cafe Meetups where fans of Hulu’s  The Handmaid’s Tale met to discuss the show and the Margaret Atwood novel upon which it is based. Many of the discussions focused on the differences and similarities between the show and the book—which got us thinking about what that might mean for Margaret Atwood’s forthcoming sequel, The Testaments, which will be published on September 10 in a Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition. (Our next Cafe Meetup is scheduled for July 25. Find a participating store near you.)

    Speculative fiction was a new genre for Margaret Atwood when she published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, but over the past three-and-a-half decades, the novel has become one of her most gripping and indelible. In recent years, it has also taken on new relevance, thanks both to the politics of our era and a television adaptation that has brought it to the forefront of pop culture.

    Though the novel was earlier adapted as a film in 1990 (with a screenplay by Harold Pinter and a cast including Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, and the late Natasha Richardson), a standard movie runtime wasn’t sufficient to dramatize all the events and ideas it contains. In 2017, the TV series adaptation arrived on Hulu, with multiple Emmy-nominee Elisabeth Moss as its protagonist. Critical acclaim soon followed. But since, in our day, the content engines must be constantly stoked with new material lest the networks and platforms and streaming services stall out on the tracks, just covering the events of The Handmaid’s Tale wouldn’t do; the book didn’t supply enough events and ideas to fill multiple seasons of the show.

    For the first season, the plot of the series follows the novel’s with a great deal of fidelity: the U.S. government has been toppled in a theocratic coup, and while war continues between the Americans and Gilead, it’s happening far away from June (Moss). A fertile woman in a time when those are in short supply, she has been forced into the Gilead caste of Handmaid. She lives in the home of a Commander named Fred Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena (Yvonne Strahovski); once a month, she submits to The Ceremony, as procreative rape is euphemistically known. Since female literacy has been outlawed, she has little to do with the rest of her time but shop for food, take short walks around her neighborhood (both in the company of her walking partner, a fellow Handmaid), and worry about her loved ones, whose fates she doesn’t know: her daughter Hannah (Jordana Blake) and her husband Luke (O-T Fagbenle).

    After a time, Commander Waterford invites her for clandestine hangouts in his study, where they scandalously play Scrabble and leaf through antique fashion magazines. Once Waterford is fairly sure June won’t snitch, he brings her with him to Jezebel’s, a brothel, where she has a chance reunion with her college friend Moira (Samira Wiley), who washed out as a Handmaid and ended up as a sex worker, a life she finds far more palatable.

    Back home, Serena is pretty sure June isn’t getting pregnant—because the Commander is sterile—and arranges for June to copulate with the household’s driver, Nick (Max Minghella); the two end up enjoying each other’s company (to say they fall in love would be kind of a reach), and June does get pregnant. She is shocked to find out that her pious walking partner, Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), is involved with a resistance movement known as Mayday, which recruits her to run ops.

    One thing leads to another, and both the book and the show’s first season end with Nick—not only a driver, but also an Eye (an officer of Gilead’s secret intelligence service)—telling June to trust him while two other Eyes remove her from the Waterfords’ house. For a novel, it’s an ambiguous ending; for a TV series, it’s a cliffhanger.

    June/Offred (her Handmaid name, based on that of her head of household) is the book’s narrator, so while she can report to the reader some of the stories she hears from other characters, the novel formally echoes the claustrophobic restrictions of her new life. Where the first season of the TV series diverges from the book is largely through showing us perspectives of other characters that June doesn’t know about.

    Emily/Ofglen, for instance, was married to a woman; the rise of Gilead meant their marriage was invalidated, but her Canadian wife was permitted to flee with their son. In the meantime, Emily started a relationship with a Martha (a domestic worker in her Commander’s household). When they were discovered, her partner was executed on the spot, and Emily was forced to watch. Emily’s fertility makes her, in the official Gilead estimation, more valuable, so her punishment is a cliterodectomy.

    Serena was a conservative pundit whose theories provided some of the basis for the founding fathers of Gilead. She was passionately in love with her husband and now must live each day knowing she helped define the laws currently oppressing all Gilead women, herself included, and wonder if it was worth it to assist a husband who now has no interest in sex with her if it’s non-procreative.

    Nick was a disaffected young man who saw blue-collar jobs leaving his community and was too angry to get hired for one of the few that remained, making him a prime target for recruitment by a radical anti-government militia that actually ended up achieving its treasonous mission. And Luke and Moira? They both make it out, crossing the border into Canada to start their lives over as refugees. They eventually find each other, and start working together to try to get June out.

    The second and third seasons have continued what the first started, building out the world of Gilead, proceeding from the glimpses afforded the Junes of both the novel and the series.

    There are the Colonies—territories ravaged by environmental and nuclear disasters, where “Unwomen” (those who can’t or or aren’t permitted to occupy any of the few castes available to them) work without protection to clean up the sites, subsisting on contaminated water and food until radiation sickness kills them.

    There’s an episode set in an Econo-household (disappointingly, we see the show’s Econowives’ uniforms are just gray, like the Marthas’, and not striped as in the book) in which June does end up being spirited away from the Waterfords’ household and goes on the run.

    In a particularly shocking episode, June and the Waterfords travel to D.C., where the Washington Monument has been turned into an enormous crucifix, the Lincoln Memorial has been destroyed, and, under tight collars that cover their mouths and necks, Handmaids’ lips are closed with metal rings.

    We also learn more about the world around Gilead: the other sovereign nations whose diplomats are now working out whether and how to recognize a government brutally abrogating the civil rights of half its residents; and see what life is like in Canada for the former Americans who’ve escaped but are still processing their traumas.

    Some scenes created for the show echo current events of our day: June holes up in the former offices of the Boston Globe, where evidence remains of staffers’ brutal executions; the episode aired just two months before the shooting at Annapolis’s Capital Gazette last year. In another episode, Emily and her wife Sylvia (Clea DuVall), try to escape and are detained at the airport by a power-tripping ICE agent who tells them their legal immigration protections have disappeared, as occurred when President Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order was first signed in 2017.

    Though June’s story in the novel ends with her being marched out of the Waterfords’ house, there does follow a section of “Historical Notes,” transcribed from an academic symposium on Gileadean Studies held in 2195, that hint at the future that awaits her. A Prof. James Darcy Pieixoto, an archivist at Cambridge, speaks about reassembling a text—which he and a colleague have dubbed “The Handmaid’s Tale”—from voice recordings made on ’80s-era audio cassettes; he speaks about the details Offred may have changed or elided for safety’s sake, and what she couldn’t know about Gilead due to her limited vantage point.

    This 13-page epilogue condenses a huge amount of data the show has mined for plot and worldbuilding: this season, we’ve seen June record her voice to send to Luke, perhaps creating the account the archivists will pore over in more than a hundred years’ time (the idea that this story is being told via whatever audio storage media is available would explain some of the more egregious needle drops this season. “Que Sera Sera”?).

    In the book, Prof. Pieixoto refers to Gilead’s “racist policies”; the show has been criticized for ignoring race, and given our current political moment, it’s impossible to imagine that the theocratic movement that created Gilead wouldn’t also be white supremacist—though we did get a moment in a recent episode in which Lydia (Ann Dowd) and two fellow Aunts are considering Handmaid assignments and indicate that one won’t be acceptable to a couple who’ve refused to take a “Handmaid of color.”

    Prof. Pieixoto singles the Aunts out for special note, calling them a “crack female control agency” and citing an architect of Gilead who believed “that the best and most cost-effective way to control women for reproductive and other purposes was through women themselves”—a notion that just played out on the show in an episode flashing back to Lydia’s origin story as a kindly elementary school teacher who, after a romantic rejection, turned her rage against a student’s single mother by exploiting newly restrictive laws to get the child sent to foster care for spurious reasons.

    The Handmaid’s Tale is about to end its third season, with the finale dropping on Hulu July 24. The imminent publication of Atwood’s sequel, The Testaments, will bring a whole new vein of material to be mined in potential future seasons. As a critic of the show, I have sometimes been frustrated by moments when characters seemed to be making decisions for the sake of the plot; the idea that June would, in the Season 2 finale, be on the verge of escaping Gilead with her baby and decide to give up her chance on the groundless hope that she might also someday free Hannah from her new family is preposterous. But even in moments like these, characters’ essential natures have remained true to their portrayal in Atwood’s novel. That, paired with the fact that Atwood has been a consulting producer throughout the run of the show thus far, would lead one to believe that, while The Testaments will vault us 15 years past the end of June’s story in The Handmaid’s Tale, she and her fellow Gileadean narrators will still be recognizable to those of us who’ve been watching her on Hulu for the past three seasons. It also seems likely that we shouldn’t be too optimistic about where Atwood will leave June this time.

    Do you have opinions to share about the similarities and differences between Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Margaret Atwood’s novel? Do you want to speculate about what readers might discover in The Testaments? On July 25, many Barnes & Noble stores are hosting Handmaid’s Tale Cafe Meetups where fans can come together to discuss the show, book, and more. Find a participating store near you.

    The post What Hints Does Hulu’s <i>The Handmaid’s Tale</i> Give Us About Margaret Atwood’s <i>The Testaments</i>? appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 4:00 pm on 2019/02/14 Permalink
    Tags: , hidden bodies, , , TV,   

    9 Books to Read After Bingeing Netflix’s You 

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    There’s only one way to describe You, the once-on-a-Lifetime series now streaming on Netflix: it’s a ride. In turns fascinating and deeply disturbing, You’s first season puts the viewer squarely in the mind of Joe Goldberg, a dangerous “nice guy” who wraps his stalker tendencies in justifications of chivalry. (He’s rather perfectly described in the show as “some sociopath on a white horse.”)

    There’s something morbidly intriguing about watching Joe try to force his picture-perfect rom-com desires onto Guinevere Beck, his unfortunate prey. If you’re looking for readalikes, here’s a starter list.

    You, by Caroline Kepnes
    You might as well start with the source material. Part of what makes the show so simultaneously creepy and compelling is the POV from which it’s told: Joe’s. And Joe is also the novel’s unreliable narrator on this journey, which is as much a classic tragedy as it is a cautionary tale about cyberstalking.

    Hidden Bodies, by Caroline Kepnes
    If you already know that You was renewed for a second season, you might have guessed there’s a second novel, too. Joe’s gone to Hollywood, folks. While his life looks normal to outsiders, he can’t quite put those titular hidden East Coast bodies behind him, even as the twisted cycle looks like it’s set to begin again.

    All the Missing Girls, by Megan Miranda
    Need another suspenseful thriller with a real narrative twist? All the Missing Girls is the story of two disappearances, a decade apart—and it’s told in reverse, winding its way backward from two weeks after Annaleise Carter’s disappearance to the first day after. And all the while it unravels a mystery from ten years prior, in the same town, with the same core cast. That’s double the binge-worthy suspense right there.

    My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite
    With a similar blend of deadly and deadpan, this debut finds Nigerian sisters Korede and Ayoola in a pickle. Narrator Korede is used to cleaning up crime scenes; her sister, Ayoola, is used to creating them, dispatching boyfriends with a certain kind of finality. But can the sibling bond survive when Ayoola gets her hooks into the handsome doctor Korede cares for?

    Made for Love, by Alissa Nutting
    On the surface, Made for Love is a different kind of story than You, but, they both share a fascination with technology’s perversion of intimacy. Hazel flees her tech mogul husband when he requests she implant a microchip in her brain so that they might “meld.” Plunged into a bizarro world, Hazel starts over even as her husband Byron uses all his resources to find her.

    The Last Mrs. Parrish, by Liv Constantine
    Daphne Parrish has it all, and Amber Patterson wants it. This novel has serious Peach Salinger vibes and delivers on its premise of dark obsession. With a chip on her shoulder, Amber works her way into the life of Daphne, socialite wife to a Connecticut real-estate royalty. She’s a confidante on the hunt for a bigger prize, but you know what happens to the best-laid plans …

    Enduring Love, by Ian McEwan
    Obsession reigns, too, in this novel from the author of Atonement. During a bizarre hot-air balloon accident, Joe Rose comes to the rescue, along with a man named Jed Parry. What might have been adrenaline-fueled camaraderie quickly escalates, as Jed starts stalking Joe, sure that their connection was fated.

    Eileen, by Ottessa Moshfegh
    If your favorite part of You was the unique perspective of being inside Joe’s head, you should take a spin inside the mind of Eileen Dunlop. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Eileen is a novel that trends toward character study, descending with dark glee into its titular 24-year-old’s dysfunctional, disagreeable life as it spirals out of control with the arrival of a new companion.

    The Grownup, by Gillian Flynn
    Readalikes for a main character who exhibits sociopathic tendencies? We couldn’t very well leave off a title from Gillian Flynn, a master of the psychological stomach punch. It would be easy to recommend Flynn’s novels, but this slim novella is a wonderful case study in deception. Working as a psychic, the unnamed narrator finds herself ensnared in her client’s eerie family dynamics.

    What You readalikes have you been downing while you wait for more You?

    The post 9 Books to Read After Bingeing Netflix’s <i>You</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 2:00 pm on 2017/09/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , TV   

    Outlander Season 3 Episode 3 Recap: All Debts Paid 

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    There’s no reason to beat around the bush when it comes to this week’s episode of Pain and Suffering: The Miniseries Outlander. There’s plenty to talk about with Claire and Jamie, but let’s get the biggest news out of the way first: Murtaugh Fitzgibbons Fraser. He’s here, he’s chewing thistle against his will. You may cast off your black raiment. That’s all you need to know for now.

    Everyone in “All Debts Paid” is in some kind of prison, and it’s hard to say whether Claire’s or Jamie’s is more hellish. Let’s take them one at a time, starting with the grimier of the two.

    Ardsmuir Prison, 1755
    There’s a changing of the guard underway, or at least a changing of the governor. One Lord John Grey is taking command of this dank, dismal prison swimming in rats and disheartened Scottish prisoners. It’s a real dream job. What really sweetens the pot for John is that the chief spokesman and overall mother hen for the prisoners is a cold, sulky James Fraser.

    Jamie, for what it’s worth, has reinvented himself again and picked up a new nickname among his fellow prisoners: Mac Dubh. John clearly remembers Jamie, but it’s unclear if Jamie recognizes the young man who’s now his keeper. What’s more awkward: tradition around these parts is regularly scheduled dinners between Mac Dubh and the prison’s commander. So much time for bonding and fond memories!

    But you know what does bring back fond memories? The familiar surly countenance of Murtaugh, sharing a cell with Jamie. He doesn’t look great—apparently, he’s been here since shortly after Culloden. But he’s there, and he’s well enough to gripe about things.

    Murtaugh’s health is a priority for us all, so the appearance of a rambling man on the moors is a fortuitous circumstance. The man, Duncan Kerr, has a lot to say, mostly in French and Gaelic. The babbling the British soldiers can decipher, however, seems to indicate Duncan knows something about rumored French gold sent to aid Charles Stuart and hidden somewhere nearby.

    John Grey enlists the help of multilingual Jamie to serve as an interpreter. Jamie only acquiesces after receiving a couple assurances: 1) his irons are moved and 2) Murtaugh receives some medical attention.

    Duncan provides few details about the gold, but he does seem to have a message for Jamie. Something about the MacKenzies and a “white witch.” That sounds a lot like Claire, even to Murtaugh’s jaded ears. Jamie gives John Grey the bare minimum of information and then engineers a prison break. He’s gone for three days before returning in dramatic fashion, sneaking back into the prison and catching John while he’s indisposed. He takes this opportunity to reveal he does know who the young commander is.

    “I was waiting for the proper occasion,” he says, knife pointed. Grey points out that his family’s debt to Jamie has been discharged, but Jamie’s not concerned about the debt. He wants to remind John of his promise: to kill him.

    Fortunately for us, John Grey has qualms about killing unarmed men. Besides, it’s probably nice to have someone around to compare handsomeness with. (I mean, woof.)

    Rather than punish Jamie further, in fact, John Grey seems to have reached an understanding with him. In different ways, they’re both broken men, and Jamie’s admission he went searching for Claire during his escape solidifies a bond of heartbreak and respect.

    During a heart-to-heart talk, John Grey reveals he “lost a particular friend” in the war. Jamie shares kind words and sympathy. John senses the (wrong) signals and puts his hand on Jamie’s. That’s triggering for a victim of Black Jack Randall, and the night ends with the following sentence: “Take your hand off me or I will kill you.”

    Time goes by. You live. You learn. The prison is scheduled to be closed, and you all line up in your jimjams in the snow. Most of the Scottish prisoners are being sent to the American colonies for a period of indentured servitude. Actually, all of the prisoners except Jamie, who’s pulled out of line and away from the loving arms of Murtaugh, in the cruelest joke of this episode. John Grey has made separate arrangements for Jamie, who’ll be a servant for some landed gentry. Why? “You gave me my life all those years ago,” John tells him. “Now, I give you yours.”

    But what does life mean without Murtaugh?

    Boston, 1956
    With that emptiness inside us, let us turn to the future, where Claire and Frank have an open marriage, sharing little but Brianna and vast oceans of disillusionment. As we zip through the years, things get progressively worse.

    Claire earns her degree, but even that’s tainted. It’s poor form, Frank, to invite your latest fling over without checking the actual end time on your wife’s graduation soiree. Claire seemed fine with their arrangement until she’s confronted with the infidelity on her doorstep. As always, she takes it in stride, and husband and wife have a booze-fueled fallout later that night.

    “You really dislike me that much?” Claire says. “You humiliated me in front of my colleagues!” “Welcome to the club,” Frank slurs in response.

    They both gets some hits in, with Claire bizarrely asking if Frank had slept with his “harlot” in their bedroom. After seeing their twin beds last week, I too have a question: “Where?”

    With all this bitterness, you’d think they’d both just want a divorce. But Frank won’t do it, for fear he’ll lose custody of Brianna. When Claire says she’d never try to keep Frank away from their daughter, he gets in one last blow: “Forgive me, Claire, if I don’t risk everything on your promises.”

    This tension simmers and builds and finally boils over after Brianna’s high school graduation. Frank’s been offered a position at Cambridge. He wants to take Brianna with him to England—but not Claire. You see, Frank’s been “running out the clock” to Brianna’s 18th birthday. Now that she’s an adult, he’s ready for a divorce.

    “You couldn’t look at Brianna without seeing him, could you?” Frank asks his devastated wife. “Without that constant reminder, might you have forgotten him with time?” Claire crushes that hope with one sentence: “That amount of time doesn’t exist.”

    These are the last words these two characters share in this episode—and the last two they will ever share. Frank grabs his keys and takes off, where, off-screen, he’s involved in a car accident. The last we see of Claire is in scrubs, assuring a lifeless Frank one last time that she did love him, “very much.”

    What an uplifting hour of television. The only good news? We’re essentially up to last season’s finale in Claire’s timeline, which means we’re one step closer to a Sassenach-Jamie reunion. May that hasten yet another Murtaugh sighting as well.

    The post Outlander Season 3 Episode 3 Recap: All Debts Paid appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 10:00 am on 2017/09/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , TV   

    Outlander Season 3 Episode 2 Recap: Surrender 

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    This week’s Outlander introduces a new character to the series: Cave Jamie. We will treat Cave Jamie as a separate and discrete character because he is one.

    The show has done a little trickery and jumped us six years forward in the Lallybroch timeline. Cave Jamie has been living, indeed, in a cave, hiding from British patrols, who now refer to him as the Dunbonnet. He has used that time to become a hermit.

    Cave Jamie is both a look—like an escaped Wildling from the Game of Thrones set—and an attitude. When he does come down to the family estate for visits, he’s withdrawn, solemn, and largely silent. Minimal human interaction has done a number on him. But still he comes, even when some overzealous British soldiers haul in Ian on suspicion of harboring the aforementioned Dunbonnet.

    As Jenny says later, it’s not exactly a lie when she and Ian tell the soldiers they haven’t seen Jamie. “James Fraser hasn’t been here for a long, long time,” she says mournfully.

    Back in the 20th century, time has not moved so quickly—unless baby Brianna is the littlest 6-year-old ever cast. How is Claire doing? Well, her current hobby seems to be perfecting the art of intercentury orgasm, dreaming of Jamie while she sleeps next to Frank in her very lonely marriage bed.

    Motherhood seems to suit Claire, though. Fatherhood also suits Frank, who beams with pride when he holds their daughter. It’s just unfortunate that marriage seems to suit neither of them. There’s a sexual tension bubbling underneath the surface of their carefully crafted veneer, but it’s proving problematic.

    When Claire finally does make a move, there’s something very suburban about the whole thing. As she caresses her (first) husband’s face in the middle of the night, he stirs. “Claire, what is it?” asks Frank, a man so far removed from that loving feeling he can no longer conceive of it happening to him. “I miss my husband,” Claire replies, with a distinct lack of specificity.

    The careful, unfamiliar sex scene that follows is awkward, but seemingly pleasant, which is better than what happens when they try to repeat the act. Claire is the instigator in both instances, and her sudden insatiable appetite has a tragic component to it. Given what we’ve seen of their future, we know this story does not end well for either of them—but especially Frank, who serves as this show’s Charlie Brown, constantly trying to kick the football it places in front of him.

    This time, though, Frank knows. On the floor and half-naked, he tells his wife, “Claire, when I’m with you, I’m with you. But you’re with him.” It’s a painful truth, and one Claire doesn’t like, but it’s a truth nonetheless.

    Speaking of “him,” Cave Jamie has come down from his hideout in the hills only to discover Jenny’s in the midst of giving birth. (Pretty much every time Jenny strides into the show’s narrative, she’s giving birth.)

    This would be a joyous occasion if it weren’t for superstitious little boys like Fergus, who think ravens are bad omens and are trigger-happy. Fergus takes action and shoots the bird “to protect the bairn,” but the noise attracts the attention of nearby British soldiers. Firearms are banned in Scotland since the revolt, so naturally, the Redcoats come to search the house.

    Cave Jamie hides with the newborn in his arms. To explain the baby’s absence to the cheerless soldiers, Jenny and her maid, Mary MacNab, quickly improv that the baby died. Furthermore, Mary says she shot the pistol at the raven, which is to be blamed for the baby’s death. The lie works for the moment, but the British remain suspicious.

    Devoid of anything to hold him on, the British soon return Ian to Lallybroch, providing door-to-door service with a sneer. While there, they decide to catch themselves a Fergus, who takes them on a wild goose chase through the woods and takes every opportunity to insult them. The psychotic soldier in charge lops off the boy’s hand and orders his men to leave him there.

    Luckily, Cave Jamie overheard the scuffle and rushes the bleeding boy to Lallybroch. There, Fergus recovers and we, thankfully, see he remains a little scamp, reminding Jamie of the promise he’d made in France to support Fergus should he ever be harmed in the line of duty: “In one stroke, I have become a man of leisure, huh?”

    The episode has chastened Cave Jamie into action, however. In fact, he makes a decision, the wisdom of which you are free to question. He wants Jenny and Ian to turn him in to the British, so they can pocket the reward money and throw off the British dogs forever.

    Before he’s turned over, Cave Jamie receives an evening visitor: Mary MacNab, who does the world a favor by returning Jamie to us with a quick shave and a haircut. Oh, and soliciting him for a little desperate lovemaking. Jamie eventually acquiesces, though he’s conflicted throughout the procedure.

    A few scenes earlier, Ian had been discussing what losing a limb felt like, the pain lingering “in a part of you that’s lost.” It’s a feeling that sticks with you forever, “and that’s just a hand. Claire was your heart.” This episode is full of people saying verrah incisive things.

    Jamie is trying to fill a void, just as Claire has been with Frank’s intimacy. She’s got a new plan, however, and that plan is med school. Predictably, her male classmates and her professor are awful to her. But there is one bright spot. She sparks a friendship with the other outcast of the class: the only black student. At last, a positive development.

    Speaking of plans, Jamie and Jenny put on a show for the British forces who’ve descended on Lallybroch to capitalize on her supposed betrayal. As they cart off her brother, Jenny yells, “You gave me no choice, brother, and I’ll never forgive yah.” There’s a ring of truth to that statement, as she grits out those words through tears.

    With new … adventures … awaiting Claire and Jamie, we, the viewers, are left still to worry over the lingering question of our time: Where is Murtaugh?

    The post Outlander Season 3 Episode 2 Recap: Surrender appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Nicole Hill 11:00 am on 2017/09/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , TV   

    Outlander Season 3 Episode 1 Recap: The Battle Joined 

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    Welcome back, all ye Sassenachs and Scotsmen! After all those lonely months polishing your standing stone circles, Outlander has returned for Season 3. As you’ll recall, last season ended in an uncertain—but hopeful—place, with 1968 Claire’s newfound knowledge that Jamie survived the Battle of Culloden.

    In this season’s first episode, we spend our time looking backward to the events after Culloden and to Claire’s return to the 20th century and to a life with Frank.

    Let’s start with the battlefield, heaped with the bodies of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s erstwhile army. (To be honest, I spent most of this scene anxiously searching for Murtaugh through the scores of corpses that look just like him—to no avail.) In the panning shot, we see Jamie just starting to open his eyes, feebly. He’s pinned under something, a body—the body of a British soldier. Why, is that the body of Black Jack Randall?

    Through Jamie’s frenzied flashbacks we see the mixed-up events between Claire’s exit through the stones at Craigh na Dun and the strewn corpses Jamie finds himself in now. As you might expect, these peeks into the past are littered with examples of Prince Charles’s poor leadership skills and military prowess. More importantly, they also provide a glimpse into the final moments of Black Jack at the hands of Jamie’s dagger, apparently after everyone else had already died.

    I think we can safely say Culloden wasn’t a total loss. Though if we learned anything from the events of Wentworth Prison, always check for Black Jack’s pulse.

    As snow falls, Jamie has a vision of a (real?) bunny rabbit and a (fake) Claire, who saunters toward him in a flowing white gown but turns out to be Rupert—just as in everyone’s erotic dreams.

    As his comrades roll Black Jack’s corpse off him and escort him to safety, Jamie drops Claire’s parting gift, the dragonfly in amber, which signifies to you, dear reader, that we are entering new book territory. We have left the second book in the Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber, and sailed swiftly into Voyager. Seatbelts, everyone.

    But enough symbolism. Let’s check in with the purely straightforward 1940s, where Claire and Frank are house-shopping in the good ol’ USA. Everything is uncomfortable, like, more uncomfortable than the body farm we just left. Frank is laying it on thick with the doting husband routine, hoping Claire’s pregnancy can harbor a fresh start for the two of them in Boston. Claire is trying (and failing) to play the role of domestic housewife.

    “You’re lucky,” one of Claire’s neighbors tells her, as they gab about husbands. “You won’t find another man like Frank again.” If you think this one’s a charmer, lady, you should’ve seen the other guy.

    Claire’s having even more trouble trying to fit in with Frank’s new university social circle, who are all the worst. Frank’s peers manage to be nearly as misogynistic as the gangs of unwashed men we have been treated to in 18th–century Scotland. But at least we all got to listen in on some hot gossip about the Truman vs. Dewey electoral matchup.

    Jamie, meanwhile, isn’t in much better shape. Rupert’s taken him to shelter with other Culloden survivors in a nearby barn. He’s bleeding buckets, but he does still have the wherewithal to ask the question we’re all wondering: Where is Murtaugh? No one really knows, and Rupert has the gall to say he doesn’t really care. (The bad blood between Frasers and MacKenzies is still going strong. Curse you, Dougal MacKenzie, you door-lurking psychopath.)

    Shortly thereafter, the British discover the hideout. They give the “traitors” an hour, at which point they’ll be shot. Rupert and Jamie share a goodbye, which is short on forgiveness for Dougal’s murder, but long on fondness. Farewell, dear Rupert.

    Hold on one second though: Remember John Grey? That name is Jamie’s ticket to salvation because it’s the name of the young British spy Jamie spared last season. John Grey is also the younger brother of Lord Melton, the officer in charge of this execution bonanza. Melton, begrudgingly, feels duty-bound to keep his brother’s “debt of honor” when it comes to Jamie, even though he’d make a pretty prize for the king.

    Crankily, Melton secrets Jamie (who just wants to die already) off in a wagon in the dark of the night. He thinks Jamie won’t survive the trip, but at least such a death won’t be at his hands. Well, the joke’s on your stiff upper lip, Melton, because Jamie survives. And he’s greeted by Jenny and Ian. Our boy’s made it back to Lallybroch.

    With that happy news, we head once more to Boston. After a blow-out fight in which he just barely dodged an ash tray hurled at his head, Frank is doing some late-night research. He’s penning a letter to Rev. Wakefield back in Scotland for information on some highlander, a James Fraser, when he’s interrupted. Claire’s water has broken.

    The hospital is another frustrating situation where none of the men in charge deign to listen to Claire. (Though Frank is all ears when Claire informs the doctor, and her husband, that she’s had a miscarriage before.) When Claire wakes from the C-section she didn’t want, she’s concerned she’s lost another baby.

    But Frank enters with baby Brianna. The family’s full of love and joy and canoodling until a nosy nurse swings by to ask about the elephant in the room: “Where’d she get the red hair?”

    Of course, we all know the answer to that question, unlike several others: How will Jamie readjust to a Claire-less life? Will Claire ever be able to light her stove effectively? Where is Murtaugh? Let’s hope we find out next week.


    The post Outlander Season 3 Episode 1 Recap: The Battle Joined appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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