Outlander: What the critics are saying

Bad or braw? The television critics have had their say on the 'Outlander' TV series. Picture: AP
Bad or braw? The television critics have had their say on the 'Outlander' TV series. Picture: AP
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UNSURE whether to catch up on Scottish-set TV drama ‘Outlander’? Here’s what the TV critics are saying about the hit US series.

THE PLOT

“Outlander is the oddest, hardest-to-pin-down series currently airing.“ Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair

“Claire adapts rather well to life at the castle - perhaps too well, at first. It is understandable that writer-producer Ronald D. Moore wants to get us into Claire’s new life quickly, but realistically, if you were to suddenly awaken 200 years in the past, you might be a little more than just mildly perplexed when you realize where you are.” David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle

“The resulting series is a bit of a snooze — handsome, yes, but about as dramatically compelling as the cover of a Harlequin Romance, and too flaccid to make hearts go pitter-pat.” Brian Lowry, Variety

“The plot itself, in which a person from modern times is jettisoned to some point past, is at least as old as Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and it’s been employed so often that it should probably be put to rest until someone figures out how to do something novel with it.“ Alan Jones, Slant Magazine

“[Outlander] has some of ye-olde-time grimy violence and sex of “Games” and a little of the plummy accents and cozy Anglophilia of “Downton.”” Mike Hale, New York Times

THE FEMALE LEAD

“If there’s anything that allows me to forgive the sluggish start, it’s the existence of this fully realized female protagonist.” Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, A.V. Club

“An epic drama told from the standpoint of an optimistic, resourceful woman rather than brooding, demon-chasing men.” James Poniewozik, Time Magazine

“There’s also a feminist interpretation: Claire — strong, intelligent, and sophisticated; married to a man who regards her as an equal — has gone down a rabbit hole into a misogynistic, patriarchal society.” Jeff Jenson, Entertainment Weekly

“Perhaps even more refreshing is the show’s willingness to portray female gratification and embrace its protagonist as an empowered sexual being in a way that’s sadly still rare to see on television” Laura Prudom, Variety

“[It’s] enormously refreshing to see an epic, gruesome fantasy series told from a female perspective” Charlotte Runchie, Telegraph

THE LOCATION

“The standout star was the scenery. This was no bleak wilderness, but a Scotland replete with thundering rivers, misty mountains and dramatic tangles of threatening forest.” Charlotte Runchie, Telegraph

“The scenery is breathtaking: rolling hills, staggering rock formations, crumbling ruins.” Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, A.V. Club

“It looks beautiful (Scotland, take a bow)” Robert Lloyd, L.A. Times

“It’s no surprise that the lush Scottish countryside and Highlands are beautiful and inherently part of the series, like a looming character that never leaves a scene.” Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter

THE HISTORICAL ACCURARY

“With each episode, the series intensifies, invoking interesting parallels with modern political issues—about nations whose enmity is so ancient that it feels indelible, links between wartime violence and sadomasochism, and the ethical questions raised by conflicts of unequal foe” Emily Nussbaum, New Yorker

Once you accept, with Claire, that we may be sticking around for a while, Outlander becomes an intriguing kind of social drama, a study of a people under siege whose bristliness comes with a deep sense of honor.” James Poniewozik, Time Magazine

“While the period touches have been assembled with care (and filmed in Scotland), long speeches in un-translated Gaelic have a way of yielding diminishing returns.” Brian Lowry, Variety

THE ROMANCE

“The Outlander books (which I haven’t read) are romance-laden, and so it’s no surprise that once Claire lands back in time, she’s saved by Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a strapping Scots clan member who is also dramatically more pleasant than the rougher members of Clan MacKenzie, which he serves.” Tim Goodman, Hollywood Reporter

“The pleasantly surprising Outlander gives us a romance between adults that feels adult, that’s sexy and smart and stirring.” Jeff Jenson, Entertainment Weekly

“At its core, “Outlander” is a love story, and the series is strongest when exploring the complexities of human relationships, from the tentative steps Claire takes to reconnect with husband Frank after their separation during the war, to the chaste but burgeoning chemistry between our heroine and her Scottish companion in the 1700s, Jamie Fraser.” Laura Prudom, Variety

“It belongs to the same genre as Back to the Future; historical fiction that’s also a time-travel romance, wherein the protagonist must avoid a series of Biffs.” Molly Lambert, Grantland