Giving Up on Outlander

I always assure people that yes, I do have standards when it comes to what movies and media I’ll consume (even though my standards might be different than others’). Generally, my standards adhere more to quality than to content. The fact that something is well-written, impactful, and well-executed–storytelling at the top of its craft–is more important to me than anything else, and I’m willing to go a long ways with a show or movie the more it adheres to those high standards. I’m much more likely to abandon a show if I feel like it’s wasting my time. If the plot is formulaic, or if it all seems to just be running on rails, or if I feel like I’ve already gotten everything I want to from a show, then enough’s enough.

(In general, I’m an advocate for everyone deciding where they draw the line on what they will and won’t watch. I recognize that where I draw the line will be different from where other people draw it, and I have nothing against that (just as I would hope others would have nothing against where I draw the line). I respect people’s ability to decide for themselves what works and what doesn’t.)

But there are still times when I just decide even quality isn’t enough to keep me hanging around. Fleabag was one such instance. I’ve heard great things about it. It’s won multiple bit awards, but in the end, I just felt like the content of the show was something that was more than what I wanted to keep coming back for. There are so many wonderful things out there that I want to watch. Why should I spend time with something that I don’t just love? So I get that there’s likely something there I’m missing. That’s okay. I don’t like lobster, either. And just because everyone else thinks it’s an awesome food doesn’t mean that I have to order it from the menu ever again. It’s not you, lobster. It’s me.

I just gave up on another show over the weekend. I’d hung around with Outlander for a season. I enjoyed the time travel aspects of it, and the scenery was always worth a watch. It seemed to dwell on gratuitous sex and violence more than I would have preferred, but I’d heard good things about the show as a whole, so I kept with it. It’s done by Ronald Moore, the same creator behind the Battlestar Galactica reboot, and I was very curious to see what it was going to do with time travel as the series progressed. Yes, it’s heavy on the romance, but there was enough fighting and intrigue and historical tidbits to keep me interested.

The finale of Season 1, however, really pushed things beyond what I was willing to put up with. Some spoilers ahead, so if you’re thinking of watching the show in spite of my experience, you’ll want to selectively read the next part.

I have a fairly strong stomach, and a fairly strong bias against censoring things. I don’t recall the last time I skipped a scene for any reason. But Outlander’s first season finale made me lose that streak, as it spent something like 15-20 minutes dwelling on a sadistic torture/rape scene. It just kept coming back to it over and over and over. I finally started hitting the fast forward button, and I was glad I did, since the scenes lasted a long time even in then.

That scene was enough to make me begin to question just what was in store for me in the rest of the season. Was it worth hanging around for? I checked out the reviews on AV Club, and I discovered that while there were some A’s and B’s in the future, there were also a fair number of Cs and even some Ds. In spite of my hesitation, I watched the first few episodes of the next season, which trades Scotland for a Parisian setting. (Filmed in Prague, actually, but who’s counting?)

It took away one of the main draws the show had for me (that cool scenery) and traded it for a bunch of random subplots that didn’t really connect to anything. To compensate, it upped the sex, throwing it in gratuitously whenever it felt like things were getting slow. (Which was often.) Game of Thrones made the term “sexposition” famous, since it would throw exposition into the middle of sex scenes, so that people didn’t get bored. Outlander decided to ditch the exposition altogether and just have sex.

To make things even worse, the show started dipping into pure soap opera territory. Characters died and then came back from the dead. Dramatic developments abounded. Random coincidences left and right, all designed to heighten the tensions even more.

Enough was enough. There was no longer anything I could see worth hanging around for. Yes, I was still interested in the ultimate fate of the characters, but I wasn’t willing to slog through the rest of the show to get to those answers, especially when I wasn’t sure the answers were going to be worth the slog once I got there.

So I turned it off.

I know there are fans out there. More power to you. Let’s just say I’m leaving more of the show for you to enjoy. For now, I’m watching the third season of Mrs. Maisel. After that’s done, I think I’ll head over to the latest season of The Crown.

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1 Comment

  • By Mette Ivie Harrison, February 24, 2020 @ 1:27 pm

    Since I’d already read the books, I knew this scene was coming. I’m more interested in the ways in which it became sheer porn. Especially season 3. And the ways that the author’s attempts to “add” in diversity came out horribly, combined with the lack of British understanding of new world problems.

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