North Carolina in America is a long way from the island of Skye, as Starz Outlander: Series Four delivers Episode 2, showcasing life for Highland born Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), his unique wife Claire Fraser (Catriona Balfe) and his nephew Ian (John Bell).
Claire and Jamie are now seeking to live in the land of hope and promise at the beginning of an age of enlightenment, one that slowly emerged during the eighteenth century.
It’s certainly not a pretty picture, at least in terms of how people were treating each other. Slavery is at the forefront of their new life to be lived at River Run, a stunningly sited architecturally charming southern plantation on the Cape Fear river.
River Run has fine accommodations and is owned by Jamie’s mother’s sister; his aunt Jocasta Cameron (Maria Doyle Kennedy) who is sightless. She is happy and glad to greet her nephew, the first time she has encountered him in many years.
While today many more people embrace ideas surrounding the concept we are all created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, this was certainly not well known at this time, except perhaps in Claire’s heart.
Having come from the future to the past to marry the man of her choice, while Claire Fraser may have the wisdom of hindsight and an extensive knowledge of medicine and world history to draw upon and talk to Jamie about, it is certainly clear it will not always provide the answers or the outcome she would want in the present she is living.
Don’t read any more unless you want spoilers
Robbed of all their valuables by the merciless pirate and outlaw Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleeers), Jamie, Claire and Ian reflect on ideas of misplaced trust and how now once again without funds to draw upon, that they can hope to go on.
River Run is the home of a relative they can turn to; the southern plantation comes complete with 152 slaves who work the land.
While Mistress Cameron practices benevolence to those slaves in her charge, she is also very aware of adhering to the laws of the land. which are skewed in the ‘white man’s’ favour.
Local man of influence Lieutenant Wolf (Lee Boardman) advises Aunt Cameron on local matters. He comes to talk to her about agricultural practices, wanting her to plant wheat along the river.
Jamie however advises his aunt against the prospect, informing her as the land she cannot see for herself is moist and that rice would be a far better crop, offering a bigger profit outcome for all.
While she is impressed with her nephew’s knowledge, Lt Wolf is not pleased at all to have his advice ignored and Jamie finds he has gained a new rival for his aunt’s affections.
Jamie and Claire distressingly find out the young man will be torn literally from limb from limb in order to satisfy the mob’s lust.
Aunt Cameron is curious about Claire, whom she has heard is spirited, headstrong and forthright in her views on many matters.
When they talk together during a fitting for a new dress for a party she will give in her nephew and his wife’s honour, she discovers Claire’s attitude to slavery, causing her great concern.
Meeting the locals is what the party it is all about, well so they think, but the evening takes a surprising and unexpected turn when Aunt Cameron publicly names Jamie Fraser as her heir to River Run, with all the responsibility that entails, effective immediately.
Claire sees it as a positive she and Jamie might, by being plantation owners, light a spark, that leads to changing the lives of their slaves by setting them free and paying them a wage.
However she’s momentarily perhaps forgotten when you do light a match to a fuse it can often lead to a very large explosion.
Liberty at this time for any slave, could only be granted by order of the local court, which has so many rules and regulations in place, it rarely happens. It costs 100 pounds sterling per slave, who also must have saved a life if they are to be considered at all.
It’s all about the local landowners keeping them in their place – or station in life. Offering freedom they believe, will seriously threaten their way of life and they are not going to let that happen.
When Claire objects she is informed all those in the past who have shared her views have long since disappeared without a trace and it makes her and Jamie both reflect once more, on how to proceed.
Unexpectedly, the first explosion happens when as a healer, trained in the 20th century, Claire is called out to aid a slave. He has been injured dreadfully, a life threatening injury having been impaled on a hook for defying one of the men put in charge of his work party.
She and Jamie take him back to River Run, where she operates on him to remove the rusty great hook in an endeavour to save his life. An angry mob of landowners arrives, demanding the young slave despite his condition, be handed over by midnight.
Jamie and Claire are backed into a corner and can see no other way out than to deliver him to the angry mob. So they decide to help save his soul by giving him a draft to end his life with sleep, rather than the noose the mob use to hang him from the nearest tree.
How the followers of Jamie and Claire are going to handle all this awful reality and the continuing heartless trauma associated in facing the truth about the evolution of society during America’s past in this series, remains to be revealed. It’s certainly a horrible time in history, despite all the beauty of nature around them.
The founders of America would eventually offer freedom to chase individual dreams through sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good. Society however is slow to accept change and it would take a long time.
President Obama said in his legacy speech of 2018; not that our nation has been flawless from the start; we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow; it is what caused ‘patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west and slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.
In Starz Outlander Series 4, that idea being brought to fruition seems still a long way off.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018