Outlander – TV Review: fantastically sexy Scottish shenanigans

17 May, 2016 — by Matt Owen0

According to any sensible measures, I should bloody hate Outlander. It is (if you subscribe to outdated notions of gender normalcy, you crazy square, you), the lady Game of Thrones. Where GoT is all jiggling tits and decapitations, Outlander is… well, jiggling tits and decapitations, but fuelled by a feminist core that should send boring old men like me running for Ben Nevis


But, and I’m not entirely sure why… it’s bloody fantastic.

For those not in the know, the series (based on books by Diana Gabaldon) follows the experiences of army nurse, Claire, in World War II, who while taking a short Highland holiday with sensible, pipe-smoking 1940s husband Frank, accidentally wanders into an old stone circle and… travels back to 17th century Scotland.

Still with me? Good.

Once ensconced in the Jacobite highlands, she’s variously hunted by her husband’s eeeeeevil ancestor, accused of witchcraft, beaten, dragged about a bit, put in a hole and eventually married off as chattel to a naive young village lad named Jamie.

Ah Jamie. Never have thighs strained so manfully at the folds of a kilt. It’s rare indeed to be able to make out a six pack through the cover of a wooly jumper and a leather breastplate, but Outlander pulls it off.


Jamie is meant to be in his early 20s, but must have spent most of those years packing Haggis away and wrestling Nessies, because he’s about eight feet wide. Gleaming eyes, wavy red hair and a soft burr that’s never-the-less extremely understandable to refined viewers. He’s the living embodiment of those paintings on the front of Barbara Cartland novels. Oh, and he’s not really a naive young lad obviously. He’s a Laird, with a proper castle too.

And this is why I should hate it. The entire thing is geared so pitch-perfectly at the ‘housewife fantasy’ market that I shouldn’t be able to cope, but it’s actually incredibly entertaining. It almost constantly strains the limits of credibility. If Claire is in danger – moral or physical – you can be sure that a great flame-haired bag of walnuts in a kilt will crash through the door at any moment, waving his sabre about the place in her defence. It’s chock-full of horseback chases, sword fights, villainous plots and… well I’m going to have to mention the shagging here…

What do you mean, fulfilment?

Because it never stops. My wife occasionally watches while she’s putting the laundry away, and I can hear a constant stream of sexy huffing and puffing (from the TV, not from my wife), interrupted only by the occasional clanging of Claymores. But – and here’s the twist – it’s hot TV sex that’s actually sexy for women. It’s rather sad to say this, but I can’t think of another show with the nous (balls isn’t the right word here) to show a central character who is a sexual tigress without judging her for it.

And make no mistake, Clare’s a full-force sex machine throughout the whole thing. It’s brilliant. It’s actually erotic, and it’s all done in a ridiculously earthy style that somehow moves it past mere titillation and into the realms of (dare I say it) positive representation of female sexuality.


The fact that it does so by setting it three centuries ago makes it all the weirder, but the period gives us lots of chances to laugh at the strange ways of the simple folk, and thank god we don’t have to wear shit-covered linen underpants all year round, while at the same time wishing we could all have simpler lives, when men were men and women were women and gender was a switch instead of a dial. Which brings us neatly back to the present.

It isn’t high art, but it’s ably directed and written in a way that’s more designed to keep the plot barreling along than it is to trouble any Pulitzer committees, and that is as it should be. Sword swinging, sexy Scottish shenanigans that are genuine fun, with a two-fisted sexy sassenach in the middle. Oh, and despite occasionally falling into ‘peril’, Claire isn’t a victim at any point. She’s always willing to give as good as she gets. She is, for want of a better phrase, a strong, independent young woman who is rather enjoying a bit of freedom from the moral trap of the 1940s. What’s not to love here?

Season two is currently airing on Netflix, but I suggest you grab a bottle of Scotch and spend a weekend in bed with your significant other and binge out on the entire first season.

Check out more in-depth and slightly wayward small-screen analysis in our Television section, including our review of Daredevil Season 2.


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