‘Outlander’ Review: Episode 509, “Monsters and Heroes”

[This is not a spoiler-free review of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]

Episode 509: “Monsters and Heroes”
Written by Shaina Fewell, Directed by Annie Griffin

It is a time that we, as a society, are feeling confined and isolated. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Messenger Chats, and various technological ways are being utilized as our connections, our way to reach out, our way to find comfort and solace with others. Those that are fortunate enough to be in a home with plenty of food and family are starting to feel a pull for the “simpler” times, or at least an understanding that has been lost on many, this “new” yet old kind of family connection.

This family connection is something that long time Outlander book fans have touted as something they love about the series. These connected relationships between the characters are what brings fans back to read the series over and over, to tote these large volumes on vacation, or tell anyone that will listen about this wonderful series. These relationships are what the series is about and what had fans so excited about the series being brought alive on screen to see. These connections are also something that those fans that watch the television series have regularly said they “miss,” and what have made fans of just the show feel there is sometimes something missing.

There have been many Outlander episodes over the last five seasons that have really hit the nail on the head. These episodes are usually the most emotional, and those that viewers will immediately say are their favorites. In these episodes, we have seen the love between uncles and nephews, have seen the love of a lost child, have seen love for a child that is not one’s own, a marriage that resulted in ultimate love, and unrequited love. These connections that we have been able to make us FEEL, and they make us invested in these characters and their stories, care about them, and in turn sometimes make us look at our own similar relationships and seek that same feeling of connection.

This week’s episode of Outlander overall did not disappoint. We can spend some time on the Ridge and finally see these moments of connection between most of the characters. We haven’t been able to see much of the Ridge and the daily goings-on with the family, so it was a nice respite from what sometimes feels an overabundance of visual discord. In a show that producers regularly speak to how they want the viewer to “feel,” how the character is feeling in the moment, I have always wondered, how are we as viewers supposed to care if we haven’t had the relationship built or connections made with that character to make us WANT to feel what they are feeling?

“Monsters and Heroes” starts with one of my favorite book characters Marsali (Lauren Lyle), and she is with Claire (Caitriona Balfe). Lauren Lyle has really brought Marsali to life and does not disappoint with her quick wit. This care, respect,  and love that has grown between Marsali and Claire is a heartwarming opening and leads into the calm, evolving domestic life on the Ridge. Families working together to dye cloth, harvest the fields, hunt for food, and take care of Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).

It is great finally to see the love and humor between Bree (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin). Their stories have sometimes been rushed, or they have spent it arguing. There has not been a lot of relationship development between the two, so even just this brief loving moment of love between them and Jem is refreshing, especially when their time in the woods is spent arguing again.

A majority of this episode focuses on the relationship between Jamie and Roger. It starts with Roger’s feelings of inadequacies hunting bison and the request to kill Bonnet and his Father-in-Law’s begrudging acceptance. That finally grows into respect between the two men, much like that an adolescent boy can sometimes go through with their father, they eventually gain the missing understandings of each other. These understandings and acceptance of each other are solidified when Jamie makes his recovery, and Roger tells him that he still wants to go with Jamie to take care of Bonnet.

When the episode isn’t focused on Roger and Jamie, there is a lot of time spent with Claire and Bree. We can finally see their relationship has transitioned from the discord they had in their past. Bree is finally opening up and trusting Claire’s advice by seeking it out and even accepting that advice, much to the fortune of Jamie and his leg. I do like they included the bison and that Bree and Claire are the two that take it out together.

Jamie and Claire get their fair share of relationship kindling, it is nice since we haven’t seen a ton of their connection time since she has returned to Jamie. Claire gets to use her medical skills on Jamie yet again, bring on the maggots instead of leeches. She also pulls out her Claire scold on him since he uses his Jamie Fraser stubbornness many times. It is refreshing to see these old character traits we haven’t seen in a while.

I am so glad Ian (John Bell) is back, and his character has also grown, even though we haven’t been told what exactly happened to him during his time with the Mohawk it has made him mature. He stands up to Jamie in a way that he would have never done in the past. It is the moment where he is ashamed of Jamie not wanting his leg amputated. It makes him find that missing respect he had for his father. Yet he comes to stand by Jamie when the moment comes and is there to support his uncle in any way he can, which is a faithful young Ian trait, he is there for anyone that needs him.

Fergus (César Domboy) IS actually in the show!! We haven’t seen much of Fergus this season, I don’t know why he has been excluded, but it was nice to see him with Ian, recalling his past with Jamie. And then to see him as a family man in the woods with all of his children. I feel we need more Fergus the rest of this season.

The only connection that seemed to be missing was Bree and Jamie, I mean yes, she made the snake syringe for his leg, but there were absolutely NO father-daughter moments, and there really hasn’t been. The syringe moment focused all on Bree and Claire. Where is this love of a father and daughter, the father that missed his daughter for so long? This episode was the one to have Jamie speak with his daughter. I do feel it was a missed opportunity.

I am glad that somehow it worked out that this episode of Outlander came at this time, this time of so many of us being shut in and needing connections and relationships bringing us together. This warm and cozy episode of Outlander makes us remember why we like these characters and why they like each other, and also why we love this show and story.


Photos and clips courtesy of Starz.