Season 4 of Starz's Outlander Is More Compelling Than Ever | TV/Streaming

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Profit for your efforts Sunny skies this morning Untamed wilderness, or the endless years ahead There are few things as alluring as the promise of endless possibilities, and that promise is what stands out most about "Outlander's" fourth season. But there's a dark side to a world where possibilities are endless. Things can go well, but problems can also arise. That's the way life is Certainly, this holds true in the context of marriage. And the same holds true in the production of TV shows. Although intoxication has its positive effects, it can also cloud one's judgment.

No malice was intended by the slightly foreboding tone. Not really The fourth installment of the popular Starz epic still has a lot going for it, including its lush cinematography, excellent costuming and production design, and solid to remarkable performances. The books by Diana Gabaldon that the show is based on just finished second in "The Great American Read," behind only "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "the Harry Potter books," and there is a great story to be told about the show's main characters. the storytellers have a charming flair for telling it. But the show's third season's stumbles return, and new ones occasionally threaten to overshadow the show's other pleasures. However, the show is as captivating as ever when it zeroes in on its central couple and the people closest to them.

Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a time-traveling British battlefield nurse turned surgeon during World War II, and Jamie (Sam Heughan), a Scottish Highlander from the 18th century, were left at the end of season three. abandoning a child in the late 1960s in search of her true love Once back in the past, the two end up chasing a band of kidnapping, jewel-stealing pirates all the way to the New World (the story is long). After many years apart due to murder, witchcraft, political maneuvering, several major storms, and a lot of time spent on boats, they finally reunite in Georgia, penniless but finally able to be themselves and as a family. At the start of Season 4, that is still the case; however, there is chaos to be dealt with, as is customary for this couple.  

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Death and trauma play a significant role in this mayhem. There isn't much that can be said about the six episodes that have been made available to critics, as nearly all plot developments and much information about new and returning characters are under embargo. However, it would be an understatement to say that there is a sense of darkness that belies the gorgeous, sunkissed photography. The best explanation for all that gloom is three full years and twenty years of history. One particularly moving scene involves Jamie and his nephew Ian (John Bell) talking about how trauma (in this case, the trauma that can result from sexual assault) can linger for months or even years. or even decades; the fact that it occurs in a cemetery at midnight next to an empty coffin should indicate both the tone and the show's reluctance to chill. That's just one example of how the common thread of heartbreak, loss, and cruelty can bear fruit.  

Others aren't nearly as successful. The arrival of the Fraser family in the West Indies in Season 3 prompted (as in the novels) an exploration of slavery on the show. The findings were disappointing. The Frasers get off to a better start in season four when they visit their distant relative Jocasta Cameron's (Maria Doyle Kennedy) plantation and learn the hard way that good intentions don't always outweigh the damage they can cause if the people helping aren't asked what they need. When the Frasers go camping, however, their interactions with the local Cherokee range from surprisingly deep and thoughtful to irritatingly heavy-handed and even silly. Both events taken from the books and those created for the show could be told effectively, but there is a constant drive to add more tension and terror. There are times when the series could use one less slow-motion sequence or percussion-heavy music cue. The heavy hand is forgiven, but not forever.

The good news is that there is plenty to enjoy about this season that is neither too hot nor too cold. One of the show's greatest assets is undoubtedly its consistently improving cast, led by Caitriona Balfe's insightful and occasionally nerve-wracking performance. With Claire rooted in one era, Balfe is able to play more of the mundane details that make up a person's life; she is just as good when the world is falling apart as she is when Claire has goats to feed. caring for patients and secretly (or not so secretly) loving her husband Balfe's always been great, but Heughan keeps getting better and better, and he really shines here as an unrealistically magnificent man who hasn't let his hardships make him bitter. The performances of Kennedy and Bell are compelling, especially the former's, and "Downton Abbey" star Ed Speleers turns in something vicious, putrid, and disturbingly forceful as a role that could have swallowed a lesser actor whole.

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Finally, the first half of the season will conclude with the return of two of the series' most dependable players. These two actors have a natural, convincing rapport with their characters.   and their simultaneous appearances seem to set off a quantum leap in quality, transforming the already good into something truly remarkable and integrated. The first's appearance is the season's most exciting moment, and he is the character whose storyline I am most curious to follow among those not named Claire or Jamie.

The occasional piece of creaky dialogue—I actually said out loud, "Please don't say it"—makes things harder for both returning and new characters than they have in previous seasons. As previously mentioned, the show has a tendency to do just a bit more than is necessary, as evidenced by the lengthy pause before one of the show's best actors delivered a line that was telegraphed from miles away. Every time we take in the same breathtaking panorama, we can't help but marvel at how effective the view is on its own. It's not a minor change for a show that was, for a while, the sexiest thing on television, but the series also feels much more chaste now. Even though sexual encounters between these characters still occur, "Outlander" appears to have less of an interest in the dynamics and closeness of these scenes than it did in previous seasons. To rephrase: not every show needs a lot of action, but "Outlander" had it, and it's no longer around. Why did this occur

I know there's a lot of criticism at the top of the page. But loving something means being able to see its flaws. That's true not only of the central relationship but also of the show. The best episodes of "Outlander" do a better job than any other show on television at depicting the ups and downs of a marriage. At once sensual and intellectual, vexing and exhilarating, Even at its worst, it's still a show with a stellar cast and a setting so detailed that you almost feel like you're there. When weighed against that kind of potential, what are a few missteps Put on some cozy clothes, pour yourself a drink, and try to let go of the past mistakes so that the future can bring its wonders.

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