Image: Outlander (Starz)
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In many ways, “Blood Of My Blood” feels like a throwback episode of Outlander in its rather simple story structure that nonetheless sprinkles in the particular genre ingredients that make this show work. A complicated figure from Claire and Jamie’s past resurfaces, both medical and personal conflict ensue, and it all ends with some Claire and Jamie sexy time in a bath and then in bed, where Jamie proceeds to kiss Claire a thousand times. These two!

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Yes, “Blood Of My Blood” is an action-adventure series, medical drama, and romance all wrapped into one. And for the most part it works, not entirely a standalone episode given that it includes a few big reveals—namely, Jamie telling William the truth that he’s his father—but also an episode that slows things down a bit for Jamie and Claire, zooming in on very personal drama instead of getting too mired in some of the season’s bigger plot machinations.

But as far as those bigger plot machinations go, “Blood Of My Blood” does lay some more groundwork for the local uprising against the British tax collectors. Murtagh is still hanging around Fraser’s Ridge, and when Lord John Grey—that aforementioned complicated figure—shows up talking about news of a new mansion being built by the governor, tension arises.

John Grey’s resurfacing is a mixed bag. He brings along little William, who is slightly less little these days. At first, the child doesn’t remember Jamie, but then he connects the dots. When John falls ill, Jamie takes William out for some father-son bonding where the son does not know that father-son bonding is happening—much like the olden days between these two. It’s cute but also mostly filler. We’re not quite as invested in William as we are in Brianna, and a lot of the character work done here happens very rushedly. Still, there are some flashes of depth. Jamie has long struggled with the fact that he had to miss out on raising both of his children. His internal struggle with keeping the truth from William is fully felt, as is his complicated friendship with John.

But “Blood Of My Blood” also touches on the much thornier relationship dynamic between Claire and John. Claire has never been a fan, and she doesn’t feel indebted to him in the same way Jamie does. Jealousy simmers between the two. John pushes Claire’s buttons a bit, suggesting he has something special with Jamie that she could never understand. In a way, he might be right. Claire presses, wants to know if John still has feelings for Jamie. He admits he does.

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It’s not uninteresting, but there’s a sense that Outlander doesn’t know quite what it’s doing with this story. The show has always been a little off in its depiction of queerness. Here, John even implies that he was born gay in the same way that Claire was born blunt, as if it were a personality trait. John’s relationship with Jamie is a compelling part of the series, but John’s queerness is only really acknowledged in broad strokes and from a distance. And that interpersonal conflict with Claire falls flat. The episode suggests that she struggles with having to treat someone she doesn’t entirely trust or like, but that tension goes underexplored.

“Blood Of My Blood” brims with emotion and tension, but it isn’t without some of this season’s ongoing flaws. Outlander still seems to want to have it both ways when it comes to its representation of Native American characters. Jamie and Claire are supposedly kind and understanding to the Cherokee people that they now share land with, but the show still frames the Cherokee as a threat in a disturbing way that plays into old stereotypes. Outlander is still grappling with what it means to place Jamie and Claire in the context of 18th century North Carolina, and this episode largely concerns itself with relationship-based drama instead of the politics of the time, which works in its favor, but some of the larger issues this season remain.

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Stray observations

  • Murtagh and Jamie’s friendship is great. He’s definitely a little miffed about not knowing Jamie had a son.
  • I’m loving Claire’s wardrobe this season...but I guess that’s true of every season.
  • Poor Jamie just wants to be a dad so bad.
  • We don’t check in on Brianna at all this week, but presumably she’s on her way to find her parents in the past given that she passes through the stones in the last episode.

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