Warning: spoilers ahead for the third episode of Outlander Season 6, called “Temperance.”
The sixth season of Outlander is moving ahead at a rapid pace as the stakes get higher and higher for the extended Fraser family, to the point that the show should cover a whole lot of ground despite the shorter-than-usual run of episodes. In past seasons, charging through storylines and plot twists hasn’t always paid off, but after three episodes and a big reveal about the Revolutionary War at the end of “Temperance,” I feel comfortable saying that the fast pace this time around is going to pay off.
Of course, the pace might not feel too rushed compared to earlier seasons due to the fact that the plot so far has been almost entirely set at Fraser’s Ridge, so the passage of time was easier to overlook until the cliffhanger reveal that the Boston Tea Party has officially happened. For the time travelers and those privy to their 20th century secrets, they know that the world will soon change permanently. At the same time, there were stories like Fergus and Marsali’s struggles, the growing dynamic between Young Ian and Malva, and of course whatever is brewing with Tom Christie and his power plays.
So, with so much happening, let’s look at why Outlander speeding through stories will almost certainly be a good thing.
The Timeline Of The Coming War
Despite Claire and Brianna meddling with time by bringing their modern inventions to the 18th century, the coming of the Revolutionary War for them has been inevitable ever since Claire and Jamie washed up on the shores of the colonies. In contrast, back in Season 2 when the show was still finding its feet, Outlander had to take its time a bit more in the intricate build to the Battle of Culloden as the Frasers' first attempt to use future knowledge to change the tides of war.
Plus, I think it’s safe to say that specific events of the American Revolutionary War are more widely known to modern audiences than what happened before Culloden in Scotland, and this war doesn't need quite as much set up for general viewers to follow along. And it’s not like the Frasers will be in the thick of the action right off the bat from their relatively remote place in North Carolina. Claire is lucky that none of the redcoats who arrived at the end of “Temperance” thought it was too bizarre that she already could name the Boston Tea Party after he mentioned the events.
Outlander can speed through some of the build to this war without Season 6 (and possibly beyond) suffering for it, because fans have seen the Frasers face a war, Claire has been talking about the upcoming Revolution for years, and at the moment, it’s not even the biggest plotline of the series when there’s so much else happening at Fraser’s Ridge.
That may change, especially now that Jamie has guns to hand over to the Cherokee after his big decision about supporting Young Ian, and more choices will have to be made about loyalty. But on the whole, the fast pace that hurt some of the earlier seasons that raced through events, character introductions, and even settings hasn’t caused problems in Season 6 at this point.
The Individual Storylines
Admittedly, the plot that actually started me thinking about the fast pace of the season is actually one that initially felt too fast: Fergus and Marsali. Fergus’ problem drinking after the terrible events at the end of Season 5 was introduced in the Season 6 premiere and was then seemingly resolved by the end of “Temperance,” although the 18th-century struggles with raising Henri-Christian are undoubtedly going to continue.
Still, Fergus seems determined to stay on the wagon, Marsali forgave him, Jamie stopped him from killing himself, and everybody really recovered from the fact that a band of boys nearly drowned the baby a lot faster than I would have! It was a fast resolution to what might actually have been my favorite storyline of the season so far, just for giving Lauren Lyle and César Domboy the spotlight as Marsali and Fergus, complete with last week's birth scene involving a level of intimacy usually reserved for Claire and Jamie or Bree and Roger.
And yet I found that it didn’t bother me that Outlander wrapped the storyline so quickly, possibly due to how long the episodes have been this season. It didn’t feel like it was shortchanged, or that Fergus’ redemption was unearned or Marsali’s forgiveness was too soon. The show is moving very quickly, but not skipping over important character beats in the process of delivering plot twist after plot twist.
Sure, it threw me a bit when it was suddenly Quarter Day, and I’d lost track of the timeline enough that I really needed the mention of the Boston Tea Party to confirm that the year is currently 1773. On the whole, Season 6 so far isn’t sacrificing the characters for plot, or spreading the character stories so thin that they don’t pack a punch, so the pace is working. And that brings me to the storyline that seems bound to pay off in a big way… for better or worse.
All Roads Seem To Lead To Tom Christie
Outlander may have so much going on that the different plot threads don’t always seem connected by much more than the inevitability of the coming war, but “Temperance” proved that’s not the case thanks to the spreading influence of Tom Christie at the Ridge. Infants weren’t exactly being floated down the river Moses-style before the arrival of the Christies, and the point was made that the parents were the bigger problems than the kids. He has brought a dangerous level of superstition – not to mention fire and brimstone talk – to the Ridge.
Luckily, he at least doesn’t currently believe that Claire is a witch, for all that she practices unfamiliar medicine, talks to a cat, and wears her hair loose without a cap or kerchief, although that could change. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that somebody has accused her of witchcraft, but it struck me throughout the whole episode that nobody was taking the threat of Tom Christie quite seriously enough. His letter to Claire about the “filth” in her book seemed like a bad omen to me, even though she seemed more inclined to laugh it off.
She did pay attention when he mentioned that Richard Brown had approached their settlement on Fraser’s Ridge, and he notably didn’t respond when she mentioned that they should turn the Committee of Safety away. The seeds of discontent have been sown by Tom Christie’s presence (and potentially even the actions of Allan and Malva to a certain extent), and I fully feel after three episodes that he and his family are being slowly but surely built up through multiple storylines as the linchpin of the season.
If that’s the case, then Outlander has been doing a phenomenal job of building the Christie threat into something big on multiple fronts before the Frasers could even realize the seriousness of the situation. In a show packed with inevitabilities when it comes to history and perhaps even that fire that has been said to kill Claire and Jamie, the question of the harm that Tom Christie and his people could cause adds some real unpredictability to the story regardless of pace.
Only time will tell, and Outlander only has eight episodes in total for Season 6. Season 7 is on the way and will consist of 16 episodes. And as long as fans aren’t stuck with another Droughtlander of almost two years, the future is looking bright. For viewers, anyway! The Frasers’ future is looking dangerous and dark as war approaches and Tom Christie’s influence continues to spread. See what happens next with new episodes of Outlander (opens in new tab) on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Starz in the 2022 TV schedule.
Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.
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