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Review of 'Outlander' 7.8

Benedict Arnold and Time Travel

By Paul LevinsonPublished 10 months ago 3 min read

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

Outlander 7.8, the midseason finale, was superb on many levels. First and foremost, it amply continued what was clear in the previous episode 7.7: it provided a vivid example of the insanity of war. Those Battles of Saratoga brought home the sheer depravity of war. Jamie is almost killed in the first battle. He almost kills his son in the second battle. Characters that we got to know at least a bit and liked are shot down like blades of grass being mowed. There's always a discrepancy between the nobility and the insanity of war -- the wanton killing of people. And watching these battles unfold on the screen was almost enough to make me a pacifist. But I always also think about Bertrand Russell, a dedicated pacifist until Hitler and the Nazis changed his mind.

But the horror of war aside, I found a lot to really like in Outlander 7.8, as a devotee of time-travel. I especially liked two interactions that Claire and Jamie had with Benedict Arnold:

1. Jamie quotes Robert Browning's "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for," and Claire slightly winces. That's because Browning doesn't publish this in a poem until 1855 (in "Andrea del Sarto," aka "The Faultless Painter," in his collection Men and Women), and Jamie is about to fight the Second Battle of Saratoga in 1777. I love "mistakes" like this in time travel. Did Arnold at some point in the future tell someone that line -- he did say that he found it very impressive -- and it percolated forward in history to Browning? If so, that's a clear example of the "where did it come from" paradox in time travel. When a phrase from the future is set loose in the past, it's impossible to figure out where it originated, the future or the past? It bounces back and forth from the future to the past then back again to the future in a never-ending circle. (I'll also note that I like what Marshall McLuhan made of this line, changing it to "A man's reach must exceed his grasp, or what's a metaphor?" That's a pretty good definition of metaphor, as well as a nice pun.)

2. Later, Claire tells a wounded Benedict Arnold that he's justified in feeling his accomplishments as a major general in the American army have not been recognized. Arnold has been wounded psychologically as well as physically, and Claire's supporting his grievances may have been just the last straw that got him to leave the Americans and join the British, and therein have his name in future history become synonymous with "traitor". Another mind-bending example of where did it come from. Had Claire from the future not supported Arnold's anger, he might not have joined the British. (You can see by the expression on her face that she realizes a second too late that her answer might have stoaked Arnold's switching sides -- though, perhaps she did that deliberately, to avoid the risk of changing the history she knew.)

Other than time travelers in America during the Revolutionary War, there were lots of other excellent touches in this episode. Jamie accidentally shooting the hat off his son William's head and his later giving his son a hat was a beautiful, powerful little piece of storytelling. I also liked Ian and Rachel almost getting together, even if it ended with Ian on the boat to Scotland and Rachel accosted by that psycho creep, the well-named Arch Bug.

And back to time travel, as became clear at the end of episode 7.7, Roger going back in time through the Stones in Scotland promises to bring us all kinds of exciting encounters and likely more paradoxes in the second half of this excellent season next year. And I'll be back here with more reviews.

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About the Creator

Paul Levinson

Novels The Silk Code, The Plot To Save Socrates, It's Real Life: An Alternate History of The Beatles; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction The Soft Edge & Digital McLuhan, translated into 15 languages. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran10 months ago

    Oh this was so intriguing! I should check it out! Excellent review!

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