Chances are by now, Outlander fans have watched the premiere episode of season 4 of the STARZ series. If you haven’t, and you DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED, you should probably do that now before reading any further.
Okay so in Outlander season 4 episode 1 “America The Beautiful”, we meet one Stephen Bonnet as played by Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey). His character is going to be a BIG point of….drama, for the Frasers as this season progresses, and he’s responsible for a pretty heart-wrenching scene in the premiere.
Obviously, Bonnet isn’t a “good guy”, as when we first meet him he’s in irons and awaiting his hanging the next day. Sure, we could say the same about the Fraser’s friend Gavin Hayes, who’s also in the same cell, but we kind of know those circumstances whereas we know NOTHING about Bonnet.
The Frasers help him escape capture eventually, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) patching him up following a bayonet wound, and Jamie (Sam Heughan) sending him on his way.
How does he repay the Fraser’s kindness you ask? Why, by robbing them on their riverboat, obviously. [We’ll talk more about a certain change to that scene in another post, so check back for that.] What most fans are talking about in the scene right now is actually the song that plays over the scene, Ray Charles‘ “America The Beautiful”.
Outlander Executive Producer (and all-around badass) Maril Davis fielded a few questions about the scene and song choice on Twitter last night, and did her best to answer them in a better tone than they were asked:
The use of America the Beautiful is NOT a political statement. The purpose was to take a song that speaks to the majesty of this wonderful nation and the hopes and dreams of those washing upon its shores, juxtaposed with the harsh reality of what J&C actually encountered. https://t.co/kvT3LzT4Q5
— Maril Davis (@TallShipProds) November 5, 2018
As one of the people who was involved in making this decision, I can assure you the song is NOT a political statement. I would have zero issue saying so if it was, if that was the case. But, as this is a free country, you are allowed to feel and think how you like #USA #American https://t.co/j2RAu2qZ82
— Maril Davis (@TallShipProds) November 5, 2018
Matthew B. Roberts spoke about the song choice with Entertainment Weekly as well, echoing Davis’ comments:
EW: How did the decision come about to use Ray Charles’s rendition of America the Beautiful?
RDM: Toni Graphia and I wrote the premiere. We wrote that into the script. The title of the episode is America the Beautiful. When Toni and I were writing it we thought it would be a great juxtaposition of this gorgeous song being played over this horrific moment in their lives. It kind of sets up the season. You have this big, expansive, beautiful place, and all the hardships that go along with trying to make it a home.
Speelers actually spoke to Town and Country Magazine about filming said riverboat scene; the filming, working with Balfe, and the eventual music choice that plays over the scene:
Due to the nature of the scene, it took quite a long time to shoot, and there’s a lot of physicality to it. You’ve got people who’ve had their throats slit, or been knocked out or are slumped over a boat. And it boils down to my point of view, which is just Stephen and Claire on a boat.
Jamie’s been pinned down outside, and everything sort of slows down. I found it was quite a powerful way to be working. [Caitriona Balfe] is a great actress who brings an enormous level of emotional truth to her role. At times it was quite difficult—[Bonnet] is particularly aggressive and the physical nature of what he does is abhorrent, in any world. And in conversation, Cait and I had to talk about what was the best way to go. But from a purely creative point of view it was an amazing scene to shoot. Julian [Holmes], the director, I’d worked with years ago, so there was a trust and a rapport there.
But I think it’s completely effective with the music. I think it’s a really clever choice as well. It makes it much more emotive. The great thing is that we’ve been through that process creatively with the dialogue anyway, and hit all the parts the we wanted to hit, so that music can be more powerful in the final edit.
Outlander season 4 airs on STARZ on Sunday nights.
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