Written By: Anne Gavin
Note: This Post Contains Spoilers
So what about Frank Randall? One of my fellow staff writers for this blog wrote a very extensive piece recently about her feelings on the enigmatic Mr. Randall. However, I have a bit of a different take on the first husband of our intrepid heroine; former British Intelligence officer, Historian, Genealogist, supposed descendant of the evil Black Jack Randall, non-industrious lover and maybe one of the most misunderstood characters of the Outlander book and television series. What makes Frank tick and why are the TV Series producers so keen on “Frank’s Story”? Let’s discuss how one boring historian can ignite the Outlander Fandom into furious frenzy at the mere mention of his name.
At first glance in Episode 1, Frank and Claire make a dazzling pair. Sun shining like a spotlight on the two of them as they make their way through the picturesque Scottish Highlands in their gleaming automobile while impeccably and fashionably dressed. Attractive, young and embarking on an adventure to re-discover themselves.
What’s not to like? Frank seems doting enough. He can be seen looking admiringly at his wife numerous times. He loves her intellect, her spirit, her beauty and clearly pleased that she is interested in all his endeavors. He loves her. Of that, I have no doubt. And, then there is Claire. Back from the war – a place where she saw and experienced horrific things, maybe some even unspeakable. She was a woman who surely must have experienced sexism or harassment in a time when women weren’t necessarily considered equal to men. I imagine she must have had to develop a thick skin and learn to fend for herself. Likely she had a foundation for this in the years she spent with her Uncle Lamb after her parents passed. But, now, the self-sufficiency and the memory of long hours tending to dying and mangled men had faded and here she was – playing the part of a proper English wife. She was back where she was supposed to be. Or was she?
Clearly struggling with what’s next for her and her spouse, Claire appears determined to play the doting wife. She is at times amused by the seemingly singular scholarly focus of her beloved, and at the same time wistful about a life still not realized. Longing for a vase and a home and the stability that comes with those things, yet pushing boundaries with her sexual aggressiveness and non-traditional way of thinking.
An examination of the Claire-Frank relationship and even further examination in Episode 108, “Both Sides Now,” is crucial to Claire’s story especially for non-book readers who must grasp story concepts and arcs and character motivations in just 16 short episodes. And, from the book series perspective, if Diana Gabaldon meant for Frank Randall to be a bit player, she would not have carried this character – alive and dead through the first three books in the series and beyond into subsequent books. Heck – Claire herself bears some responsibility for keeping Frank’s story alive by never taking off that damn wedding band…ever. Why is that? Claire will always have the specter of Frank hanging about for many reasons, not the least of which is she loved and respected the man despite his shortcomings.
For over 20 years, Claire shared a life with this man and much more. Their life was probably like many other married couples. It had its ups and downs, perhaps its infidelities – physical and emotional – and it had periods of anger and resentment, threats to leave, etc. But, TV series watchers who want to banish this man because it feels good for them to do so does Diana’s storytelling a great injustice. Both Diana Gabaldon and Ron Moore know that Frank’s Story is foundational for much of what will come after. It must be told.
Hating Frank or hating what he did or might eventually do to Claire or hating him because he’s NOT Jamie undermines the necessity to understand the story. The story is about a woman torn between two different lives, two different centuries and, at times, two different men. The theme repeats itself many times throughout the Outlander series – and for sure in the first four books. Despite her eventual deep love for Jamie, Claire has been profoundly conflicted at times and remains so for most of the first half of the Book Series. We only understand that when we know and yes, appreciate, Frank’s Story. Flawed, exasperating, dull at times? Yes. Significant to Claire and Jamie’s story? Absolutely. Don’t hate the man. Instead embrace this character because he makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the progression of the Outlander saga while also contributing to the many layers of Claire and Jamie’s Epic Love Story. You’re a player, Frank. Don’t let anyone tell you different!