- Outlander -I Actually Feel Bad For Frank On 'Outlander'
Guys, hear me out.
Frank Randall is no Jamie Fraser — Claire, an Outlander fan, a random person on the street, we as a society can all, collectively, agree on this. But that doesn't mean the man doesn't deserve our pity.
First of all, the man's wife disappeared. Dead or alive? Who knew! For years! And when she did return, she was pregnant with another man's child. How'd that happen? Time travel and 18th-century Highlanders, he's told. And yet, Frank stuck by her, didn't commit her (for an early 20th century man, that's huge), and raised the child as his own... before dying in a car accident.
Old Franklin Wolverton Randall really got dealt a bad hand, and few are sticking up for him. But I'm here to defend Outlander Frank (not Outlander Frank, as I'll explain in a minute). Maybe we should give the guy a fighting chance?
I'm Not Saying He's Perfect
Let's just say what needs to be said, first, before waxing poetic about how I actually feel bad for Frank. Frank is not all good. While he has acted selfless in the past, he was no saint — particularly in Gabaldon's books.
In Book 3, Voyager, Frank displays some misogynist and racist behavior in flashbacks courtesy of Claire. While impressed with Claire's determination, he is still displeased that she is in medical school and absent from the home when Brianna was injured due to a neglectful babysitter. In another flashback, Frank is racist, insulting Claire's colleague and friend Joe Abernathy. Inexcusable, I know.
In Drums of Autumn, we learn that Frank had put up a fake headstone for Jamie with the words "Beloved husband of Claire," despite knowing that Jamie survived the Battle of Culloden. The goal was to push Claire into telling Brianna the truth about her paternity (which Claire did do in Dragonfly in Amber), but it's pretty shady, right?
Even early on in the first book, Frank makes some unsettling comments about never being able love an adopted child. (Yet, he loves Brianna.) He later reveals to Claire that he is sterile and admits Bree was his only chance at having a child of his own. (Sad!)
There are more moments, yes, but when it comes to the show, Outlander skipped most of the unsavory qualities of Frank's personality. He is by no means perfect, I acknowledge that, but in the grand scheme, I pity the man because...
The Show Has Let Frank Glow
Now that we got that out of the way, we can focus on the (dare I say?) nearly lovable parts of Frank.
In the midseason finale for Season 1, "Both Sides Now," we see Frank dedicated to finding Claire following her disappearance at Craigh na Dun, a first-person perspective that was not included in the books. Show creator Ronald D. Moore told Variety these scenes helped to "reestablish and really underline" that Frank is a good person who is deeply suffering. Even though the authorities have given up their search for Claire and even though he doesn't believe Mrs. Graham's story of the stones, he still can't let go. He visits Craigh na Dun where he devastatingly feels Claire's presence but can't reach her.
Frank's deep anguish is apparent in the more dark, violent episodes he goes through (like strangling a woman who conned him into believing she knew where Claire was — not cool, buddy) and feeling like no one — save for Reverend Wakefield and Mrs. Graham — cares about his troubles. These additional scenes helped make the audience feel torn about whether Claire should go back through the stones to Frank or stay with Jamie.
Even after Season 1, the show continued to make an effort to portray Frank as a sympathetic character once Claire returns to him in the 20th century. As executive producer Matthew B. Roberts told Elle ahead of Season 3, showcasing Frank as a decent man made for a more dynamic love triangle between Frank, Claire, and Jamie. "If Frank is an evil guy, if he's a shitbag, if he's a jerk — what's the choice?" Roberts said. "If you elevate Frank, that makes Jamie an even better guy."
Frank's more endearing status on the show is also in large part to the Golden Globe-nominated performance of Tobias Menzies. Frank's behavior was in stark contrast to that of his sadistic ancestor Captain Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall. The striking similarity in appearance made it difficult for Claire to look at Frank the same way, but the impressive breadth of Menzies' performance in the dual roles worked in Frank's favor. The fact that Menzies pulled off Frank's vulnerability and earnest devotion while simultaneously being responsible for one of the most complicated and cruel TV villains of all time somehow made me feel compassion for Frank all the more.
Give The Guy A Break
Now, Gabaldon doesn't want readers to despise Frank. As immortalized on the blog Time Slips, the Outlander author wrote a defense of Frank on a now-defunct literary forum where she went so far as to call Frank "the major tragic figure
of the books."
But if you struggle with Book Frank, or are holding out judgment until we find out everything that Frank knew, can we all not agree that TV Series Frank is worth a spot of love? For, at his core, he is a man who was dealt the biggest bummer of a hand and through it all, never stopped loving Claire. Even though he planned to divorce Claire right before his death, Menzies told Harper's Bazaar, "If Frank was entirely honest, he probably won't love the woman he was going to divorce Claire for as much as he loves Claire." And how can you not feel sympathy for a man who lost the love of his life in a way as completely unfathomable as time travel? And while he couldn't be the best husband to Claire after her return, he was a great father to Brianna and that deserves some respect.
So while I wouldn't go as far as to buy merch with #TeamFrank emblazoned on it, I can say that, at least in Starz's adaptation, I sure as hell feel bad for him. And maybe you should too.