Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Outlander Review: Episode 2×1 ‘Through a Glass, Darkly’

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Wowow what a harrowing episode! I don’t mean that in a “they killed or tortured a female character just for shock value” way; oddly enough, it was an episode with genuine emotion and drama! That’s so rare on television these days I almost had to pinch myself.

The episode opens with Claire back at the standing stones of Craigh na Dun, the very ones that took her to the 18th century in the first place. The title card tells us we’re in Inverness, Scotland, 1948.

Wait, what??

The opening leaves us as confused and off-balance as the distraught Claire, and as she wanders down a deserted road, a man stops his car to help her. She begs him to tell her who won the battle of Culloden Moor.

Campbell, he says: the English won and the Jacobites were slaughtered.

Claire collapses in utter agony. At the end of season 1, she and Jamie were headed to France partially with the purpose of stopping the Jacobite rebellion of 1746. Clearly they failed, and now Claire is stuck back in her present. Jamie’s long dead.

The scene jumps to a hospital, where Frank arrives. The doctor tells him Claire is calmer than she was, but she hasn’t said what happened to her. Frank is beside himself: Claire has been missing for two years, and now suddenly she’s back!

He goes to her room to speak to her, but when he tries to touch her she has a flashback to her last encounter with his ancestor, Jack Randall, and flinches away from him.

Frank is obviously puzzled by Claire’s behavior, and desperate to know where she’s been, but he’s incredibly patient with her. He takes her to their friend Reverend Wakefield’s house in Inverness, and there she spends all of her time combing his extensive library on Jacobite history. Clearly she’s looking for some record of Jamie, and she grows increasingly distraught as she finds none.

Finally she tells Frank the entire story: the stones, the time travel, Jamie. He believes her, but he tells her it doesn’t matter. She married someone else, but she’s still wearing his ring. She came back. They can start over and make their lives together. He’s just happy she’s back.

Then she drops a bombshell. She’s pregnant with Jamie’s baby.

Okay, wait. She was pregnant at the end of season 1, but that was 1745. It’s 1948 now, meaning two years have passed. Either that’s an incredibly long gestation period, or she left a baby behind in the 18th century. Or there was no first baby.

Book readers know, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Anyway, Frank flips his wig. We finally see his resemblance (besides the obvious) to Black Jack. He raises his fist to Claire, but stops short of hitting her. Instead he goes out to Reverend Wakefield’s shed and takes his anger out on a ton of terra cotta pots.

He and the good reverend talk it over, and eventually Frank returns to Claire. He tells her he loves her and he wants to try. He asks her to promise him she’ll move on from Jamie. She’ll put all that behind her and be his wife again.

She still loves Frank, so she agrees to his condition. Jamie’s 200-years dead, and continually mourning him or looking for information about his fate isn’t going to change anything. She also agrees to move to Boston with Frank, and a few days later they fly to New York.

She’s disembarking from the plane, and Frank reaches for her hand. She reaches back, and the scene changes. She takes Jamie’s hand instead, and the title card tells us this is Le Havre, France in 1745.

Jamie’s just happy to be off the damn ship, since he suffers the worst seasickness you’ve ever seen. He’s also still recovering from his injuries from last season. His hand is splinted and he’s limping a bit, and later when he’s trying to move around in bed it’s clear he’s in pain.

He resists Claire’s idea to try to stop the Jacobite rebellion. It makes him feel like a traitor. Eventually she talks him into it, urging him to consider the consequences. They’re talking about saving Highland culture as Jamie knows it.

Jamie’s cousin Jared is a wine merchant and a Jacobite supporter. They go to him and ask for intros to the Jacobite bigwigs, and while he’s resistant at first, once Jamie shows him the flogging scars on his back, he agrees. He tells Jamie and Claire he must travel to the Caribbean for business, but they can live in his Paris house while he’s gone, and Jamie can run his wine business. It solves their problem of lack of housing or income, and with Jared’s promise to get them into the “brotherhood,” they feel they’re well on the way.

They go for a walk by the docks, and Claire follows a group of men carrying a man on a stretcher into a warehouse. Jamie and Jared try to stop her, but she’s stubborn and goes anyway because that’s just Claire. The men have smallpox. Claire was vaccinated, of course, but she warns the others to stay back.

It’s city policy that any ship that arrives at port carrying plague must be burned, along with its entire cargo. The ship in question is owned by Comte St. Germain, and he is. Displeased. To say the least.

It’s pretty clear we just met season 2’s antagonist, especially when he tells Jamie and Claire he won’t forget what they’ve done, and Jared warns them they’ve just made an enemy.


Highlights of this episode included Tobias Menzies’ excellent performance as Frank. We hadn’t seen him as Frank since 1×8, and he spent the latter half of season 1 playing the incredibly evil and sadistic Jack Randall. Frank is a very different man, obviously, and it’s amazing how well he differentiates the two characters. It’s one of my favorite parts of the show, honestly.

Of course there were some lovely Jamie and Claire scenes. The episode ended with him telling her life was never dull with her around, but he wouldn’t change her for the world. Awww. These two kill me.

I’m looking forward to next week, because we finally get to see some of the utterly gorgeous costumes they’ve been teasing us with all winter. I don’t know how much of the season will be split between 1948 and 1745, but I do know that the bulk of the 18th century action will take place in France. In fact, the opening song has been remixed a bit; there’ve added a leitmotif that runs through many of France scenes, and there’s now a verse of the song in French.

Claire Fraser takes Versailles. I can’t wait.

Episode grade: I don’t know that I’m gonna do that with Outlander, but I guess if you insist… A. The 1948 stuff was harrowing and wonderful and emotional, and the 1745 stuff was intriguing and left me wanting more

Images courtesy of Starz

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