Friday, May 24, 2024

Outlander Season 2’s Top Five Moments

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[tw for discussions of rape and violence]

Wow what a season. You wouldn’t know it from the Emmy nominations (don’t get me started ffs), but everything about Outlander season 2 was some of the best television of the year.

SUPER brief recap:

Jamie and Claire journey to France and pose as Jacobites in order to infiltrate the movement. Their ultimate goal is to stop the Jacobite rebellion before it ever happens. In Paris they run into Jack Randall. He and Jamie duel. Jamie stabs him in the junk and goes to the Bastille. Claire has a miscarriage. She gets Jamie out of jail and they return to Scotland to continue their efforts, but ultimately it’s in vain. Claire returns to 1948 and, believing Jamie was killed at Culloden Moor, she gives birth to their child and tries to build a new life with Frank in Boston. In 1968 she returns to Scotland, tells Brianna the truth about her father, and discovers that Jamie didn’t die after all.

Jamie and Claire take Paris

That’s what happened, more or less, and for your reading enjoyment, I present…My Top 5 Season 2 Moments! *cheering*

5. The Comte’s death

2×7 “Faith”

Oh man. This entry is almost a dark horse on this list? But here goes…

Comte St. Germain had been a thorn in Jamie and Claire’s sides basically since they arrived in Paris. Claire discovered a smallpox outbreak on one of his ships, and as a result the entire cargo had to be destroyed. The Comte lost a lot of money, and that’ll piss anyone off.

At one point he tried to poison Claire, but Claire’s friend, apothecary Master Raymond, gave him a sort of fake poison instead. He also tried to kill Jamie…and cozy up to Prince Charlie…

In this scene from episode 7, “Faith,” Claire has gone to King Louis to petition for Jamie’s release from the Bastille. She expects him to ask for sex in return (which he does), but first he mentions that rumors have been circulating that Claire is “La Dame Blanche,” essentially a white witch. He asks her help with a problem and takes her into this amazing star chamber room pictured above.

Master Raymond and the Comte have both been accused of dabbling in the black arts. Louis asks Claire to determine which one (if either, though the assumption is it better be ONE of them) is the bad guy. Claire creates a test using the same non-lethal poison Raymond initially sold the Comte.

Raymond sips. He stumbles and Claire catches him, and somehow he slips something into the drink. He recovers, of course, but as Claire approaches the Comte for the same test, the amulet around her neck turns black. The Comte knows perfectly well it’s designed to sense deadly poisons (they discussed it in an earlier episode), and while he briefly tries to get out of drinking, Louis insists.

He knows the bowl contains his death. He’s furious, naturally. Who wouldn’t be? He is forced to drink anyway.

Rage against the dying of the light

The combination of the tense score, gorgeous costumes, amazing set, and seeing the Comte get his comeuppance in a completely unexpected (and in many ways, unfair) way made this scene a highlight of the season.

4. Fergus post-battle

2×10 “Prestonpans”

I love Fergus. Poor bb Fergus, whom Jamie adopted (hired?) from a brothel. Originally named Claudel, but rechristened because “that wasna verra manly,” Fergus works for Jamie as a pickpocket, stealing Charles’ letters so that Jamie can study them before Fergus returns them.

Fergus goes through some terrible shit in season 2, y’all. Jack Randall rapes him. He blames himself when Jamie duels Jack and is arrested, then Claire loses her baby. Finally after all that, Jamie and Claire take him back to Scotland with them. He insists on joining the coming battle against the English, but Jamie tells him no. He’s too young, and Jamie needs him to watch over Claire.

Fergus goes anyway, and he immediately regrets it. As I discussed in my review for 2×10, the show does a fantastic job of depicting Fergus’ PTSD. He seems to have recovered in later episodes, but the immediate aftermath is devastating, and allowing the audience to experience the horrors of war through such a beloved (and adorable) character made it all the more effective.

3. Jack Randall proves just how nasty he is

2×12 “The Hail Mary”

“Which time, Meg?” I hear you ask. “Which time within this episode?”

Well, the whole thing, really, but specifically I mean the pub scene.

Jack Randall asks Claire to help his brother, Alex, through the final stages of his illness. She agrees on the condition that Jack provide her with English intel. Jack does it, and his information proves useful to Jamie and the Scots. Later, Alex begs Jack to marry Mary Hawkins as she’s pregnant with his child.

Jack doesn’t want to do it. He tells his brother he won’t and storms out, and Claire chases after him. Murtagh doesn’t understand why Claire’s so hell-bent on Jack marrying poor “wee Mary,” but Claire explains about Frank blahblah. Anyway.

Claire manages to track Jack down in the local pub. He’s well on his way to shit-faced. Claire tells him he has to marry Mary because otherwise she’ll be left with nothing. He tells her he’ll support her any way he can, but this is too much. Claire reminds him that he’s fated to die the next day, April 16. If he dies, Mary will be alone and penniless. If she’s his widow, though, she’ll have his pension.

He then launches into a monologue about Jamie. About how much he enjoyed raping and torturing him. About how good it felt. He loves the fear, he says. The screams and the pain.

Claire is understandably disgusted, as we all are. Jack warns her that eventually he’ll do the same to Mary, but Claire once again plays her trump card: tomorrow is the day you die, Jack Randall. And if for some reason we do stop the battle of Culloden Moor, I’m sending my giant Highlander husband after you.

In other words, he should savor his memories about Jamie as long as he can, because soon he’ll be checkin’ in downstairs.


2. The stillbirth

2×7 “Faith”

“Faith” was an amazing episode that I didn’t get to cover for you guys because I was sick. Hopefully I’ll go back at some point and do recaps of the season 2 “lost episodes,” but for now let’s talk about this wonderful, poignant, heartbreaking moment.

Claire told Jamie at the end of season 1 that she was pregnant, and all through season 2 we watched her tummy grow. Jamie was worried about the pregnancy, but as he was still grappling with his PTSD from his time with Jack Randall at Wentworth, he didn’t really start connecting to Claire and the baby until well into the season.

The episode itself was incredibly tense. Starting in 2×6, there was a buildup to…something. Events were unfolding so fast: Fergus with Randall at the brothel. Jamie suddenly dueling after he promised Claire he wouldn’t. Claire experiencing pain as she races to stop the duel and keep Jamie out of prison.

At the dueling ground Claire collapses. She’s bleeding heavily, and their butler/manservant rushes her to the hospital. She gives birth, but her illness afterwards keeps her locked in a fevered state. She has puerperal fever, the same thing that killed Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s 3rd wife and the mother of Edward VI. Master Raymond appears in the hospital and does some…mystical thing…and heals her. It’s unclear exactly what happens, but Claire is still feverish, and it’s possible that it is, actually, magic.

At one point she asks if she can hold her baby. She’s a tiny little thing, and Claire has a beautiful, touching scene where she holds her and talks to her. Finally Louise takes the baby from her, and the nuns name her Faith and bury her in the cemetery. Sadly, Jamie is in prison this whole time and never gets to meet his first daughter.

The episode ends with Jamie and Claire visiting her grave. Jamie leaves one of the apostle spoons his sister Jenny sent as a baby gift, and they both say goodbye to her. It’s so beautiful, and Caitriona Balfe’s acting is incredible. I guess Emmy voters missed it, though at least they managed to acknowledge the episode’s incredible costumes…

Like this one.

1. Jamie and Claire’s goodbye

2×13 “Dragonfly in Amber”

I talked about this scene at length last week, so I’m not sure how much more I need to say.

Jamie and Claire have been an OTP of mine since I was 15 or so. That’s over half my life. This scene is incredible because of how much we care about the characters, both individually, and as a couple. They’ve been through so much together, they’ve worked so hard to stop Culloden Moor, and now it’s come down to this. Goodbye.

There has been some criticism that arranging the season like they did, that is starting with a flash forward to 1948, took some of the drama and suspense out of everything. We knew they were going to fail to stop the rebellion, so why are we so invested in them doing so?

I have to disagree. It’s like…the example that springs to mind is Romeo and Juliet, though nearly any tragedy will do. You know what’s going to happen before the play even starts. Shakespeare outlines it in the prologue. The second you hear the prophecy about Oedipus, you know what’s gonna happen. The Iliad tells us in verse one that Achilles will spend the whole thing pissed off and that’ll cause a lot of problems for everyone.

Do those openings make the works any less effective? Do we still not want Romeo to get the letter from Friar Laurence, or Hector to check if it’s really Achilles under that armor? Stay away from Thebes, Oedipus! That’s your mom!

Despite our foreknowledge, we still feel that sense of catharsis (as Aristotle described it) when the tragedy plays out. Watching the doom approach is part of it. Tragedy comes as a result of human error: we’re all fallible, and sometimes we screw up royally.

This season of Outlander we knew this terrible battle was approaching. We knew Jamie and Claire were going to fail to stop it, and Claire would end up back in 1948 pregnant with Jamie’s baby. We thought we knew Jamie would be killed at the same battle. That didn’t stop us from hoping that they would succeed, against all odds, against history and episode 2×1. As we watched the inevitable grow closer (encapsulated in smaller scale in episodes 2×6 and 2×7), we hoped that much harder, even as we knew hoping was mostly pointless.

Tragedy works because we see every step the characters take that puts them in the end situation. We watched Jamie and Claire try and fail again and again to stop the rebellion. We watched Prince Charles act like an incompetent idiot with no grasp of the people he was trying to lead. We watched ambition and blind faith lead an entire country into disaster.

What made such a large-scale story work was Jamie and Claire. Their love for each other. The characters around them, Fergus and Murtagh and everyone back at Lallybroch. When Jamie and Claire said goodbye, we knew, finally, that the tragedy was complete. Despite our heroes’ best efforts, the battle would happen. Highland culture would be destroyed. Jamie Fraser would die.

Then, in a masterful switcheroo, we’re left with hope: Jamie lived. Claire has a chance to go back. Brianna can (perhaps) meet her father. But we didn’t know that when we watched them say goodbye, and imagining those being their last moments together was heartbreaking.

“Ye gave me a good woman, and by God I loved her well.”

Well, there you have it. My personal favorite moments from season 2. There are SO MANY MORE, and this was a hard list to put together. I probably could’ve done “5 favorite moments from each episode,” but that felt like overkill.

Perfect? No. There were some pacing issues with the first half of the season, and I wish rape wasn’t used so often as a plot device. Yeah, it comes from the books, but…I wish the books didn’t use it as much, either. I’m looking at you, season 4/Drums of Autumn.

So tell me, dear fandom followers, what were your favorite moments of the season? Let me know in the comments!

images curtesy of Starz

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