Monthly Archives: April 2016

Outlander Season 2 Episode 3 Review: Useful Occupations and Deceptions

rs_1024x683-160301081916-1024.outlander-key-art-season-2.ch.030116

“I am an unusual lady. At least I used to be”

 

 

Another week, another solid episode of Outlander. I’m really enjoying this season, and while last week had some grander moments and more humour, this week was a necessary step forward in the plot and in highlighting the cracks that have appeared in Jamie and Claire’s relationship.

We start the episode with Jamie returning home in the early hours of the morning, after another late night with Prince Charlie. There’s no time to relax though, let alone sleep he explains to Claire, listing all of the meetings and business he has to attend to in the day. Claire’s day meanwhile, is tea with Louise and Mary. How exciting. “I would not want to be late for tea”, a clearly exasperated Claire says before Jamie rushes off.

At tea, Mary Hawkings blurts out that she can’t marry a Frenchman because of what they do in bed, a comment Louise finds hilarious.  Poor Mary is clearly not educated at all with anything to do with sex, and before Claire can educate her Mary insists men don’t do that where she’s from, “And where is that, the moon?” Louise responds. I love her. However Mary’s reply that she’s from Seaford in Sussex causes Claire to flashback to her time with Frank to which it is revealed that Jack Randall marries Mary Hawkins. I doubt a bit that Claire’s memory is that good that she can recall a family tree her and Frank were looking at, but it’s important information. Claire realises that Randall will have to stay alive for at least another year to marry Mary, otherwise Frank will cease to exist. It’s another reason not to tell Jamie that Randall lives, otherwise she risks Jamie killing him before his marriage to Mary. After catching Murtagh in bed with her maid Suzette, Murtaugh tries to talk to her before she snaps at him. Claire apologizes “I’m not myself” she says, before revealing to Murtaugh that Randall is alive. Murtaugh agrees with her not to tell Jamie, knowing he would go to Scotland to kill him, a place where he is still a wanted man.

tumblr_o5z1av7ouW1tmgjj8o1_500

Jamie is playing chess with the Minister of Finance, and manages to convince him to unofficially meet Prince Charlie in a brothel to discuss the rebellion. Claire goes to see Master Raymond to get a contraceptive for Suzette where she sees Master Raymond being friendly with his supposed enemy Comte St Germain. He and Claire share a frosty exchange before he departs, but when Claire questions Raymond he brushes her off.  Claire tells him how she feels she’s become more conventional ,clearly restricted in the eighteenth century. Master Raymond informs her she could be needed at a charity hospital that relies on volunteers for help, a suggestion Claire eagerly takes up.

Claire arrives at L’Hopital des Anges and is introduced to Mother Hildegarde, who clearly doesn’t think much of a wealthy woman offering her services. That is until Claire diagnoses a woman by actually tasting her urine and releasing she has ‘sugar sickness’ known to us as diabetes. Claire earns Mother Hildegarde’s respect and gets asked to help dress wounds, a step up from  clearing chamber pots I suppose. It’s easy to see why Claire is so eager to get stuck into some practical work, I’m glad the show is again reflecting the limited options women had in the eighteenth century. They couldn’t work, couldn’t be key players in politics and were simply restricted to being wives and mothers, and attending social occasions. It’s no surprise Claire is so stifled. These are themes the show has explored before, but the limitations Claire has to manage now are even more evident, at least in Scotland she was a healer, and then led the rescue mission for Jamie. Now her and Jamie have to move in different circles, Jamie being left to deal with the major political players and their plots, Claire left to having tea and hoping some useful information turns up, waiting for Jamie to come home and tell her what he’s done.

Meanwhile while Claire is finding a new purpose, Jamie finds his being stalled. While meeting with Prince Charlie and the Minister for Finance, Prince Charlie reveals he has secured a large majority of the funds he needs from  English aristocrats, proposing to Duverney that with France’s help once his father is restored to the throne, England and France can engage in an alliance, news he had not informed Jamie about. Jamie looks defeated, his plan failing. He returns home in a bad mood, only to find that Claire’s still out.

When Claire returns she’s ecstatic,  brightly telling Jamie about her accomplishments of the day, telling him about Mother Hildegarde, clearly pleased with her new-found purpose. Jamie however, isn’t. He claims Claire hasn’t thought of the risks to the baby, an accusation she quickly rebukes, explaining she’ll only treat wounded patients, and ones with diseases she can’t catch. Jamie still isn’t convinced,telling her it’s not worth the risk.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt useful. I need to feel a sense of accomplishment. I need a purpose.” Claire reveals.

“How will lancing boils and tasting urine help us to save Scotland?” Jamie bitterly responds. Jamie informs her of the progress Charlie has made, and how he’s keeping secrets from him now. Claire soothes Jamie, acknowledging that Jamie carries this burden because of her, yet reassuring him that she will do whatever he needs. To me this was a completely fair apology, one that should have been accepted.

Jamie’s doesn’t seem to think so.”So I believed. So I came home looking for you. Instead, you were out indulging yourself with poultices and potions.” This was incredibly unfair, all Claire was doing was helping people,becoming useful, Claire acknowledging, that yes, it does make her feel good to have a meaning to her day. The pressure and the exhaustion has clearly gotten to Jamie, his reply “When do I get to feel good? When do I get to find meaning in my day?” making it clear how their plans in Paris are causing Claire and Jamie to be pushed apart.

A sulking Jamie retreats back to the brothel, drowning his sorrows until he notices a boy pick pocketing . Once he approaches him, the boy runs and a chase ensues. Once Jamie catches him, the boy makes the mistake of calling Jamie an English bastard.”First of all, I’m a dirty Scottish bastard” Jamie replies before telling the boy he wishes to hire him.

Claire wakes up to find the boy in the house, confused as to what the hell he’s doing there. Jamie enters and informs her his name is Fergus, he’s staying with them, and is hired to steal Prince Charlie’s letters and return them before he realises so Jamie can find out about the funding for the rebellion and other secrets Charles keeps from him. This whole scene is shot very well, emphasising the growing rift between husband and wife and how they are no longer on the same page.

Screenshot (29)

While decoding some of Prince Charlie’s letters, Jamie finds one that is written as a piece of music. An earlier comment of Claire’s that Mother Hildegarde is a musical prodigy leads him straight to the hospital to seek assistance. Claire and Mother Hildegarde have diagnosed a patient with the help of an incredibly cute dog, who I hope we’ll see more of.

Mother Hildegarde helps them identify what’s puzzling about the music piece, the keys in the piece being the key to decode Charles’s correspondence. They learn that Charles has raised 40,000 so far, a large size but not enough to fund the rebellion, exaggerating earlier to Duverney about how much he had raised.  However they learn that Sandringham is helping fund the rebellion, playing both sides. Jamie is thrilled, claiming he can arrange and meeting and convince him not to invest the rebellion.

Outlander Season 2 2016

Claire and Murtagh however, know the truth about Randall. Which Jamie will discover once he meets with Sandringham, therefore Murtagh tells Claire to break the news to Jamie. However, just as she is about to Jamie gives a toast in her honour and all she can respond is “I just love seeing you so happy”.

Again the production and costume design on the show continues to be excellent, and I seriously need the soundtrack for this season already, the music has been brilliant this season.

Until next week,

Sarah

 

 

Outlander Season 2 Episode 2 Review: Not in Scotland Anymore

 

rs_1024x683-160301081916-1024.outlander-key-art-season-2.ch.030116

“Only in France does a King need an audience to shit”

This was an incredibly strong episode of Outlander, this week’s episode is an example of the confidence Outlander displays in its move to France and the rich storytelling opportunities the writers are exploring this season.

The episode starts on a darker note though, Jamie having another nightmare about Randall, still haunted by him. Claire assures him that he’s gone and dead, “He’s alive in my head” is Jamie’s response. Again, it’s important that they’re showing the aftermath of what Jamie has suffered, and how it’s affecting not only him but his marriage to Claire. Claire takes a trip to a acopathery to try and get something to help Jamie sleep, while there she quickly befriends Master Raymond who happens to be a rival of Comte St Germain, who has heard all about Claire causing him to lose his ship due to the pox ridden crew.

Meanwhile Murtagh and Jamie are causing attention while practising their sword skills together. Murtagh tries to figure out what Claire and Jamie are doing to prevent the rebellion in their time as “Wine is for drinking, not for selling”, pointing to the lack of action happening so far in their plan. he suggests assassinating Bonnie Prince Charlie so the rebellion loses its key figure, an idea which Jamie quickly dismisses.

However on a return to the house, it appears Jamie’s cousin has helped them after all. Jamie receives an invitation to meet with Prince Charlie himself to discuss the progress of the rebellion, only to Claire and Jamie’s surprise the meeting is in a brothel.

We meet Bonnie Prince Charlie, and between the talk of prostitutes and sex toys, they get down to politics. Prince Charlie has a weak character and doesn’t appear to be a strong person than can inspire great devotion, but asks for the truth about how well the Scottish Clans will unite to help his cause. Jamie is incredibly honest, saying the clans are too busy fighting each other to work together for the cause of an English King. Prince Charlie is persistent in his cause for his father to gain the English throne, claiming “God demands that a Catholic King sit on the English throne” . After Murtagh learns Prince Charlie has never been to Scotland, he questions why they should risk their lives to put “a more sympathetic arse on the English throne” Prince Charlie doesn’t take their advice though, claiming its God’s will for him to continue. Still, Jamie has gained his respect and sets him to gaining the support from the French Minister of Finance, since Prince Charlie isn’t officially in the country and can’t be accepted at Court.  Once returning to Claire, they decide the way to stop the rebellion is to prevent the cause from gaining funds.

We are introduced to Claire’s new friend Louise while getting her legs waxed, a character who is hilariously honest and charming straight away. We meet the girl she’s chaperoning while in Paris, a quiet English girl called Mary Hawkins who is betrothed to a much older and uglier man.  Claire is invited to Versailles with the two of them, with the promise to help get a dress “fit for a Queen”. Louise soon shocks the ladies by getting a bikini wax in front of them, though Claire is intrigued and tries it herself, However later Claire and Jamie’s attempts to get intimate are soon thwarted again by Jamie being haunted by Randall. Claire awkwardly suggests they go to sleep instead.

The time for Claire, Jamie and Angus to go to court has arrived, and Jamie and Angus are ready to go until they see Claire at the top the stairs wearing her beautiful  red dress. This dress is absolutely stunning.

faeaaca915c841e2c1ad6676df8aecd5

Jamie even has to slap Angus for staring too much at her. Arriving at court Jamie runs into an ‘old friend’ a young woman named Annalise. After being introduced it turns out that Jamie once fought a duel in her honour to try and win her heart. Throughout this conversation Jamie just looks as if he wants the ground to swallow him up, the facial expressions between Jamie and Claire at this point are brilliant.

Annalise gets Jamie an introduction to the King, Louis XV only it’s in his chambers in front of 30 people while Louis is on the toilet complaining about being constipated. “Only in France does a king need an audience to shit” mutters Murtagh, who gets all the best lines in this episode. Jamie recommends the King eat porridge, a suggestion the King begrudgingly  agrees to try eventually.

Louise finds the very drunk  Minister of Finance Monsieur Duverney and tells of him of Claire’s interest to meet him. He then finds Claire outside but before she can get to discussing politics he’s all over her, and even begins to kiss her feet. Claire’s harassment soon ends when Jamie turns up and tosses Duverney over the edge of the balcony, into the river below without even looking. Unaware he was the Minister of Finance, Jamie retorts “Told you that dress would bring us grief”. However Duverney is incredibly apologetic for his behaviour to Claire and gives them his friendship, also inviting Jamie to a game of Chess.

However the enjoyment of the evening is soon cut short when they spot the Duke of Sandringham, who betrayed Jamie last season. Claire has a tense conversation with him, clearly believing to have the upper hand. The moment is fleeting however,  when he introduces his secretary  Alexander Randall, Jack Randall’s younger brother. The casting for him is brilliant, I had to look it up and see if he was actually related to Tobias Menzies, which he isn’t. He appears to be a kinder character, not that it’s hard to beat his brother in that regard. Claire is soon shocked when she learns that Jack Randall is still alive, though how the hell did he survive getting trampled over by numerous cows? The Duke smugly walks away when the fireworks begin outside, but Claire can’t even register them. She walks away and looks at Jamie from a distance, troubled about how to tell him that their tormenter is still alive. She knows that if she doesn’t he will find out eventually, but what will happen to the progress of their plan when he discovers the truth?

Despite the ending, this week was a much needed lighter episode of Outlander, and I have to give credit to the writers for introducing all these new characters so seamlessly into the story. The costumes and the sets this season have been incredible in this episode especially, the production of this show is fantastic, especially when considering they haven’t even filmed in France at all for this season. All the sets and locations are gorgeous and add to the colorful and addictive life of Paris.

Until next week,

Sarah

outlander

Outlander Season 2 Episode 1 Review: Through a Glass, Darkly

 

rs_1024x683-160301081916-1024.outlander-key-art-season-2.ch.030116

 

“Let’s talk about the future, and how we’re going to change it”

 

While starting the new episode of Outlander I was expecting to hear the uplifting theme song once the previously segment had ended. Instead the episode begins with the narration “I wished I were dead. And if I kept my eyes shut, I could almost touch the edges of oblivion. But I’d made a promise and had to keep it. Even if it meant living a life I no longer wanted.”

In a callback to the first episode, Claire again is lying on the ground by the stones of Craigh na Dun. We learn it’s 1948, and the British still won the Battle of Culloden.Jamie and Claire’s mission in France has apparently failed and now Jamie and everyone has gone in the fighting. Frank soon returns and is reunited with Claire, he’s overjoyed to have her back but Claire isn’t. She flinches when he comes near her at first, with a cut to Jack Randall showing she’s still haunted by the strong resemble the two bear.Despite desperately searching for any reference to Jamie back in Reverend Wakefield’s library collection, Claire is left disappointed. Mrs Graham, who Claire has confined in, even convinces her to stop chasing a ghost. Caitriona Balfe is incredible in this episode, we truly see the heartbreak and pain she goes through trying to let Jamie go, and move on in the future with Frank.

Claire tells Frank all that’s happened to her, and while acknowledging it is incredibly far-fetched, he’s willing to accept it by having Claire back into his life. That’s until she tells him she’s pregnant. For a moment Frank strangely gasps out how wonderful the news is, until it dawns on him that the child isn’t his. I know book readers and viewers aren’t massive fans of Frank, but when the revelation hit him it was absolutely heartbreaking. Tobias Menzies is arguably one the best actors on the show and every look shows Frank’s inner conflict. His sudden anger at the news has him leap up, fist in hand, ready to strike. It’s a rare flash of anger from Frank. However they both agree to move on and raise the child as their own, moving to America to start fresh.

Claire gets off the plane, Frank reaching his hand out to her for the last step. In a then stunning cinematic shot, we are transported back to Claire taking Jamie’s hand as she gets off the boat. They’ve arrived in France and its 1745. Finally we are reunited with the main story and the favourite characters. “France. Reeks of frogs. Just as I remember it” a surly Angus exclaims. Oh how I’ve missed him.

To new beginnings” a bright and happy Claire tells Jamie, but the events from last season loom over them still. Jamie’s haunted by the events with Randall last season, mentally and physically. I’m glad they’re not brushing the abuse Jamie received from Randall aside, to show how it’s not something he can move on from anytime soon.

We are introduced to Jamie’s cousin, who they convince to help them infiltrate the Jacobite movement. And as Claire and Jamie decide, to stop the Battle of Culloden. He gives Jamie control of his wine business and his house in Paris while he makes a trip to the West Indies. While Claire is out on a walk by the docks she notices men unloading sick sailors which soon causes attention and a crowd. Claire realises the sailors have contracted smallpox, a fact that is soon known between the rest of the crowd. The ship’s owner, Comte St Germain cannot hide the fact that his ship and cargo are now worthless, losing him a large cost. He’s now angry at Claire and swears to both Claire and Jamie that they will pay. “Another country, another enemy. Life with you is certainly never dull, Sassenach” Jamie retorts.

Despite most of the episode being set in 1948, the season premiere was a brilliant and solid start to the season. I know the opening diverts from the books, but I think the change works beginning in 1948. It’s interesting to see Claire and Frank reunited and his reaction to her relationship with Jamie and her time in the 18th century. I like that they have given Frank more screen time in this episode at least, considering he was such an important part of Claire’s life not to mention Tobias Menzies is far too good an actor to be left out for the majority of the season. I like that we get to see how Frank reacts to everything, and feel sympathetic towards him while also getting glimpses of a dark side in him that is mostly buried, a rage that only makes the audience think of Randall. Tobias Menzies was absolutely heartbreaking in this episode, and I think it only makes the season more compelling knowing that Claire returns without Jamie having failed in their mission. It’s shocking enough to the audience and I agree with the show runner that sticking to the book opening is too drastic of a change for the audience to grasp for now.

The move to France already feels fresh and exciting. I can’t wait to see all the political intrigue and meet other characters involved in the Jacobite rebellion. The setting contrasts greatly with that of Scotland, but I look forward to watching the same characters we know and love settle into different surroundings and a new political landscape. The performances in this episode were wonderful, the coldness Claire felt towards Frank was perfectly displayed and contrasted greatly towards her happiness and warmth with Jamie. It made it all the more horrible to see her breakdown at the beginning of the episode and the grief she is experiencing in 1948.

I look forward to next week to spend more time in France and watch how Jamie and Claire join in with French society.
Until next week,

Sarah

Queens that deserve their own television shows: Part two

Matilda-large      Matilda Empress of England 1102-1167

It greatly surprises me that Matilda hasn’t been a main subject in historical films or television, last appearing in the adaptation of Ken Follett The Pillars of the Earth. Matilda has yet however, to have her story fully told in film or television. Daughter of the King of England Henry I, Matilda married Henry V who became the Holy Roman Emperor when she was twelve. She ruled as regent of Italy for two years of their marriage, returning to England after his death in 1125. However England and Henry I were dealing with a political crisis after the death of Matilda’s brother on the White Ship which sank in 1120. The succession was now thrown into doubt, but unless Henry I gained no more male heirs, he selected Matilda as his preferred choice to be Queen, demanding the nobles swear to accept her as his rightful successor in 1127. Twenty five year old Matilda was then married to Geoffrey of Anjou, who was only aged thirteen. However in 1135, England was thrown into turmoil after Henry I’s death. Despite the nobles having previously pledged to support Matilda, a  woman ruling in her own right was greatly unpopular. Matilda’s cousin, Stephen of Blois made himself King, with the support of nobles and the church. Matilda, along with her half brother Robert of Gloucester and uncle David I of Scotland continued to fight for Matilda’s claim in what became the civil war known as the Anarchy. After years of fighting and battles, Stephen was captured in 1141, and Matilda became Lady of England and Normandy. Matilda was unable to consolidate her position and maintain control, and eventually retired to France, her son Henry still fighting in England in 1148. When her son reinvaded England, the two sides eventually sought peace in the Treaty of Winchester, with Henry becoming Stephen’s heir. Though she did not succeed, Matilda’s fight put her son on the throne and showed a woman could garner support and strength as well as having the ability to rule. Her life and the Civil War is an ideal story for a historical drama, her story impacting England in the years ahead, the Civil War being a prime example to Henry VIII over his desperation to gain a male heir rather than naming his daughters.

MarMarie_Antoinetteie Antoinette Queen of France 1755-1793

The doomed queen has become a cultural icon, and is not forgotten at all in history compared to some of the other women on my list. Yet her tragic life and reign have yet to be fully explored in detail, and a series could truly show how this young Austrian teenager became a catalyst in the French revolution that brought an end to the French monarchy. Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film based on the brilliant book by historian Antonia Fraser successfully captured the struggles this woman faced, being a stranger in a foreign court when she was sent to France at aged 14 to wed its next King Louis XVII. While being historically accurate in parts, the film decided to omit the majority of the politics at the time, not showing the brutal and tragic end Marie Antoinette faced as well the political factors that led to her unpopularity. This Queen had a truly tragic life, and yet remained brave under the most perilous circumstances. Faced with embarrassment and humiliation after the non consummation of her marriage for 5 years, Marie Antoinette eventually had four children. An incredibly stylish figure, events such as the Diamond Necklace Affair and the lack of reform left the desperate and starving French people to blame her spending for their starvation, becoming a symbols for the greed of the French monarchy. Those involved in the revolution printed many pamphlets spreading rumours of her having affairs, being horrid to the poor and of course uttering the famous phrase ‘let them eat cake’ a quote that has been proven to be inaccurate. The King and Queen accepted a new constitution, the revolutionaries eventually abolished the monarchy in 1792, and Marie Antoinette and the royal family were eventually arrested and imprisoned, with Louis being executed in 1793.  Marie Antoinette was then put on trial for treason, as well as shocking falsified claims of sexual abuse towards her own son. She was then executed, nine months after the execution of the King. The political turmoil of the time as well as the personal life of Marie Antoinette and the lasting legacy she has means she would be the perfect subject for a television show, to fully develop her complex character, rather than simple painting of her as a villain or a victim she has received in history.

 

Eleb909528c1df708cd89c2b95f1fa251ceea86d13fanor of Aquitaine 1124-1204

When she simply 15 years old after the death of her father and brother, Eleanor was left with a vast inheritance and became the most eligible heiress in Europe. She quickly married the man who became Louis VII of France.  However their relationship turned sour on the Second Crusade as well as Eleanor only providing Louis with two daughters meant the couple divorced in 1152. The ending of this marriage gave Eleanor her territories back and again made her an incredibly appealing marriage prospect. Eleanor then married Henry of Anjou, the King of England who also ruled over territories in France. Eleanor played a large role in the ruling of these countries, as well as having five sons and three daughters. Their marriage strained, Eleanor returned to Aquitaine. Eleanor’s son Henry, annoyed at his lack of power and the little amount of wealth and land he received from the King along with his brother got Eleanor involved in a revolt against her husband. This revolt against her own husband was an incredibly bold move for a woman of her time, which led to her imprisonment in 1173. After sixteen years of imprisonment, her husband died in 1189 and her son Richard became King and secured her release. Now in her sixties, Eleanor still played a large role in her son’s government, even ruling as regent when he went away on the Third Crusade.After Richard was captured, she even managed to secure his release. After Richard’s death her son John became King and Eleanor still played an important role in government. Though later her role in England lessened and she remained involved in the affairs of Aquitaine. Eleanor’s long life and the political power she held throughout, and the successful rule she had over her own lands make her an incredibly interesting and admirable woman in history and someone that deserves a series of her own.

Royal 15 E VI  f. 2v  Presentation scene
Margaret of Anjou 1430- 1482

Most prominently featured in Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy and
Richard III, 
Margaret of Anjou was one of the key players in the Wars of the Roses, a conflict which spanned from 1455-1487.Daughter of the Duke of Anjou and the Duchess of Lorraine, Margaret married the King of England, Henry VI in 1445. The marriage negotiated that the territory of Anjou was to go to French, ending the Hundred Years War between France and England. Having a significant role in her husband’s reign, Margaret also founded Queen’s College in Oxford. In 1453, Henry became ill and had a mental breakdown, leaving the Duke of York to become protector of England. By this time, Margaret had also given birth to a son, Edward. Despite attempting to become regent of England, Margaret was rejected, but showing the confidence she had in her capabilities to rule England and protect her and her family’s interests.  By 1455 Henry had recovered, but civil war had now erupted between the York and Lancastrian factions. The Duke of York was the key figure on the Yorkist side, but Margaret was the key figure on the Lancaster side, defending her husband’s rule and her son’s title as the rightful heir to the throne. The Duke of York’s rival, the Duke of Somerset, was supported by Margaret until the Battle of St Albans which saw him and other key members of the Lancaster side defeated and killed.  York was back in power, but Margaret still attempted to raise support for the Lancaster side. More battles occurred, with Margaret’s army winning the Battle of Wakefield which resulted in  the Duke of York being beheaded. Despite her rival being defeated, the Duke of York’s son Edward soon took charge in leading the York side. He soon deposed Henry and claimed himself King Edward IV. Fleeing with her family to Scotland as well as France, Margaret soon planned her way back to England. Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville had angered the Earl of Warwick who instead pursued an alliance with Margaret. He roasted Henry VI to the throne, and the Earl of Warwick’s daughter Anne Neville was married to Margaret’s son Edward. However, Henry’s restoration to the crown was short lived when the Earl of Warwick was killed in battle, just as Margaret landed in England. The Battle of Tewksbury left Margaret’s son Edward dead, and Henry VI, imprisoned soon died. Margaret was captured and eventually moved to France and lived as a poor relation of the King until her death in 1482. Her strong will and devotion to fighting for her family makes Margaret a great subject for a television show, especially considering the storytelling possibilities with the conflict of the War of the Roses.