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

 

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“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

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