Outlander: Through a Glass, Darkly

"I'm back."

What a shocker.

Surprisingly, the season began in 1948 Scotland where Claire has reluctantly left Jamie and returned through the stones. Their plan to change history has failed, and we don't know how or why. If the time parallel has continued, and we can only assume it has, over a year has passed for Claire since the previous episode, "To Ransom a Man's Soul."

Caitriona Balfe excels at portraying Claire's emotional state, and this was her episode. Shocked and overwhelmed by her return, Claire barely acknowledged Frank's presence at first because she was too absorbed in her grief for Jamie. Disturbed by the sights and sounds of the modern world, Claire threw herself into books about Scottish history, searching for clues to his fate. She may accept that after two hundred and two years Jamie must be dead, even if he hadn't died at Culloden, but Claire had to know. Frank forced her to give up before she found anything. So sad.

As for Frank, good lord. Do you think maybe Tobias Menzies has acting range?



Everyone told Frank that Claire had left him for another man and technically she did, through no fault of her own. Like Claire, Frank ran through an entire range of emotions in this episode. He still loved Claire and wanted her back, right up until she told him what really happened to her and that she was pregnant. Looking very like Black Jack Randall, Frank sobbed, made a fist and nearly hit her, and then destroyed the Reverend Wakefield's innocent potting shed. Frank may be a kind man most of the time, but he is not all sweetness and light.

Claire referred to herself as Frank's ex-wife until he corrected her; he didn't divorce her while she was gone. But does Claire even want to be with Frank any more? She didn't expect him to take her back. Would she be better off alone? It seemed obvious that she decided to stay with Frank because she was overwhelmed by her current situation: pregnant, unemployed, drowning in grief. And maybe that's a bit unfair to Frank.

Reverend Wakefield, an adoptive father of his tiny too-cute-for-words nephew Roger, turned out to be a good sounding board for Frank. It is indeed true that this may be Frank's only opportunity to be a father, since he is, as we guessed, sterile. Jamie is never going to turn up unexpectedly and challenge Frank's paternity. And that was Frank's condition – that Claire's baby is his, not a ghost's. No more research into Culloden.

And Claire agreed. The scene where Frank burned her eighteenth century clothes was painful, and not just because the clothes were valuable. It was painful because it symbolized that Frank was also erasing Claire's eighteenth century self and her connection to Jamie.

Interesting that he didn't insist that she remove Jamie's ring.



I actually got chills when Claire took Frank's hand as they deplaned in New York of 1948, and it turned into Jamie's hand as they left the ship in Le Havre, 1744. The abrupt shift in the story halfway through the episode emphasized how completely different Claire's two husbands are: Frank is older than Claire, Jamie younger; Frank is dark, Jamie fair; Frank an academic, Jamie a man of action.

As such, Jamie is feeling uncertain about their plan to stop the Rising, "a plaid woven out of guile and deception," essentially betraying his country in order to save it. Claire doesn't know enough about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite movement to give him useful details. Even worse, how are they going to explain this to Murtagh?

Jamie has a Fraser cousin named Jared who owns a wine business and has been planning to visit the West Indies. Conveniently, Jared offered Jamie management of his business and the use of his house in Paris, not to mention an introduction to local, powerful Jacobites. The scars on Jamie's back came in handy once more, providing proof of his newfound interest in politics.

When checking a delivery of Jared's port, Claire immediately ran afoul of new character Comte Saint Germain by revealing what he was trying to hide – that sailors on his ship had smallpox. Saint Germain's ship and cargo were all burned. Great. We needed another complication.

Let's talk about time travel

In the first episode of the series, it was Halloween, or Samhain, 1945. Claire arrived in the past also on Samhain in 1743. Two hundred and two years, exactly. At the end of season one, only eight months had elapsed, making it June or July of 1744, and it was still 1744 when the ship arrived in Le Havre. (Scotland to France isn't that far.) Claire was pregnant in 1744, and pregnant in 1948. It cannot be the same pregnancy.

I always enjoy the "what year is it" moment that often occurs in time travel stories. In an emotional fit, Claire asked the stranger in the car who had won the battle of Culloden, and didn't get the answer she wanted. The Battle of Culloden took place on April 16, 1746.

Bits:

— The opening credits feature a different version of the title song, including a few lyrics in French and some extra violin. And a snake.

— On arrival in 1948, Claire immediately looked for something in the grass. She found a ring without a stone, but nothing else. What else was she looking for? The missing stone?

— The segue with Claire taking Frank's hand and that it turned into Jamie's was similar to what they did in "The Wedding," where Claire kissed Frank and he turned into Jamie. I also liked the similar shots of Claire in the airplane window and in the carriage on the quay.

— Jamie's huge splint is gone, but his damaged hand is still bandaged and he is still moving slowly and painfully. And he is clearly still haunted by what Black Jack did to him.

— Claire told Mrs. Graham about Jamie's sense of humor, his smile, his extraordinary mop of red hair. Sigh.

— Information about Jamie might exist but it could be difficult to find. As a professional librarian, I can tell you that many old records are uncataloged and unindexed simply because there is no money to pay a professional cataloger or indexer to do it.

— Even though it would have been dramatically repetitive and they try to avoid that on television, it would have been fun to hear Claire tell Frank what happened to her. It paralleled when she told Jamie the truth, but not as much fun. This show does the parallel thing a lot. Even smaller things, like Claire and Frank in rented rooms, Claire and Jamie in rented rooms.

— Jamie and Claire both speak French, so we got translations this time. Unlike with the Gaelic. I've assumed that was because Claire doesn't speak Gaelic, and this story is being told from her point of view.

— The costumes are wonderful, but they blend so seamlessly into the story that you never go, "Wow, that costume!" The CGI in this episode was impressive, too: the 1948 New York skyline, the dock at Le Havre in 1744.

Quotes:

Claire: "I wished I were dead. And if I'd kept my eyes shut, I could have almost touched the edges of oblivion."

Frank: "Devil take the press."
Reverend Wakefield: "That's not likely. Even the devil has standards."

Claire: "There's always another fucking war! I'm so sorry. You know, he didn't even know what that word meant. I actually called him a fucking sadist once and he'd no idea what I was talking about. We had a good laugh about it afterward."

Mrs. Graham: "Don't spend the rest of your days chasing a ghost."

Claire: "It's insane. I know that. It sounds like a fantasy made of magic and fairy dust."
Frank: "Are you trying to argue me out of believing you?"

Frank: "I am not Joseph! She is not Mary. And I am fairly certain that the father is not God Almighty. He was a man, a man who fucked my wife."

Frank: "The story of the lady taken by the fairies. As long as you're here, the British press will flog it…"
Claire: "Please, Frank. Don't ever use the word 'flog' in my presence again, is that understood?"
That made me laugh in spite of myself. Come on, Claire. Frank is not Black Jack.



Claire: "So I guess a trip to Boston is out of the question?"
Jamie: "Not unless you want to bury me at sea."
Claire: "Well, there were times I thought it would be the merciful thing to do."
Murtagh: "France. Reeks of frogs."

Jamie: "Another country, another enemy. Life with you is certainly never dull, Sassenach."
Claire: "I shall endeavor to be more dull if that would suit you better."
Jamie: "I wouldn't change you to save the world."

An intriguing but somewhat confusing start to the season. Three out of four examples of eighteenth century Scottish women's wear,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

I have gone bonkers for Outlander. I'm going to make a serious attempt to review every episode of seasons two and three before October. FYI. :)