Sunday, April 10, 2016

Outlander 2x01 Review: “Through a Glass, Darkly” (This will be Trouble) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

“Through a Glass, Darkly”
Original Airdate: April 9, 2016

Here’s what I know: Claire has come back from the past. She is still pregnant, though I’m not sure how far along. She has been in the past for two years, and two years have also passed in the present time. I know that the present is almost as foreign to Claire now as 1743 was to her at first. And I know that Claire is grieving Jamie, even as she reintroduces herself to Frank. I also know the look on Claire’s face when she looks at Jamie is the most alive and the most in love that Claire has ever looked.

But how she got to the present again, I can only guess. And what led her from arriving with Jamie in Paris to the Battle of Culloden is still a mystery, one to be unfolded throughout the season.

Opening the season with this reveal is a great move. It adds a ticking clock and sense of dread to all the story that will come before Claire gets back to Craigh Na Dun. Knowing the end of Claire’s story (or at least this chapter of her story) doesn’t take away from enjoying the story at all. It adds a layer of complexity because we know Claire and Jamie’s efforts are futile, and we know they won’t get that happy ending, at least not yet. But that doesn’t mean their efforts or their time together are meaningless – quite the opposite. The trying is what matters, that’s what makes them who they are and makes their story so touching.


When Claire lands in the present at Craigh Na Dun, she is devastated. Her body is still wearing the clothes of the past, and her mind is still trapped in the 1700s. She frantically asks the first person she sees who won the Battle of Culloden, the battle she knows would doom the Highland people if the British won. He tells her the British did win, and Claire knows her efforts, and her husband in the past, were doomed.

Claire is taken to a hospital, which calls her husband in the present, Frank, to come and get her. Claire can’t stand the noises of this world, with all its technology constantly buzzing around her. She also can’t stand to look at Frank, who looks so much like her and Jamie’s tormenter, Black Jack Randall.

After Claire leaves the hospital – but not before a photographer sneaks in to take a picture of the “woman kidnapped by faeries” – she becomes obsessed with reading as much as she can about the battle to see if she can glean Jamie’s fate. She immediately speaks openly with Mrs. Graham, the same housekeeper who helped host Claire and Frank on their second honeymoon that started this adventure, but it takes her a while to speak openly again with Frank.

It seems to me that no matter what year you are in, you will never find kinder people than Mrs. Graham and the Reverend Wakefield. Not only do they provide a welcoming place to stay for a couple dealing with extraordinary circumstances, but Mrs. Graham believes Claire’s time traveling story (or at least acts like she does) and Reverend Wakefield gives Frank wise counsel after he finds out Claire is pregnant with another man’s child.

Claire’s talk with Frank –when she finally tells him of her time traveling, being deeply in love with another man, and then, finally, being pregnant – was a beautiful tragedy all in itself. Even though Frank is alive and in the present, he is the one who looks like a ghost as he listens to his wife. They talk all night, and the light around them makes everything look gray and dull, as if they are in between night and day, the past and the present.

Tobias Menzies does an incredible job on this show playing both evil incarnate Black Jack Randall and emotional, helplessly in love Frank. Last season he got to show off how great he is at being terrifying, and now he can finally show off how great he is at playing Claire’s other husband. His statements of love for Claire were emotional and touching, and when he learned Claire was pregnant, you could see the unbridled joy on his face quickly turn to confusion, and then pain, when he realized the child wasn’t his. And when his pain and anger quickly turned to violence as he charged on Claire, barely holding back his fist, you could see he had some of his ancestor Black Jack in him after all.

By the end of their time at Inverness, Claire and Frank come to an agreement. They will stay together and try again, and they will raise Claire’s child as their own. (Which is probably a better choice than telling the baby its father has been dead for 200 years.) Frank decides to accept a job at Harvard, so he and Claire set off for the States. When Claire reaches for Frank’s hand after they land in the U.S., the show takes us back to the past again – but cinematically this time, in a beautiful flashback to Claire landing in Paris with Jamie.


Back in 1745, Claire and Jamie arrive in Paris, right around where they left off last season, and they quickly form some terrible plans and make some terrible enemies.

Claire is determined to change the outcome of the Jacobite rebellion, so she convinces Jamie to infiltrate the Jacobite movement to bring it down from the inside and stop the rebellion before it starts. Full disclosure, I come from the Harry Potter school of time travel, where even if you go back into the past, you can’t change anything with your time traveling shenanigans. Because, you know, it’s already happened. I’m not as familiar yet with Outlander’s time traveling rules – maybe they are different – but I think this plan will fail for a bigger reason: Jamie is likely sympathetic to the Jacobite cause. And if he believes in the cause, and his family and friends are the ones fighting for this cause, he likely will join the cause for real – to keep it going, not to stop it. This makes sense for Jamie and Claire, who are already in a losing battle with time itself. Just because you know the results, that doesn’t mean it’s pointless to try.

To set this plan in motion, Jamie and Claire meet up with Jamie’s cousin Jared, who can help get them into the Jacobite movement. Jared quickly accepts them and says he will set Jamie up with the Jacobites and his wine business (running a wine business in France sounds like the best job ever, am I right?) After this meeting, Claire takes a walk and runs smack into some trouble, which is par for the course, I guess.

When a ship gets into the harbor and takes a sick man away on a stretcher, Claire sees them and immediately identifies the sick man as having smallpox. So, of course, she does what any logical pregnant woman would do and walks away from the area to alert the authorities, or someone she trusts, of the situation. Just kidding, she runs right into the fuss and gets as close as possible to the sick man to see if she can help. She has had the smallpox vaccine, so she says she is safe from the disease, but I don’t know that I would have done the same thing if I were in her position. I don’t know if that makes Claire braver than me or more hard headed, but maybe it’s a little of both.

Claire’s insistence that everyone know this man have smallpox so that the authorities can handle it correctly and burn the ship he came from to get rid of the disease quickly inserts her into quite a mess. The man who runs the Smallpox Ship is the Comte St. Germain, a nobleman in France who holds grudges and was likely smuggling something on the ship that was destroyed. And with that, Claire and Jamie have made their first enemy in France.

Next week, they head to Versailles and wear gorgeous clothes. See you then.

Un petite mot:
  • New opening images! They incorporate Paris along with images of last season.
  • Claire, I’m not sure the story about calling your husband a sadist is as cute as you think it is.
  • “I wouldn’t change you to save the world.” 
  • Apparently both Jamie and Claire can speak French. 
  • In the beginning of the episode, Claire says she will continue with the life she no longer wants because she made a promise. Was the promise Claire made to Frank, when she married him, or to Jamie when she promised she would move on? I’m betting it’s the latter.
  • “France. Reeks of frogs, just as I remember it.” Murtagh, glad to have you back.


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