Episode 201, “Through a Glass, Darkly”
Written by Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Metin Hüseyin
At long last, Droughtlander is over! I don’t know about you, but it feels like it’s actually taken since 1745 for Outlander to return. So I’ll go ahead and jump right in.
First off, we are given a brief recap of the last episode of Season One. This can be summed up in four words: Pain. Torment. Terror. Cows. (If you need more brushing up, check out Leslie’s recaps.)
So far, so traumatizing. But this a brand shiny new season. Things must be looking up. Especially since we left Claire, Jamie, and Murtagh on that sweet ship. Right?
We open this episode with a voiceover from Claire Beauchamp Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) saying, “I wished I were dead.”
Oh. Well. That was fun while it lasted.
Claire wakes up on the ground in front of the standing stones at Craigh Na Dun, looking rather dirty and bedraggled. She then screams bloody murder at the unresponsive megaliths. Since I was now about two minutes into the episode and had yet to see Jamie Fraser, I was forced to do the same.
My hopes were further dashed as Claire wanders onto an asphalt road. When a kindly Scottish motorist stops to help her, she demands to know what year it is (1948) and who won the Battle of Culloden. Quick reminder: The Battle of Culloden, fought in 1746, was a decisive victory for the British over the rising of the Jacobite Scottish rebels. In retribution, the British then systematically stamped out the Highland culture. Random Scottish Man conveys this to Claire, who collapses, sobbing, to the ground.
It was at this point that the audience poured themselves a double shot of whiskey. Clearly, we are going to need it to deal with this season.
Cue Bear McCreary’s amazing theme song, new and improved with fancy French lyrics and shots of fancy French people with heaving bosoms and floofy wigs.
Claire is brought to an Inverness hospital and has a very awkward reunion with her 20th century husband, Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies). You remember him, right? The Nice-But-Still-Not-Jamie one? Yeah, him. He is clearly very happy to see Claire. Claire is less enthusiastic and understandably so, since Frank is A) Not Jamie and B) identical in face and voice to Black Jack Randall, whose hobbies include flogging people and making Baby Jesus cry. #normalvillianthingsAfter a rogue photojournalist snaps a picture of Claire in the hospital, Frank brings her to the Reverend Wakefield’s (James Fleet) home to convalesce. Claire pours over books on the Battle of Culloden, trying to find evidence of Jamie’s fate. She and housekeeper/druid priestess Mrs. Graham (Tracey Wilkenson) discuss Jamie. And by that, I mean gush about how great Jamie is/was. I approve of this. Mrs. Graham then gives Claire a kind yet stern lecture about leaving the past behind and learning to be happy with Mr. Frank Not-Jamie Randall. I do not approve of this.
We are now fifteen minutes into the episode. We have seen neither hide nor hair of Jamie Fraser. Why must you hurt me in this way, Outlander?
Later that night, Claire invites Frank into her room to tell him the whole story of her stay in the 18th century. Their talk is still very awkward and sadly lacking in Scottish brogue. Frank insists that he doesn’t need to know Claire’s story and he only cares that she’s returned. But Claire insists on telling him the truth anyway.
We fade to black. My heart leaps. Are we going back in time? Alas, no. We cut to more awkward Frank/Claire talk. Frank says he’s come to terms with Claire’s story as well as her love for and marriage with Jamie. Strangely, Claire doesn’t seem too happy about this and repeatedly pushes back against his acceptance. At this point, I found Frank frustratingly, and almost dishonestly, kind. Even through his obvious emotion, he speaks about Claire’s experiences very clinically. As if by claiming to accept them, he can somehow distance himself from them.Claire isn’t ready to give up the point, though, and so drops the real bombshell. “I’m pregnant,” she says, “And it’s Jamie’s child.” For a split second, Frank is overjoyed. Then reality hits him. He grabs her by the throat, fist clenched, and for a few moments, he seems to embody his evil ancestor, Black Jack. But he thankfully leaves to take out his anger on the Reverend’s garden shed instead. Still, this is the first time we’ve ever seen Frank lose control and it’s as frightening for the audience as it is for Claire.
Frank and the Reverend have another heart-to-heart about the fate of Claire and her unborn child. The Reverend tries to ease a reluctant Frank into the idea of taking Claire back and raising another man’s baby. The entire thing feels rather sexist. It reminds us that, though the 1940s may be more enlightened than the 1740s, Claire’s choices are still bound by a heavily patriarchal culture. Luckily for the Reverend, his adorable orphaned nephew comes into the room just in time to guilt trip Frank into following the Reverend’s advice.
Frank then tells Claire that they can start over and raise the baby together, so long as she agrees to never tell it the truth about its parentage. And as long as she stops looking for Jamie. “I cannot share you with another man,” he says. Claire agrees to his terms. He hugs her, saying that she has made him very happy and he “hopes, in time, to make you very happy too.”
Frank then burns Claire’s beautiful and amazing 18th century clothing in the backyard. I could swear I heard Mrs. Fitz cursing his name through the echoes of time. I definitely heard myself yelling at the TV.
On the way to Frank’s new post at Harvard, Claire disembarks a Pan Am plane in front of the New York City skyline. She reaches out to take Frank’s hand, the music swells, and suddenly we are in a French port and there before us, in all his red-headed, Gaelic-speaking glory is Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). We are a scandalous forty minutes into the episode but hey, Jamie’s here now, so let’s concentrate on that, shall we?Jamie and Claire continue to be deliriously in love while Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) grumbles about France and grabs the luggage. With Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) and Angus (Stephen Walters) absent, it appears he is now the comic relief.
Later that night, Jamie and Claire discuss their plans to stop the Jacobite uprising and, I suppose, save the Highlands? Their ultimate goal is not actually entirely clear, at least not to me. Obviously, they are trying to prevent the massacre of clansmen. But stopping the uprising won’t do much about the existing British harassment of the Highlands. So it seems that their friends would still be in danger, albeit less immediate danger, if the Uprising never takes place.Jamie isn’t entirely on board with this subterfuge. He prefers, in true Jamie style, to use Claire’s foreknowledge to wage a more effective war against the British. But Claire only knows the barest outlines of the conflict and insists that the best course is to stop it altogether. She asks Jamie to “trust in this”, their partnership. “In this, I do trust,” he responds, “And in this, I will.”
Claire and Jamie explain the plan to Murtagh. He is unhappy at being left in the dark regarding, “the true reason behind the cloth of lies we’re about to wrap ourselves in.” But he is reassured by Jamie’s Very Manly Solemn Oath to reveal all in time.We then meet Jamie’s cousin, Jared Fraser (Robert Cavanah), a wine merchant and wearer of fancy clothes. Our heroes convince him of their loyalty to the Jacobite cause by displaying Jamie’s scarred back. He agrees to give Jamie the running of his wine business and the run of his Parisian house while he travels.
Later, Claire walks the docks and comes upon newly arrived sailors sick with smallpox. The sailors belong to a ship owned by Le Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber), all round jerk and wearer of fancier clothes. Against the Comte’s wishes, Claire convinces the Harbor Master (Christian Perez) to quarantine the sailors and burn the infected ship and cargo to avoid an outbreak. This earns her and Jamie the ire of the Comte. That’s understandable. Who has time to worry about the health and safety of hundreds of people when you have to wear all those fancy clothes? Not this guy, that’s for sure.“Another country, another enemy,” Jamie says that night, as they watch the ship burn. Claire says she’ll try to keep a lid on it, if he wants. “I wouldn’t change you to save the world,” he replies. I immediately melt into a puddle on the floor.
Overall impressions? First off, entirely too little Jamie Fraser. Like, Frank’s fine, I guess. He clearly loves Claire very much. But as I said before, I’m not entirely a fan of the way he treats her experiences. Claire’s sojourn into the past has become a fundamental part of who she is and Frank seems unable to accept that. Instead, he lays out conditions that will take everything he’d rather not deal with and put it away in a box forever. That way, he can pretend that Claire is the person he wants her to be, the person he married before the war. Oh, yes. The cognitive dissonance is strong with this one. A special shout out to Tobias Menzies, though, since his acting really sells these scenes. He knows just how to get the viewer right where they should be.
Frank stands in marked contrast to Jamie, who says that he trusts in Claire and that he wouldn’t change her “to save the world.” Even when he disagrees with her actions, he accepts her more fully than Frank. The central conflict of this season will be whether that trust can stand the storm of political intrigue coming our way.
There is also the crucial fact that Frank has never once whispered soothing Gaelic to horses. Advantage: Jamie.The focus on the 20th century and the sharp cut back to the 18th left this episode with somewhat disjointed pacing. But it did set both timelines on a new path for the season. And it seems like this season will follow a more serious tone than the first half of Season 1. The stakes are certainly higher. Even so, Season 1 did a reasonably good job of balancing dark material with lighter moments and I hope that trend continues.
My three big questions at the moment: First, does Claire deliver her first child in the 18th century and then become pregnant again before her return to the 20th? If so, where’s the first kid? Second, will this season remain split between France and America? Finally, if she and Jamie failed to stop the rebellion, what’s the point of the whole season?
A note on this episode’s title, “Through a Glass, Darkly”. I assume this is a reference to the Biblical verse: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known” (1 Cor 13:12, KJV). This could be a reference to Claire’s imperfect knowledge of the Jacobite Rebellion. She knows the course of the past but not well enough to stop or change the outcome of the war. Or it could be the audience that sees darkly, since we know the ultimate outcome of the season but not how we will get there. Though knowing this show, we aren’t going to get there without a river of tears and a boatload of booze.
I’ll see you next week for Episode Two: “Not In Scotland Anymore.”
Need a refresher on last season’s shenanigans? Check out our previous Outlander coverage!
The Outlander official website now has all of Season One available for free! Episodes of Season Two are also available for subscribers.
Outlander airs Saturday nights at 9/8c on Starz.