Outlander Season 2, Episode 1
“Through a Glass, Darkly”
Posted by Kim
Welcome to Outlander, our second favorite show about time travel that features a strong-willed brunette heroine and a Scottish hunk of a man. It’s like Doctor Who but with less aliens and a hell of a lot more sex. (Sex that focuses on FEMALE pleasure to boot. What a concept.) While we have never read the books, Sage and I both binged season one in the build-up to last year’s San Diego Comic Con and we got to experience the delightfully whiskey-soaked panel that happened there. Outlander has everything that we love in a good drama: a fiercely feminist heroine in Claire, time travel, Scotland, gorgeous costumes, fantastic acting, and a fantasy-fulfilling-oh-my-god-he-is-actually-carved-out-of-marble hero in Jamie Fraser. (And the fact that Sam Heughan is THAT pretty and THAT good of an actor? WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE DID YOU COME FROM, SIR?) Clearly you guys dig Outlander too given that Sam and Caitriona Balfe won Feelies in 2015. So with us being down a show to recap (RIP Sleepy Hollow), we thought that Outlander recaps would be just the thing to soothe that loss. I’m excited.
A brief recap for Outlander Newbies: in 1945 Claire Randall and her husband Frank travel to Inverness, Scotland in an attempt to reconnect and reignite the spark after being separated during World War II. While there, Frank and Claire witness an early morning druid ritual at the stones of Craigh Na Dun, which is basically a Scottish Stonehenge. While Frank busies himself with researching his family line, Claire, a budding botanist, returns to the stones in search of a specific flower. She touches one of the stones, passes out, and then wakes up 200 years in the past. A panicked Claire encounters a group of Red Coats, including the notoriously vile Blackjack Randall, a direct ancestor of her husband who shares his face. (Awkward.) She is rescued by a group of men from the Clan MacKenzie, including Jamie Fraser, dream hunk (also has a price on his head). There is immediate sexual tension. Claire’s skills as a nurse immediately make her an asset to the clan and they refuse to let her leave, despite her desperation to get back to Craigh Na Dun so she can go home. During her time with the MacKenzies, Claire and Jamie have a LOT of eye sex and Claire also learns that Dougal MacKenzie is raising funds for the Jacobean Rebellion (which Claire knows is a losing battle and despite her tries, she is helpless to stop it without giving herself away). In a bid to get back to the stones, Claire tries to make a deal with BlackJack Randall but he brutally beats her because he suspects she is hiding something. To protect her, Dougal declares that Claire will marry Jamie. Jamie kills all of us by admitting to Claire that he’s a virgin and he hopes she doesn’t mind. They marry and we get a 35 minute sex scene as Claire schools Jamie in the ways of pleasing a woman. They fall deeply and passionately in love. Claire confesses to Jamie that she’s from the future and he BELIEVES her because he’s perfect. He takes her to the stones and gives her the option to go back but Claire chooses to stay because WHO WOULD LEAVE HIM HONESTLY. Jamie is captured by the Red Coats and then tortured, abused, and raped by Blackjack in a scene that is so harrowing that Sage said she saw it every time she closed her eyes for several days after. Claire and Dougal rescue Jamie and they flee to France. On the boat, they discuss trying to change the future and stopping the Jacobean Rebellion. Claire also tells him she’s pregnant. And that’s what you missed on Glee. On to season 2!
I don’t know what I was expecting from the opening moments of “Through a Glass, Darkly” but it CERTAINLY wasn’t Claire waking up at Craigh Na Dun letting out a guttural scream that I felt in my TOES. It’s obvious something has gone terribly wrong, from the way Claire gropes around in a panic for Jamie’s ring to her voiceover that suggested that Jamie had Jack Dawson-ed her. (“You must do me this honor. Promise me that you’ll survive.” UGH.) How did they get from France back to the stones in Inverness? Did Jamie take her to the stones and force her to touch them because they were in danger and he wanted Claire to live? Did Claire go there having no other choice because Jamie was marching to his death? Whatever it was, it was clearly something awful because Claire never would have left Jamie otherwise. (“I made my choice a long time ago and I’m never going to leave you.”) A disoriented Claire wanders along the road and a man stops to see if she is okay. (I’m guessing seeing a woman in clothing from the 1700’s is not a normal occurrence.) She asks what year it is and you actually see her crumble when the man replies that it is 1948. “Who won the Battle of Culloden,” she demands desperately as the man wracks his brain for his Scottish History. “The British,” he finally stammers. “Cumberland and the British!” Claire collapses to the ground, sobbing. Everything she tried was for nothing. I think it would have been one thing for her to be in the present and to know that she had actually changed the past. But to learn that she not only lost Jamie but she lost him for nothing? Yeah. I can see why she wished that she was dead. Cue the theme song.
(Side note: I’m super sad that the second verse of the theme song is now in French to reflect Claire and Jamie’s time there. I miss the bagpipes that made me shout “SCOTLAND MOTHERFUCKERS” every single time.)
Frank arrives at the hospital to find Claire healthy, but a shell of her former self. It’s as if all the life has drained out of her…she’s alive, but it’s clear she takes no pleasure in being back in her time. (Her “So noisy here” BROKE ME. Cait is so good, you guys.) What I DO love is that Claire’s story or her sanity is never questioned. I mean…how can it be when the only clothes on her back are authentic to the 1700’s. Cosplay wouldn’t catch on for at least another 60 years, so what other explanation could there be other than the fact that she’s telling the truth? Frank and Claire’s reunion is as awkward as you would expect it to be. Claire is cold and Frank doesn’t quite know what to do to express his relief that she’s returned to him. He goes to touch her, but she shies away, only seeing the face of Blackjack Randall. It’s horrible because NONE of this is Frank’s fault and she KNOWS this in her heart but her BRAIN doesn’t recognize it. One thing that is constant, no matter what era it is, is the fact that the paparazzi in the UK is BRUTAL. A rogue photographer surprises them and takes Claire’s picture, prompting a mini-freakout from Frank. He tells Claire they can hide out with Reverend Wakefield while she recovers. Claire perks up at this because she can see Mrs. Graham again…after all, Mrs. Graham was the woman who read her tea leaves and KNEW this was going to happen to her. Perhaps there she can get answers, or at least a little understanding for what she’s been through.
To his credit, Frank doesn’t pressure Claire to talk once they get to Reverend Wakefield’s. I think it’s both because he knows she’ll share things with him when she’s ready and because he actually has no idea what to say to her. What do you say, after all, when your wife returns after 2 years saying she’s not only traveled through time but married another man in that time? What do you say to your husband who shares a face with the man who tormented both you and the man you loved? Claire just can’t stop loving Jamie overnight and that’s what Frank doesn’t understand. It may be fantastical to him but it was very real to HER and she needs time to grieve him. She can’t just step back into her old life. She spends her first week back pouring over Wakefield’s history books, trying to find any sort of clue regarding what happened to Jamie. She needs to KNOW. She can’t move on until she does. She may be in the present and he may have been dead for 200 years but to CLAIRE, she last saw him a week ago. Mrs. Graham is so gentle with her, it hurts me. She just lets Claire talk about him and share memories. (The way she laughs about “fucking sadist” though. I think that’s when I texted Sage with a simple “I AM IN PAIN”.) Mrs. Graham isn’t fazed by Claire’s sudden outbursts (“There’s always another fucking war.”) nor does she disregard Claire’s need to know what happened to him. What she DOES do is gently urge Claire to hold Jamie forever in her heart but also not close herself off to the life she is facing NOW. “You have had an extraordinary adventure, Claire. Extraordinary. One that few people could even imagine. Treasure it. Keep it safe and secure, tucked away in some special place in your heart, but… don’t spend the rest of your days chasing a ghost. Not when there’s a man, a real flesh and blood living man, who loves you still with all his heart.” It is this gentle urging that gives Claire the courage to finally talk to Frank.
Over some good whiskey, Claire and Frank talk by the fireplace. Before she begins her story, Frank tells her she doesn’t have to do this. “Whatever happened, wherever you’ve been..what really matters to me is, is that you’re back. I don’t really care about anything else,” he says and Tobias Menzies injects SUCH earnestness into this, I damn near believe him. I DO think Frank believes himself when he says this, but I also think that Frank actually doesn’t want to KNOW. There are two different ways of dealing with this: needing to know every single detail and outright ignoring it. I think Frank falls in the latter category and that’s where he and Claire are destined to fail, even from the beginning. Even after Claire is done with her story, Frank wants to sweep it all under the rug, basically insisting that it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she is here NOW. But it DOES to Claire and she desperately just wants him to acknowledge that, which is why she keeps driving home the point that she MARRIED ANOTHER MAN. (Did she tell him that she CHOSE to stay with Jamie even when he gave her the chance to go back? Discuss.) “Claire, I admit it is hard to reconcile what you are saying with anything resembling logic, or even natural law,” Frank pleads. “But, Claire, I think we are beyond that. Truly, all that matters is that you’re back. You’re back.” Claire tells Frank that he doesn’t GET IT. She married another man and she didn’t just marry him, she LOVED him, mind, body, and soul. All Frank takes away from the story is that Claire didn’t CHOOSE to leave him (again DOES HE KNOW SHE CHOSE TO STAY?) and for him, that’s enough. But the thing is…he can’t even say Jamie’s name. That’s how much he wants to ignore this. The whole time he’s telling Claire he’s okay with the whole thing, it’s really like he’s trying to tell himself the same thing. “I can accept that you… that you did feel that way, that you had this… this experience with this man, and that leaving him broke your heart. I can accept it.?” SURE YOU CAN, FRANK. Again, I see Frank’s agony here and I truly believe that HE believes they can pick up where they left off. (Am I the only one who sees a LOT of parallels to Rose Tyler and Mickey Smith in “Aliens of London”? Mickey so desperately wants to reset their relationship but at the same time…he knows. He knows there is no going back for them even if he tries to ignore it.) On one hand, Frank is right. They CAN have a life together. It’s possible. But it’s not going to be possible unless he truly comes to terms with Claire’s love for Jamie.
I was totally on Frank’s side right up until his reaction to Claire’s pregnancy bombshell. He lunges to HIT HER. The ole Blackjack temper runs deep in the bloodline, clearly. And CLAIRE. Strong, determined, beautiful Claire barely flinches in the face of this physical threat. She’s faced much worse, after all. I love her for not being afraid. She’s not dropping this bomb to HURT Frank, she’s just trying to make him SEE that this is not going to be as easy as he thinks it is. And this news cuts Frank to his very core. He’s sterile, you see. So not only does Frank have to deal with the fact that his wife married another man, he has to see the physical manifestations of his masculine failures. (I’m not saying infertility is a failure, I am saying that FRANK views it as such.) “When Claire told me that she was pregnant, I was…I just…my first feeling was…was joy,” he confesses to Wakefield. “This flash of…of just happiness. It was almost hallucinatory in its intensity…I just… Because…somehow, suddenly, in that moment, I… I thought she meant we were having a child. God. Then I realized, of course…couldn’t be mine. Had to be his.” Look, it’s a shitty situation all around. Wakefield gamely tries to compare the situation to Mary and Joseph but Frank isn’t having it. “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.” Yep. Still can’t say Jamie’s name and he still can’t acknowledge Claire’s MARRIAGE to him. He reduces Jamie to just a “man”. Yeah, this is going to end well. Wakefield gently reminds him that not all fathers are biological ones, using his relationship with his nephew Roger as an example. “A child without a father, and, and a man without a child have been given this chance to find one another.” Basically, he tells Frank to man the fuck up or continue on without Claire. There is no middle ground here.
(Also Roger clearly has some bigger role here, yes? Especially given his prominent placement at the end of the credit sequence. DON’T TELL ME.)
Thus, Frank goes to Claire and says he still wants to make this work. He’s been offered a post at Harvard (Me: NO DON’T GO TO AMERICA HOW THE HELL WILL YOU GET BACK TO JAMIE.) and he wants Claire to go with him as his wife. He wants them to be a family and America will be the perfect place for them to start over, especially with how the press has caught on to Claire’s story. (“The British press will flog it…” “Please, Frank. Don’t ever use the word “flog” in my presence again. Is that understood?” OUCH OUCH OUCH.) Frank will be the father of this child, no questions asked. Then he lays down the law…if Claire comes with him, she has to fully leave Jamie behind. No more trying to find out to happen to him, no more talking fondly of her life with him, nothing. If he hadn’t lost me in the way he reacted to the pregnancy news, he DEFINITELY lost me here. He’s fucking DEAD, Frank. He’s been dead for 200 years. It’s not like he’s going to suddenly show up on their doorstep and sweep Claire off her feet. (OR WILL HE? Time travel is REALLY hard to write about.) How can you refuse to give her the gift of closure? How can you not let her MOURN? Telling her to sweep it under the rug is quite possibly the most selfish request I’ve ever heard. To make another Doctor Who reference, it is VERY Martha Jones going into a jealous snit every time the Doctor mentions Rose. PEOPLE/TIME LORDS NEED TIME TO GRIEVE. How can Frank ever expect Claire to fully be his if she can’t get over her love for Jamie on her own terms? It’s so fucking selfish.
To Frank’s surprise (AND MINE), Claire agrees to his terms. “I promised him I would,” she says tearfully. “He made me promise that I would let him go. So I will.” MY HEART. Jamie TOTALLY Jack Dawson-ed her and like Rose before her, the only way to honor his sacrifice is to KEEP GOING. “You have made me very happy,” Frank says. “I hope, in time, that I will make you happy too.” Then he takes Claire’s time travel clothes and fucking burns them even though they are supposedly very valuable and PROBABLY belonged in a museum. So things are off to a great start already. Claire and Frank fly to New York and she surveys the city and her new life. Frank waits for her at the end of the stairs. “One more step. To new beginnings.” AND THEN MY HEART BURST BECAUSE THIS TRANSITION IS SO BEAUTIFUL.
No, Claire hasn’t time-traveled but no we get to see just exactly how Claire ended up at Craigh Na Dun and what wrenched her and Jamie apart. I’m not ready. She’s going to get back to him, RIGHT? (DON’T TELL ME.)
Since I’ve already rambled on for 3000 words, I am going to try to keep my thoughts on this section of the episode brief because it really is set-up for the rest of the season. Claire and Jamie arrive in France and she immediately begins making plans for her and Jamie to stop the Jacobite rebellion. This is what I love about Jamie and Claire’s relationship: while Jamie has a different perspective on the whole knowledge of the future thing (he’s of the mind that they should be doing things to try to help them WIN, not stop the rebellion altogether), he trusts Claire so implicitly that he defers to her without a fight. Claire doesn’t know ENOUGH to help them win. She only knows that they lose and that the seeds for the rebellion are planted NOW. So the only solution is to stop it. He expresses his doubts (“That’s not a lot to go on, Sassenach.”) but he never questions her judgement. Even in his unease (“We’d be lying to everyone.”), his faith never wavers.
Claire: We’re talking about tens of thousands of lives, and the future of Scotland itself. Surely that’s worth the price?
Jamie: Even if that price is our souls?
Claire: That won’t happen. We won’t let that happen. We have to trust in this.
Jamie: In this I do. And in this I will.
Claire and Jamie go to his cousin Jared, who has connections to the inner Jacobite circle. Since Jamie has never been one to play the political game (he would really just be at his castle with Claire, you guysssssss), Jared immediately questions his change of heart. In a move SO reminiscent of season one, Claire strips off Jamie’s shirt so that Jared can see the scars left behind from Blackjack’s flogging. It’s how Dougal used Jamie to convince all the clan’s tenants to donate to the cause and you could TELL that Jamie hated being a pawn in that game. The scars are as equally convincing to Jared but what’s important here is that Jamie has AGENCY. (It’s SO WEIRD AND AWESOME TO BE TALKING ABOUT MALE AGENCY HERE.) Claire looks at him with so much love and she also gives him the option of saying no. She is gentle with him as she removes his shirt, whereas Dougal always made it as rough as possible. It’s such a beautiful contrast and speaks worlds of their relationship. It’s truly a partnership built on trust and love.
Later on the docks, Claire stumbles upon a man being pulled off a boat and being hidden away because he is deathly ill. Never one to let her medical training go to waste, Claire tries to treat the man. When she discovers he has small pox, it causes an uproar. To prevent an outbreak, all of the crew must be quarantined and the entire shipment burned. This does not sit well with the owner of the boat, Le Comte St. Germain. After a very tense standoff with Claire, Jamie, and Jared, the Comte storms off furiously. “You’ve made an enemy here today,” Jared warns. Claire and Jamie basically shrug and say “Oh well”. They wouldn’t be them if they didn’t have someone hating their guts, after all. They wouldn’t have it any other way.
Since Jamie’s chivalry is one of the main draws of the show, I thought I would single out his best moment from every episode. Clearly, it’s this one, right?
What I LOVE is that no one disrespects Claire in front of Jamie. NO ONE.
- First of all, I need a more clever name for this section, but I’m writing on a deadline here.
- I think this is called foreshadowing?
- I’m just going to leave this here. God bless this show for knowing its audience.
- SERIOUSLY LOOK AT HIM.
- One of my favorite things about Claire and Jamie’s relationship is their BANTER. Claire’s reaction to Jamie calling her “sturdy” is priceless.
- But seriously, how is Claire going to get back to him when she’s in BOSTON? There’s no way Jamie ACTUALLY died on that battlefield, right? And when she DOES get back, what will she find waiting for her? Ugh, my heart hurts.
And that’s our premiere! Please keep in mind if you choose to comment that I haven’t read the books, so if I am completely off base, let me remain in my blissful innocence. Till next time!