Hello, everyone! Since I’m a huge fan of the Outlander book series and the new TV show, I thought I’d try and do a weekly review of the show. I know that last time I did a review of a TV show, I petered out after the third or fourth episode, but can you blame me? American Horror Story: Hotel was too cringey even to watch for fun, let alone review every week. With that said, I adore Outlander, so these reviews will definitely come easier than writing about dead people stuffed in mattresses.
Season two, episode one begins in a familiar place, but an unexpected time: Craigh na Dun, 1948. Claire has once again fallen through the stones and once she makes her way to a nearby hospital, back into her first husband Frank Randall’s arms. Frank, who was a relatively underdeveloped character in the first season, is brought into full-relief through this episode, expressing to us with every glance all the pain and anguish he’s experienced since Claire disappeared nearly two years before. The entire first season was told through Claire’s perspective, but for this first episode, we get nearly forty minutes of Frank’s story, and it’s certainly a far cry from the marital bliss felt by Claire.
“Through a Glass Darkly” is about sudden returns. How do we deal when we lose people, and how do we cope when they come back? For Frank, a man who has spent years grieving the loss of his wife, Claire’s return is a god-send. He’s eager to begin their married life anew, so eager that he’s willing to accept Claire’s infidelity, her mysterious disappearance, and even, with a little prodding, her unborn child. This Frank is gentle, kind, just the sort of husband a bewildered woman would want to return to, yet Claire is no bewildered woman. From the moment Frank walks through the hospital doors, she’s hostile, brooding, unrepentant. She wants him to leave her and the child. Not because she doesn’t love him any longer, for the fact that she still wears his ring proves that she does. No, Claire is a proud woman, and it’s clear that the only reason she’s back in modern England is because she had no other choice. What circumstances moved her to this decision are not yet clear in the TV show, but they were obviously not desirable. Claire will return to Frank, but she’s a changed woman, one who is no longer satisfied to be a historian’s little wife.
Claire’s two years in the past have transformed her. She’s adapted to an entirely different culture, manipulated her way through courtly intrigue, and saved her husband from a sadist with the face of her first husband. But Frank has remained the same. He married Claire when he was 12 years her elder, and used to playing the role of both her father and her husband, he’s shocked to encounter this new Claire, a woman who would rather be a single mother (in a time when that was looked upon unfavorably) than return to an unequal marriage. She’s also a woman consumed by the past; she spends a week rifling through Reverend Wakefield’s war records and keeps her 18th century clothing by her bedside. Still, Frank might have overlooked her obsession if not for her pregnancy, which would be a constant reminder of the life she left behind, and Jamie, the true object of her affection.
Frank’s infertility makes the news even harder to bear, just as Claire hoped it would. She uses the pregnancy as a final, brutal weapon to force Frank to leave her, but he won’t. He yells, screams, and smashes up the Reverend’s garage, but his love for Claire and want of a child are more important than his hatred of the other man. In this state, he strikes up a deal with Claire: they’ll move to Boston and raise the child together, but she must never mention Jamie to their child, or ever look for him again. Weary and out of options, Claire accepts Frank’s conditions, watching as Frank burns her clothes, and the last memories of her old life, in the fire pit. As they descend the airplane into Logan Airport, Frank reaches for her hand. “One more step,” he says, and Claire takes it, only for the camera to shift and see that it’s really Jamie’s hand she’s grasping, and that finally, we’re back where we want to be: in the past.
The rest of the episode moves too quickly, picking up only a few months after the first season ended. Jamie and Claire are in Paris, staying with Jamie’s uncle Jared and running his wine business. Their real purpose, however, is to meet with Bonnie Prince Charlie and prevent the Rising from occurring. Of course, Claire could never do anything quietly, and makes an enemy of one of the most important men in town on her very first day in Paris.
After seeing that the Comte St. Germain’s crew is infected with smallpox, she announces this fact to the entire port, thus causing the authorities to seize the Comte’s ship and burn all of his cargo. The very French, very villainous-looking Comte assures Claire that she will regret this moment. Knowing Claire’s knack for messing shit up, we can be certain he’s telling the truth.
I liked the Season 2 premiere more than I liked the Season 1 premiere, probably because I’m a bigger fan of the second book than the first book. Dragonfly in Amber, which Season 2 is based on, spends alot more time on fascinating court intrigue and Frenchy french stuff than on Frank and the boring future. There are some scenes that I can’t wait to see shown on the big screen, my favorite of which involves Claire, a scandalous red dress, and an enraged Jamie.
How does it compare to the book? Well, Dragonfly in Amber opened very differently than this first episode. I prefer the TV show’s way because it’s less confusing than the book and is relatively chronological. However, one significant difference I noticed is the portrayal of Frank. Book Frank is definitely not as kind and accepting as TV Frank. I actually detested his book character. I’m curious to see if the show will push his character to match his book portrayal, or keep him as this gentler fellow. But besides that, the episode matched the book scenes almost perfectly. I love the casting of Jared and the Comte. And of course, for all my book readers out there, who could resist Little Roger? He’ll be quite important later on, perhaps in this season if they keep the frame of the story intact, or perhaps in the next one. All in all, this was a riveting episode and I can’t wait to watch next week’s, when all the French fun will begin.