Outlander Review 2.02: Not in Scotland Anymore

Hello, everyone! It’s certainly exciting to be back in Outlander season because I have something to look forward to every Saturday. Netflix has really babied me: actually waiting for episodes is sooooo hard. The second episode of Season 2 was an improvement on the first; every minute was a joy to watch.  Plus, this episode managed to hit all the necessary plot points without trimming too much of  the fat that book readers love and television writers hate.

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Hopefully they’ll keep this up

 

As the episode title suggests, “Not in Scotland Anymore” is our first glance into the 18th century French court, a place where courtiers petition their king on the toilet, mistresses let it all hang out (and then some), and  waxing,  as Louise de Rohan proclaims,  is”de rigueur” for all the fashionable French ladies. Jamie and Claire are both educated, clever sophisticates, but even they are unprepared for all that Versailles has to offer.

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For Jamie, a man trying to forget his past abuses, Paris is a welcome distraction. He’s forever at the center of the intrigue, whether it’s meeting Bonnie Prince Charlie at a Parisian brothel, advising King Louis on his breakfast habits, or proposing a game of chess to the Finance minister. Claire, too, is three months into Paris and already embroiled in the scandals of the French court. Even the Duke of Sandringham has to remark at how quickly Jamie and Claire have found their way into the good graces of high society, but when there’s a rebellion at stake, time is of the essence. However, Jamie and Claire’s plan to stop the Rising isn’t working exactly as they planned.

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 Bonnie Prince Charlie isn’t as malleable as Jamie and Claire had predicted. Descended from a branch of the exiled Stuarts, the Bonnie Prince  has an unassailable belief in his right to rule, and he believes that the Scottish clans, no matter how fragmented and enmitous, will inevitably rise to help him with that goal. From the very first episode, we’ve known that such a Rising will only end in disaster. It’s frustrating to hear the prince dismiss Jamie’s well-founded concerns, but there’s only so much we, or Jamie, can do to stop a delusional monarch from claiming his destiny.

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The casting for the Bonnie Prince is fantastic. In the books, I was hard-pressed to imagine him beyond the image of a spoiled young man, but actor Andrew Gower gives him just the right amount of dignity while still maintaining his delusional royal aspirations. As we’ll see in the latter half of the book, there’s a reason that the clans followed the Bonnie Prince into battle. He can inspire when he needs to, but as Jamie rightly surmised, he doesn’t have the know how to look after Lallybroch’s vegetable patch, let alone Scotland.

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Claire’s primary role in this episode is a vessel. Through her, we meet several of the season’s most important characters: Alexander Randall, Mary Hawkins, and Master Raymond. Neither of them have any particular importance yet, but Alex’s introduction signifies one thing: Jack Randall isn’t dead, and Jamie’s nightmares are not yet at an end. We also meet back up with the Duke of Sandringham, which was a bit confusing, since we haven’t seen that character for almost a year and they didn’t even say his name. That’s one problematic aspect of adapating the Outlander series into a television show; Diana Gabaldon has a habit of introducing extremely important characters in seemingly unimportant scenes, only to have them pop up again after hundreds of pages, or in some case, an entire book, has passed. I’m curious to see how the writers handle this, because even in the case of Sandringham,  who was a relatively important plot-point in Season One, it’s easy for the audience to forget a character after their long absence.

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“Not in Scotland Anymore” serves us the same thematic meal as the first episode, but in a fluffier vehicle. The Rising, Jamie’s PTSD, and impending disaster are all present, but with the elegant trappings of Paris to provide distraction. Last episode was something of a downer, but Outlander knows that it’s no fun for the audience to spend week after week in misery. I loved the inclusion of the waxing scene at Louise de Rohan’s house, the sparring between Murtagh and Jamie, and Jamie’s reaction to the red dress. All these scenes are examples of the “fat” that the writers could cut out if they wanted to add more plot, but I’m glad that they kept them intact. These scenes may not be important to the story’s progression, but they’re integral to the development of Jamie and Claire’s relationship.

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Not to mention, every aspect of this episode was gorgeous. I’ve been hesitant to applaud Catriona Balfe’s portrayal of Claire, but she really looked like the character I imagined in this episode, especially with the stunning red dress. Terry Dresbach’s costuming is out of this world; usually period pieces go for the easily recognizable 18th century-style dress, but Dresbach’s costumes are insanely accurate, right down to the crazy panniers.

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You see it’s a lot wider and shorter 

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Than this dress, which is about 40 years later, so then again styles change

My favorite visual in each episode is the short tableau between the opening credits and the first scene. This tableau featured the maid dressing Claire, past ones have a simple shot of a spilled glass of wine, or a hunting rifle on a chair, or little Roger asleep, etc. They’re very tender moments, and not quite like anything I’ve seen in other TV shows, which craft beautiful opening sequences and then move straight into the episode. I guess it’s like a little teaser of sorts. It’s unique. The opening credits themselves are stunning and delicate, like a dream. I like the French touch they added to the Skye Song this season. By changing the tableau each episode, the opening credit becomes interactive, which is a quality I love in a television series. Supernatural is also a fan of the ever-changing opening credits.

How does it compare to the book? Favorably, so far. Like I said, they’re moving the story along at a respectable pace (without the rushing from the first season). They changed a few aspects, most noticeably how Claire meets Alex Randall, but I don’t think it hurts the story, it actually makes it more compact. Also, they toned down Jamie’s anger in this episode: he was furious with Claire’s red dress, and then furious when he found the finance minister trying to seduce her. Maybe they thought that his old-fashioned perspective would be taken as “slut shaming?”

One aspect that they’ve neglected to mention so far is Claire’s boredom in Paris. She spends much of the beginning of the book feeling neglected because Jamie is so busy and bored because no one will let her do anything useful. The scenes from the next episode did show a glimpse of the hospital and Claire’s future employment, so I’m sure they’ll bring that conflict into the mix soon enough.

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Yay for bickering
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