[This is not a spoiler-free review/recap of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]
Episode 201, “Through a Glass, Darkly”
Written by Ronald D. Moore, Directed by Metin Hüseyin
“I wished I were dead. And if I’d kept my eyes shut, I could have almost touched the edges of oblivion. But I’d made a promise and had to keep it, even if it meant living a life I no longer wanted.”
The return of Outlander comes with both excitement and trepidation. The excitement comes from seeing certain scenes come alive from the book, Dragonfly in Amber, seeing both new and existing actors and characters on screen, and just the fact that we have a whole new season of episodes to look forward to watching. The trepidation is almost parallel to the reasons for excitement. How will they handle certain scenes, will this season be as good as the last, and will the new characters and their actors be on same level with everything seen last season?
“Through a Glass, Darkly” hits you right in the gut from the beginning. Claire (Caitriona Balfe) awakens at Craigh na Dun back in her time of the 1940s. Jamie is not there and she is not where she wants to be. The solemn walking on the paved road in her 1700s clothes is a worthy juxtaposition, followed up with the car coming up behind her. While we want to recognize this Claire, she is not the same person she was at the end of season one. She has been through a lot, but we don’t know what yet and we can only guess. (Book readers have a little more knowledge about what has happened to her, but keep in mind that everything may not be the same as in the book.)
Her reunion with Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies), her first husband, is not a happy one, at least for her. You can see the hope and underlying love Frank has for Claire even though he does not know what has happened to her during these missing years. On Claire’s side, she is upset and depressed to have left a man she loves (perhaps more than Frank) back in his own time. She has to realize he is dead now, no matter what happened at Culloden. Claire treads lightly with Frank, you may even call it avoidance. With Frank waiting in the wings, she is engrossed with her task to find out what happened to Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan).
When Claire reveals to Frank what has happened to her and where she has been, there is a halting understanding that breaks when he learns she is pregnant with Jamie’s child. He goes insanely mad. It is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The back and forth between Claire and Frank is both heartbreaking and promising. Frank chooses to look forward and Claire must give up looking back.
A review of this episode can’t not mention the beautiful transitions that occur at the end of the 1940s part. There are two and both have to be my favorite parts of the episode. The transition from Claire looking out the window in the manse to her looking out the airplane window is flawless. Pairing it with Bear McCreary’s sweeping music, it gives me chills. The other transition is Claire going for Frank’s hand as she descends the airplane steps to the switch of her grabbing Jamie’s hand as they disembark off the boat in Le Havre, France.
The Le Havre portion of the episode is mostly dealing with Claire, Jamie, and Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) settling in and establishing themselves. With all the fanfare about how beautiful the Paris sets and costumes are, we don’t see any of it in this first episode. It is just the docks, the lodge, and Jamie’s cousin, Jared Fraser’s (Robert Cavanah) house. Claire, Jamie, and Murtagh are all wearing what they wore in Scotland. While it may not that be that exciting initially, the talk of stopping the Jacobite rebellion and Claire diagnosing smallpox to the demise of Compte St. Germain’s (Stanley Weber) wine stock and ship gets the action rolling and sets up problems for the couple already.
My only minor gripe is that they did not establish that Claire knew how to speak French. Maybe this was just assumed because she said she had family in France in season one. She speaks it fluently and not like someone who knows just a little bit of the language. (It has been pointed out to me that Claire’s language skills were established in “The Garrison’s Commander.”)
If you see a review that does not mention the superb talent of Tobias Menzies, then it is an incomplete one. This actor brings it tenfold whenever he is on screen. There are a lot of Frank-haters in the Outlander fandom, but I am, if anything, a Frank-lover. This is due to Tobias Menzies’ utter abandon of himself and his commitment to the roles he has on this show. I welcome any screen time we get with Mr. Menzies and I will be sad if and when it ends.
“Through a Glass, Darkly” is a great start to what I expect will be a fantastic season. I loved the first episode of the first season and the same goes for this season.
I would like to mention the changes to the opening titles. They kept some of the original theme’s scenes and then added in some new ones for the second season. The theme itself has changed also with Bear McCreary switching it up a little and changing some of the lyrics to French for Raya Yarbrough. I guess I loved the original so much, that I will have to let this new one grow on me a bit. It also sets precedence for every season to have the opening titles be a bit different. I wonder if they will go back to the original theme music after this season.
The episode opens with Claire lying on her back at Craigh na Dun. She searches for something she has lost, and finds it in the grass. It is a ring, but it is missing its stone. She searches for the stone, but cannot find it. She screams at the sky and then at the ground. She slowly walks away from the stones, realizing she left the Jamie and the others back in the 1700s.
She walks slowly down a paved road, boots clicking on the pavement. A “modern” car rolls up behind her and beeps. She is hesitant to turn around to see what the car is and who is in it. A man gets out of the car to see if she is alright. Claire asks what year it is. The answer is 1948. Claire follows up with the question of who won Culloden. The British won, and the future has not changed. Claire breaks down crying.
The episode title card gives us a glimpse of young Roger MacKenzie (Rory Burns).
Inverness, 1948: Frank arrives at the hospital. He is obviously is nervous and smoothes back his hair. The doctor finds that she is dehydrated with superficial cuts and bruises, emotionally distraught, but getting better. Frank sees Claire laying in bed though the door window. A radio is blaring 1940s music. With trepidation, Frank goes in the room. Claire asks him to turn the radio off, but does not realize it is Frank who has entered the room. (Little Easter egg right there-Frank turning the knob on the radio is a nod to the scene in the opening titles.) Claire sees that it is Frank from the reflection in the window and reacts nervously to his presence. Frank is grateful to have her back, and reaches for her. Claire sees a flashback to Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) at that moment and recoils from Frank. Frank is confused by this reaction. A news photographer enters the room, takes a picture, and is promptly escorted out by a nurse. Frank tells Claire that Reverend Wakefield (James Fleet) has offered to take them in and let Claire recover. Claire wants to know if Mrs. Graham (Tracey Wilkinson) still works for Reverend Wakefield. Frank sees Claire’s clothes on the chair beside her.
Reverend Wakefield watches through a window as Claire pours over books about Culloden in the yard. Frank has received a reply from a professor friend about Claire’s clothes, telling him they are an example of 18th century Scottish women’s wardrobe. Both Frank and the Reverend are confused about how she came into possession of those clothes. Mrs. Graham brings Claire more books. Frank and the Reverend are again confused why she is so interested in Culloden and the Jacobite rebellion. The Reverend shows him a newspaper photo of Claire that states, “Kidnapped by the fairies?”
Claire cannot find what she wants in the Reverend’s books. Two fighter planes fly over. Mrs. Graham comments there might be another war soon. Claire is upset by the mention of another war. She uses the F word and this reminds her of Jamie not knowing what it meant. It brings a smile to her face. She catches herself using the present tense for Jamie, and realizes she must use “was” as he is dead, lying in a grave somewhere. She just wants to know if he died at Culloden. It is through this conversation between Mrs. Graham and Claire that we realize that Claire has told her story to Mrs. Graham and she believes it. Mrs. Graham also tells her to begin to move on because she is with Frank now.
Later on, Frank heads upstairs to his bedroom, but he is asked by Claire to come into her room. Frank is happy to do so. Claire wants to explain where she was and what happened to her. Frank insists that she does not have to do that. He is happy to just have her back. Claire tells him anyways.
Fast-forward to daylight and Claire has finished telling Frank her story. Claire argues that her tale is absurd as Frank seems to believe her. She makes the mistake of referring to herself as his ex-wife, but she still wears Frank’s wedding ring. Frank is really just happy to have her back. Claire mentions again that she married and loved another man. Frank starts to get mad (with some sadness, as well) at her constantly mentioning this, as he reminds her that he had to deal with her sudden disappearance. He is happy that at least she did not leave on her own, she was taken away. He really is accepting of this whole situation. He is just glad, once again, to have Claire back. He is pouring his heart out to her. In the middle of him begging her to move on with him as her husband, she tells him she is pregnant. At first, Frank thinks it might be his, but understands soon after that it is Jamie’s child. This sends Frank into a rage, standing above her with a fist at the ready. He stops himself and leaves. Frank runs down the stairs and into the shed. He takes his anger, sadness, and frustration out on the shed’s contents.
Frank is apologizing to Reverend Wakefield for all the damage he caused. They discuss Claire’s pregnancy and Frank tells the Reverend that he got tested after Claire disappeared and is in fact sterile. Claire and he could not conceive, but Claire saying she was pregnant made him so happy for a moment. That happiness left when he realized it was not his child. During this conversation, right after Frank mentions “fucking,” young Roger walks in. Roger refers to the Reverend as father and stares at Frank for a few seconds before leaving. The conversation turns to Frank possibly filling the “father” void for Claire’s baby.
Frank lays out a plan to Claire in which he will be willing to become father to Claire’s child and go on living as man and wife. They will move to Boston, the child will only know Frank as its father, and she must let Jamie go while Frank still lives. They embrace, Claire responds hesitantly. Claire picks up her old clothes and hands them to Frank. She tries to take Jamie’s ring off, but it will not budge. Frank tells her it is okay to leave it on.
She picks up the ring with the missing stone, examines it, and puts it in her suitcase. She goes downstairs and sees herself in the mirror in her 1945 garb. She hears rustling and goes to the window to find Frank burning her old clothes. She follows the smoke to the sky.
Claire is now looking at the sky and the
Boston (edit: New York City) skyline through an airplane window. She descends the stairs to Frank and takes his hand.
The scene shifts to Le Havre, France, 1745. Jamie is taking Claire’s hand as they disembark a ship at port. There is mention of Jamie being very seasick on the boat ride over from Scotland. Murtagh disembarks and comments, “France. Reeks of frogs, just as I remember it.” Murtagh grabs the bags and is off to find them a room somewhere.
In the room, Jamie is still uncomfortable getting onto the bed, a reminder of what he has been through. He is grateful it does not move. Jamie begins to think about Black Jack Randall again, but Claire draws his attention to her and their plan to change the future. Jamie is still not convinced as to how they can stop the Jacobite rebellion. He thinks maybe they should help them more, rather than try to stop it. Claire, unfortunately, does not remember enough to help aid the army. Claire hopes that Jamie’s cousin, Jared, can help with introductions. Jamie begins to realize that this will take lying to everyone to make it work. Jamie stops himself when he thinks of what they are going to tell Murtagh about the plan.
Murtagh is frustrated with Claire and Jamie that they will not tell him the reason why they are going along with this plan. They have told him why, but not the reason. Jamie promises to tell him when the time is right.
Three weeks later, Claire and Jamie meet with Jared. They try to explain to him why they want to be introduced to certain people in Paris. Jared is skeptical of their motives. It is not until Jamie reveals his back scars from being flogged does Jared believe in him. Jared also needs Jamie. He wants him to run the wine business while he is away in the West Indies, and stay in his house.
Claire leaves Jared and Jamie to walk on the port. She notices people yelling in French. They are bringing a sick man onto the docks. People are being secretive about it, but Claire sees the marks on the sick man’s hands and follows them inside a warehouse. Claire forces her way in (speaking French) and says she is a healer. Jared and Jamie find Claire, but she tells them to stay back because it is contagious. Le Compte St. Germaine walks into the warehouse in all of his regality. He sees Jared, a competitor. Claire confirms it is smallpox and the port authority takes the diagnosis seriously, much to the dismay of the captain of the ship and Le Compte. The law is clear that the cargo and ship must be burned. Jamie begs Claire to come away with him before the scene gets ugly. Before they leave, Le Compte confronts them, and not very nicely.
The episode ends with the infected ship burning in the sea, and Jared warning Claire and Jamie of Le Compte’s revenge.
Episode 202, “Not in Scotland Anymore,” airs next Saturday, April 16, 2016 on Starz at 9 PM ET.
Synopsis: Life in Paris is not without its trials as Jamie struggles to triumph over the traumas of his past. A fortunate meeting with Jacobite leader Prince Charles presents opportunities, while the Duke of Sandringham’s presence brings complications.
Below are clips released after the episode aired.
Source of Clips and Photos: Starz