One more review
I know we are all a bit dizzy having moved from droughtlander to this flood of new inebriating images, events, stories from the Outlander world, but let me add my own musings to the general euphoria, will you? I promise I’ll be brief. As brief as a talkative English teacher + enthusiastic fan of the series can reasonably be. The following ramblings will make sense only if you’ve seen episode one of series 2. So... spoilers ahead, I’m afraid.
The first lines immediately gave me goosebumps: “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. He was gone. They were all gone. The world I’d left only moments ago was now dust”.
I’ve read book 2, though not as much or as often as books 1 or 3 ( my best favourites in the series) , so I wasn't expecting great surprises and I wasn’t sure how I would react to the premiere. I’m not really a fan of the French part of the saga, so honestly I was there hoping the TV series could help me change my mind on that, since it had already happened watching series one re other details I was not very keen on. Well, this first episode based on Dragonfly in Amber had me totally smitten. So very well crafted, acted and cut. I knew what would happen and still I was there surprised and in tears both for the gripping storyline and for the remarkable achievements of our super talented cast and crew.
A Shakespearean opening
The curtain opens and as in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, after the first two minutes you already know you’ll have to watch everything through very special lens, “Through a glass, darkly”.
As in Shakespeare the audience is immediately warned they are going to watch a story with a very sad ending and informed how tragicly the two star-crossed lovers will end up. In Outlander season 2 premiere we are immediately reminded that Diana Gabaldon didn’t write a fairy-tale-like romance. Those who expected to see Jamie and Claire happily sailing toward France with their luggage of hope and love are quite brutally pushed off their pink cloud into an abyss of sorrow and disconcert.
Claire’s painful scream among the stone at Craig Na Duhn is one of the saddest moments I’ve experienced as a TV watcher. Many more to come, I know, when the circle will be finally – but not definitely – closed. You’ve read the book, MG, brave yourself, you can do that!
Back to the future
We’ve seen her cope with the loss of Frank, crying by the fire at Castle Leoch, facing the fact of being lost in the 18th century with sharpness, bravery and resiliance at the beginning of series 1. But in episode one of season 2, back to 1948, Claire is just as we’ve never seen her: pale, helpless, haunted, creepy, confused, angry, furious, wandering around completely lost. Her desperation at discovering that the British won at Culloden is heart-wrenching. We (I mean, those who have read the book) know what she is thinking now, what that defeat means to her. Have you carefully watched what shooting suffering Caitriona’s face conveys in those awkward, painful, heart-breaking spasms?
Frank, at last!
Don’t get me wrong, Jamie is still the hero of my heart in this series and not only. What I mean is that after seeing this version of Frank I can’t be mad at him as I often was while reading. This is not the same Frank we are presented with in Dragonfly in Amber. Tobias Menzies and the screen writers of Ron D. Moore’s staff gave us a different Frank, made him lovable, someone you truly sympathize with, no matter how much you love Jamie and Claire as a couple.
Brilliant are those moments in which Frank reminds Claire, as well as the viewers, of his ancestor, Jack Randal. Glimpses of Black Jack in his behaviour! However, in the first half of the episode Tobias Menzies gifts us with an incredible variety of emotional shades: anxious Frank, happy Frank, furious Frank, betrayed Frank, puzzled Frank, understanding Frank, generous Frank, hopeful Frank, jealous Frank, reasonable Frank, shattered Frank, crying Frank, in love Frank.
No matter what Claire reveals him, even a marriage with another man, even her bearing that other man’s child, even her declaring to be heartbroken and desperate after being forced to leave that other man, he still loves her and wants her to stay as his wife. He is ready to accept her as well as the child she is expecting considering it as his own and eager to plan a new life together as a happy family. All this makes Frank quite the truly honourable guy, quite Jamie-ish, I’d say. Don’t you agree?
Hand in hand back in time again
And then Boston, and those hands reaching out for one another, touching and grasping: Frank and Claire are ready to start all over again. “One more step”, he says. But suddenly and magically Claire and the viewers are transported back in time again. Claire’s helpless, numb gaze vanishes, she smiles. The hand she grasps belongs to a gorgeous, tender, red- haired familiar face: Jamie is back! And when he reappears, I’m done! I can’t resist nor stop my tears this time, and when even strangled sobs comes out, I must look around to check if I am completely alone as I think.
Jamie and Claire: awkward beginnings
Something’s wrong, something’s broken between our beloved lovers. We see Jamie in trouble, trying to process what has just happened to him - it was just a week before - and we see Claire worried for him, attempting to distract him from his dark thoughts with the suggestion of a great achievement, the one she had already hinted at when they were on the ship sailing to France: “let’s save Scotland, let’s stop the Jacobite uprising, let’s change the future . She wants to give him a mission to save him from dwelling on his horrific, terrifying memories.
She’s pregnant, he is traumatized and crippled, not the most promising couple of secret agents right now. But Jamie trusts Claire, Claire trusts Jamie and we all trust them both.
Secrets, lies and new enemies
It’s the destiny of all the secret agents: their lives become a net of lies. They must pretend and hide the truth to everyone, even to the people they love. This is Jamie’s greatest worry: he and Claire will have to lie to everyone to get to their goal, boycotting the Jacobites. They start warning Murtagh , who has accompanied them to France and who trusts both Jamie and Claire with his life. They can’t tell him much though, apart from the aim of their plotting and lying. Murtagh is deeply disappointed. No, not an honourable path ahead, Jamie thinks.
First honourable Jacobite who falls into their net is Jamie’s cousin, Jared. He trusts Jamie and believes to his new interest in politics immediately. How could he possibly doubt Jamie’s hate for the English and the Hanoverian king after being shown the scars on his young cousin’s back and body?
He offers Jamie and Claire a home and a part of his earnings in the wine trade, if they accept to take care of his house and business while he travels to the West Indies. Perfetct solution. Moreover, he will introduce Jamie to the Jacobite leaders in Paris.
Finally, when we have just started thinking life in France is not that bad after all, Claire manages to make a new proud, powerful and vendicative enemy for her and Jamie, just going for a walk along the docks in order to take some fresh air and forget the morning fits of nausea due to her pregnancy. Can she ignore that someone is trying to hide an that an epidemy of small pox has spread on a ship? How could she? Not her! The outcome is that her interfering causes great loss to that someone: his ship and all the goods on it must be burnt. And that someone is not anyone. He is le comte St Germaine.
I can’t wait for next episode, now. Are you ready for Jamie & Claire and the red dress?