Previously on Outlander
It’s been almost a year since season one of Outlander, and when we were in 18th century Scotland last, Jamie and Claire were fleeing the British by crossing into France. So it’s quite a surprise when the first scenes of season two open up to Claire’s face, realizing she’s gone back through the stones of Craigh Na Dun to her original life in 1948. Like a shell-shocked soldier, all of the noise of modern life make her flinch; it’s been two years since a radio played, or a plane flew overhead, or a flashbulb popped. It’s also been two years since she’s seen Frank, and if he was hoping for a warm and fuzzy reunion when he gets the call to collect his wife from the hospital, he instead gets a chilly reception.
While she convalesces at Reverend Wakefield’s house, she lets Mrs. Graham (Wakefield’s housekeeper and also the leader of the local Scottish Druid Union) in on what really happened to her. Not in the least bit fazed by the information, she basically pats Claire on the head like a batty grandma and tells her that she’s just going to have to get over it. Good advice, it seems, that she acts on immediately by locking Frank in a room with her and dropping truth bombs on him for the next twelve hours. She’s been living two hundred years in the past. Boom! She was another man’s wife. Pow! She loved him more, and she’s going to have his baby. Blam!
A small council with the Reverend (and some of his breakables) and Frank realizes that he still wants Claire and her baby, although with a few minor conditions on keeping the marriage alive. They’re going to move to Boston and raise the baby together, but also she’s got to stop searching for Jamie, which she’s been doing frantically with the help of the Rev’s historical library. Apparently Claire is going to have to take the hint and actually get over Jamie. She agrees to it all, though, and as they start their new life together in America, she steps off the plane…
And into Jamie’s arms! It’s 1745, and the Frasers and Murtaugh are disembarking into Le Havre, France, the seaside town where Jamie’s cousin Jared imports wine and whiskey for his booze business. Importing/Exporting sounds like a sham living, but Jared is actually legit and agrees to take Jamie on as a sort of partner and let him run the Parisian office. What Jamie and Claire fail to mention is that they really want to live in Paris to infiltrate the Jacobite clan there and stop the Scottish rebellion at its source: Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Having spent almost zero time in France, it’s surprising how quickly the Frasers make an enemy. While taking some air, Claire watches a newly ported ship hide some sick crew members in a shed. When she gets close enough to the invalids to diagnose them with smallpox, the whole storage building, all of it’s barrels of wine, and the ship they came in on have to be burned and salted so that the the pox doesn’t spread through the city. You know who doesn’t like having their expensive stuff set on fire? The Comte St. Germaine, owner of said diseased imports and one of Jared’s rivals in the Import/Export game. Life with a Sassenach is never dull, indeed.
For a season opener, this episode was pretty light on actual events but made up for it with some intensely emotional scenes between Frank and Claire. Every word between them, and they were not being generous with words, was tense and heavy and full of everything that they weren’t actually saying to each other. We’re supposed to be on Claire’s side and forgive her for being in shock, but it’s not as nearly as easy as forgiving Frank. It’s the first time in a long time that Frank has been his own character separate from Claire and Jamie (or Claire and Black Jack Randall), and he’s far more interesting now that he’s wrestling with anger and forgiveness and hope and pottery than he ever was last season. It’s funny how sympathetic of a character he ends up being considering he is not even the man I want to root for. He makes some weird choices, sure–he has no trouble accepting time travel but estranged pregnancy sends him over the edge? But opening the season with more Tobias Menzies was totally worth it; I didn’t even know I wanted more of him in my life until the first 30 minutes had flown by.
Not that Jamie wasn’t missed, and I know we were all getting a little antsy before he finally made his glorious ginger entry halfway through the episode. I may or may not have let out a gasp when he appeared on the screen. There’s not much to say about Jamie just yet–sure, he’s got a jawline that could cut glass, and he’s allegedly good with numbers. He defends his wife’s honor in fluent French. But other than fall for Claire’s weirdly played Lady MacBeth act (questionable) and take off his shirt (not questionable at all), he just doesn’t really do much. Yet. It’s only episode one; I’ve seen the trailers for this season, and I’m sure he’ll be exhausted by the end of episode seventeen.
One of the things I’m really looking forward to this season is the costumes. The drab tartan and knitted cowls were cozy and perfect for soggy Scotland, but this is Paris. There’s going to be a major upgrade and a probable Emmy. They also didn’t get a lot of action this episode (it’s okay–it’s only the first hour), but some of the highlights were Claire’s impractical but spectacularly fitted pregnancy pencil skirt, and Frank’s enormous wide-legged suit pants and sleeve garters.
Outlander S2E1= 7.6/10