TV Review: Outlander S2 E01, “Through A Glass Darkly”

Published on June 14th, 2016 in: Books, Current Faves, Reviews, TV, TV Reviews |

By Laury Scarbro


After the way season one ended, delving into season two of Outlander could be a little disorienting for some. It follows much as the book did, but such is the way of a story involving time travel. Stick with it; you won’t be disappointed.

The episode begins with Claire awakening at Craigh na Dun, in her own time. After walking down the road a bit, an old man happens by in his car. Asking what seem to be strange questions, Claire realizes that her efforts to stop the Battle of Culloden were for naught and she has a bit of a breakdown. Later, she’s reunited with Frank at the hospital. She understandably shrinks away when he attempts to get close to her, since all she can see is Black Jack Randall rather than the man she once married.

Returning to the reverend’s house to complete her recovery, a colleague of Frank’s confirms that the clothes Claire was wearing upon her return come from the 18th century, which baffles Frank because one cannot just go buy things like that in 1948 England. Adding to the mystery, Claire has chewed through every resource the reverend has on the Battle of Culloden, but Frank believes he’ll find out the truth when Claire’s ready to tell him what really happened to her. Claire’s only real comfort upon her return is Mrs. Graham, the reverend’s housekeeper. The gentle old lady believes Claire’s story, and while Claire is tortured by not knowing Jamie’s fate, the housekeeper encourages her to treasure the time she’s had, but stop chasing ghosts.

That night, Claire tells Frank her tale. It seemingly takes the entire night. He’s willing to believe her, even getting on his knees while telling her that he loves her unconditionally and nothing she could say or do would change that. That oath is tested when she admits that she’s pregnant—with Jamie’s child. The facial acting in this moment is remarkable, as you can see Frank’s face change from joy, to shock, to disbelief, and finally to good ole Captain Jack Randall as his rage takes over. He lunges at her, fist balled up and ready to strike, but stops himself. He ends up in the garden shed where he proceeds to take his anger out on helpless crates, shelves, and glassware.

Frank admits to the reverend that he is sterile and cannot have children. The reverend encourages Frank to accept the child as his own, and apparently Frank takes that advice. He tells Claire he wants to have a family, and that he’s been offered a job at Harvard. He places two conditions on their situation: First, they must raise the child as their own. Secondly, Claire has to stop searching for Jamie, she has to let him go. She agrees, even though it’s breaking her heart. So much for unconditional love, huh?


Finally we get back to the meat of the story, when Claire reaches for Frank’s hand as she steps off the plane in the US, and we get a time warp to 1745, in Le Havre, France, as Claire takes Jamie’s hand as she steps off the boat. That night the two set about making plans for how they’re going to stop the impending doom at Culloden. Claire’s plan is to get as close to the key players in the Jacobite army as they can, and stop the war before it starts, enlisting Jamie’s cousin, Jared, to help make the introductions.

Three weeks later they meet with him, and Jared’s understandably skeptical about Jamie’s motives, since Jamie has never been interested in politics before. Jamie strips off his shirt when pressed for an answer about his reasons, which convinces Jared, who then proposes that Jamie run his wine business in Paris while Jared’s away on business.

St Germain

Fortune doesn’t smile on the couple for very long. While Claire is taking a walk along the docks, a boat arrives and people are being hauled off of it into a warehouse. Claire recognizes it for what it is: smallpox. She confirms it for the harbormaster, much to the chagrin of both the ship’s captain, and the man whose cargo was on board, the Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber). The ship and its goods must be destroyed to prevent the illness from spreading to the town, which will cost the Comte a considerable amount of money. The Comte issues the threat that both Claire and Jamie will pay for what they’d done.

So, what we can surmise here is that something happens that causes Claire to go back to her own time, she’s pregnant in both time periods, and the British still win the Battle of Culloden. I was really surprised at how understanding Frank seemed to be once Claire told him her story, even accepting of the fact that she’d loved another man. I can’t imagine many people would be able to rationalize it as he did, but I believe somewhere in his mind it made sense that she would still be sad and grieving, because in her reality, she’d only just left Jamie a few days earlier.

The time jumping pretty much got on my nerves, both when I read the book and again when I saw this episode. Despite the necessity of it to fully tell the story, it felt much as it does when you’re watching a live TV show and are forced to sit through commercials. That is, of course, no fault of Frank’s or Tobias Menzies, but I’d really rather spend my time in the 18th century where Claire’s real adventure is happening.

Here’s the trouble with watching a TV show based on a novel: You come into it with certain expectations, waiting for something to happen. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the events in France play out, and even more anxious to see what they do with the costuming. What one reads in the book and what’s seen on the show are so in tune with one another, I’m curious to know exactly how close my imagination is to what’s going to be on the screen.

Finally, in the Comte St. Germain, we have the makings of a new villain. I’m impressed with how he’s being presented, reeking of the ego, arrogance, and all-around “Hey look at how French and privileged I am” personality he carries in the book. I can’t wait to see how his part of the story will play out.

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