With the second episode of season 2, it becomes evident that Jamie is not fully healed, neither mentally nor physically. Jamie, Claire, and even Murtagh come to the realization that things in France are quite different from what they’ve experienced in Scotland.
Due to Jamie’s continued nightmares about Randall, Claire seeks out an apothecary to procure something to help him sleep. The appearance of the apothecary perfectly fits the description in the book, including the crocodile suspended overhead. Finding out that news of her dealings with the Comte St. Germain has spread, Claire forms a friendship with the owner of the apothecary, Master Raymond, who is no fan of St. Germain.
Jamie and Murtagh meet with Charles Stuart at a brothel, a meeting which was arranged by Jamie’s cousin, Jared. At first glance, the brothel seems to be the classiest of it’s kind in all of history, but that illusion is quickly blown out of the water when the Madame interrupts for a quick bit of performance: Some of the prostitutes enter, pretending to be wives of the clientele, wagging their fingers at their “husbands.” They then proceed to display dildos which are passed around as gifts, with the additional comment made by the Madame that others are available for purchase or rent.
Murtagh makes a comment about French men being unable to satisfy their women, to which Charles responds by informing him that neither his opinion nor his presence was welcome. Jamie directs the discussion to a more political nature, and it doesn’t take long for the two Scots to realize that Charles has no business running a country. Despite never having stepped foot on Scottish soil, Bonnie Prince Charlie is driven by the notion of divine right rather than an actual desire to be king. Neither men are the type to mince words, and those words weigh heavily on Charles. Upon relaying the events of the evening to Claire, she comes up with a plan to prevent Charles from getting the funds he needs to wage war.
Claire visits a friend who, while having her legs waxed, introduces Claire to a young girl named Mary Hawkins. The purpose of the visit is to finagle her way into getting an invitation to court. Things work out, and two weeks later, they attend a ball. Claire’s dress stuns the two Scots, and Jamie even suggests she cover herself a bit more. Of course, she doesn’t, with the exception of a small fan meant to block the view of her bosom.
Jamie is dragged away to meet the king shortly after their arrival, only to find a very distraught and constipated king sitting on his… well, throne. Jamie suggests the king should eat porridge, which the king views as “peasant food,” but Jamie swears by it. Meanwhile, Claire excuses herself from the haughty and insulting Frenchwomen who are interested in little more than court gossip, and finds herself alone with Monsieur Duverne, the minister of finance. The exchange between them is not a pleasant one, and results in Jamie arriving just in time to toss the lecherous drunkard in the water.
After Claire tells Jamie who the man was, they end up back inside the palace, where Duverne can’t stop apologizing for his behavior. Plans are made for Jamie and Duverne to engage in a game of chess. The king then makes an appearance and admonishes Duverne before confirming with Jamie about the porridge. Murtagh is distracted by a lady in the king’s entourage wearing a dress with her breasts exposed—it’s probably the first moment Murtagh has been anything but unhappy and homesick since they arrived in France.
An exchange between Claire and the Duke of Sandringham results in the introduction of Alexander Randall (Laurence Dobiesz), younger brother to Jack Randall, and the same man Claire saw speaking to the young Mary Hawkins earlier that evening. Much to Claire’s chagrin, she learns that the bane of her existence and Jamie’s is very much alive and well, having only sustained injuries during the stampede that allowed for Jamie’s escape.
Learning to navigate the ins and outs of French life proves to be a difficult adjustment not only for Claire, but Jamie and Murtagh as well. It’s pretty obvious that the reputation that Charles Stuart has gained during the time period is well-earned. If Claire and Jamie intend to stop the Jacobite rebellion, they’re going to have their work cut out for them.
The book’s description of Alexander, and the introduction of the character, makes it sound like Alex is the spitting image of Jack/Frank. Thankfully the role was given to someone who only bears a slight resemblance to Tobias Menzies. Had they decided to use Tobias Menzies for yet another role, I believe it would be going far too overboard in riding the “hey, he looks like this other guy I know” train. Alex and Jack are such completely polar opposites, it really makes me curious about their childhood. The revelation that Jack Randall lives was beautifully handled, although it varied from the book, but I feel that this way better captures the sense of foreshadowing and dread that is necessary for his eventual return to the story.