If last week’s episode didn’t convince you that we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto, there can be no doubt that we’ve entered a completely new world with this second episode of the season. Everything about this episode is sumptuous – costuming, sets, music. Intrigue, swordfighting, footwear… larger than life. I could tell you the good, bad and the ugly about this episode, but I’ll have to stick with the good and the bad – there certainly was no ugly here! I do have a couple of issues with this episode, but let’s start with the things that I thought were done particularly well. Honestly, after a first watching of this episode, I REALLY didn’t like it. I’ll get into the reasons why in a minute. But a second watch turned me around somewhat, and on balance, the things I liked about it outweigh my (few) small and (one) large objection.
The first lovemaking scene of the season – but it’s not the tender or playful (or even the sensuously rough) love between Jamie and Claire that we look for – and that should have been a clue that not all is what it seems. There’s nothing “love” like about what we thought Jamie was involved in – and as it turns out, it was a dream that quickly became a nightmare. Here, and again later in the episode, Jamie is still too damaged and nowhere near healed enough to perform without the memory of Black Jack thrusting its way into his head. He’s still only weeks removed from those terrible few days, definitely still crippled in body and soul. While he sincerely loves Claire, and is glad of her presence, he can’t bring himself to make love without Black Jack joining in. I thought this scene was a bit over the top, with blood flying everywhere, but it definitely shows how deeply this event affected him. And with the revelations from the end of the episode – that Black Jack is still alive, and not trampled to death by the Wentworth cow stampede – you can be sure that there will be a confrontation between the two that will produce bigger fireworks than the King provides! (And, oh, a side note, I LOVED the Duke’s smirk as he leaves the room, after Claire finds out from Alex Randall that Black Jack isn’t dead. How much does he know of what happened, I wonder?)
Claire’s a little snippy with the servants, don’t you think? The poor girl is just trying to keep her job, and Claire insists on doing it for her! “Why do you fold your clothes?” the chambermaid asks, and Claire gives in with not such good grace. “I shall endeavor to be sloppier in my personal habits,” she retorts, and says she’ll be gone long enough for the maid to strip the sheets and remake the bed. The scene was really very cute, highlighting Claire’s always independent spirit. And off she goes, wearing the lovely Dior-inspired “bar dress,” to meet one of the seasons’s most anticipated characters.
Maitre Raymond! Raymond is a scandalous creature, described as looking like a frog, sells potions and poisons, and has a stuffed crocodile guarding his establishment. His shop sure looks like it would be a delight to walk through! The high shelves, rolling library stairs, drawers and cabinets galore – this was done so well! And Dominique Pinon as the mysterious Raymond is terrific. He calls Claire “Madonna,” not because he knows she is with child, but (as we know from the books) he sees auras, and Claire’s is blue, symbolic of Mary, the mother of Jesus. How can you not love a friendly little wizard in a mysterious curiosity shop?
The intrigue begins. How best to accomplish their goal of preventing the Jacobite rebellion? Murtagh, ever plain speaking and forthright, offers the easiest solution – kill the Prince. “If you want to kill a snake, cut off its head,” he urges Jamie. “And the head of this rebellion is Charles Stuart. Kill the prince, you kill the rebellion.” Jamie and Murtagh discuss tactics over a much-watched swordfighting practice, where Jamie’s physical weakness may slow him down, but can’t stop him completely. But Jamie doesn’t want to go that route. Regicide is not part of his honor code, even if he is taking some hits to that code. I’m including the next photo just because we don’t see Jamie smiling much these days.
Murtagh hasn’t warmed up to France, and confesses that he even misses “Lard Bucket and Big Head.” Murtagh’s got the best lines of the episode! His role has really grown – from being Jamie’s mostly silent scowling guardian angel to the voice of conscience, Jiminy Murtagh speaks his mind. So, after Jared comes through with a letter of introduction and an invitation to meet with Charles, they see their clear path – money. If they can cut off the flow of cash to the cause, the cause will dry up. And of course, this brings us back to Dougal and the money he raised in Scotland – when will that come in to the second season story?
So off Jamie and Murtagh go to meet their Prince in, of all places, Madame Elise’s brothel, even though Murtagh has not been invited (“I go where he goes.”), as Charles points out. Charles has been fed the “hand of God” line all of his pampered life, “It is God’s will that I, Charles Stuart, unite the clans. It is God’s will that I be their beacon of light, for I am, by divine right, the outstretched Hand of of God.” “It’s not too late to slit his throat,” Murtagh mutters in an aside to Jamie. Jamie walks a fine line, trying to display an allegiance to this pompous little ass, while trying to sow the seeds of doubt in Charles’ mind. “You speak of the clans… well, Sire, the truth of it is, the clans canna agree on the color of the sky, let alone put aside their grievances in order to fight the British.” Charles doesn’t want to hear this piece of truth, or Murtagh’s agreement with it, but concludes that since Jamie speaks the truth out of concern for his countrymen, at the risk of Charles getting mad at him for it, that Jamie is the perfect person to represent the cause to the court of King Louis – a better entre Jamie couldn’t ask for. But right now, unfortunately, the outstretched hand seems more interested in reaching for the dildos being passed around by Mme. Elise and the women on display than in truly working for the good of the Scottish people.
The bit about the dildos was really too much for me – I don’t understand why that was included, why any time was spent on them. Yes, we know we’re in a brothel, and the location isn’t a problem at all – but why bring this up? What did they cut out to include this bit of unnecessary irritation? The “epouses” (wives) was cute, but this graphic bit certainly wasn’t. Was there no other piece of more relevant dialogue that could have been included? No more Murtagh witticisms, no lingering glance at some of the stunning costumes or architecture of Versailles, or loving conversation between Jamie and Claire that these precious seconds of film could have been spent on? (And geez, did these look at all interesting to any of you? They looked more like pepper grinders than erotic toys. I guess everything has changed in 200 years.)
New characters that I love: Louise de la Tour, Marquise of Rohan, may be my new favorite character. I loved how she slapped the man waxing her every time he pulled off a strip. Imperious, capricious, demanding – my kind of girl. I feel very sorry for little Mary Hawkins, being put under the worldly Louise’s care and tutelage! This event was one of the most anticipated by book fans – every time the question of “what scene are you hoping to see this season” came up, one of the most frequently mentioned was the “honeypot” scene. I think it was Claire’s retelling to Jamie, and showing off her own waxed legs and “oxters” (armpits) that we wanted to see – but Jamie’s continued PTSD, and the way the scene was written, being interrupted by the memory of BJR, disappointed me. This wasn’t quite what I was waiting for.
Joseph Duverney, the little, friendly, agreeable, toesucking Minister of Finance, can come over and fetish all over me any time. How many men would apologize after another man pushed them through a window? Climbing out of that pond and trying to dry his oh-so-glorious wig by the fire was a delight. He ended up looking like an ’80s hair band rock star with his wig. He could be pivotal to Jamie and Claire’s attempt to cut off Charles Stuart’s funds, and the beginning of their friendship would be a funny bar story. And I love how Jamie’s taking it so cool – it’s easier with Duverney than it is with Sandringham – forgiving the past, at least on the surface, to get to the larger goal.
And where Charles Stuart is slightly delusional about his own importance, Louis has no doubts. I am sure I would not like to be King if it meant that I had to put up with people standing around while I tried to potty. And I’m hoping that Jamie’s suggestion of porridge to help the poor constipated King actually has results – both with the King’s bowel issues and Jamie and Claire’s mission, because who wouldn’t become fast friends with someone who gave them the solution to their blockage problems? (And if that second thing doesn’t happen – I don’t really need to know if the first thing happens – then it was another wasted bit of screen time. Although I did love the King’s robe.)
And just a few words about a few others – Mary Hawkins certainly seems to have something going on with Alex Randall! Well, who wouldn’t if you were about to suffer an arranged marriage with an older man who has warts? And Annalise de Marillac, Jamie’s old flame! She didn’t fit my image at all of the character from the book – she’s described as very tiny, almost doll-like, and I had been looking forward to seeing that, but as a minor character, oh well. Can’t have everything.
I certainly can’t move on without commenting on the costumes. If Terry Dresbach and team don’t win EVERY award possible, there’s no justice in the world. Jamie’s reaction to Claire in the red dress – and Murtagh’s reaction as well, which earned him a thump from Jamie – was perfect. And apparently she did find a larger fan! (I trust in Terry that the style really was to have the dress that short so beautiful shoes would show, but I wasn’t crazy about that.) The clothes of the women AND men at Court were all stunningly decorative, amazingly detailed, and ALL built from scratch. Claire’s clothes are all slightly out of time, but still in keeping with the feel of the period, just as Terry had intended – with a modern (to the 1940s) flair, which makes her stand out, but totally appropriate to the 1740s.
There are many interviews with Terry on her design and ideas – I won’t discuss this more here, except to say that I’m in total awe. Especially of the King’s mistress’s dress – La Nesle’s “nipple dress,” which made Murtagh more than a little nuts as well. To learn more about this dress, click here for a Vanity Fair interview with Terry.
And finally, on to my big issue with this episode, one which I truly hope gets resolved. But as this is the same issue I had last season, I’m not overly hopeful. Why do we love Jamie? Why is he our book boyfriend, our fantasy lover, the reason for our obsession? It’s not just because he’s so gorgeous – which Sam Heughan is, of course, physically reflecting my book Jamie really well. It’s because he’s brave, bold, capable, romantic, and able to have and express soul-deep love. And I don’t believe that Ron Moore gets that. And because he doesn’t understand the essence of Jamie, and how that translates into the soul-deep relationship he has with Claire, that doesn’t filter down to the writers of each episode. Part of it is the compressed timeline – Jamie and Claire haven’t had the time to develop that relationship in the TV series that we saw in the books (and if you haven’t read the books, I really do urge you to try them); they didn’t have the time at Lallybroch to really live normally, as opposed to living until extreme stress; Jamie didn’t have the time to heal before they reach this point that he had in the book.
And some of it, I really do think, is that Ron Moore is a man. He’s never going to fall in love with Jamie the way we (women) do. So, as a result, we have a Jamie who isn’t quite seen as an equal by his modern-sensibility wife, even though I think if you were able to ask Claire, she would disagree with me. Claire is the one who makes the deals; Claire runs off and makes the big moves; Claire confronts the Duke of Sandringham with information she hasn’t shared with Jamie, that the Duke is a secret Jacobite, which, as an artistocrat, makes him a “traitor to the Crown,” and creates an opportunity she can exploit.
Because he’s not farther along in his emotional healing, he can’t let her in to his pain. There were little flashes in this episode that made me feel like she was treating him more like her son than her husband, particularly after Jamie and Murtagh return from their meeting with Charles. I don’t expect Jamie to be completely over Black Jack by this point – and he never will be completely over it – but I haven’t seen the bold, brilliant, decisive Jamie that I fell in love with. That Jamie deserves and can handle the headstrong, equally brilliant Claire. But this Jamie isn’t there yet, and since this show isn’t about Jamie’s personal growth into the man he should be, I worry that he’ll never get there, or won’t get there soon enough to have the show hold my interest over seasons to come.
Don’t get me wrong – on the whole, I love the show – there’s just an attitude, subtle, but real, that Jamie is a secondary character, not an equal to Claire. I really do want to hear your opinions on this – agree or disagree (but respectfully to every commenter, including me, please!)?
I was able to attend the Television Academy’s Outlander panel in New York, where we got an in-depth look into the costumes, music and settings of this season. This was probably the best Outlander panel that I have seen, and I urge you to take the time and watch!
Click here for extras from Starz, including “Inside the World of Outlander,” a short video with behind-the-scenes secrets of each episode (the current episode’s “Inside” may not yet be available)
My interviews with Terry, Ron, Sam, Cait and Saks Fifth Avenue exec Mark Briggs at the Saks Costume Event – click here
Follow me on Twitter: @OutlanderTIBS, @ErinConrad2 and @threeifbyspace
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