The rough shape of this episode matches up with my predictions, with a few alterations for expediency. In general, the changes are minor and won’t affect the plot, so while I’ll be noting them, in most cases, I do so only as a point of interest.
The title card over Louise getting dressed works, but isn’t quite as evocative or symbolic as most of the title cards to date. The closest is probably Jamie getting into his kilt, and they both do basically the same thing: provide the viewer a brief glimpse into the clothing of the era and culture. But there’s nothing beyond the surface, so it’s a bit of a let-down.
Jamie’s dream (EDIT: He does not have scars on his back in his dreams. I did not even notice that the first time. How heartbreaking!) ends with Claire promising him that Jack Randall is dead, and Jamie saying he knows; he saw the body. What the what?
It seemed, at the end of last season, that they weren’t going to go for the Black Jack is dead but not really plot line. Whether or not BJR survived was not addressed at all in the season finale or the season premiere, and given the way the stampede was handled, it sure looked like he was alive. Murtagh glanced at him and moved on. He was under a door, and it looked like he was just knocked out, not trampled the way Marley was in the book. I feel like this is a giant problem, because Murtagh would have checked. And if he found a pulse, Murtagh would have slit his throat.
Moving past that, though, it’s odd that Claire never used this as a reassurance when Jamie was in his darkest moments. It makes the series feel less like a continuous story when something that should have been ongoing pops into existence just to provide a point of conflict in an episode. And, having seen the entire episode, it doesn’t last very long. Claire, at least, knows the truth by the end. I very much doubt she’s going to inform Jamie, though. The fact that 205 is titled “Untimely Resurrections” implies that, for Jamie at least, BJR will be resurrected in that episode.
They begin with Paris – 1745. I’ve heard that the Le Havre bits were supposed to be 1744, not 1745 as was shown in the episode. I wonder if this is an extension of that mistake, or if we are meant to believe that some time has passed, pushing us into 1745? Claire says they’ve been here for several weeks, then later three months. Would Le Havre have been late fall 1744, maybe October? Is this meant to be January? Everyone is dressed warmly, but not overly so. Charles will set sail in June, if I remember correctly. That doesn’t leave the show much time to move. I’ve got to believe this is still a mistake, and we’re meant to be in 1744. I hope they fix it for the later releases. EDIT: Apparently the live episode was fixed. Whew.
The servants insisting on tending to Claire is probably setting up the later punishment that Fergus will insist on receiving. We’re only forty years away from the French Revolution, so I question whether they would truly be that solicitous. I don’t know as much about the French in this period, though, so maybe I’m wrong. I know in England in the early 1800s there was an accepted distance between upper and lower classes, and condescension was not a dirty word, but a desirable occurrence. Perhaps it was similar in France at this point.
Maitre Raymond is…well, I’m going to reserve my opinion until we see more of him. I like that his accent is difficult to pin down. He doesn’t sound French, and he doesn’t sound British. He doesn’t sound like much of anything, which is appropriate for someone who was originally from the prehistoric Orkneys and is, I am pretty sure, unstuck in time.
His eyes move in a little circle as he says the word “Madonna,” almost as though he is trying to look around her, rather than directly at her. I adore this piece of worldbuilding, as he is examining her blue aura. An aura that marks her as one of “his.” And, because of that, he immediately trusts her a little more than he might otherwise have done. When she tries to show off with the Sang du Crocodile, he responds with an amused tolerance, and admits to his minor deception.
Her asking for catmint using its taxonomic name is a bit of a test – to see if he’s a charlatan or not. But he passes (despite Nepeta cataria not actually having that name in 1744; prior to 1753 it was called Nepeta floribus interrupte spicatis pedunculatis), and after finding out Jamie’s problem, recommends a different preparation of valerian and hops, which is a much better choice than catmint.
I wonder if their shared use of binomial taxonomy is supposed to be anachronistic? Probably not, given that the publication of Species Plantaram is only nine years away, and Systema Naturae was published in 1735. The show fudges dates all of the time – see witch burning in Scotland years after it had stopped. But it would be a little hint, if so.
If you don’t already watch Outlander several times for each episode, I highly recommend it. On this, my second viewing (but with many stops and starts and rewatching scenes for details), I am noticing many things I missed the first time. Such as Raymond’s amazing waistcoat. I’m positive that every one of those embroidered figures is symbolic, probably to the Kabbalah, given the descriptions from the books. Although the eye makes me think of Geillis’s Jacobite brooch from season one, and King James’s eye watching from over the water. (EDIT- other people have noticed this, too. But at least in the book, Raymond wasn’t a Jacobite. Why would he be? He tries to not get involved in history. So it will be curious if the eye really is a Jacobite symbol.)(EDIT 2: Terry Dresbach answers all of my symbolism questions on her blog!)
I suppose, since this is no longer Claire recounting her story to Bree and Roger as in the books, that it is acceptable to break Claire’s PoV from now on. The book series will eventually have quite a large number of PoV characters, so it makes sense to set the precedent early, but I hope they use their power wisely. In this episode, at least, they do.
This scene with Murtagh and Jamie practicing does a number of things. One, it establishes that Jamie is not yet ready to fight beyond practice. Two, it reinforces Murtagh’s dislike of the French and the fact that all three of our principal characters are now Outlanders. Three, it gives the important bit of exposition that dueling is outlawed. Four, it establishes the idea of killing Charles, which is going to come back to bite Jamie in the arse on the eve of Culloden. That last bit is perhaps a little clunky – Murtagh’s a good strategist, and should have already thought of the things Jamie points out. But I can buy that he’s cranky and wants to be done with everything. Plus, he hasn’t met Charles yet and doesn’t realize what a danger he is.
Random thought here- Claire doesn’t really seem pregnant. There are several chances throughout the episode to reference her condition, but other than the servants saying it, she doesn’t act pregnant at all. There’s no morning sickness as in the book, and we don’t have the little chicks/fountain vomiting. The last time she and Jamie had sex was at Lallybroch, so she’s at least four, if not five months along now (if the “we’d been in Paris three months” voice over isn’t a lie), so she ought to be showing. And she’s tall and thin, so her bump would be super obvious. Oh. Another thought. This definitely means that the timeline is skewed, because if it’s truly 1745, she’s been pregnant for a REALLY long time. (EDIT: Timeline error confirmed and fixed for the live broadcast.)
Anyway, it doesn’t make or break the episode, but it bothers me that her pregnancy is not a thing, even when she and Jamie are alone. Especially since it was knowledge of the baby that helped bring Jamie back to the light at the end of the last season, and Jamie makes a big deal about the baby in the books.
I am entirely in favor of the next Jamie PoV scene, in the brothel with Charles. Well, I am in favor once we get past gratuitous dildos for ten minutes. They could have cut that down to 30 seconds, or cut it out completely.
In any case, it makes my heart soar to see Jamie try to achieve their admittedly duplicitous goal by being completely true to his character and nature. Although, I suppose you could argue otherwise in the show, since what we’ve seen so far is Dougal raising money for the Jacobite cause. But in the book, it was made quite explicit that the MacKenzie clan was not entirely in favor of supporting King James. It’s one of the strikes against Dougal becoming laird that he’s such a vehement Jacobite.
Although we did see a Grant raid in Rent, and in the deleted scenes, Jamie gave the backstory about the Grant/MacKenzie feud (thanks, Ellen!), so when Jamie says the clans will fight about the color of the sky, we do have some in-universe precedent for that.
This scene also gives us Charles the drunkard and lecher, who is blind to anything but his own desires, whether it’s a woman or the throne of England and Scotland. He uses divine right as an excuse and a justification. He is also quite a snob, dismissing Murtagh and his brilliant, lovely descriptions of Scotland, out of hand. I wish the actor used more of an Italian accent, or perhaps something between Italian and Germanic/Slavic, since his mother was, I believe, Hungarian. His declaration that a leader must be decisive is the worst sort of foreshadowing. He says he doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the ’15, but he follows that edict blindly. Rather than digging in at Edinburgh and setting up his court there (which many scholars believe would have changed everything), he continues south into England.
The fact that Claire mentions Louise as her particular friend, but of no relationship to Charles, is a departure from the books. She is, in fact, his first cousin, and a Princess, not a Marquise. In real life, she and Charles don’t become lovers until after the Rising, but their relationship was a huge part of Dragonfly in Amber, so I’m now wondering if that’s going to be a thing in the show or not. The monkey is introduced, though, so maybe we’ll still have Charles climbing on the rooftops after being bitten. Or maybe they mention the bite only as an homage to something they’ve cut from the show.
Having Louise introduce Mary is somewhat unusual, but I can appreciate that they’re trying to condense scenes and characters as much as possible. Mary is well cast. She is small, and mousy, and timid, but her stutter isn’t quite as pronounced as in the book. I suppose we won’t have Claire telling her to sing to improve the stammer.
This next scene throws me right out of the story. I don’t know about anyone else, but the few times I’ve tried waxing, it did not go well. I certainly wasn’t about to jump into bed with my husband. And I’ve never managed to be “smooth.” But I’m mostly sad because Jamie’s reaction is pretty much the opposite of the books. I don’t mind that he still wants Claire, and turning this from a funny scene into a darker reminder of the trauma he’s dealing with is a valid choice. But I’d like a bit more reassurance that he adores her in her natural state. Our culture is obsessed enough with female grooming, and having Jamie as an advocate for a woman’s normal hair and smell (as opposed to hyacinth oil) has always been a comfort to me.
I am also SO GLAD that Jamie doesn’t say he wants to rape Claire in her red dress. That line bothers me in the book, and he handles it a bit better here. He’s not happy at first, but he is willing to accept it as part of Claire’s essential personality. The only negative is that he victim-blames after what happens with Monsieur Duverney (which Duverney quite blatantly does not), but I’ll whistle past that.
Mary’s lavender dress is so perfect. It sticks out like a sore thumb when compared with Louise, Claire, and Annalise. Speaking of Annalise, I wish they’d cast a much shorter actress. She’s supposed to be tiny and elfin. This actress is beautiful, of course, and it’s obvious that there’s a history with Jamie, but I can’t quite see Jamie being obsessed with her at seventeen. But we get the history of the duel, and Annalise takes Jamie to see Louis, so she serves a purpose. But she definitely is not much like her description in the books. She’s coarser, and blunter. Even Louise is taken aback when she blurts out that her husband is dead. It just felt…odd.
(EDIT: Alastair over at Storywonk called her the French Laoghaire. That’s…actually spot-on. And sad. I liked, in the book, the contrast between the girl who threw herself at Jamie, and the girl that Jamie threw himself at.)
The King’s lever is not exactly like in the book, but they kept his constipation. It’s a little unfortunate that it goes on for a thousand years and they play it for laughs (it reminds me of Arthur Duncan’s farts), but Jamie’s suggestion should end up endearing him to the king. And it’s something Claire regularly recommends in the books to keep everyone regular, as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables to prevent scurvy, of course. It’s nice to see a tiny worldbuilding element here.
The scene with the ladies gossiping is transplanted from the later scene at the royal stables, and covers the meeting of Alexander Randall and Mary Hawkins. I appreciate that they did not attempt to match the books with Alex’s introduction. He does bear a resemblance to Tobias Menzies, but not nearly enough to justify what happened in the books.
Having Duverney accost Claire and go for her feet (and her amazing shoes, oh my god) is a nice way to introduce the character and combine him with the meaningless noble who does the same thing in the book. And Louis gets to joke to Duverney about his soaked state, rather than Jamie’s in the book. Duverney is a bit of an odd duck. I like that he doesn’t blame Claire for enticing him, because victim-shaming can die in a fire, but then it’s weird that he outright admits that he’s an adulterer. A strange man. I think I like him, though.
Louis’s obvious interest in Claire makes me shudder. Having Nesle (Louis’s mistress) show interest in Murtagh (rather than Jamie, as in the book), is great. I’d go for Murtagh, too!
When Murtah goes after the Duke of Sandringham, Jamie gives us the line about it being death to draw a weapon in the presence of the king. I assume that’s going to come back, probably in regard to BJR.
Sandringham is a little more obviously malevolent this season. Jamie appears to forgive him (although I doubt he truly does), but Murtagh obviously does not. And neither does Claire. I wonder if the show will make it more obvious that it is Sandringham who is plotting against the Frasers, rather than leaving Saint Germain as the apparent villain. Although I wouldn’t mind Saint Germain and Sandringham working together.
Alex’s introduction is deftly handled. Sandringham shows outright glee at poking Claire where it hurts, but poor Alex has no idea, and Claire has to pretend that she is fine, and keep up the polite social exterior. I do still wish that we’d had more than this single episode to believe that Randall is dead, though. It doesn’t pack quite the same punch with only a single reference to his death.
The actor playing Alex (Laurence Dobiesz) has obviously paid attention to Tobias Menzie’s acting. He matches the accent, vocal inflections, and even some of his facial expressions and tics. He sounds like he’s Black Jack’s brother, except inherently good. It’s an exceptional performance.
And here we get to what is, I assume, going to be a major conflict for Claire for the next few episodes. I can’t decide if I like that she thinks of the Rising rather than Frank. In the book, it is definitely her fear that Frank will never be born that motivates her actions. You can’t argue that we know Frank is alive because she went back to him, because that’s true in the book, too. The entire story plays your hope that Claire and Jamie will succeed against your knowledge that they are going to fail.
So, why not mention Frank here? The show doesn’t normally pass up attempts to make Frank look better. I’m really surprised that they didn’t go for it. Maybe they will, next episode, when Claire has to actually decide whether or not to tell Jamie. In this voice over, all she does it pose the question. She also hasn’t figured out who Mary is yet, so that may provide the impetus for her to think about Frank in the next episode.
The “next time on Outlander” preview shows us Fergus, Mother Hildegarde, and someone in a mask. I hope that isn’t the men who attack Claire and Mary. It seems too early for that – I would think that would be in 204, “Le Dame Blanche.”
But I guess we’ll see next week!