In the lead-up to the much-anticipated second season of Outlander, producers have remained mum regarding the premiere’s opening moments — and for good reason. Even if you’ve read Diana Gabaldon’s novels upon which the Starz series is based, you couldn’t have precisely predicted when “Through a Glass, Darkly” would find Claire.* And if you haven’t read the series, well, this episode was surely jarring. After all, when last we saw our time-traveling heroine, she had set sail with husband Jamie for the shores of France in the hopes of starting a new life — and stopping the Jacobite rebellion. But instead of a warm bienvenue, we find Claire back in Scotland. Back at Craigh na Dun. And back in the future. With Jamie’s wedding ring as the only tangible evidence of the Scot’s existence.
“He was gone. They were all gone.”
A distraught Claire — still garbed in her 18th-century frocks — begins walking the gravel roads of the Highlands. When an automobile pulls up behind her, she’s desperate to know what year it is and who won the Battle of Culloden. And it’s all bad news: It’s 1948 and the British conquered the clans.
Fast-forward to a hospital in Inverness, and Frank is excitedly rushing to his two-years-gone bride’s side. Claire doesn’t bother to look up as Frank walks into the room and only realizes it’s him when she sees his reflection in the window.
“Hello, I’m back,” she says glibly. (Also, understatement of the century[s].)
“And I’m so grateful,” he replies. But when he further approaches, Claire recoils, understandably. Frank does, after all, share the face of Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall, the man who haunts both Claire and Jamie’s dreams.
Frank, is undeterred though and tells her that he’s arranged for lodging at Reverend Wakefield’s while she recuperates.
At the Reverend’s house it seems the only person Claire will confide in is Mrs. Graham — you’ll remember her as the trusty housekeeper and believer in things otherworldly and unexplained. Claire tells Mrs. Graham everything about where (and when) she’s been, including, humorously, how Jamie didn’t even know what the f-word meant. Claire also takes advantage of the Reverend’s extensive library, investigating historical reference materials for any possible lead about Jamie’s fate. Mrs. Graham attempts to explain how futile it all is: “Don’t spend the rest of your days chasing a ghost when there’s a real flesh-and-blood living man who loves you with all his heart.”
Perhaps accepting the truth of the matter, Claire invites Frank into her room to tell him her fantastical story — quite the leap of faith on Claire’s part given her first husband’s academic, logical bent. Frank insists that he doesn’t need an explanation, but Claire obviously needs to get everything off her chest. And Frank seems pretty accepting of the circumstances — including her marriage to another man — until, that is, she gets to this twist: She’s pregnant. For a moment, Frank is overjoyed, clearly thinking it’s his. Which makes no sense seeing as Claire’s been back for all of a week, and when the realization finally dawns on him, well, it’s tragic.
“It’s Jamie’s,” Claire confirms. “I’m carrying another man’s child, Frank. You need to think about that and what that means.”
And in a moment calling to mind his devious, depraved ancestor, Frank angrily lunges at Claire, though he ultimately channels his frustrations through bashing the contents of Reverend Wakefield’s shed. (Too bad Tae Bo didn’t exist in the 1940s!)
The Reverend tries to offer Frank some solace (after all, the Reverend is raising another man’s son — his nephew — as his own, so he knows a thing or two about Frank’s situation). But through this tête-á-tête we learn that the news of Claire’s pregnancy is a double blow: Frank is sterile, so he and Claire can never have a child of their own. The Reverend’s words must have ultimately found some purchase with Frank, however, because he offers this deal to Claire: They will live as man and wife and raise the child as their own, on the condition that Claire gives up her search for information about Jamie. She agrees, and the two are off to Boston to start over again.
(*Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber opens in the 1960s, with Frank dead. I imagine the decision to reel this scene back 20 years was all in service of giving Tobias Menzies more screen time — a smart decision as he’s one of the strongest actors on the show.)
NEXT: Paris, je t’aime