It's back to the future for Claire

By Amy Wilkinson
April 09, 2016 at 12:41 AM EDT
Neil Davidson/Starz
S2 E1
  • TV Show

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 Claire also takes advantage of the Reverend’s extensive library, investigating historical reference materials for any possible lead about Jamie’s fate.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

So how did Claire get back to 1940s Scotland? What happened when she and Jamie arrived in France? The second half of the premiere begins to answer these questions, cleverly juxtaposing Claire’s descent from a Pan Am plane in New York with her alighting from a boat in France alongside Jamie.

“France reeks of frogs,” Murtagh grumbles.

At their quarters, Claire and Jamie begin discussing their plan for thwarting the Jacobite rising. Jamie wonders if they shouldn’t just concentrate their energies on winning the battle rather than trying to stop it all together. But Claire knows so little about the strategies and the details of the face-off, it’s better to preempt it. Jamie’s reluctant — he feels like lying to everyone is dishonorable — yet, he has a plan for how to get in with the Jacobites. He and Claire pay a visit to his cousin Jared who’s part of the movement.

Jared is dubious: Jamie’s never expressed political aspirations before. But — in a moment recalling Dougal’s parading of Jamie in season 1 — Claire helps Jamie out of his shirt, displaying the scars inflicted by the hands of British agents (well, mostly Black Jack). Finally convinced, Jared offers up a plan: He’s been wanting to travel to the West Indies but has been in need of a reliable person to watch over his wine business. If Jamie will do so, he can have the run of Jared’s Paris residence and make in-ways with the Jacobites in the city. Deal.

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And despite the need for allies in their new home, Claire wastes no time making one (powerful) foe. As Jared and Jamie scheme, Claire decides to take a walk by the waterfront and notices a strange sight: Men carting a sick passenger off of a ship. Suspicious, she follows the throng and pushes her way to the man, quickly diagnosing him with small pox (which she, of course, has been vaccinated against). As it turns out, the ship in question is owned by a French businessman, the Comte St. Germain, who’s forced to watch as the harbormaster sets the ship on fire with all of the expensive cargo still on board.

“Another country, another enemy,” Jamie muses to Claire. “Life with you is never dull, Sassenach.”

Truer words…

What do you think about the season 2 premiere and the unexpected time jump? Take it to the comments!

Diana Gabaldon's genre-bending time travel novels come to life in the Starz series.
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