All the World’s a Stage: Outlander 202/ 203

I hold the world but as the world, …
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one.

Shakespeare. The Merchant of Venice. I.i.

Outlander in Paris has exceeded everyone’s expectations in terms of costumes, set design, and casting (see Linda Merrill).   The streets of Paris with their exquisite carriages, wigged footmen, the palace of Versailles with its the great hall are all splendid and magnificent thanks to the work of Jon Gary Steele, Gina Cromwell, Maril Davis and others. Terry Dresbach has outdone herself in costumes for both women and men – lace, frills, embroidered waistcoats, breeches, headdresses, caps, and of course, the sumptuous and lavish dresses with their wide panniers. The newest cast members, playing Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day), Louise de Rohan (Claire Sermonne), Master Raymond (Dominique Pinon), Le Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber), and Mother Hildegarde (Frances de la Tour) are all marvelous and just as we imagined from reading Dragonfly in Amber. Even though the scriptwriters have taken some liberties with time, and the compression of certain scenes, the script remains fairly close to Gabaldon’s novel.

So, why are we feeling that the first few episodes of Season 2 have left us feeling a bit flat? I was very reluctant to admit this to myself, and noticed that other fans and bloggers have politely tried to not express disappointment by suggesting that the episodes needed a second viewing, or that it is getting better (Candida’s Musings , Erin Conrad). The truth is, the opening three episodes do not match in intensity or narrative interest of the first Season. In Episode 202 “Not in Scotland Anymore,” there were too many new characters being introduced. The episode served as an exposition, as in the first scene of a play, where background information is given. We learn about the reasons why Claire and Jamie are staying in France and about the sophisticated lives of Claires’ French friends, their different approaches to hygiene. In Episodes 203 “Useful Occupations and Deceptions,” while Claire and Jaime play a larger role than in the last two episodes, their relationship is visibly strained. The episode focused on politics and financial concerns again, and on Claire’s boredom and need to find herself a useful occupation as healer.

Claire red dress & Jaime copy

One reason for this feeling is that these episodes mirror Diana Gabaldon’s somewhat meandering and rambling novels after Outlander (Book 1). Gabaldon’s novels are full of subplots, incidental characters who sometimes become important, but sometimes stay as minor characters. But we also know that the last hundred pages of the novels tend to become faster paced, major things happen to major characters, and the loose ends are often tied up in unexpected ways. So, we will have lots of action to look forward to, as the season should play itself out this way, too.

Another reason that we are somewhat less engaged with the series right now is that our beloved characters, Jamie and Claire, as well as many of the other characters we meet, are not acting the way they usually do. So far in Season 2, the romance between Jamie and Claire has been strained, held back because the producers decided to represent Jamie suffering from trauma. In addition, both Jamie and Claire are engaged in a game of duplicity: trying to be sympathetic to the Jacobite cause and yet secretly plotting for its failure. This deception causes tension not only between them, but also between them and other characters like Murtagh, Jared, Prince Charles, the Minister of Finance, Frances Duverney, and others. It is as if we have entered a world where everyone is like the snake-like Duke of Sandringham, whom we do not trust. In Paris, all is glittery, but not everything is golden.

Claire red dress stairs up.jpg

Episodes 202 and 203 highlight the theme of deception. For example, upon meeting Alexander Randall (Laurence Dobiesz), Claire finds out that Black Jack Randall is alive. But she withholds this vital piece of information from her husband, for fear that he would either go into a relapse or risk his life in order to seek vengeance. Jamie is forced to entertain and carouse with noblemen and the Prince in brothels, coming home late at night reeking of smoke and cheap perfume. This Jamie is very different from the sincere, brave, and romantic young man we fell in love with in the first Outlander book/season. The part that he has to play is a “sad one,” especially as we know what happens to the Scottish clans at the Battle of Culloden.

MurtaghandJamie_brothel

Even Master Raymond, who is Claire’s friend, has his secrets. Claire sees The Comte at his shop, not sure how well the two of them are acquainted. It is to him that Claire confesses that her life has become more conventional since she has been in Paris. Out of her time, and out of place, we know that Claire deplores convention. She is a twentieth-century woman who has found her calling in helping others. Now pregnant in Paris, working as a healer in a charity hospital is not what Jamie wants her to do.

Hildegard-203.jpg

The necessity for deception is highlighted when Jamie hires Fergus, the French boy who steals from patrons at Madame Elise. The fact that Jamie and Claire now have to resort to the help of a pickpocket in order to help them with their plan to thwart the Prince suggests that in Paris, we have left the pastoral and innocence of Scotland and entered a world where “all the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players;/ they have their exits and their entrances” (Shakespeare, As You Like it, II.vii). It is an intriguing world, but not entirely enchanting or uplifting.

By: Eleanor Ty

 

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Mirrors in Outlander 2.1: Through a Glass Darkly

By: Eleanor Ty

For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.

I Corinthians 13:12

dark glass

In modern versions of the bible, glass is translated as a mirror. The first episode of the second season of Outlander plays with the two senses of the word “glass.” It is full of mirror images and reflections, as well as veiled and imperfect fragments or parts, as if we can only see through a darkly tinted glass. The reflections remind us of a number of scenes from the past, and highlight the motif of the double.

Claire stones

“Through a Glass Darkly” begins with Claire lying dazed and confused in the midst of the standing stones, a scene which recalls the very first episode in Season One. This time, however, Claire has come back to her own time, something she so desired when she was first transported to 18th century Scotland. She finds Inverness in 1948 as disconcerting as she first found the Highlands of 1743. She is bothered by the radio and the street noises outside her room. When her husband Frank approaches her, she flinches, which is later echoed when Jamie, too, flinches at the touch of Claire. Though now two hundred years apart, Claire and Jamie are both troubled by memories of Jack Randall.

Claire hospital

The other very deliberate echo (noted also by Erin Conrad) is the hand reaching for Frank / Jamie which is featured in some of the covers of Season One DVD and soundtrack. This image of the hand has always been about choice, about Claire’s divided loyalties and her reaching for newly discovered desires. In this episode, Claire reaches out her hand to Frank as they step out of the airplane into their new lives in Boston. The scene cuts to a flashback of the time when she and Jamie step out of the ship to begin their new adventures in France. Season Two promises to be about both sets of adventures.

Reaching out

Claire airplane

           The biblical quotation of the “glass darkly” is followed by one of the most famous passages in the bible. Often used in weddings, 1 Corinthians 13 reads: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.” Before this verse, Paul talks about the importance of love in this epistle: “love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy…. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 4, 7). Claire has two husbands, and both of them love her in the way that Paul describes. Jamie sacrifices himself to save her, and Frank is willing to take her, in spite of the fact that she is pregnant with another man’s child. Both men, mirrors of each other, are willing to believe, hope and endure.

In Season One, especially in the last two episodes, many fans were unhappy with the producers because there was too much Tobias Menzies as Jack Randall. I, too, felt that more time could have been devoted to the Claire and Jamie love story. But here, in this first episode, I was completely enthralled by the depiction of the tension and relationship between Claire and Frank when they reunite. Ron D. Moore managed to write a script that filled in some of the gaps left by the twenty-year leap in Diana Gabaldon’s opening scene in Dragonfly in Amber. In her book A Theory of Adaptation, Linda Hutcheon notes that, “as a process of creation, the act of adaptation always involves both (re-)interpretation and then (re-)creation” (8). As Becky Lea writes, “The opening episode belongs to Menzies, enduring just about every emotion required in that initial forty minutes” (Outlander Season 2, Episodes 1-2 Review). Beth Wesson says, Moore’s adaptation “connected the dots and fleshed out Frank’s character.”

Frank tears

Among other fragments of his life that Frank reveals in this episode is his desperation, doubt, and confusion about Claire’s disappearance. He wonders whether she has been kidnapped or whether she has run off with another man. But most poignant of all is his revelation that he had himself tested, and has discovered that he is infertile. The possibility of infertility was discussed by Claire and Jamie earlier in Lallybroch, when Jamie accepts that he might not have natural heirs. In both scenes, the question of lineage is fraught with emotion and heartbreak. After all, the whole adventure would started with Frank Randall’s interest in his family history, and with his interest in his ancestor, Black Jack Randall.

Diana Gabaldon has said that she is not interested in writing a modern romance, but that her books “deal with an ongoing relationship between two decent people who already love each other – there’s no falling in love, getting acquainted, now we like each other, now we don’t kind of conflict” (Diana Gabaldon FAQ). While her comments apply primarily to Claire and Jamie, this episode, with its focus on Frank and Claire, promises to show the “mirror” relationship, the story not developed in the novels by Gabaldon.  In his adaptation, Ron D. Moore re-interpreted and re-created husband and wife relationship, showing the ways a couple has to deal with the surprises and pain that life often brings. There are rich possibilities to come.

In Season Two, Claire, Jamie, Frank, and Black Jack Randall will all find that they only know parts of the story, and that it is only with time that history will come to reveal itself. The doubles and the mirrors show the link between the past and the present, the blurred boundaries between romance and the everyday, the messiness of what we like to see as truth and falsehood, good and evil.

Claire pox.jpg

 

Claire & Jamie harbour

Works Cited:

Gabaldon, Diana. Dragonfly in Amber. 1993.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Routledge, 2006.