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
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
Gabaldon, Diana. Dragonfly in Amber. 1993.
Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Routledge, 2006.