Tag Archives: Tobias Menzies

Of Things Dropped and Lost

Outlander  3:1      By: Eleanor TyJamie_and_Black_Jack_1024x680

The third season of Outlander has so far been stunningly wonderful, almost as good as Season 1. My complaint about Season 2 was that, among other things, it lacked the emotional highs of the first book/season, and it was not strongly focused on romance. Season 2 featured lavish Parisian costumes, a lot of Jacobite plotting, but did not have the excitement of Season 1.

Well, so far, Season 3 looks very promising. Perhaps Ron Moore heard his fans’ complaints because even before Episode 5, the famed print shop scene, there is already plenty of scenes of bedroom ardour, though in unexpected places. What works particularly well is the constant juxtaposition between scenes of Claire in the 1940s and 50s with scenes of Jamie in the 1740s and 50s.

2 (Two), 20 (Twenty), 200 (Two Hundred) and 2,000 (Two Thousand)

The first few episodes have concentrated on the 2 (two) people we care most about: Jamie and Claire and how they have spent their nearly 20 (twenty) years apart, even as they are separated by 200 years (2 centuries) of historical time.  The cause of their separation was Claire’s foresight, her knowledge that nearly 2,000 (two thousand) Jacobites would be killed or wounded in the brief battle at Culloden in 1746 and afterwards by British soldiers who shot stragglers. The producers and writers seem to have made the most of twos and pairings, doubles and echoes to remind us not only of the dual time scheme which underpins the whole series, but also of scenes in previous seasons.

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“Of Lost Things” is the title of the fourth episode, but it describes the general tone of the first few episodes of Season 3. Loss becomes an important theme. After all, Voyager, the book and the third season of the show, begins with Jamie buried alive amidst piles of bodies, those of Scottish Jacobites with whom he fought.  Initially, Jamie wakes believing he was in Hell or Purgatory (Voyager Chap 1).  His semi-conscious attempts to remember the fighting shows the horror of the slaughter of men, mowed down by muskets. Apparently, according to Murray Pittock, a scholar of Jacobitism, the battle wasn’t quite a victory of muskets over swords, since the Jacobites also fired many rounds at the British. In any case, it was a devastating loss for the Scots. Most of the Scottish soldiers are dead, and the Redcoats are using their bayonets to kill any still alive.

Things Dropped

When the men come to take Jamie away from the battlefield, the precious piece of amber that was a wedding gift drops from Jamie’s kilt. The loss of the amber, like the dropping of Claire’s wedding ring during her wedding night, is suggestive of the loss of a way of life. For Claire, it meant a new beginning with Jamie, but here, for Jamie, it means the end of his life with Claire (at least for now). The close-up of the amber on the ground signals a profound loss which will last for two decades.

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Purgatory, which is believed to be an intermediate state, is an apt metaphor for the twenty years Jamie and Claire spend apart. When I first read the Outlander series, I thought it was awfully cruel of Diana Gabaldon to not allow the main characters the leisure to enjoy their youth, continue the passion, bring up Brianne, as other couples do. But Gabaldon seems to believe in Catholic punishments and purifications before paradise. There is much suffering, and even ghosts.  The ghost of Claire haunts Jamie in the battlefield, just as Jamie had haunted Claire in Inverness during her second honeymoon with Frank.

Claire and Frank couch

Gabaldon’s Voyager goes from Jamie in the battlefield to Roger, Brianna and Claire searching historical records, but the adaptation opts instead to recreate scenes of domestic life for Claire and Frank which are presented mainly as flashbacks in the book. These domestic scenes flesh out the ways Claire has been living: viewed in one way, it is a pleasant middle-class life with her husband, the professor, but viewed in another way, it has been a kind of tensed, waiting state. Within her, Claire feels an emptiness, a longing that she cannot share with anyone else. Claire and Frank try to carve out an amiable relationship based on their mutual love for Brianna but their marriage and their sex life are strained.  As Frank later remarks, their bedroom is already “crowded.” Claire exists, but rather like in limbo, not fully with Frank yet not with Jamie.


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.

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Claire & Jamie harbour

Works Cited:

Gabaldon, Diana. Dragonfly in Amber. 1993.

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