Welcome back to our coverage of Outlander season two. Read our past reviews and recaps here.
Unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, clicking her ruby red heels together won’t change the shocking news Claire receives at the end of this week’s episode, courtesy of the Duke of Sandringham. Black Jack is alive.
There is quite a bit that happens and leads up to that surprising (for some) revelation, and a lot it is pretty fun.
The main focus of “Not in Scotland Anymore” is to introduce Jamie and Claire (and us) to Parisian society. Taking place a few weeks after the end of last week’s premiere, we see the couple assimilating to life in Paris the best they can. Jamie is immersed in his new role at his cousin’s wine business, Murtagh is griping about the smelly Paris streets, and Claire is trying to not to be bored as a high society wife.
The episode explores everything from the lavishness of Versailles to the blasé attitudes towards sex and nudity to the scheming and sly attacks with words, rather than the swords and fists most Scotsmen are used to. As I mentioned in my review of the premiere, it’s a completely different world for the main characters, and it’s new game they have to play.
That all comes to head when we meet the infamous “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” the son of the ousted king of Scotland. Charles means to take back his father’s throne from England. As Claire pointed out, his attempt at reclaiming the throne ends in tragedy for the people of Scotland. Jamie and Claire’s mission is stop Charles from starting this war. It’s a bit of fortune that Charles entrusts Jamie, whose realistic attitude and frank demeanor intrigues him, to help him secure funds for this war. It puts Jamie in the perfect to place to start sabotaging Charles’s mission and stopping a war that Scotland will not win.
In order to keep up the guise of helping Charles’s rebellion, Jamie must take part in King Louis’s court and schmooze with key financiers. With the assistance of society friend, Claire nabs an invite to Versailles, and she, in a showstopper red dress, and Jamie head over to finally begin hatching their plan to change the future.
There are many fun parts to this episode, from watching the “dressing of the king” to Claire’s visit of local apothecary to her friend getting all her body hair waxed off to finally the ridiculous Charles. The lightness of tone in these scenes is strikingly different from the episode’s darker moments. Jamie is still traumatized by Black Jack’s assault, which in turn causes him to have violent nightmares and problems of intimacy. It’s that balancing act between light and dark that makes Outlander such an absorbing drama each week.
Each of the main characters is treated with a careful nuance, including even a couple of the new characters as well. We meet the fretful Mary Hawkins, who plays a significant role in Claire’s future. At the same time, we meet the brash and lively Louise who serves as Claire’s guide to society. Then there is Master Raymond, the man who runs the apothecary shop, and whose rapport with Claire is both intriguing and hints of something more cosmic. We also briefly meet the King Louis and Alex Randall, the younger brother of Black Jack. They are all the new chess pieces finding their place on the board, and it’s up to Claire and Jamie make the right moves.
In reference to the season opener, I’m glad we aren’t diving into flashforwards in every episode. After an episode like this, it’s easy to let the fact the Claire somehow travels back to the 1940’s fall to the back of our minds, but it still remains a looming and present threat that adds another layer to this entertaining series. Now, let’s add the inevitable return of Black Jack (because you know it’s coming), someone who will definitely put a hitch in the main couple’s plans. How Jamie will react when he learns of Black Jack’s amazing resilience is unknown? But based on Claire’s expression and those untimely fireworks, it’s not going to go down quietly in the Fraser household.
Outlander is rated TV-MA and airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.