“Unease Amongst the Opulence”
A recap of episode 202 Dragonfly in Amber, Season Two Outlander!
From the opening moments of this episode, its title comes into play. We are certainly “Not in Scotland Anymore.” The soaring music of the credits quickly merges into a harpsichord version of the main tune and we are treated to views of opulent dresses and shoes, instead of Scottish wools and tartans. Immediately, we have inklings of the visual feast that lies ahead. It should be wonderful, but something doesn’t seem right.
(A nod to the acting of Tobias Menzies is needed here. He is barely in this episode, but Black Jack’s brief appearances, albeit in flashback, are so menacing that they immediately destroy any affection felt last week for TV Frank!)
But action soon comes in another form, with news from Jared bringing with it an invitation for Jamie to meet with Charles Stuart. After a wry translation of the letter where he informs Claire that the meeting will take place in a brothel, Jamie and Murtagh (because who would leave home without a Murtagh) arrive at the suggested venue. Amidst the suggestiveness, the floor show and the sex toys on offer, the two men sit at a table with the “Bonnie Prince” and attempt to discuss politics.
Andrew Gower’s portrayal of Charles is spectacular, as it clearly illustrates how dire the Jacobite situation actually is. Charles Stuart is little more than a petulant school boy, sulking when he is told something he doesn’t like and who has never been to the Scotland he wishes to unite.
Back at Jared’s house, Claire, Murtagh and Jamie discuss the situation. Murtagh describes Charles as a dangerous blockhead, while Jamie adds that he wouldn’t trust the prince with Lallybroch’s vegetable patch, let alone the fate of Scotland. Rather than court the minister of finance for support, the trio are determined to ensure that Monsieur Duverney recognises a bad investment when he sees it. Finally Claire muses that if a rebellion can be planned in a French brothel, perhaps it can be stopped at a French court.
The next step then, is for the Frasers to be invited to Versailles.
Claire would have more fun without him.
Meanwhile, Rosie Day’s Mary is a masterclass in timidity. Mary is horrified by the boldness of Louise, and her stammering speech and defensive body language bring out the maternal instinct in Claire immediately. The announcement of the young girl’s impending marriage to a wart-covered old man further elicits Claire’s sympathy, but there is something about Mary’s name that Claire can’t place. (This represents a departure from the book, where the significance dawns on Claire almost immediately.)
Despite their continued tension in private, the Frasers need to maintain their social appearances. Two weeks later, Louise’s dressmakers have worked their magic and Claire descends the stairs wearing her infamous red dress.
As it does in the book, the dress has the desired reaction. Jamie is incredulous at the amount of cleavage on show and remarks that Claire will need a bigger fan than the one she currently holds. We are also treated to a beautifully comic reaction from Murtagh, who gawks at Claire with his mouth open, until Jamie slaps him. It is another splendid piece of acting from Duncan Lacroix, who makes Murtagh more endearing with each scene.
Following their arrival at what is obviously the utmost of social occasions, Louise sweeps through the room, boasting of her connections to all the noble families and promising to introduce Claire to anyone she wishes. Seizing the opportunity, Claire mentions the finance minister’s name and while Louise warns of Duverney’s “rather gross sensibilities”, she promises to find the man, should he be in attendance.
The Dressing of the King is a male only affair and Jamie and Murtagh soon discover that nothing is private in the royal rooms. King Louis, beautifully portrayed by Lionel Lingelser, is found on a commode in the midst of some digestive distress. His Majesty’s demeanor is reminiscent of the petulance of Charles Stuart and Murtagh and Jamie find themselves disbelieving of the personalities around them, Murtagh wondering aloud whether Jamie will be lucky enough to wipe the royal behind. Instead, Jamie convinces one of Louis’ entourage to introduce him to the king, whereupon he suggests that a regular diet of porridge might cure the King’s current malady.
Meanwhile, Claire is enduring the conversation of the women of the court, who are discussing the amorous nature of one of the male guests, as well the various names for the “male member”. The women reject the English terms that Claire suggests and deem the English language in general to be “unmusical”. Unable to bear their chatter any longer, Claire leaves to get some air, but not before she and Louise witness Mary Hawkins in conversation with a man other than her intended. Louise also spies the French finance minister and true to her word, proceeds to engage Monsieur Duverney in flirtatious conversation. Interpreting Louise’s comments to mean that Claire is anxious for an amorous encounter with him, Duverney sets out to find her.
Fortunately, no harm has been done in this regard. Duverney is full of apologies, which Jamie and Claire are all too pleased to accept. With their mutual declaration of friendship and the promise of future games of chess, the
conversation is halted by the arrival of the King, now off his commode and
Jamie follows Murtagh to see the object of his wrath, managing just in time to stop Murtagh from drawing his sword on the Duke of Sandringham.
They are soon joined by Claire, who like Murtagh, is not at all pleased to be reunited with the Duke.
Both Simon Callow and Laurence Dobiesz play their parts beautifully in this scene. Simon Callow is by turns deliciously insincere and downright vengeful, to the point where we thoroughly understand Murtagh’s earlier labelling of the Duke as Judas. Meanwhile, Laurence Dobiesz has Tobias Menzies’ vocal patterns and facial expressions down to a tee. He is entirely believable as the younger Randall brother who seems to have no knowledge of his elder sibling’s sadistic personality.
Indeed, there are a number of “off book” moments in this episode. In interviews, Diana Gabaldon has expressed the opinion that it would have been virtually impossible to do a literal transcription of the book, and that Ron Moore has done an expert job in creating an adaptation that leads the characters towards the major events which need to happen in order to faithfully retell the story. This episode seems to be the beginning of this process.
Definitions of the word “unease” include the terms ‘not easy in body or mind; uncomfortable; restless; disturbed and perturbed’. All of the main players are showing considerable unease throughout this episode and it is an overall mood that is transferred to the viewers as well. In a nutshell, we are definitely not in Scotland anymore.
NB. This recap was written by Susie Brown, a teacher-librarian and writer who lives in Australia. She felt considerably uneasy throughout this episode!