Monday, April 25, 2016

Variety Does Episode Review Outlander Season Two

Episode Two

‘Outlander’ Stars on Black Jack Randall’s Fate, Claire and Jamie’s Emotional Distance
Laura Prudom News Editor @lauinla  of Variety

This post contains spoilers for “Outlander” Season 2, Episode 2, titled “Not in Scotland Anymore.” 

To refresh your memory on the Season 2 premiere and Claire and Jamie’s run-in with Le Comte St. Germain, check out last week’s recap.After Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) eventful arrival in France last week, episode 202 throws the Frasers headfirst into the political machinations of the royal court, bringing a number of memorable new characters into their orbit, while further exploring the emotional and physical distance that has grown between the couple since the events of the Season 1 finale.

The episode opens with Jamie and Claire in a moment of intimacy, but quickly takes a darker turn when Claire morphs into Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) in the middle of the act, prompting Jamie to viciously stab him until both are covered in blood. Since this is a nightmare, Jack’s eyes snap chillingly back open, and Jamie awakes in a cold sweat, leaving a concerned Claire in bed while he decides to try and get some work done, in what has obviously become a nighttime ritual for them.

“He’s still troubled by what happened to him and like every guy is not really dealing with the issue,” Heughan tells Variety. “He puts it to one side and throws himself into this mission to change history. It puts a strain on their relationship because they’re not really connecting, not really dealing with [what happened to him].”

This week, Jamie has his first meeting with Bonny Prince Charlie (in a brothel, no less), in order to try and forestall the Jacobite uprising that Claire knows will lead Charles’ followers to a crushing defeat at the Battle of Culloden. Arrogant and entitled despite his exile, Charles Stuart is used to getting his way. (Take a shot of whisky every time he says “mark me” this season, if your liver is strong enough.)

“You now realize why this true historical figure was so inspiring to men but also so dangerous and such a fool,” Heughan notes. “He’s this young man who’s been brought up in exile abroad and been fed all this propaganda by his father and the people around him. He believes when he arrives in Scotland, he’ll be greeted by crowds of adoring people and he probably arrived on a cold bleak day in Scotland and there were only a few thousand people there. So he’s a great character, and it’s interesting to see Jamie — who is not a Jacobite supporter and is in fact the opposite — have to play along with that.”

Despite the fact that “Jamie’s forced into this friendship because he’s trying to manipulate” Charles, Heughan says that the two men “do form this bond, and at some point, Jamie becomes his only ally … That’s what this season’s about — friends are also enemies, it’s really uneven ground. In a weird way, I think Jamie actually feels sorry for him; he’s also an outsider, he shouldn’t be in control of men and he shouldn’t be in the position he’s in.”

Claire, meanwhile, has become acquainted with the demure Mary Hawkins and Parisian socialite Louise de Rohan — who facilitates her entree into the court of Louis XV at Versailles (and the joys of bikini waxing) — but our heroine is finding herself suffocated by the expectations placed on women of the period.

“It’s a whole new set of constraints, in a way,” Caitriona Balfe points out. “Weirdly, Claire as an outsider in Scotland had almost more freedom, because she was different and because she was regarded as a crazy Sassenach and they would roll their eyes at her, but now in Paris … especially because they’re doing something dubious and underhanded, they feel they have to keep up appearances and conform. Her frustration is epic, and I could feel it building in her because she wasn’t given anything to do. Jamie is sent out and she gives him this mission to keep his mind active and away from thinking about the events of last season, but she’s not a woman who’s content sitting at home and going to visit ladies and drinking tea and gossiping.”

Luckily, her travels also bring her into contact with the spirited Master Raymond, whom Balfe compares to Claire’s time-traveling friend Geillis Duncan from Season 1. “For whatever reason, they are like-minded souls and they recognize that instantly in each other,” she says of the enigmatic apothecary, who shares Claire’s disdain for Le Comte St. Germain. “She’s finding her people; I’ve moved cities so many times and it’s such a lonely experience until you find your people, so it’s really nice that you see Claire find that.”

During their debut at court, Claire and Jamie also encounter an old flame of Jamie’s, Annalise de Marillac, who is unabashedly possessive of him (is she this season’s Laoghaire?); the lecherous but ultimately useful Minister of Finance, Joseph Duvernay (“he’s also someone who comes across as a bit of a fool, but he’s not,” hints Heughan); King Louis himself — who gets one of the most memorable introductions in TV history, on the toilet and bearing down with gurning, teeth-gnashing intensity, surrounded by courtiers — and at least one familiar, if not altogether welcome, face in the form of the Duke of Sandringham.

The slimy noble ends up revealing two vital pieces of information to Claire: firstly, that Black Jack Randall has a brother, Alex, a sickly but well-meaning young man who is serving as Sandringham’s secretary, and more importantly — despite Claire and Jamie’s assumptions to the contrary — that Black Jack Randall is still alive, having survived his encounter with a herd of cattle last season. Luckily, Jamie is otherwise engaged when Claire makes this discovery, but she’s immediately concerned about the effect this news might have on her already vulnerable husband.

“It’s such a strange thing, because [Alex] is so unlike Jack, and Claire’s good at reading people, so she can see right away that this is a nice guy and Mary Hawkins is interested,” Balfe previews. “When Claire finds out that Randall is still alive, it’s a twofold thing — all of a sudden, she realizes what that means in terms of Frank, but also her concern for Jamie. She’s watching this man slowly begin to heal and he’s still not fully there and he’s still experiencing this, and she feels that this information might be the thing that sends him over the edge.”

Will Jamie discover the news in next week’s epiode — and will King Louis take Jamie’s advice about the porridge? We’ll find out on April 23.


Episode One

'Outlander’ Stars Talk Season 2 Premiere Revelations, New Enemies in France

Laura Prudom News Editor @lauinla

Spoiler warning: This post contains plot details for “Outlander” Season 2, Episode 1, titled “Through a Glass, Darkly.”

We last saw Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) setting sail for France following a harrowing encounter with Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) in the 1700s, but the Season 2 premiere of “Outlander” opened somewhere else entirely — back in Scotland in 1948, with a distraught Claire reuniting with her first husband, Frank (Menzies), desperate to learn the outcome of the infamous Battle of Culloden, to see whether she and Jamie had succeeded in changing the course of history.
More than half of the episode was dedicated to Claire and Frank’s attempts to reconcile what had happened to Claire in the past, while looking towards an uncertain future together, before we took a jaunt back to 1745 as Claire and Jamie arrived in France and got to know Jamie’s cousin, Jared (Robert Cavanah), a wine merchant and Jacobite.

Balfe tells Variety that they kicked off the season by filming those first scenes between Claire and Frank in Scotland. “When I got the script I was like ‘oh my god, I can’t wait for this’ — I cried reading it,” she recalls. “[Showrunner Ron Moore] wrote that episode and it’s just beautiful, because it’s so tragic – it’s so complicated and neither one of them are wrong and neither one of them are right, and you can’t help how people feel depending on circumstance.”

In those tense moments, in which Claire told Frank the truth about where she’d been, who she’d been with, and that she was carrying Jamie’s child, Balfe explained, “Claire is someone in grief and she can’t really see past that. I did a lot of reading about grief and how people feel and she’s just someone who’s so shut down at this point; the worst thing she could’ve ever imagined has happened, and in a way, how do you go on living with that? Yes, you go through the motions, but you have to shut the doors on your heart and lock away the key, and it’s so sad … People give Frank a hard time, but can you imagine being in his shoes?”

Menzies had spent the last half of Season 1 playing Jack Randall, and viewers hadn’t seen Frank since Episode 8 of last season, which meant that revisiting Frank at the beginning of Season 2 had extra potency. “They managed to write some really interesting stuff, because we go forward in the story, her arriving through the stones, pregnant, and Frank and Claire have to come to terms with that and what it means for their marriage, so that seemed rich territory,” he says of the challenging scenes. “That also felt like it was a good payoff from having built Frank up in the first part of the season, to root it in the emotional cost of the story, in a way. The challenges of it [are that] you’re obviously up against some of the more far-fetched aspects of the story, the time-travel and making that real and emotional, but I think we pulled that off. It feels like a really good episode, and a really surprising and strong place to start off.”

Frank is a character who comes across as fairly restrained — although we saw flashes of the violence underneath his cool demeanor back in Season 1 — and Menzies relished the chance to portray Frank as he lost control in the potting shed. “It was important to see the real cost in him; the potting shed was great fun because you get to trash a room, and that’s always enjoyable,” he laughs.

Back in the past, we saw Claire and Jamie attempting to acclimate to France — which was markedly different from Scotland in terms of fashion, culture and sensibilities at the time. Heughan admits that he and Balfe encountered some culture shock, just as their characters did, moving from the Highlands to the French court for Season 2.

“It was actually slightly unsettling, me and Cait found it very odd for quite a while. We came back to work expecting it to be the same and suddenly, [there are] different costumes, different sets, and the characters felt very different,” he says. “We were constantly trying to find Jamie and Claire, and we realized that it was only in the private moments, when they’re together, that they’re themselves, but in public, they’re keeping their guard up the whole time. They’re both very good at it, they’re both very adaptable, but it doesn’t sit well with them, and ultimately it just gets too much for both of them. For Jamie is certainly gets too much, because he’s thrown himself into it to take his mind off what happened to him at Wentworth.”

The closing minutes of the episode brought Claire and Jamie into contact with the enigmatic Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber), a French nobleman who immediately fell into conflict with Claire after she inadvertently became responsible for the loss of his ship and cargo, after she noticed that his crew was infected with smallpox. That animosity will only grow as the season goes on, Balfe previews: “The Comte and Claire, in the beginning it just feels like she’s used her big mouth to get herself into trouble again and you see [him as] someone who just wants revenge, but as we progress in the season, you realize that there are darker things about the Comte St. Germain and it’s a very interesting storyline.”

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  1. I love each of the characters. I have not felt that there were any missteps with casting at all and to me, each of these actors beautifully embodies the characters.

    If you are looking for a time traveling romance, historical adventure, or just some fabulous action, Outlander has it all. Give it a try - you won't be sorry!

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