Finally the epic stretch of Droughtlander is over. The End. Finis. For the majority of fans in the US, Starz aired the Season Two premiere of Outlander’s Dragonfly in Amber on Saturday, April 9, 2016. Ron Moore, the Executive Producer, wrote the first episode, “Through a Glass, Darkly” and did he ever deliver a gripping epic end to Droughtlander. If you haven’t seen Episode 201 yet, then I suggest you tuck away this blog to read later. At the end of Season One we leave Claire and Jamie on the boat, full of reassurances that all will be well.
Opening scene of Season Two, we find Claire describing her pain as she is lying on the ground, then gets up and is looking around, at the stones, and through the grass as she realizes she is missing something – a something that is a ring from which a jewel has probably fallen out.
The first minute or two is enough to gut wrench anyone and bring the strongest to tears. Ron’s writing and Claire’s performance in the opening scene is a powerful promise to the remainder of the episode and keeps (me anyway), on the edge of my seat waiting for the next scene.
As Claire discovers from a passing motorist, after she almost rips his head off, that it is indeed 1948 and the English have won the battle of Culloden, she has us all feeling the pain of loss in seconds, as if we had been on the battlefield losing the centuries old clan system and way of life.
Frank arrives to the hospital to find the wife he was convinced hadn’t left of her own volition. Claire’s body language screams “I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE” louder than any verbalization can, and in fact, her spoken words give that very same attitude. Here is where my first thought of a missed opportunity to have a grieving Frank is missed. Frank responds with a very flat “And I’m so very grateful” line after Claire tells him she is back, and the entire sequence is enough to make me just want to fast forward a bit. It was flat and uninspiring, sounding nothing like a man who is relieved his wife-who-has-been-missing-for-years should feel. I have my own speculations on this front, which will be revisited later in the season. On a side note, as Claire looks out the hospital room window, we see a lady walking a dog across the streeet and that dog belongs to Ron and Terry (information from Maril Davis’s tweets).
Discussions Frank has with the Reverend Wakefield are all excellently placed and are enough to believe he does have the patience of Job and is trying to pass along that patience to Frank. Claire bluntly tells Frank she is pregnant and Frank, for a microsecond, is happy and elated before he realizes that it couldn’t be his and not only because his wife has been gone for two years. Yes, two years. There is a comment where he says she’s been gone for two years and I thought I didn’t hear it correctly, but I did. We have a compressed timeline in the show and book readers know she was gone for three years. In the show she disappeared at Samhain 1945 (in the Outlander book it’s Beltane 1945), which would be six months later than the book. We do know she returns in 1948, as stated by the passing motorist. So she has been gone (for the show) about 2.5 years.
During the interchange and when Frank realizes that his wife has been well-swived by another man, we see him nearly explode in a rage and beat Claire, which actually reminded me of Black Jack Randall. Instead of showing Claire’s hallucinatory moment with Frank as he leaned over the bed and “became” Captain Randall, this would have been a better placement of her hallucination given the violence both Jack Randal was prone to and the instant that Frank began his resentment of Claire.
We see him balling a fist, a la Black Jack Randall, and he lets his flash of anger dissipate; however, the seed has been planted.
What is this about Frank being sterile? I’ve often wondered how Frank knew he was sterile and this bit comes out during a talk with Reverend Wakefield. Frank confides in the Reverend about how he and Claire had been trying to conceive to no avail and that one year earlier he had his fertility tested to find out he was sterile. WHAAAT? His wife is gone a little longer than one year (the show) and then he has his swimmers checked? I have a feeling this is setting us up for future events and if you’ve read the books, you will know what I’m referring to. If you are a show fan, well, just tuck that bit of info behind a door labeled “Frank Can’t Have Kids” and hopefully we will have enough seasons to unlock that bit of business. Diana is known for revisiting scenes and topics several books and years later, so don’t forget about this tidbit. While the Reverend speaks of little Roger, he tells him that this is an opportunity to be a father to a child who otherwise would not have one. Sage advice and well done. By the by, Roger is just the cutest little kid.
Claire and Frank are new to each other again, neither can know of the experiences the other has had the past two-plus years, but Claire does confide in Mrs. Graham, who believes her far-fetched story and helps her to ease the instantaneous disruption of her past life. Claire realizes she must tell Frank the entire story and does so after she tells him she wants to keep all questions and comments at bay until the end. Frank tells her she doesn’t have to tell it and can do so in time, but she must tell and tell she does. It’s my opinion that Frank doesn’t really believe her, but then even he can’t explain how Claire came into possession of the historian-verified authentic 18th century clothing. If it smells like a duck, sounds like a duck, and walks like a duck, it must be a duck. Claire and Frank strike a bargain (keep this bit of info handy for any potential future seasons) and off they go to Boston – after he burns her clothes. Brilliant acting and story lines, hated the burning of the clothing. Frank the historian burns history he could have had a chance to preserve, especially articles from his beloved Jacobite era.
I realize it was to erase the past from Claire’s mind, but I see it as a missed opportunity for Frank (who has no small ego by the way) to have the clothing preserved in a museum.
One. More. Step. That’s all Claire needs to touch down in America with her own two feet. She accepts Frank’s hand, the camera moves from her face and pans down to…Jamie, holding her hand to get off the ship at La Havre, France, 1745.
I’ll just shout it here… THIS WAS BRILLIANT and had to be the best film editing of the episode. Hats off to Ron, Metin, and the entire production team for this. I’m not alone, the audience at the premiere held at the American Museum of Natural History on Monday, April 4th, thought so too. Tears, yelling, sighs, heavy breathing, and applause. You name it, it happened in that instant. Bravo. It happened again at the screening on the 9th.
We are reacquainted with an injured Jamie and his dour godfather, Murtagh, as they disembark the ship in France. Jamie is happy to be off as Claire is confessing that she thought she might have to throw him overboard a few times during the crossing. Here is where I found the set up to be strange (go ahead, strangle me). We know they filmed with a real ship in the Clyde area of Glasgow. Now, I’m a 21st century boater and this is from my experience boating – there is VERY little chance that any captain would EVER set up a ramp off the bow of a ship. Of any size.
The bow is the part of the ship that feels every single movement of the water. Why they didn’t have the ramp off the port side and onto the quay, I have no idea. Strange. Weird. Unrealistic. The midship region has less movement and is less susceptible to rocking, safer for loading and unloading, provides a shorter span, etc. Let’s not forget that unloading comes from the bilges and they would have to go up more steps to remove goods from the bow. Someone help me out as to a good reason this was done, other than “it’s TV.” This is the last bit that made me realize I was watching a show and not embodied in the characters so well played by the cast.
Claire is full of suggestions on how to stop the rebellion but Jamie wants to know how to win. Alas for the lass, she doesna ken how to win. We see Jamie very uncomfortable, clearly still affected by his pain, both physically and mentally. Claire tells Jamie that being in France is where they can stop the Prince and that they can ask his cousin Jared to set them up with introductions, since he is a well-connected Jacobite. So it’s settled, meet Jared and then face the wrath of Murtagh because they refuse to tell him what they are up to…until it is the proper time.
Fast forward to a meeting with Jared, Jamie’s Fraser cousin who is steeped in politics and the wine business. He, a skeptic Scot in a time of political deviance, doubts Jamie’s desire to meet with the Jacobites in France. He ends up revealing the 200+ reasons, in the form of his very scarred back, why he has reason to rise up against the [English] King. Of course he can’t tell Jared why, so this will have to suffice. They strike a bargain, Jamie squeezes a quarter out of a nickel, leaving Jamie in charge of Jared’s wine business, earning a 35% share of profits, a place to stay, along with a loose promise of backing by the Clan Fraser. Voilà! Problems solved.
Until Claire meddles again, that is. While at the docks at La Havre, she witnesses what appears to be a body being unloaded (from the mid-ship, no less!) from a ship, she decides to investigate.
Now look at the above photo, it is almost a slack tide, as noted by the wet rack line on the seawall in the background to the left, and the ramp isn’t at a significant slant. Now look at the next photo:
Same body being carried off, yet the ramp is at a greater angle. The last two images are taken from a time when they were filming at a very low tide:
Oops. A little problem with continuity. Bulkheads and living on the water are my life, so this is very noticeable to me. Enough of tides, let’s get back to bodies.
Puss filled blisters. Fever. Not a good thing.
Claire pushes past the seamen to examine the sailor, makes Jamie stay back because she can’t get the pox, which is what she thinks it is.
Enter le Comte St. Germain, and another body. into the storeroom. Her proclamation of the smallpox has not gone over well, the port master tells le Comte that his ship must be destroyed, and Claire has made a new enemy. This is yet another perfect example of Claire completely overstepping her 20th century bounds into the 18th century, not realizing how her actions endanger others, even though she thinks she is helping. She doesn’t realize the danger she puts herself and others in; however, trouble does seem to find her, she doesn’t always find the trouble.
Le Comte insults the Frasers and he learns that they are related to Jared. It is quite evident that the actor (Stanley Weber) is a native French speaker, even to my novice ear (I did take French many years ago), making it obvious that Claire, Jamie, and Jared are not native French speakers – it all fits well. Le Comte swears they will both pay and we see the infamous burning of the ship described in the book come to the screen. Jamie and Claire exit stage right with le Comte glaring at them.
And that’s a wrap. What did you think? Did you think it was a good opener for Starz? Except for a few things noted, I believe it to be an excellent start to the season. Gripping, intriguing, suspenseful; all good traits to hook new viewers. The acting is excellent, the small touches and nuances were superbly done. Hats off to everyone.
Comment and be entered to win a little something something!
Disclaimer: All views are my own while all images are from Starz.