Outlander: Through A Glass, Darkly   Books Included 
April 10, 2016 6:07 AM - Season 2, Episode 1 - Subscribe

(hope it's ok that I posted this one, tracicle, after the horror show that was the Sleepy Hollow S3 finale, I really needed to get a good episode's thread into my Recent Activity.)

I think they made the right choice to start the show in 1948 instead of the book's 1968 time-jump. It accomplishes the same result of letting us know that they're doomed to fail at preventing Culloden, but they don't have to lock themselves in to a look for 1968 Claire yet. I know they've cast adult Brianna & Roger already, so, I'm guessing that we'll get to 1968 eventually by the finale, but this way they won't have to switch back & forth between older & younger Claire. (I figure older Claire/Jamie will just get a little grey in their hair and maybe a little face wrinkling, nothing too extreme that might interfere with the sex scenes.)
posted by oh yeah! at 6:58 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

I liked the 1948 stuff, too; it made both her and Frank's trauma over her sudden reappearance real in a way the books do not.

My one beef is with the show's choice to have Frank forbid her from finding out what happened to Jamie. The Claire we know has proven herself over and over to have a strong will that won't bend to the whims of men; maybe she'd have agreed in that moment, but we're clearly to assume she agreed in the long-term, as well, which just doesn't make sense. It's out of character for Frank, too. The book's solution of her assuming Jamie is dead and not wanting to know the details is much more plausible than her obeying for twenty years what is frankly a pretty shitty request.

I didn't really love the obviously fake CGI cityscapes, either. I can tell I'm going to miss Scotland this season.
posted by something something at 7:27 AM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

P.S. Yay! Outlander is back!
posted by something something at 7:29 AM on April 10, 2016

I thought this was a really strong start, and I also liked that they started in 1948. It had a little too much Frank for my taste, but I am strongly anti-Frank. Ron Moore seems to love Frank, though, so I wasn't surprised. I can understand the practicalities of having to give Tobias Menzies enough screen time to keep on as a cast member, and he did a good job of conveying Frank's feelings. I just don't care about Frank's feelings. I do wish Diana had written Frank better so I could try to care about him, but I can't deal with him for Voyager-related reasons.

Jamie's hair is distractingly tragic right now, though. I miss his Season 1, episodes 1-4 hair. I know it's growing out for book-reasons, but a girl can bemoan some tragic hair, right?

Caitriona Balfe is doing such an amazing job. I seriously can't imagine anyone else playing Claire that well.

Oh, and the theme song! I love the change! Also really liked that they let the warehouse scene be in French with subtitles. I'm glad this show trusts its audience enough to do things like that.

The hiatus was so long, I'm excited but need to ramp back up to full Outlander life-taking-over commitment. Which will probably hit me next week. Really glad to see such strong press reviews of the first few episodes, I hope we get a season 3 renewal announcement soon.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:13 PM on April 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

On first watch, I thought that it was Jamie's ring that she found in the grass in the opening scene even though I didn't remember it having a setting, but re-watching this morning I saw that she already had the two wedding rings on, so the ring with the missing jewel in the setting must have been something else? Maybe they're going to introduce the idea of jewels & crystals having some effect on the safety of transit between the stones (though, in the books I don't think Claire learns any of that until she starts looking into Gellis in 1968, and then during the West Indies stuff in book 3, if I remember right).
posted by oh yeah! at 3:15 PM on April 10, 2016

In the books Claire has never gone through with gemstones.
posted by brujita at 5:54 PM on April 10, 2016

Yay! Outlander! Outlander!

Yeah, the show has really done a better job of characterizing Frank than the books did, which is a bit frustrating as it's really so much easier to just hate on Frank and mourn for the loss of Jamie. But it is probably good for me to have to sympathize with the dude a little bit.

Good acting between Balfe and Menzies, though, in their scenes. I was a fan. I almost prefer Menzies and Heughan playing off of the other characters than playing off each other.
posted by olinerd at 10:46 PM on April 10, 2016

And agreed, I love the changes to the theme song. Really beautiful.
posted by olinerd at 10:47 PM on April 10, 2016

Oh, I didn't even twig about the gemstones, I assumed it was meant to be her piece of amber that had somehow fallen out. But of course the gemstone makes more sense, and they are already setting that up.

I am glad the show emphasised her reaction to Frank/Black Jack, because I can imagine what fortitude it would have taken for Claire to go back to Frank when they are so alike, and when Frank shows those moments of violence that are usually so carefully hidden under the surface. I appreciate Tobias Menzies, and I also preferred their interactions in this episode over Claire/Jamie.

I'm not sure about the theme song change yet. I think I got too attached to the last season's version. But I did think the music in this episode overall was lovely and well placed.

I too am looking forward to the upcoming changes to Jamie's poodle hair.

And I almost cried when Frank burned Claire's clothes, in an Indiana Jones "That belongs in a MUSEUM" kind of way, not to mention that Claire should have kept it JUST IN CASE.
posted by tracicle at 12:24 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I know, right? Frank, WTF?? After the fancy-pants historical costume expert you wrote to EXPRESSLY said those clothes were authentic and of incalculable value? And do you even KNOW how much work goes into making a corset entirely by hand???
posted by stuck on an island at 2:42 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

The clothes burning killed me. C'mon, Frank, you're a historian! Though I guess it shows just how angry and hurt he was.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:06 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

Let's pour one out for the fledgling Scottish tourism industry that spun up too slowly around Outlander only to have it cruelly whisked away to FRANCH.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:22 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, people still want to go to Scotland, no worries.
posted by amtho at 6:04 PM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

There's talk of filming the Carribean scenes of Voyager in Scotland.
posted by brujita at 12:52 AM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Huh, I wonder how well it work for them to film those Caribbean scenes in Scotland. That part of the book is so bananas it doesn't really matter what the setting looks like. I bet they can get away with filming the America stuff in Scotland, too. Apparently the filming location for the interior of Rev. Wakefield's house is an awesome B&B somewhere in Scotland.... I need to know where it is so I can go there during our inevitable next trip to Scotland, someday.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:02 AM on April 12, 2016

I was wondering why 1948 Claire wasn't wearing anything New Look-inspired, but it turns out that clothes rationing didn't end in the UK until 1949.

It's not in focus ( and I watched this on my smartphone screen) but it looks like there's a picture of Jamie in profile with his hair obscuring his face on the wall of C and F's room at the manse.
posted by brujita at 3:03 AM on April 13, 2016

Bear McCreary's (extensive) notes on the re-arrangement of the theme for S2, the Frank theme, the Claire and Jamie theme, the sound of the less-fancy parts of France, and the Comte theme.

Also, if you didn't know, Ron Moore (sometimes joined by the episode's writer or director, or his wife and costume designer Terry Dresbach) does an audio commentary for every episode. They're fantastic.

I still hate Frank, but I think the Frank-changes have been excellent on their own merit, as well as nicely done to manage certain TV and casting situations that are unavoidable. And Menzies is great, I think those characters could have been really crap in the wrong person's hands.

Does anyone know if there is a definitive/most-active wiki or other deep-nerd Outlander site/repository? I have had a Frank Theory since the moment I first read the first chapter of the first book, something I thought was majorly (even clumsily) telegraphed, but as far as I can tell that shoe has never dropped but it might just be because I'm not looking hard enough.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:46 AM on April 13, 2016

Lyn Never, I think the most definitive is the Compuserve community that Gabaldon haunts. There's a link to it here (sorry, the actual Compuserve site is blocked on my work computer). Also on that page of links is the Ladies of Lallybroch site, which has been around since pretty much the dawn of home internet access (like, I remember going there when I had AOL in high school back in the mid-90s). The best discussion of the show & books that I've found, with the least amount of weird fan crazies is the Oh No They Didn't- Sassenach Livejournal community.

I want to hear your Frank theory!! Can you post it here, too, or is it too spoilery?
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:30 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's not actually all that important I guess except it could/should have been used to really excellent effect - and I did just end up on this wikia page on Frank that confirms that the key piece of information was barely mentioned and then dropped: Frank was MI6 in the war.

I remember the bit at the beginning of Outlander where Claire was all "of course he just sat in an office but he felt terrible about people who died", which is apparently something she never reconsidered as being a cover story even though it was obvious to me. So it ends up being this story about poor PTSD Claire, and then poor PTSD Jamie, and poor kinda emasculated "historian" Frank who "sat in an office", when in all likelihood Frank saw some shit too but has it bottled up tighter than grandma's sherry on a Tuesday.

I thought the show was going to go there with that weird interlude with the fight in the alley. It shows us that he's not just a mild-mannered historian, but instead they seem to just be saying he's a generically violent asshole (like his ancestor) rather than someone with his own backstory and trauma and and a situation where he channeled that violence for a cause and it broke him in some way (...like his ancestor??).

And I have also thought at times that, because of something in The War Of Which Frank Does Not Speak and Secret Intelligence Stuff, he knew something about time travel. You can fall a far way down that rabbithole just based on the actual text, but there's other (I think) unhinted possibilities there too. But it certainly reads - over all the books, when Frank comes up - like there's more to him and his relationship to all the storylines than we ever get into, and therefore there are good reasons, sometimes, for his badness - except the narrative seems to be pretty plainly saying "And here's Frank, he's a real piece of shit, huh? Anyway, isn't Jamie dreamy?"

Maybe he's just kind of a poorly-written boogeyman. OR everyone else but me has figured this out but doesn't find it interesting. OR I'm right and this is an accidental spoiler and a really interesting story I'd like to read.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

There's been hints of what Frank was up to in the last 2 books....and DG has hinted that he didn't die in the way Claire was told.
posted by brujita at 10:42 AM on April 13, 2016

Ah ha! I need to catch up on my re-reading.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:48 AM on April 13, 2016

Oooh, that's really interesting! I can't get over the fact that Diana wrote him as a racist. That, and his behavior towards Claire in Voyager (which is basically his behavior toward her for the entire time she's with him post-Jamie in the book-verse), just took him from being a barely existent character to an outright awful one in my mind. I think it was lazy writing on Diana's part, and she's backpedaled super hard on Frank over the years when she talks about him, but he has like zero redeeming qualities to me. If he could be re-written to take out the Voyager characterization and instead be a super spy who had some shit go down in his own life, I'd be up for that. Ron Moore loves him, so I think we're going to get a significant revision of his character in the show.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:52 AM on April 13, 2016

I can't get over the fact that Diana wrote him as a racist.

All I can really do with this is assume she was trying to do a good thing, and she did not do it well. Many of the Franks (and Claires) of their original time, and pretty much all the other times involved too, were racist as hell, but you have to be careful about actually writing that POV from a primary character's mouth/head.

I kind of feel like she may have intended for the Frank "reveal", if there is one, to come much much sooner in the story and make it a proper love triangle, but either got caught up in the Jamie Fever herself or felt pressured by it to keep him much more villainy than the original plan.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:50 AM on April 13, 2016

Lyn Never, have you read the short story "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows"? It's in a collection called Songs of Love and Death but I think you can also get it as a standalone Kindle title. I think of it as "the story about Roger and Buck and Jerry Mackenzie" but it also gets a little bit at what you've been thinking about Frank.

And you're right.
posted by spamloaf at 12:22 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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