Outlander: Season 2, Episode 1 - "Through a Glass, Darkly"
Is the past fixed, or can Jamie and Claire make a difference in Scotland's fate?
OutlanderAirtime: Saturdays, 9pm
Cast: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies, Duncan Lacroix, Grant O'Rourke
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 1 - "Through a Glass, Darkly"
Air date: 2016-04-09
Claire Beecham-Randall-Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) is nothing short of a time traveler. Like any good time traveler, she must learn to accept that the future isn't as easily changed as it may seem. Across most time-traveling forms of fiction, there's one rule that’s consistent: there are fixed moments in history. Certain events must take place. No matter how hard any given time traveler tries to change things, some events must always play out the same way and end in the same outcome. According to Doctor Who, if these events break, the entirety of the universe and its history begins to unravel.
For Claire, her main goal in season two is to change the ending to the Battle of Culloden. As the story goes, the British massacred the rebellious army of clansmen leaving few, if no, survivors, and effectively destroying the clan system. Knowing husband Jamie Fraser's (Sam Heughan) willingness to fight for Scotland and defend his own clan's way of life, he most likely would've taken part in the battle, inevitably losing his life. But, upon her return to 1948 via the stones of Craigh Na Dun, she learns that history stands in place, and learns the lesson of all time travelers: some things you can’t change.
Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies), now a few years without his wife after her inexplicable disappearance, goes to see her when she returns. He finds her changed and heartbroken, leaving him unsure how to reconnect with his wife. Her resistance towards him mostly stems from her many traumatic experiences with Frank’s look-alike ancestor Black Jack Randall (Tobia Menzies). Trying to reason with Claire to start life anew, he learns of her life over the last few years, of Jamie Fraser, and of her pregnancy with Jamie's child. The wife who left him isn't the wife that he meets again. Claire sits so near him, yet is clearly so far way in mind and spirit. Is it hopeless for Frank to believe that he and Claire could find a new normal? Is the ghost of Jamie doomed to haunt her forever? Should he leave her? Can he change his wife back over time? Or, are there some things you can't change? The love he has for Claire clearly forces these and hundreds more questions to spin around in his head.
Caitriona Balfe does a good job in portraying the stark contrast between Claire's new 20th-century reality, and her opportunistic 18th-century outlook, visually represented by how much more colorful the world is in the scenes with Jamie in France than the scenes with Frank. This season has started at the ending, which begs the question: can she still change history, as the story’s still moving forward to what we think is a certain, destined future? Do we really know how Claire and Jamie's quest will end because we see her reunion with Frank as dismal as it seems to be? Or, is she going to pull another trick out of her time traveler's hat? The alternate timeline aspect of Back to the Future II explains this one best. Once a moment in history is changed ever so slightly, there's a chance to create an alternate timeline, making the future unpredictable.
Like other time travelers before her, there are people you could hope to bring along the journey with you, but Claire has only one ticket through the stones. Jamie will never be immortal; she can’t have him forever. Leaving Jamie means leaving permanently. Based on how deeply depressed she was upon arrival in the 1940s, it's possible that she didn't return because she wanted to, although this future could be one of infinite options, as the alternate timeline theory offers.
The series has taken a turn away from the plot of the books, as the interaction with Frank and Claire in 1948 isn’t in the book series. As the season progresses, we could see how this reunion with Frank and Claire is changed as she begins to alter history little by little, or we'll begin to see how set in stone are these moments in time.
We see Claire in two different points in her timeline. One, determined to save Jamie and the clans; and the other, knowing that her plans failed. This episode's laced with the harsh realizations of powerlessness for everyone. Claire comes to terms with the fact that she doesn't have the power to change the future, and Frank with how little power he has to change Claire.
Jamie, on the other hand, stands between hope and disappointment in this episode, both as the figure of possible change, and the symbol of utter loss. As the season begins to unfold, with many more twists and turns to come, we'll have to see how this will all play out for both of the time traveler’s husbands.