There’s nothing quite like waking in a stone circle enraged and heartbroken. The wailing anguish of Claire immediately grips the heart for the ride ahead. Season 2 episode 1, Through A Glass, Darkly, is a powerful opener for the following twelve episodes to come. It’s an exciting and refreshing start.
The feelings of loss, desperation, pain, grief, trauma, love, healing, and even hope are set into motion early on in the viewing. There’s little to quibble about in this highly crafted, well done episode.
A quick rundown synopsis: We’re most definitely not where we left off at the end of Season 1 sailing to France with Jamie, Murtagh, and Claire. The opening and subsequent first segment, flings us forward with Claire back to the future, in 1948. Frank eagerly comes to reclaim her at the hospital. Jamie is presumed dead; lost at Culloden. This first segment tumultuously deals with her sudden reappearance, outlandish story and behavior, pregnancy, alongside the reality of Frank and Claire’s teetering marriage. War separated and changed them, in this Claire became someone quite different, having lived an entirely different life, and finding her true match and love in Jamie. For Frank she left, but his life perhaps was not so different with the exception of her absence; for him to pick up where they left off seems simpler than for her. Of course, it’s far from that.
Once a basic resolution is made between them, a timey-wimey, very clever hand holding flashback brings us to the expected beginning where we meet Jamie, Claire, and Murtagh landing at the port of Le Havre, France 1745. They set out to change history using Claire’s basic foreknowledge.
What turned my head?
First off, I found three to be an interesting theme, specifically in some shared experiences of Claire, Frank, and Jamie. This is where the rather forced love triangle of Season 1 really seems to puzzle together and fit. It’s all quite brilliantly connected.
Living With Ghosts:
Frank is dealing with the ghost of Jamie within Claire. She is anguished and has thick emotional walls about her. She is there by default, not want. She’s carrying Jamie’s baby, a physical reminder of her time away and his sterility. Frank cannot compete with what and who she came from, no matter how he pleas and loves her. It’s refreshing to see his full point of view.
Claire is managing the ghost of Black Jack Randall left behind haunting Jamie. He is not yet free, the healing will take time, though he is improving. She has to be strong and reassure him. She has to gently move him back to the land of the fully living. He’s still a tender, hurting man. The physical wounds a constant reminder on the outside, but the inner wounds far worse to contend with. As time goes, we see sparks of himself returning to himself. For herself, Claire is fighting the ghost of Black Jack Randall as well with Frank. When he initially comes near, she sees BJR and flinches. The kinder ghost of Frank upon BJR left in Season 1 for her, but she now sees the horrific ghost of BJR, upon Frank.
Jamie, since the very beginning has lived with the memory of Frank within Claire. He’s often pushed to choose for the future of Frank, and not what from what he wants or desires to do. This takes a terrifically substantial toll upon him emotionally. He’s a loyal husband, and manages his love for Claire while amazingly well, while honoring her future past.
Claire has been torn away from Jamie and returned to the relative safety of the 20th century. She’s clearly unwell and struggling. Frank is going through the heartache and confusion of a wife returned to him; unwilling, broken, and pregnant. Jamie is slowly physically and emotionally healing from the Wentworth assault by Black Jack Randall. They all have many layers of emotion to process and grow from individually, and as a couple in their own time.
The acting is utterly flawless. One would have to be dead not to respond viscerally to what’s onscreen. One cannot help but be taken up into every emotion throughout. It’s impossible not to be deeply affected along with the beloved characters. Rich writing and performances by all.
Caitriona Balfe continually blows my mind with her acting ability and fearless nature. She pours out everything and more into Claire. It’s rare to see such vulnerability and range in any actor. When she screams in the opening sequence and then loses it on the kindly stranger, it is a high bar set for every other costar. She IS a star to be reckoned with. I cannot say enough about her portrayal and talent. She’s the perfect onscreen Claire.
No one can escape the reality of Tobias Menzies finding the desperate, conflicted, and helpless side of Frank Randall. His angry release has truth in it. Wouldn’t any man in such a position respond this way? It’s ever convincing the spectrum of emotion he experiences in our watching. It is highly compelling to see his point of view outside of Claire. Frank is a more well rounded and understandable character at this point. The audience knows him far better than before. I venture he is still quite a mystery to unfold though. Don’t get too comfortable yet. Sam Heughan is deftly playing with the subtleties of Jamie Fraser. He’s a bigger than life character that Sam has brought into the realm of flesh and blood reality. He’s hurting and pensive. He’s lacking the strength he and Claire are accustomed to. Part of his soul has been pierced by Black Jack Randall. Showing us these inner wounds with quiet interpretation, is a thing of beauty and heartbreak. He makes us root for him. His allowance of Claire bolstering him and fortifying his healing is the of unseen side of true strength. Sam shines brightly in Jamie’s transition time.
Not last by any means, are the costuming and locations. The periods are set exquisitely. The richness of 18th century France in contrast to the crisp 20th century, is alluring and exciting to see. Terry Dresbach, her design and costuming teams, and all of production teams, are doing a fantastic and believable job. I would say better than any other current television series.
This Season 2 premiere effort is better than this fan could’ve anticipated. The twists upon the writing by Ronald D. Moore and the writing team, and the exacting direction by Metin Hüseyin, astonished me in the best ways possible. The several different shots looking through windows playing on the title are clever and create an even more palpable sense of what the character is feeling.
There’s no doubt in my mind the tone of this season has a veil of hope in the darkness, from which rich soil to grow in and from can emerge.
As I wrap up this post, there’s so much more to discuss that has been left unsaid here, so please listen to my full review companion podcast.
All screen capture photos are the property of Starz.
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