Here’s the plan: This post covers the remaining Paris episodes, and then I’ll write again about the rest of the season after the finale has aired – and probably after I’ve had some days to think about it, because that seems to be the writing style I’m most comfortable with. Yay for self-discovery!
2×05: Untimely Resurrection. This episode is sort of split in two parts. The first portion deals with the repercussions of the events from the previous episode, the dinner party gone wrong. Things are complicated and nothing ever really works out. I liked that the Duke of Sandringham had become suspicious of the whole thing: because Prince Charles was obviously an idiot, why would Jamie follow him? It was a nice reminder that the peope they are trying to manipulate are no idiots. Well, not all of them. This is followed by a scene between Claire and Annalise that seems to be going in the same direction, with Annalise pointing out that when she knew Jamie, he wasn’t into politics at all. But it turns out that she’s not actually suspicious of Jamie’s current “out of character” lifestyle; she simply thinks it means he has matured and become “a man” instead of the brash “boy” she knew. Crisis averted! Except, of course, that’s the moment that Randall shows up, so.
Randall’s first appearance in Season 2 is kind of the polar opposite of his last appearances in Season 1. This scene takes place in bright daylight, outside in the open, in public. Everyone is dressed nicely. Because of the public setting, there can be no open demonstratons of hostility, everyone has to act civilized and hide what they are truly thinking and feeling. It’s a far cry from the darkness, confined space, raw violence and extreme, openly expressed emotions of the S1 finale, when no societal norms or rules or laws were in play.
And at first, Randall is pleased with the situation – Claire can’t do anything but fume quietly and she can’t stop Annalise from hurrying off to fetch Jamie. The circumstances seem to be in his favour, and why not? Until now, he’s always been the one with more power, due to being a British officer. But then King Louis shows up and suddenly being a British officer isn’t an advantage, but a problem. Louis treats Randall with dislike and mockery, while flattering Claire. When Jamie shows up, Randall is clearly expecting Jamie to lose his cool and attack him – his hand goes to his sword – but Jamie has his emotions under control and puts on a courteous facade under the eyes of the king. It must be really disappointing for Randall, who was so basking in Claire’s discomfort moments earlier.
Jamie does challenge him to a duel, but withdraws at Claire’s request. Because killing Randall at this point would mean that Frank would never exist. Ah, time travel ethics! Things were simpler in Season 1, no one worried too much about the wider consequences of their actions. I wouldn’t say that the stakes were lower, but things were more straight-forward, personal and less complicated. It was more a matter of day-to-day survival than trying to plan ahead for two centuries! I mean, to be honest, with the return of Randall, it’s hard to care much about the political intrigue. It may be important, but it’s so theoretical and indirect, while Randall directly affects Claire and Jamie’s personal lives.
That’s why – several weeks later, granted – I can’t remember the next episode, 2×06: Best Laid Schemes, in great detail. Well, making sure that the wine deal between Prince Charles and St. Germain falls through, that was actually an entertaining adventure sequence. But the heart of the show lay with the Randall plot. Murtagh’s anger at Jamie’s announcement that he wouldn’t duel Randall after all, and Claire’s shock when, prompted by a new shock, Jamie went back on his promise and fought him after all.
2×07: Faith is one of the strongest episode because it narrows the focus down to Claire, dealing with her feelings about her miscarriage, the grief for her daughter and anger at Jamie for breaking his promise. She eventually learns that he did it because Randall raped Fergus – really, how could anybody stay calm and rational in that situation? After this revelation, Claire stops being purely focused on her own loss and anger, and takes action to get Jamie released from prison, fix things as best as possible. This means petitioning the king, which she does knowing that the king is probably going to demand sex in return.
I saw some discussion about this plot and whether or not this incident should be called “rape”. It struck me that a lot of people felt it’s not rape because Claire ~knew what she was getting into~, that she ~chose to do it anyway~. It’s interesting that I didn’t see anybody talk about Louis. You know, the one with the actual power and agency in this scenario, who could do whatever he wanted, who could ask anything in return for freeing Jamie, but chooses to demand sex of a grieving and desperate woman. Claire’s only options were sex with the king or letting Jamie spend the rest of his life in prison. It’s not much of a choice. She did not want to sleep with Louis, she didn’t want Jamie to die miserably and alone in a French prison cell, she didn’t want Fergus to keep blaming himself, and she probably didn’t want to live alone and unhappy for the rest of her days either.
Ultimately, whether or not this is rape depends on your definition of the term, but it’s simplistic and dismissive to pretend that because Claire was ready to make that sacrifice, that makes it all OK. Let’s stop examining Claire’s behaviour. Louis knowingly took advantage of her situation. What does that make him? Is that rape culture, that we concentrate on Claire’s behaviour, Claire’s actions, and don’t talk about Louis at all?
Jamie even compares it to his surrender to Randall. We all agree that was rape and he only “agreed” to it in order to save Claire’s life, not because he was “OK” with it. This comparison brings the Paris arc full-circle: originally, they went to Paris so that Jamie could safely heal from the trauma of his rape, now they are leaving with new traumas! Guilt and trauma for everyone! I also can’t help but notice that Claire’s pregnancy starts and ends along with the Paris arc. When she announced her pregnancy to Jamie at the very end of Season 1, it means hope for a better future, and they decide to fight for it by changing history. Now their baby’s death also puts an end to those efforts. (Then again, they did get a child in Paris: Fergus. Jamie even gave him a name, that’s pretty parent-y.)
Wait, now I didn’t talk about a lot of noteworthy stuff! Another time?
- The room with the starry ceiling, the masked guards and ominous atmosphere – that felt like a place where you would fight the final boss of a JRPG! But the “gameplay” of the scene was more like a point & click adventure, with Claire trying to find a solution to her impossible task, with a mix of multiple choice dialogue and the items present. :D
- Speaking of Outlander things that reminded me of videogames: LOL, Claire is totally that kind of Fire Emblem player, trying to break up Alex and Mary … so that Frank can get Galeforce!