Outlander S02E05 “Untimely Resurrection” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Amazon Prime Instant Video, new episodes every Sunday
Writer: Richard Kahan
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Essential Plot Points:
- Jamie and Murtagh are briefly imprisoned in the Bastille after the fracas at the party but are bailed out by Duverney. Alex remains in there for the suspected rape of Mary.
- Mary gives Claire a letter to deliver to the Bastille stating that Alex is innocent. Claire hesitates delivering it because she needs Mary to marry Jack – not his brother Alex – to make sure Frank’s lineage remains intact (although she doesn’t seem worried about all the lineages she’ll be trampling all over by changing the outcome at Culloden).
- Claire does deliver the letter, but when Alex is freed she convinces him that he’s not the right man for Mary. He agrees and ends the relationship. Thankfully we’re spared the scene where Mary finds out…
- Prince Charles has come up with a ker-aaaaazzzzyyyyyy money making scheme that alarms Jamie on so many levels, but mainly because it involves a joint business deal between Jamie and the Comte St Germain.
- Claire suggests deploying some harmless herbs that will give the appearance of smallpox to make it look like the Comte’s ship is once again infected, and therefore impounded and burnt.
- Jamie gives Claire some “apostle spoons” – a family heirloom – as a christening present for the baby.
- Jamie and Claire are invited to a shindig in the grounds of Versaille where the Duke of Sandringham wants Jamie’s advice about buying horses (and also, it seems, to eye up Jamie’s butt when he leans over to inspect their fetlocks). The Duke also hints that he knows Jamie is playing Prince Charles.
- Jack turns up at Versaille to help his brother regain employment with Sandringham (who’d sacked Alex after the fracas at the party). With King Louis promenading the grounds (and a law against duelling in France) Jamie and Jack restrain themselves from killing each other but secretly set up a duel to be held later.
- Claire is distraught. If Jamie kills Jack then that’s Frank’s lineage up the swanny again.
- Claire falsely claims that Jack was the man who attacked her and Mary in the alley in the previous episode to get him locked up and out of Jamie’s reach.
- Jamie is furious. Claire uses emotional blackmail to bring him round. She knows that Frank’s ancestor will be born within the year so she begs Jamie to delay his revenge for a year. He reluctantly agrees.
Jack’s back. And even though he doesn’t actually do much – apart from inadvertently provide some amusement for the French monarch and get locked up – his mere presence threatens to send everything to Hell in a handcart.
Immediately Jack forces a wedge between Jamie and Claire. You knew something like this was going to happen immediately after Jamie gave Claire the family cutlery in one of those sweet moments of domestic bliss that – in drama – always means there’s a storm coming.
Because under other circumstances Jack’s appearance would be a great development for Jamie. Here’s his chance for revenge! But, of course, here comes Claire with her vague grasp of time travel paradoxes to ruin the party. While she’s worrying that Jack’s death will prevent Frank’s existence in the future, Jamie shows a much better understanding of the situation than she’s giving him credit for: “I thought we were here to change the future,” he points out to his befuddled wife when she argues about not changing the future.
In other words Claire’s completely happy to sacrifice the potential descendants of thousands of people fighting at Culloden but not happy to sacrifice the one lineage that’s pertinent to her. How titanically egotistical is that? And Jamie sees that. Yet he still backs down she plays her ace: “You owe me a life!” Ouch. That’s playing dirty.
So for the moment your sympathies are all with Jamie, the noblest Highlander of them all. It might help if Frank had been portrayed with more charm in the season premiere so that you’d understand what Claire is fighting for. It’s not Tobias Menzies’ fault – he’s a fine actor (and he’s superb as Jack here). But Frank has never really been shown as a real love rival for Jamie; he’s just the guy Claire makes do with in the 20th century. A bit bland. A little creepy. So it’s difficult to get on board with Claire’s dilemma as much the writers want us to.
Not that it really matters, because you’re totally invested in Jamie. His pain, his agony and his sacrifices are what are driving the drama of this show. The conversation between Claire and Annalise de Marillac at Versaille really hits home. Annalise may be acting the jealous bitch but she’s right: Claire has turned Jamie from a free-spirited, straightforward, life-embracing Highlander into a conniving politician and businessman. She’s almost shaping him for her own ends and destroying what attracted her to him in the first place. It’s an enlightening little scene.
In the end whether you’re team Claire or Team Jamie doesn’t matter; this is a gripping and compelling episode. It has a different pace and tone to what we’ve been watching for the last three weeks, using a series of extremely long scenes to let the actors shine, while the subtle undercurrent of the relationships carry as much dramatic clout as the often deliberately ambiguous or downright obfuscating dialogue. There’s a lot going on here that’s not actually said explicitly (apart from on the Comte St Germain/Jamie meeting where the two are amusingly blunt with each other).
There are superb performances throughout, some absolutely gorgeous cinematography (at times some of the interior scenes are lit like Rembrandt paintings) and the usual stunning costumes. So if Claire annoys you with her blinkered selfishness, remember – it’s all just adding to the drama. We’d be watching a show about a couple happily raising kids in a draughty Scottish castle if she were a reasonable human being. Which’d be a bit dull.
- Jack’s back! And immediately stirring up all kinds of trouble.
- The Duke Of Sandringham has sussed out that Jamie is being duplicitous (“But I wonder that someone who’s such a good judge of horse flesh is such a poor judge of men”). Interesting development.
- Whether you think Claire is the Guardian Of Time or a selfish meddler who likes subjecting Jamie to mental torture, it is entertaining watching her turn into Jane Austen’s Emma with Alex, not-so-gently making sure his relationship with Mary is scuppered.
- Amazingly, Jack only appears in one scene – albeit a very long one (around nine minutes!) – but he totally dominates the episode.
- The moment within that scene when the effete French monarch takes the monumental piss out of Jack (deriding his uniform, his French, his nationality, his gullibility) is excellent too, although the most amazing thing is that it doesn’t diminish Jack as a threat. Instead you can almost see him contemplating the wisdom of regicide.
- The final Claire/Jamie confrontation is very powerful. Though Claire playing the “You owe me a life,” is a truly desperate piece of emotional blackmail, the sheer fireworks of that exchange mean you know something seismic has changed in their relationship; a major chunk of mutual trust has just broken off.
- “Claire, surely you of all people can step outside the passions of the moment and appreciate the sublime preposterousness of a universe that would guide us to a meeting at the French court.” Having your characters point out handy coincidences in your plot is a dangerous game; it just makes the viewer think, “Oh yeah, that is a bit rubbish, isn’t it?”
- Charles’s scheme to make money in the wine trade sounded like the very opposite of surefire profit generator – there were all kinds of potential pitfalls. He came across like someone who’d be out in week three of The Apprentice.
- There was a dearth of great character cameos this week as the main players dominated.
And The Random:
- A better argument to win over Jamie than, “You owe me a life,” is, “If Frank doesn’t exist in the future then I would never have travelled to Scotland with him, and so I would never have found the stone circle, wouldn’t have travelled back in time, wouldn’t have met you and wouldn’t have be bearing your child.”
- We’re happy for someone with a better grasp of the history of art to correct us, but all those geometric shapes on that sculpture don’t look very 18th century Versaille to us.
- In France under the reign of Henry IV (1589-1610), over 4,000 French aristocrats were killed in duels during an eighteen-year period” while Louis XIII’s reign (1610 –1643) saw over eight thousand pardons for “murders associated with duels”. Louis XIII eventually outlawed duelling in 1626, a law which remained in force for ever afterwards, and his successor Louis XIV intensified efforts to wipe out the duel. He wasn’t massively successful; it is estimated that between 1685 and 1716, French officers fought 10,000 duels, leading to over 400 deaths.
- For a horrible moment we thought Jamie here was going to go full Basic Instinct on us and we were going to find out whether this Scotsman wears anything under his kilt…
Review by Dave Golder
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