When Outlander premiered, the headlines ran mostly along the lines of “Scottish hunks and time travel and kilts and sexy sex!” With the move to France (in early episodes, at least) and the trauma Jamie faced in “Wentworth Prison,” it’s clear that Outlander will be a different show in Season Two. There’s no sexy sex in this episode, or even any attempts at it—Jamie is still suffering physically (and emotionally/ psychologically, although “Through a Glass, Darkly” doesn’t really go there just yet), and he and Claire are more concerned with their plans to change the future.
But let’s begin at the beginning. The second season premiere of Outlander grants Claire’s wish of returning to her life with Frank in the 1940s—except it’s about two years too late, and it’s a life Claire no longer wants.
When we last saw Claire and Jamie Fraser, they were about to set sail for France, to begin anew after the horrific torture and rape Jamie endured at the hands of Black Jack Randall in the first season’s penultimate episode, “Wentworth Prison.” The second season opens with Claire waking, disoriented, at Craigh na Dun, the mysterious stone circle that sent her back to 18th century Scotland in 1945. She’s still wearing her Highlander garb, but she’s alone: “He was gone,” she says in voiceover. “They were all gone. The world I’d left only moments ago was now dust.”
The first half of “Through a Glass, Darkly” finds Claire right back where she started. Frank arrives in Scotland to help Claire “convalesce,” and boy is it weird to see Tobias Menzies as Frank after witnessing him torment Jamie as Jack. When Frank first approaches Claire in her hospital bed, she can barely stand to look at him; when he reaches out to touch her, she instinctively flinches. “I’m sorry,” he says. “No,” she replies. “It’s not you.”
Claire rests up at Reverend Wakefield’s house. She refuses to confide in anyone but housekeeper Mrs. Graham, who first told her about the magic of the stones at Craigh na Dun. She’s fixated on finding out whatever she can about Jamie, but Mrs. Graham tells her what she already knows: Jamie likely died on the battlefield at Culloden (quick history lesson: at Culloden, the British defeated the clansmen of the Jacobite army in a battle that all but ended Highland culture in 1746) and it’s time for Claire to move on.
Finally, she sits down with Frank and tells him everything. Despite the fact that he’s identical to evil incarnate, Frank is a lovely, patient, tender man, particularly in this episode. He tells Claire that he doesn’t care where she’s been those two years; he’s just glad she’s back. But she insists on telling her story, which takes her all night to unspool.
“It’s quite the leap of faith,” Frank finally admits when she’s done. “But it is one that I am prepared to make as well.” But despite Frank’s patience, Claire is still grieving the loss of her husband. “I was with another man for two years, and I loved him deeply, as a wife,” she says. Finally, she drops the bomb: She’s pregnant with Jamie’s baby. Points for Menzies’s incredible range in this scene: first, joy spreads over his face at the thought of Claire giving birth to his child; then he slowly realizes that that’s not possible. (Later, he confides in the reverend that he’s sterile.) Anger takes over, and he begins to look a lot more like Black Jack Randall—he gets up in Claire’s face, tears streaming down his cheeks, hand tightened into a fist. But he walks away and instead exercises his fury on the poor, innocent contents of a garden shed.
It’s a testament to Menzies’s skill as an actor that we’re able to fully sympathize with him after all we’ve seen from Jack. While Claire’s been having sexy Scottish adventures, he’s been stuck in the present, without a clue as to what happened to his beloved. And he still wants to marry her and raise her child as his own—on the condition that she quit seeking information about Jamie. (He also feeds her old-timey Scottish clothes into a fire—which I get on an emotional level, but come on, those are valuable antiques!) Claire agrees, but it’s clear she’s making a choice that’s not really a choice at all—what else can she do?
Claire and Frank travel to America, where Frank has accepted a position to teach at Harvard. As she steps off the plane toward Frank’s outstretched hand, the action suddenly shifts to the port city of Le Havre, France, in 1745—where Claire disembarks from a ship and grasps the hand of Jamie instead.
Claire doesn’t know the details, but she does know that the events precipitating the 1746 Battle of Culloden begin in France. She suggests she and Jamie begin infiltrating the Jacobites there. They tell their plan to Murtagh, who accompanied them to France (and provides some nice comic relief), but he’s suspicious—he doesn’t know where Claire is really from, and doesn’t understand that she knows how history will play out. Murtagh gets the episode’s best line when he worries about “this cloth of lies we’re about to wrap ourselves in—like a plaid woven with guile and deception!” Oh, Outlander. How I’ve missed you.
Jamie has a cousin in Paris, who agrees to let him and Claire stay in his house and manage his wine business while he’s traveling abroad. It’s probably for the best—Claire’s not making many friends in Le Havre. When an incoming ship docks and several sick crewmen are carried off on stretchers, she recognizes that they’ve got smallpox. The law says the ship and all its cargo must be destroyed—which angers wine merchant St. Germain, who isn’t happy about losing a ship full of his stock. As the episode ends, we see the ship go up in flames; I’ll bet we haven’t seen the last of St. Germain.