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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Outlander Series 2

Series 2.

Long time readers of this blog will remember that my feelings about Outlander have always been decidedly mixed, at least during its first series. On the one hand, I liked the soundtrack, thought the romance elements were well done, and that Claire was an interesting and layered character, and that Claire's rivalry with evil soldier Black Jack Randall were pretty tense, fraught and interesting. On the other hand, I hated the torture porn, hated the fetishism, and found the series to be often aimless and meandering.

Well, I think everyone will be pleased to know that that's all still true for the second series, so if you read those two reviews for the first series, you can probably just skip the rest of this one. There isn't going to be a tremendous amount of new information, so I'll see all of you guys tomorrow for - I don't know, probably a Digimon review? Maybe Creed if I get a chance to watch it?

Alternating somewhat between the past and modern(ish - mid 20th century) times, Outlander's second series opens with Claire returning through the time travel stones of Craigh na Dun, pregnant with Jamie's child. As she reunites with her husband Frank, she begins to tell him the story of everything that happened to her, including what happened after she arrived in Paris. In her flashbacks, we see Claire and Jamie arrive in France, where they plan to stop the Jacobite Uprising from ever taking place by starving Prince Charles of support. As Jamie ingratiates himself with the prince and seeks to sabotage him, Claire gains a new rival in the form of the Le Comte St. Germain, a French nobleman who seeks to undermine her - and possibly do her harm. Things get worse when Jamie repeatedly fails to sabotage Charles' plans, and both the Duke of Sandringham and Black Jack Randall arrive in Paris. Before long, the pair are headed back to Scotland to participate in the uprising, and with it, get ever close to the tragedy at Culloden.

France is a lovely place, but I'm glad we didn't spend an entire series there.

I mentioned during my last Outlander review that I wasn't much looking forward to the Paris stuff, as it would put even more distance between our main pair and the Castle Leoch cast. Well, it turns out I was totally right not to look forward to that: The vibrant Castle Leoch cast are never really replaced, with the only tolerable members of the new Paris cast being Master Raymond, a mysterious and seemingly magical apothecary, and Mother Hildegarde, a minor character who runs a hospital.

On top of that, despite having a somewhat more solid end goal for Claire and Jamie, the plot seems even more aimless and meandering than the second half of the first series, consisting mostly of Claire struggling to adapt to socialite life, and Jaime chatting to Prince Charles about the uprising. The show tries to inject a little more life into things by having Black Jack show up in Paris, along with a subplot about a young girl who will one day be Frank's ancestor, and Claire pleading with Jamie not to kill Black Jack, since it'd mean Frank is never born, but it doesn't really work, because the only thing Black Jack can do to make himself a threat is leer menacingly at people.


The show picks up some pace once it eventually has the characters return to Scotland, with the narrative shifting to them trying to prepare for war, hoping to change the outcome of the uprising, since they can't prevent it. Part of this is because the Castle Leoch cast, who always make everything better, return. A lot of it, though, is just because the characters are on the move, and have a lot more smaller goals on the road to their big goal, rather than one massive goal, so you get a smattering of smaller successes to prepare us for their inevitable failure.

(The show makes no secret of the fact that their failure is inevitable, too. It does, after all, open on Claire, distraught, returning to her own time, so we're set up from the very beginning to expect tragedy. As with any good tragedy, knowing that it's coming doesn't make it less tragic.)

Pictured: The aforementioned menacing leering.

There is also at least an attempt - albeit very likely just as a holdover from the books making a similar attempt - to rectify some of the key problems with the first series. Jamie's PTSD returns as a subplot, and is treated a lot more delicately this time around. The fetish-y elements are toned down a lot, especially as they relate to the Jacobite Uprising. There is effort to correct the show's various flaws, and while it never quite works out, I appreciate that.

The series ends on a truly bizarre note, with Claire twenty or thirty years older (indicated by her having slightly different hair) seeing Geillis travel through the Stones, and finding out that Jaime actually survived Culloden. So - I guess she's going to be going back into the past to reunite with him, especially as her daughter is now an adult. In all honesty, that would be a good enough place to end the entire story, but I know for a fact there's another four books in the series, so bring on series three, I suppose.

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