Saturday, May 7, 2016

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - An Unexpected Face from the Past Appears in Paris in 'Untimely Resurrection'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 2.05 "Untimely Resurrection"

Jamie and Claire attempt to extinguish the fires their dinner party ignited. However, Claire is set off on an unexpected change of course. Jamie and Claire's relationship is put to the ultimate test when the past rears its ugly head.

Claire and Jamie have done their best to forge a new path for themselves this season. They've chosen to look forward to the future in the hopes that it will be better than their traumatic pasts. And yet, they can't just run away from what happened to them last season either. They've completely fallen into the mechanics of this new plot in Paris trying to stop the Jacobite rebellion. But that cause is deeply compromised by the details of their past and how that is shaping the people they are in the present. Claire has no understanding of whether or not she and Jamie can actually change the future. She wants to change it to preserve the Scottish culture. But she also wants to keep Frank's lineage intact. This mission has brought purpose to Claire and Jamie's lives this season. And yet, things continue to be complicated and tense between the two because of it.

Claire and Jamie have struggled with communication as a couple this season. Claire didn't know how to help Jamie in the wake of Black Jack assaulting him. She gave him this mission in Paris but she wasn't able to be as active of a part of it as she wanted. She has been off in the city worried about other things and the effects they might have on the timeline. They need to be united as a couple in order for any of this to work out in their favor. They finally had a moment of clarity and unity again in last week's episode. That was short-lived because of Claire and Mary's attack in the alley. But Claire and Jamie are still in a relatively good place during the beginning of "Untimely Resurrection." They are listening to Prince Charles' new plans for the cause and figuring out a way to undermine them. They are bonding as they prepare to become parents. It's so sweet and satisfying to see the two of them being able to count on each other in a time where they desperately need someone else on their side to comfort and strengthen them.

All of this changes in an instant when Black Jack shows up in Paris. It's a startling realization for Claire and Jamie. They have become aware that he survived their raid of the prison at the end of last season. More importantly, Claire has known for quite some time that Black Jack is destined to marry Mary and produce the child that will continue the family tree down to Frank. Claire intervenes in Mary's life in order to keep that part of history intact. To her, Frank is just an innocent bystander in all of this. She's no longer determined to return to the life she once had like she was before - even though she's destined to sometime in the near future. She's happy and in love with Jamie and the life they have together. But she still holds affection for Frank and wants to make sure that he survives whatever she is doing to the timeline with her efforts in Paris. So that ultimately means Black Jack arrives in the city. That was a very inevitable twist. But it's still an unsettling one. Black Jack has caused Claire and Jamie so much pain over the course of the series. All he has to do is show up to fill the episode with tension and dread. The show has earned that feeling while also bringing to attention just how awkward it is having Black Jack in Paris.

Claire and Jamie have been able to enter French society with no one being too suspicious about the plans they have. They have made new friends and new enemies. They are still looking at St. Germain as the likely suspect in Claire's poisoning and attack. But they have earned the trust and friendship of so many others as well. They have built a new life for themselves in Paris. Sure, it's one of deceit and lies. All of their actions are so they can one day return to Scotland and be proud that its traditions and culture still stand against the British. But they have formed genuine bonds in this city as well - Louise, Mary, Fergus, Raymond, Mother Hildegarde, etc. Of course, Jamie spends most of his time getting close to Prince Charles in order to stay one step ahead of the rebellion's financing. But that has been a very engaging story. Sure, Charles is starting to get a little one-note with him popping up in each episode to deliver the same speech about a rightful ruler being on the English throne again accompanied by the phrase "mark me." And yet, it still works because of the personal attachment that Jamie has with the story. He has gotten his confidence back thanks to Claire and this mission. And now, all of that is threatened by Black Jack who unexpectedly appears.

And yet, Black Jack isn't as welcomed in Paris as Claire and Jamie have been. He is a captain in the British army after all. Claire and Jamie are able to charm Prince Charles and King Louis. When Black Jack shows up, it's a terrifying sight to Claire. But Louis makes sure to put him in his place as well. These characters are no longer in Scotland. Black Jack no longer has the power that he did last season. French society is very different from the culture these characters have left behind. The season has very much driven home that fact. Black Jack came to Paris in order to support his brother, Alex, during his legal woes. Instead, he was reunited with the two most captivating people he was ever met in his life. He's delighted by running into Claire and Jamie again. He loves that the universe has brought them back together even though they are now in a new country. The pain of the past is still so raw. But the circumstances of this character pairing is different as well. The sight of Black Jack still makes Claire sick to her stomach. But it also fulfills Jamie's desire to be the one to kill this depraved man.

That creates a huge issue for Claire though. She knows more about the future and the timeline than she has told Jamie. He knows everything of relevance in connection to the Jacobite rebellion. He knows how it's destined to fail under Prince Charles' leadership. But he does not know what Claire knows about Black Jack. She has created an environment where Mary and Black Jack can still meet and have a baby. She doesn't know how it's going to happen. In fact, she destroys Mary's relationship with Alex because it may or may not keep it from happening. But she doesn't want her presence in Paris being the thing that erases Frank from the future. She wants him to be happy. She still loves him and worries about him a lot. Meanwhile, Jamie is happy that Black Jack is alive. When he sees him again, it only takes minutes before he challenges him to a duel. He's so thrilled to kill this man who took so much away from him. All of this forces a really ugly confrontation between Claire and Jamie. She needs to be honest with him. In doing so though, she's completely disregarding his feelings towards the man. It's going to be so painful for Jamie to know that Black Jack is still alive and in Paris for an entire year. That's what Claire wants him to do. He wants his vengeance and Claire is denying that for him. She is taking away his happiness just after giving it back to him. Even though they started the episode on the same page, they are once again vastly apart from each other. This conflict is bound to have severe repercussions for the future. Claire and Jamie's actions could be compromised as well because of this new tension between them. Both of them are right to feel the way that they do. But that doesn't make the situation any easier between them. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Untimely Resurrection" was written by Richard Kahan and directed by Douglas Mackinnon.
  • The inclusion of Jamie's French ex-girlfriend, Annalise, is just really weird. She really doesn't serve any purpose except to put Claire at unease. Is it building to some moment where Jamie may betray his marriage to Claire? If so, that's just lame and unnecessary.
  • Claire wonders if she is going to be a good mom. She's a good nurse but that doesn't completely translate to parenting. And yet, both she and Jamie seem to be doing a good job with Fergus - even though the majority of that dynamic happens offscreen.
  • Even though the dinner party ended in a brawl that got several people arrested, it still seems to have been a success because the Duke of Sandringham sees Prince Charles as the pompous fool he really is.
  • But again, it doesn't take long before Prince Charles finds a new way to finance his war. This time it's through a partnership with St. Germain on a deal to sell wine. It allows Jamie to show off his skills running Jared's wine business but it's still a lot of set up for the next stage in this plan.
  • Claire learns that "la dame blanche" basically means being a witch. Jamie gave her that title to his new friends in order to explain why he's not interested in any of the women at the brothel. Still the show has such a painful history with people believing Claire is a witch that it's surprising that Jamie used that term so casually.
  • Despite all the awkward tension throughout this episode, at least Jenny is happy about Claire being pregnant!