I’m going to get to the story, I promise, but outside of the warm feeling of just being back in Sassenach’s aura, and seeing Jamie again, and witnessing the masterful acting chops of Tobias Menzies, it was really nice to have this statuesque creature cascade onto the screen in a pimp walk of primal hotness.
Stanley Weber plays Comte St. Germain, very clearly the mustache-twisting bad guy on this season of Outlander.
That’s not something you take lightly.
Outlander is one of the rare shows that goes all the way with its spite, and doesn’t pull punches. People who watched the end of last season will still shift uncomfortably in their seats thinking about what Blackjack did to Jamie, and the predatory way he did it. So much so that when Jamie says in the opener “I still feel his touch” I had to shake off some chills.
But it’s always nice to have a stunner to occupy your screen (like when Jason Crouse showed up on The Good Wife) and Stanley Weber is the type of eye candy you write home about. Just look at this prime piece of grade A steak. My god. It’s like Chris Pine and Henry Cavill made a baby with 40% less eyebrows and cheese bloat.
The season sort of took us by surprise (those of us who are non-book readers, anyway). Claire wakes up at Craigh Na Dun and all of a sudden we’re back in 1948.
What? NO NO NO NO NO!
It was a twist that seriously made me want to change the channel. I was like there’s nothing here for me. I didn’t sign up to watch Claire and Frank. I signed up to watch Claire and Jamie! Yes, yes, the erstwhile Frank is a decent fellow, infinitely decent, in fact, but noticeably absent is that raw, ancient passion that Claire and Jamie share. That fall-into-a-deep-well-of-eternal-love type attraction they have is something you don’t see very often, especially in this cynical age.
So when Claire is magically spit back into her old life, you find yourself just kind of wanting to hurry the plot along to somehow get back to Jamie. I’ve been staring at 18th century French tea parties on the Starz website for six months! Where were the powdered wigs and gardens of Versailles that we were promised? Instead we have to do a dance where Claire is hollowed out and the fire is gone from her eyes. She is back in a world she no longer feels a part of, in a time she had forgotten, with a man she had bid adieu to and emotionally made peace with years before.
It’s not a good place for her. And her distance and relative coldness is not a good look for her, either. What should she have done? What would any of us do in that situation? Points for being straight with Frank, but of course he had trouble processing the entirety of the situation. One minute they’re in love. Then she vanishes. People tell him she ran off, but he holds the line. He trusts her and stays true. And then one magical day, she returns and rather than a mutual sense of relief spilling over both of them, she is distant and withdrawn. She reels back at his approach. His face seems to horrify her. Poor Frank. Dear god, that poor man. This is how they were. This is what he remembers. This is who he pined away for and who he expected to return.
He did absolutely nothing wrong, and yet, in a series where he’s walked no road but the high road, the revelation of Jamie’s baby in his wife’s womb brings out something seemingly buried in his DNA since the time of Blackjack. A malevolence. A vicious physical fury. His fist clenching, a tear of what — anger? Rage? Humiliation? - falling from his eye as he looms over her. He flies off to trash a garden shed rather than take it out on Claire. Tobias Menzies. He’s a craftsman.
But everything in this show has and always will revolve around Claire. And it’s with elation that, as we see her descend toward a foreign city in a new world, that we’re whisked back to a world we’ve waited months to see. And to Jamie. (Finally!)
Maybe it was a by product of the long sea voyage or maybe it was fallout from his still lacerated body, but Jamie looked banged up as hell to me. Maybe it’s his hair. Maybe it’s because I’ve made him Mal Reynolds in my mind since he’s been away, but he looked like he needed some concealer and and a haircut like you read about. (I mean, it’s still Jamie, so the bar is inordinately high.)
The rest of the episode sort of rang hollow for me. I’m not sure I bought all the Jacobite plot reasoning. I’m not sure I buy that there’s only one single choice and that it’s to infiltrate their own people and mess everything up from within, or that Jamie heard the plan and barely put up a fight. I’m not sure I believe in the cousin or the plan or that Murtaugh wouldn’t kick more about it. I’m not sure I buy Claire standing up to a French nobleman in that era or the plague ship or the meany meany jerkface bad guy.
I’m not sure I bought any of the premiere except for Claire being destroyed when she realizes the year and Frank clenching that fist and Jamie still nursing emotional wounds from Blackjack. If I didn’t enjoy the actors so much and the characters so much, I’d probably have real concerns about a premiere that felt long on exposition and short on…what? Maybe a feeling we’ve come to expect from Outlander? Maybe a sense of adventure or imminent danger? It felt like wherever Jamie went last season he was always thirty paces away from the gallows. Now, in his finery, in another country, with Count Hotness making blood curses nine seconds after meeting them, the stakes feel a bit half-baked.
But Caitriona Balfe. And Sam Heughan. And Tobias Menzies. And now Le Counte De Jambes Ouvertes? I think we’ll be just fine.