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Outlander - Through a Glass, Darkly - Review: "When Were You Not Up for a Challenge"

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Outlander - Through a Glass, Darkly - Review

"How I have missed you" Frank

Outlander has returned. The hit Starz show debuted last year and instantly became a hit with book readers and audiences alike. The season was compelling and a strong one at that for a freshman show with unheard of stars and a plot that sounded ridiculous at the time of the premiere but it also came with its fair share of flaws. The show dipped in quality throughout its run, but the premiere of the second season has propelled the show into new territory from the visuals to the acting. Everything is bigger and better than ever before.

One of the biggest changes this season is moving the story forward from the muddy glens of Scotland to the beautifully rich and colourful Paris. Last season ended with Jamie needing to flee after the experience he had at the hands of sadist Black Jack Randall. This move not only will give Jamie and Claire time to recover but it will give them the upper hand on the upcoming Jacobite rebellion that saw the Scots wiped out or so Claire hopes.

The premiere focuses a lot on Claire's return to her own time instead of her and Jamie's arrival in Paris, but what this does well is open up many questions for those who have not read the book such as how did she get home, what happened in France and to those she loved. This makes the story even more compelling and adds more layers of intensity to it. Claire wants to change the past, but the reveal that the Highlanders still lost despite what we are believed into thinking she and Jamie tried to prevent; that loss only further increases the audience's curiosity. If the Highlanders still lost what happened to Clan McKenzie or to Jamie? Did she change anything? So many questions.

Telling us what happened before we've seen it is an interesting and brave move by the writers. This makes the story, in my opinion, more complex and triggers the natural response of the audience, wanting to see more. Claire's reunion with Frank as expected was uncomfortable and tense. Frank still loves her but Claire is running high on emotion struggling to deal with leaving Jamie not knowing his fate. She's heartbroken and you can see that through Balfe's endearing and stunning performance.

But, it wasn't Balfe or even Heughan that was the star of this premiere, that honor goes to Tobias Menzies who was beyond fantastic as Frank during his interactions with and scenes without Claire. We've seen him play Black Jack to near perfection in last season's finale making him a spine-chilling villain but we've not yet seen Menzies portray that other emotion, heartache, and pain. This episode he did and boy was he good and dare I say it too soon, good enough for an Emmy nomination.

It will be interesting to see going forward how much focus 1948 will get compared to Paris. I didn't care much for it last season, but I do now. I want to know what happens with Claire and Frank's relationship. How they will develop as a couple raising a child together that is not Frank's. But, how Claire will cope living with a man that resembles a cruel and disturbed individual that brought her so much harm. She must be terrified especially when Frank lost his temper with her and nearly hit her. Chilling. That moment though was important. It portrayed Frank's inner emotion. Claire moved on but Frank had been hung up on finding her, but now their marriage feels forced. How do two move on after years apart? That will be something I'm eager to see develop.

"You've made an enemy here today" Jared

Shifting our attention to Paris, Jamie, Murtagh, and Claire arrive and we are quickly introduced to Robert Cavanagh's Jared (Jamie's Cousin) who is a perfect envision of the book version. Something clicked straight away and I felt drawn into the new setting, and the new characters we were introduced to. It's a new chapter, but still a continuation of Claire's journey. Claire doesn't want to lose anybody, she has grown attached to those she has met and now wants to help save them all. She doesn't know the full details, but she knows it starts in France.

Claire and Jamie need to get close enough to the key players to actually make a difference and lucky for them Jared can help them do that. We've not seen much politics on the show as of yet, but that will be the main focus I imagine in the upcoming episodes. Seeing how Jamie and Claire adapt to this 'new world' away from what they know will be an interesting turn of events.

Claire is a healer, she cares for people which is why she is so beloved, and in the premiere, she tried to save a man who obtained smallpox. But her loving nature had an opposite effect this time and helped make an enemy in Comte St Germain, played by the wonderful Stanley Weber. The Comte I'm sure will be their opposition and do whatever in his power to prevent them from getting close to and having an effect on Charles' state of mind. The Comte strives of greed and power and putting a dent in that like they did is something they might soon regret. But, it was some entrance. I wouldn't class him as this season's villain because he's not, just someone you shouldn't cross.

One of the things I love about Outlander is Murtagh. He is a loyal companion to Jamie and we witnessed him get closer to Claire at the end of last season and something I'm eagerly anticipating is him finding out the truth. He deserves that. Murtagh doesn't get much time on screen but I'm hoping that changes this season as when he did last season we learned a lot about him, and he brought tears to my eyes in his reveals about his past. Duncan plays him so perfectly that when that key book event happens I'll be lost for words. I'm glad he came to France with them. His sarcastic remarks in the premiere reminded me of why he is one of the show's best-supporting characters. Everybody needs a Murtagh.

The season opener was incredible and made such a strong start to what I know will be a powerful season. The continued focus on pain is important as it reminded us that just because they've recovered from it they've not forgotten what Jack did. The focus on 1948 was surprisingly good and that's down mainly to the brilliant performance from Tobias Menzies. Learning of what happened in the rebellion from Claire before we've seen it play out is a bold move, but something that I'm glad has happened as it makes the season all the more compelling. Overall, this was a great start to one of television's best shows.

As always, thank you for reading. Don't forget to let me know what you thought of Through a Glass, Darkly!

About the Author - Robert Fruin
Robert is a sixth form student from the United Kingdom, currently studying Business Studies, IT and Media. Robert is a huge fan of the ended ABC series LOST; he has seen it many times over and has even visited some of the filming locations for it. Robert mainly watches drama series such as Game of Thrones and Person of Interest, but has a soft spot for the comedy The Middle. Some other interests include Cycling, Kayaking and Photography. Robert joined SpoilerTV in 2014 and currently reviews Colony, Outlander and The Bastard Executioner. He also previews Ash vs Evil Dead, Black Sails and Counterpark and runs weekly articles such as Most Memorable Moments and Quote of the Week. You can contact him at or feel free to connect with him on any of these social media sites.
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