Outlander Season 2 Premiere Recap: Paris Is Burning (& Claire’s Returning)

Photo: Courtesy of Starz.
Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe
Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) is back! Okay, fine; he's not the only one who's back. The whole Outlander gang is back for season 2, and everything is different. First of all, we don't get to see Jamie until halfway through the episode. That's not cool. I mean, insert something a mature adult would say about how it makes total sense for the storyline here, because it absolutely does. I'm just sulking about how long it takes for Jamie to appear. Although since it takes so long for him to put in an appearance, it makes your heart flutter that much more when you finally get to gaze upon his fine form.
Said form still isn't back to 100%, unfortunately. He and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) have just traveled from Scotland to France, and not only does Jamie get extremely seasick, he's still recovering — mentally, emotionally, and physically — from the torture and assault he suffered at the hands of the sadistic Black Jack Randall in Wentworth Prison.
I'm getting ahead of myself, though. Season 2 doesn't open on Jamie and Claire. It opens on Claire. She's back at the runes at Craigh na Dun looking extremely distraught and disoriented. It's clear that Claire has just traveled forward in time, and it's also quite clear that she knows Jamie is dead. A little later on, we find out that Claire travels forward in time before she learns whether or not Jamie meets his end at the Battle of Culloden, the bloodiest fight during the Jacobite rebellion. Now, she's a woman possessed. The sights and sounds of the 1940s are too loud and garish for her, and all she wants to do is find a record of who died at that battle.
There's another matter to be dealt with, of course: her first husband, Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies). "Hello, I'm back," is all she can muster up the energy to say when she sees him for the first time as she sits in a hospital bed looking lost and heartbroken, ever-annoyed at the blaring radio and car horns. "And I am so grateful," he replies.
Yup, that's Frank's response to seeing his wife after she's been missing for two years. Everyone told him that she ran off with another man, but he held out hope that she'd just up and vanished. I guess there's a kind of wistful optimism in that attitude. It turns out the naysayers were right, though. They didn't guess the part about the time travel and the extremely hunky highlander Claire went so far as to marry and all that, but she did technically disappear with another man.
Claire appears to have trouble believing that Frank is glad to see her, so he rushes forward as if to hold her hand. As he does so, she sees not Frank, but his ancestor — the merciless Black Jack Randall, who tortured both her and Jamie — and Claire recoils from Frank. He interprets this as a sign that she's still disoriented, and their reunion will take time. It has been two years, after all.
Frank feels less kindly towards Claire after she explains where she's been. He decides to believe the part about the time travel and the fact that she married another man. When Claire also reveals that she's carrying Jamie's child, Frank shows a rare flash of extreme rage (perhaps inherited from his cruel ancestor). Instead of taking it out on Claire, though, he heads out to a woodshed and smashes up some old pottery. That scene must have been so cathartic for Tobias Menzies to film. I don't know anything about his life, but who wouldn't enjoy smashing up an entire woodshed full of extremely breakable items?
In the end, Frank decides to forgive Claire for her trespasses. He seems to understand that she had no choice but to marry Jamie, because a woman who remained alone in the 1740s was in much greater peril than a woman with a husband. While Claire repeatedly insists that she loves Jamie; however, Frank steels himself and presents his conditions for rebuilding their relationship.
First, they're going to move to the United States. He's accepted a teaching position at Harvard.
Second, even though Frank isn't the baby's biological father, he will always be referred to as the child's dad. For all intents and purposes, he will be the father of Claire and Jamie's baby, seeing as the child will be raised in the twentieth century, where Jamie is no longer alive.
Third, Claire must try to put Jamie and their relationship in the past. She has to accept the fact that he's dead and move on. She is only married to Frank now. In time, she must stop wearing Jamie's wedding ring.
A weeping Claire agrees to these conditions, and we even see her getting off the plane in America. When she extends her hand for assistance descending the stairs, though, it's not Frank who reaches back, but our main man. That's right, it's finally time for Jamie Fraser to take his rightful place in this episode of Outlander. My body is ready. I mean, take me to the flashback of 1745 France.
Photo: Courtesy of Starz.
Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe
Besides his broken spirit and left hand, his hair's gotten a little longer. This made me think about how much I'd enjoy a scene in Outlander in which Claire cuts Jamie's hair while he frets over her making it too short. "Dunnae cut off all me curls, Sassanach," he'd say as they lock eyes in the mirror. "Since when are you so vain about your hair, James Fraser?" Claire would joke back as she tousles his red mane. "Since I had such a beautiful wife to stand beside," Jamie would reply, making Claire smile as she continues her task.
Alas, that tender haircutting scene doesn't exist in this episode (but it is my gift to you, any Outlander writers who might be reading this...), so it's a long-bobbed Jamie — the better to pull back into a low ponytail to match the latest fashions — who steps off the boat in France. He and Claire quickly establish their mission in Paris. They're going to inveigle their way into the company of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Andrew Gower) in hopes of thwarting the Jacobite rebellion. See, he's trying to raise funds from France's King Louis XV (Lionel Lingelser) so he can get that whole rebellion started, crush Scotland's clans and highlander culture, and rule the United Kingdom.
Claire hopes that giving Jamie a mission will help him recover from his recent trauma. He seems nervous because she doesn't have a ton of historical knowledge about the rebellion — did she even pay attention in history class? (local woman who never even learned about this event in history class asks sarcastically) — but also excited at the prospect of having an adventure with the woman he loves.
On one of their first days in France, Claire manages to get the Comte St. Germain's (Stanley Weber, bonjour) ship and cargo burned because a member of his crew has smallpox, thereby making herself an important enemy. A day is never boring when it involves Claire and Jamie Fraser. Plus, now we get to see them in sumptuous 1740s French clothing...and hopefully out of it as well. Did I mention I'm a very mature adult when it comes to this show?

More from TV

R29 Original Series