Screencaps thanks to Outlander-Online, other images thanks to Starz and Terry Dresbach.
NOTE: This review contains spoilers, so if you wish to avoid those and haven’t read the books (and I mean all of them), or watched the episode, you might want to come back later.
Written by Co-Executive Producer Ira Steven Behr, directed by Metin Hüseyin, with the costume design by Terry Dresbach, the episode covers events from the book that were in a different order than they were shown here.
Going from how faithfully Through a Glass, Darkly kept to the book, I was a little surprised things were changed from the book so much here. Not so much in what was shown, or when, but there were a couple of really big changes.
That said, the way things were changed actually weren’t that big a deal for me, though those things often have fierce critics. Though the order things happened were definitely different.
I adored the title sequence, with Louise De La Tour (Claire Sermonne) getting dressed for court. It really underscores the fact that the characters aren’t in Scotland anymore… It’s allowed them to show off Costume Designer Terry Dresbach’s designs in a very practical way, letting us see details we don’t usually get to see. It was a nice touch.
The dream at the beginning was an excellent addition to the show. Being told primarily from the point-of-view from Claire (Caitriona Balfe), the second book doesn’t go into what Jamie (Sam Heughan) has nightmares about, much at all. So, it’s good to see a bit of that, but I thought the nightmare should have stopped when Jamie realized he’d been making love to Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), instead of Claire.
Jamie stabbing Jack over and over, covering himself in blood, it’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy, not part of a nightmare. I didn’t buy it. At all.
Nightmares don’t usually include successfully fighting whatever it is that makes a dream into a ‘nightmare.’ I mean, that’s what makes a nightmare scary, right? Being helpless to fight your way out of it?
That being said, however; I thought that Sam Heughan did a remarkable job with the way he handled the dream sex turning into a nightmare, both in the dream and once he got out of it. He looked completely shaken.
There’s a been a lot of ink about Costume Designer Terry Dresbach’s designs for this season as a whole, but for also for this episode in particular. Terry has said the outfit Claire wears in the next series of scenes was inspired by a Dior design, the ‘Bar Suit.’ It clearly looks like that, the high neckline, the slim waist, the wide skirt…
Terry Dresbach had said she wanted to take inspiration from fashion at the time Claire went back, which was in 1945 in the show. So, despite the fact that I find it a bit hard to believe any seamstress would build such a dress in 1744 Paris (I doubt Claire did the flat pattern drafting for the seamstress to build the dress from), I do like the idea of putting Claire into costumes inspired by fashion from her own time. It sets her apart, makes her seem more like an outsider. It also underscores how different she is in her outlook on life. Costuming revealing character, and furthering the storyline, is what Terry is so good at doing. This design is possibly the culmination of that.
Yet, in doing the research for this review I found out that the ‘Bar Suit’ by Christian Dior was introduced AFTER Claire went back in time on November 1st, 1945. (In the book Claire went back even later, May 1st, 1946.) The dress was first introduced in Dior’s initial collection for Spring/Summer in 1947. (Find a summary here.)
Perhaps Terry didn’t care to split hairs, what’s two years, after all? But the truth is that fashion in 1945 was still very utilitarian and primarily had the boxy look more common during the war years. (Here’s an excellent article with more background of the designer and what fashion was like then.)
The Bar Suit, apparently, was a groundbreaking design since no one else was doing anything remotely like it. So, Claire would not have seen fashion anywhere close to it in 1945. The fact that it was so different from what other designers were doing, even if its narrow waist and flared skirts borrowed heavily from fashion from before World War I, that it makes it far less likely for Claire to have realistically influenced a dressmaker from 1744 to make such a thing.
How could Claire have predicted fashion from her time would go in that direction?
Yes, it’s a beautifully made gown and a striking look, which Caitriona Balfe looked gorgeous in it, but I just didn’t buy it. Consider my suspension of disbelief being totally and thoroughly unwilling on this point…
The outfit pulled me almost completely out of the episode, which is something I doubt Terry Dresbach really wanted for it to accomplish. Though, it might be worth mentioning that I liked the dress much better once Claire lost the white jacket later in the episode during the scene with Jamie and Murtagh, after their sword practice.
ETA: Frockflicks has a post on this dress here:
Anyway, I loved Master Raymond’s Apothecary, designed by Production Designer Jon Gary Steele. I was glad to see the lingering establishing shots of it as Claire stepped into the shop and looked around. It’s a fantastic set.
And I absolutely ADORED Master Raymond. He’s not quite like he’s described in the books, relatively slim Dominique Pinon’s not barrel-chested by any stretch, but other than that, he’s perfect. His introduction is very much like it was in the book, which is nice to see since he’s a key character. I thought it interesting that his accent wasn’t strictly French, or didn’t seem so. Since Raymond’s is from Switzerland, his accent being influenced by what sounds like French and German, with a dash of Italian, makes perfect sense.
I adored his coat, by the way. The embroidery, likely thanks to show Embroiderer Liz Boulton, is fantastic. It was very mystical and asymmetrical, which is perfect for him.
The addition of the sword practice in the next scene was a smart one. It was probably important to show that Jamie might look better physically, but his left hand is still a weak point… That will probably come up again later in the season, so it was good to reinforce that idea here for the non-book readers.
The scene also gave Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) a good opportunity to act as comic relief, and Duncan to work those awesome eyebrows of his, even if by the end of the scene Murtagh and Jamie had a more serious conversation. I thought it very interesting that they discussed regicide here, when I don’t believe it had come up this early in the book… (In Dragonfly in Amber, it’s Claire and Jamie who talk about killing Prince Charlie, but that happened much later in the book, just before the Battle of Culloden.)
The brothel visit seemed to last a lifetime. The dildos and poking fun at philandering French aristocrats wasn’t exactly laugh-out-loud funny… Just the opposite, in fact. Worse, the several somewhat juvenile attempts at humor dragged the scene out unnecessarily.
Although, I guess that scene did sorta drive home the fact that Prince Charles (Andrew Gower) is a classless, idealistic, arrogant buffoon, not a noble Prince worthy of respect, or the support of men like Jamie. Murtagh’s glower and biting comments (‘Not too late to slit his throat?’) more than demonstrates he’s not worthy of the grouchy Scot’s respect either…
The waxing scene was wonderful, even if I did not particularly care for Claire’s high necked outfit. It looked too severe to me, though I suppose it is reflective of her state of mind. Being secretive, lying to everyone, Claire is on guard and cautious… A severe, closed off look is perfect.
I adored Claire Sermonne as Louise De La Tour. She’s a very sexually oriented free-spirit. I loved how poorly she suffered the required presence of Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day). And Rosie was a perfect Mary, innocent and completely scandalized by Louise’s behavior. This scene was a fantastic way to introduce the both of them, they were perfect foils for one another.
The ‘honeypot’ scene between Claire and Jamie was far funnier in the book, but maybe given that Jamie is suffering from PTSD worse than he had at this point in the book it probably is just as well. His flashback may not have worked as well if Jamie’s discovery of Claire’s denuded nether regions had been played more broadly.
And the flashback worked very well… Jamie was truly rattled by it, the moment was very nicely played by Sam Heughan.
I was sorry the red dress didn’t more closely resemble the description in the book, but it was a very beautiful gown. Even if, again, I’m a bit skeptical that Claire could have found a dressmaker who would have been willing to construct it.
Didn’t French dressmakers in the 1740s have any self-respect? I betcha they did, so I doubt Louise’s court dressmaker, Madame Tabanou, would have allowed such an unembellished gown to leave her shop.
Again, I just don’t buy it. The red dress doesn’t pull me out of the episode as much as the Dior-inspired one did, but it was still a distraction from the story this show is trying to tell.
Anyway, once in Versailles, I really enjoyed Louise De La Tour’s showing Claire, Jamie, and Mary Hawkins around. While the humor was played a wee bit too broadly, as I said earlier, I enjoyed the scenes in the palace very much.
Annalise de Marillac (Margaux Châtelier) had a terrific entrance, embarrassing Jamie, which amused everyone, especially Claire and Murtagh.
I’m not sure I would have predicted it since potty humor hasn’t really been a thing I liked since I was a kid, but the toilette scene with King Louis was terrific. It is in the book and it was truly funny, even if Lionel Lingelser as King Louis perhaps played it a bit too broadly at times. I thought Duncan Lacroix really worked those eyebrows of his very effectively.
The scene between the Minister of Finance, Joseph Duverney (Marc Duret), and Claire was probably a typical Ira Steven Behr lame attempt at using sexual assault for humor, like Angus’s assault of Claire at the end of To Ransom a Man’s Soul. Is this sort of taste-free humor a hallmark of his episodes?
Using Duverney’s sexual assault of Claire for laughs seems rather tone-deaf in an episode where Jamie is trying, and failing, to fight the after-effects of his own sexual assault at the hands of Jack Randall.
And did Jamie really lay the blame for the assault on what Claire was wearing?
While most of the episode followed the book, more or less, one pretty big departure happened at the end when Murtagh spotted The Duke of Sandringham (Simon Callow). In the book it was also through meeting the Duke in Paris that Claire first discovered that Black Jack survived his encounter with those Highland cattle at Wentworth prison. In the book, however, she ran into Jack while visiting the Duke’s house in Paris with Jamie. And it might be worth mentioning that in the book Jamie discovered Jack was alive mere minutes after Claire did.
It’s not a change I necessarily object to. No, quite the contrary. This could reap some serious benefits in the next few episodes as Claire struggles to decide what to do with this information.
While the episode contained many enjoyable moments, and some stellar acting, the writing seemed a bit ham-handed. Ira Steven Behr seemed to try too hard to amuse the lowest-common denominator of the male of the species.
Even if men do watch the show, it is women who primarily made Diana Gabaldon’s books, and this show, as popular as they are.
Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore might want to keep that fact in mind.