A Walk in the Gardens
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The misery of the past never truly leaves, no matter how far one leaves it behind to wallow in its own muck. It stays behind one’s self like a ghost, or a shadow perhaps that is too stubborn to ever truly let go. It may disappear at junctures, but it often espouses a rather unnecessary habit of resurfacing at the worst of times as if it enjoys playing a cruel trick or two. The ghost of Black Jack Randall hangs above this episode of Outlander, permeating several frames to provide a unifying thread to an otherwise scattered episode. The ghost is there in the opening sequence where candles are being snuffed out across the dinner table of the Frasers, he is there when Murtagh can’t bring himself to forgive himself for what happened in the alleyways, and he’s in the sharp glint of Jamie’s eyes when he tells Murtagh to never let it go until justice is served. It’s clear that in that moment, Jamie is speaking to himself just as much as he’s speaking to his fellow Scotsman. Amidst all of the meetings at Maison Elise, the wine business, and the ever changing political landscape with the demented Bonnie Prince Charlie at the lead, Jamie has his hands full but that ghost hangs around in every frame, haunting some part of him until it manifests in a palpable, corporeal form in the gardens of Versailles. It’s an underplayed moment, the episode smartly allowing the billowing horror and fury on Claire’s face to serve the story instead of making the entrance of the series’s primary antagonist in the gardens of Versailles more melodramatic, as lesser series would have done. It’s also a surprising moment, a swerve into an entirely different direction that gives weight to the ghost itself but also ends up inadvertently leading to a feeling of a lack of structure to the episode, where several important events are set up but also don’t gel into a completely cohesive script.
Tobias Menzies’s acting chops are never up for debate, but his ability to play Frank and Black Jack Randall simultaneously is still worthy of all the Emmys. When he first utters the word “Claire”, goosebumps went down my arm. There’s an effortless imbuing of terror and obsessiveness at play in his voice and it’s evident that he’s enjoying the sheer amount of disgust just oozing from Claire’s expression. He notes, perhaps in what is designed to be some form of meta commentary targeted towards the audience, how sublimely preposterous it was that he and Claire should make their acquaintance, in all places, the gardens of Versailles. It is a bit preposterous but it works so well dramatically that it doesn’t hamper the episode much. There’s also the logical reasoning of Alex’s imprisonment in the Bastille and his being sacked from the service of the Duke of Sandringham. Both circumstances seem fairly substantial enough to draw out his brother from his duties in the English army and onto French soil. On one note of preposterousness here, however, it does seem a bit ridiculous the ease with which appointments at Versailles are made and people waltz around the garden. The French court was known for being lax, but certainly not this lax. Outside of that bit of dramatic license, however, it does serve for a great scene when the French King arrives as Claire and Randall are hashing out the absurdity of the circumstances and Claire it trying to handle the situation with as much calmness as humanly possible. Captain Randall is bold enough to ask the king for leniency in regards to his brother and the duke and the king takes a single moment to pull the power dynamics at play and wipe out every semblance of smugness on Randall’s face. It takes just a few words but the shame and loathing that spreads across his visage amidst the laughter of the king and his courtiers indicates a deeply-seated self-loathing that that humiliation brought forth to the surface. It felt like a small bit of vindication, but considering Randall, it’s a humiliation he’s doubtful to ever forget.
Jamie meeting Randall in the gardens of Versailles had a similar reaction to when Claire first told him about Randall being alive. There wasn’t an immediate drawing of the sword or some other form of blood-letting that erupts, in part because dueling was outlawed in France and pulling a sword out in front of the king was a punishable offense. But Jamie has rarely had a complete regard for the law and his unsettling quiet makes Claire extremely nervous. Him and Randall bow to one another, signifying their agreement to a duel to take place in some darkened Parisian alleyway. Claire is notably alarmed by this duel, knowing full well that if Jack Randall died then Frank would never have been born. Jamie is ecstatic at the opportunity to exact revenge upon Randall, but Claire throws Randall into the Bastille on a false accusation, robbing him of that opportunity. Claire’s imploring of Jamie to save the future life of Frank falls upon ears who feel they’re being robbed of the very hope she had given him earlier. Jamie’s perspective is that Claire is asking him to live with that pain acutely for another year when each moment since Randall’s rape of him strikes inside of him like a knife stabbing him over and over and over again. Claire’s perspective that she couldn’t allow Frank’s existence to be wiped away is equally valid and that clash of wills results in Claire pulling the last card she wanted to. She pulls the debt card, noting that she had saved his life twice and he owed her a life back and the debt she had chosen to be paid off was the life of Frank. And Jamie reads it as her asking for Black Jack Randall to be given another year as a lease on his life. Claire promises that once that year is over and not a day more that she would help him bleed Randall out herself, but for now that promise falls upon a shattering trust that will take a lot more than a simple promise to build a bridge over.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“It’s fortunate to have friends in high places.”
+“There may have been a fair amount of drinking involved.” La Dame Blanche is explained here but it’s still a bit awkward
+The Les Disciples being a gang of arrogant you aristocrats taking virginities as initiation makes a lot of sense
+“Ashamed. Like I’m a different person now and I’ll never be the same.” I’m glad the show took time to address how Mary felt after her violation
+The Comte St. Germaine and Jamie partnership from Bonnie Prince Charlie. This may be a disaster in the making. The fake smallpox idea from Claire for sure signals one.
+“I was robbing their happiness.” Separating Mary and Alex may very well be the most unsavory thing Claire has yet done, but I doubt this specific part of the story ends here.
+Jamie gifting Claire the twelve spoons of the apostle from Jenny. Speaking of which, +“Ah, well, life can be harsh.” I don’t think the Duke knows what that means.
+“He’s an utter ass.” Well, there’s one way to describe Bonnie Prince Charlie.
+“I’m a man who cherishes options.”
+“I wouldn’t call Jamie simple.”
+“Fuck the king.”
At listen your war you know your enemies.
+“Your appetite for carnage may ultimately prove fatal.” The King of France may be an impudent aristocrat, but that’s as keen of an observation as I’ve seen.
+“I thought we were supposed to change the future.”
Episode Title: Untimely Resurrection
Written by: Richard Kahan
Directed by: Douglas Mackinnon
Image Courtesy: Scotland Now @ Daily Record UK