“Untimely Resurrection,” the fifth episode of Outlander's second season, is a visual and verbal feast of paradoxes. In a way, it shows how precarious Jamie’s and Claire’s consciences hinge between the means they are employing and the end they deeply desire. The longer they are in Paris, the more they entrenched they become in a simulacrum of their lives and identities, and the more their honor is attacked or compromised. The episode also provides the audience with a conundrum: you long for them to return home to Scotland, but ache with the realization of the only reason at the moment for them to do so.
From the lead-in scene, showing the Frasers’ servants dutifully repairing the first floor of their Parisian townhouse after the elegant but doomed dinner party from Episode 4, we witness a continual paradox of the meticulous construction of a persona or illusion and the destruction of it. Notice how the servants’ meticulous arrangement of the dining table in “La Dame Blanche” mirrored the seemingly effortless choreography of the French male guests versus Jamie, Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix), and Alex (Laurence Dobiesz) as they dismantle the drawing room in a brawl (and, so it seems, the plans Jamie and Claire had to show Charles as the fool). Now, Claire sits up all night waiting for Jamie and the others to be released from the Bastille due to St. Germain alerting the gens d’armes.
Writer Richard Kahan has utilized language as the ultimate weapon in this gilded world where practiced etiquette masks and justifies unbridled debauchery. One has to admire Maison Elise as being the one place where the veil is lifted and men can freely express basest desires with professionals that present fantasy as a very real transaction. Women of society and rank must be shrewder in their pursuits and use objectification to their advantage if they ever hope to exert agency over their lives. Jamie’s casual reference to Claire as “La Dame Blanche” in their marriage at the Maison may have added fire to her reputation as a singular woman and healer of unique intelligence and skill: more insecure and chauvinistic ears near Jamie were certain to attribute her mental assets to something nefarious.
The aftermath of rape is featured double this episode, both with Jamie and now Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day), who has to write a letter exonerating Alex so he can be released from the Bastille. Jamie’s assault in Episode 16 of last season was kept relatively private between Claire and the other people who aided in his rescue and physical rehabilitation. Mary’s rape has now undoubtedly passed through all the social circles as idle gossip, and she is now a marked woman. Cast aside by her uncle and would-be fiancé, her admitted shame to Claire is unconscious: the girl comes to this conclusion more out of social conditioning than personal guilt over the incident: she is guilty by her innocence, no questions asked. Claire, as a modern and forward-thinking woman, removes what she can of this shame: Mary is better off without the old pig she was to be sold into marriage to by a cruel relative, and she did nothing wrong.
It is clear Mary respects and values Claire’s opinion, and believes her older friend. She still believes in love, and she loves Alex and he loves her, and here we see Claire’s motives switch. If Mary marries Alex, as she tells Claire, then Jack will not marry and sire a child with her in the next year and Frank will not exist down the line (how very Back to the Future). In a scene which recalls Claire’s conversation with Jamie in the previous episode where they debate whether they can do bad things for good reasons and still remain good people, Claire leverages Alex’s regard for her in a private talk with him after he is freed from prison, as she tries to discourage him from marriage by turning his physical ailments against him as a viable husband, possibly condemning Mary to a life of poverty and transience. Alex’s pure nature cannot allow the thought of Mary suffering any more than she has, and he agrees to distance himself from her. “It broke my heart to break his,” Claire admits, but she allows the deception to continue on behalf of Frank, whose future existence she cannot bear to prevent.
At the same time, Jamie is also treading a razor’s edge of Prince Charles’ good graces as the royal grows more zealous in his search for more funds for his cause, even aligning himself with individuals he knows are duplicitous opportunists. The dinner party brawl provided St. Germain (Stanley Weber) and Charles (Andrew Gower) to leave together (probably with the smarmy Duke of Sandringham, too) and now they have a new business venture in wine shipping that could yield Charles a hefty profit. Kahan expertly transitions from the heartache of unrequited love (or lust) to the starry-eyed optimism of an armchair warrior with dreams of glory, a most holy endeavor secured by a most secular bank loan.
“The female gaze that once clouded my mind has been lifted,” the Prince admits to Jamie, while also acknowledging his previous investors had turned out to be scoundrels. When Jamie questions the prudence of aligning with St. Germain, the Prince uses Jamie’s words against him as he reduces the infamy of the Comte to “rumor and innuendo,” similar to Claire’s growing reputation as “La Dame Blanche.” To shove the sourness deeper down Jamie’s throat, Charles expects Jamie to meet with St. Germain to set everything up.
As impotent as Jamie must feel in his dealings with Charles - a fool too egotistical to allow himself to admit what he doesn’t know - his meeting with St. Germain in Maison Elise is as literal a show of virility as can be displayed between two gentleman who would love nothing better than to destroy the other. In a scene that reduces shots of the men from medium to close up, they speak to each other in their home languages, but in complete understanding. “My memory is as long as yours,” Jamie tells the Comte (who by now needs to display more action than ominous words or glowering looks) , who responds by tossing money on the table like a client after a transaction at the Maison.
What follows is two most intimate scenes of the episode, albeit in completely different contexts. As Jamie and Claire discuss what do do about his new business alliance with Germain, he surprises her with a baby gift of inherited apostle spoons in a polished box. Reflecting not only Jamie’s religious faith but belief in himself and his family, it contrasts with Claire’s anxiety towards her approaching motherhood and ability to nurture, having lost her mother at an early age. I recalled in my earlier article how Claire and Jenny bonded over childbirth, and Claire could use her sister-in-law’s advice and guidance right now, but Jamie assures his wife that they will learn together, and the faith he bestows on her is tinged with the sadness of our remembrance of the season’s premiere.
Gathering more threads from prior episodes, the sequence at the Versailles horse sale becomes the microcosm of all the dichotomies in the Frasers’ lives at the moment. The Duke of Sandringham further elucidates his position as someone whose fingers are in many pies, and his fixation on Jamie’s judgement and reasoning indicates ulterior motives in machinations not yet divulged. The inclusion of Annalise de Marillac (Margaux Chatelier) is mostly fluff meant to agitate Claire as Jamie’s ex-girlfriend itemizes all his personality traits from when they were together in a vain attempt to shade her true nature as an immature brat. Claire could slap Leoghaire’s face in the privacy of the Castle Leoch kitchen; here, on royal grounds, her venom must be reduced to verbal retorts. Ironically, a more worthy opponent to Claire’s composure and patience enters the scene.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jack Randall is a cockroach that cannot easily be destroyed, and his steady, unwavering approach as Claire stands in shock resembles the snake in the grass from the opening credits. His eyes never leave her face as he simply says, “Claire." Compare that to the rise in intonation as he later inquires, "Jamie? He's here?" It is a meeting of individuals who share several cruel truths, and the honesty in their exchange grows sharp and corrosive. Kudos to Kahan again for including such dialogue: “The fates are toying with us now,” Jack says, imploring Claire to “step outside the passions of the moment and appreciate the sublime preposterousness of the universe that would guide us to a meeting at the French court.” I noticed that as he talks to her, he rarely blinks, his pupils darkening to an extent where they look almost black.
A year ago, I reviewed the final two episodes of season one and the brilliancy of Tobias Menzies as Jack Randall. In the bowels of Wentworth Prison, his performance reminded me of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, and I referred to a description by former Entertainment Weekly editor Ty Burr of Lecter as “a figure of charm, depth and irreducible evil,” and his insidious command of the screen as “a masterful, and nearly satanic, seduction.” What director Douglas Mackinnon has done here is show the human side of the devil, as Randall is shown cringing in pain, or at least discomfort, from injuries sustained by the cattle trampling over him at Wentworth. Yet he survived, and seeing the Frasers at Versailles seem to invigorate him with the old black magic.
In a scene that should have elicited only cheer but instead brought more pity than I expected, King Louis XV (Lionel Lingelser) approaches with his entourage and cuts Randall’s ego down to size, as Franco-British animosity is evident in the King’s treatment of a ranked officer out of his element and stripped of power. Suddenly, Randall’s accent is gauche, and his uniform is ridiculed. What Mackinnon and Kahan do with this scene is bring more to Jack’s identity than many of the audience care to know. As Frank displayed glimmers of violent passion in the season premiere, so Jack reveals emotions tied to his family and background that we had not heretofore witnessed. After all, why should a villain be three-dimensional: it tempers our hate with feeling. That seduction is fierce. A longtime soldier, Randall admits to the King he “find(s) war preferable to politics. At least in war, you know your enemies.” In mock surprise, the King recognizes Randall’s “affection for carnage” and responds to the officer’s “errand of mercy” on behalf of his brother Alex by first advising, then commanding him to beg for his favor.
Randall’s public humiliation (and the Frasers’ alternating elation of the act and seething resentment of the man), is not unappreciated, but the royal’s contempt for a military officer contrasts with Prince Charles’s desire for soldiers for his perceived holy campaign. Jamie’s private conversation with Randall after the King departs is shown in long shot, as both Claire and the audience look on anxiously and can only guess what the men are saying to each other. This is a meeting Jamie has dreamed about for months, first fruitlessly and then in actuality. To assuage any fear we might have had that Jack’s resolve had been irretrievably tainted by the King’s treatment, he brazenly yet delicately lays a hand upon Jamie’s chest before they bow and depart. A duel has been proposed, and duly granted, and Jamie’s excitement is hardly restrained.
“He said he owed me a death,” he tells a distraught Claire, who resorts to falsely accusing Jack of Mary’s assault in order to have him confined to the Bastille temporarily so she can talk Jamie out of it. She sees her actions as saving Frank, while Jamie sees a betrayal and theft of his opportunity for retribution. Her entreaty and his vitriol come down to a matter of honor, as Claire asks for a delay in killing Jack as Jamie “owes (her) a life.” While Jamie resentfully agrees to her plea, the hard-won reconnection between the couple is torn open again as his torment is renewed and hers is deepened. Jamie has seen demon again, felt his touch like fire against his chest, and the mark must be cauterized soon for any semblance of catharsis to begin.