Welcome back to our TV coverage of Outlander book two. Read our past reviews and recaps here.
For a show so rooted in its Scottish setting, it was easy to lose yourself in a new locale like Paris. Therefore, I was bit surprised by how jarring the return to Scotland felt last week, even with the considerably disastrous aftermath in France. Maybe it was more the tone, which was much lighter than the previous episode. Or maybe it was that so much was packed into the episode to get us all up to speed on how the political climate has changed since Jamie and Claire had left. Whatever it was, last week brings us up to “Je Suis Prest,” this week’s new episode which interestingly explored the beginnings of war while also reflecting on the grievous after effects of battle.
While Jamie commands a new army for the Jacobite rebellion, Claire must deal with difficult and vivid flashbacks from her time served in World War II. Excitement and aggressive energy fill the air for the men as they train and get ready for battle (and hopefully glory), but the darkness of war closes in on Claire. For an episode that doesn’t do much but sets things up for the remainder of the season, it takes this moment to expand upon Claire, her past experiences and how they shape her now. Once again, Caitriona Balfe steps up and gives a moving and chilling performance.
This week also marks the return of Dougal (Graham McTavish) and the MacKenzie clan men (Grant O’Rourke and Stephen Walters), as they join Jamie’s encampment and stir a bit of trouble. But Jamie remains steadfast in his leadership, not letting his uncle try to manipulate or trip him up as he tries to prepare the men for what’s to come. It’s satisfying to see after last season where Dougal existed mostly to be a huge thorn in Jamie and Claire’s sides. After being put in his place by both Jamie and Claire in separate scenes, I’m almost convinced that Dougal will be complacent. Almost. As the episode ends and they finally arrive at Prince Charles’s camp, I couldn’t help but wonder if Dougal will weasel his way into more power by messing with the foolish prince.
After opening up to Jamie and sharing her past war experience with him, Claire accepts that while this is hard for her and she’s scared, she still wants to be there with Jamie. As if we needed extra convincing, Claire helps Jamie retrieve important information from a young English boy brought to their camp by some of their men. That English boy, who goes by William Grey (a name I recommend you file for later), is convinced by Claire’s performance as a prisoner and to “save her honor” spills secret information on the English soldiers. Jamie and his men take advantage of the new intel and steal the camp’s cannon wheels, rendering them rather useless. A small victory, but it feels like a big one.
A well-crafted and surprising episode that could have been full of humorous army training montages, “Je Suis Prest” delivers on exactly what its title says.
A few thoughts and observations on “Je Suis Prest”:
- There are many ways that Jamie’s whipping scene can be interrupted. I’m baffled to say that it was kind of empowering. For him to take the punishment in front of his men and not bat an eye despite his brutal history of being on the receiving end of a whip felt like a major moment. It also reminded me of when Dougal would parade Jamie and his scars from town to town to rally support for the Jacobite cause. Now, Jamie is really in control. It’s his decision to take off his shirt, show his scars and use them to move the men into fully supporting this upcoming war, not Dougal’s or anyone else’s.
- Claire’s flashback scenes showed a part of her life that was new to us and really drove home that fact that she never really had time to ever reflect and try to heal from her service in WWII.
- With only a few episodes left, I expect the rest of the season to move full speed ahead. Starz announced earlier this week that the third and fourth books of the Outlander series have been optioned, confirming season three and season four are happening. I’m thrilled by the news and I’m more than eager to see how the TV series goes about adapting what’s ahead for Claire, Jamie and company in Voyager and Drums of Autumn.
Outlander is rated TV-MA and airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.