Droughtlander is finally over. Yay! This won’t be a recap or typical review of any sort, because those have been done all over the internet already, much better probably than I could have done. I’d just like to share some of my thoughts on this S2 premiere, which I enjoyed immensly. Ok, maybe “enjoyed” isn’t the best term to describe my emotions during the first 2/3 or so of the episode. It was heartbreaking, but done so well by everyone involved. Kudos!
For a long time I had suspected that the TV version would be told in a different structure or order from the book, because of the complicated story structure in this book. Some time ago it also became known that they would start in the 1940s (which isn’t even in the book per se, just told through Claire’s memory at various points). I thought this was a great idea from a storytelling point of view. It had the intented “OMG what happened?” effect for the un-spoiled (non-book readers) but still made sense to the book readers as well, because they knew the context.
I think Ron did a great job pulling together these scenes of Claire’s return to the 1940s from the various parts of the book and to fill in the blanks, which weren’t necessarily in the book, but could have been. Diana Gabaldon herself had at some time during S1 found much better words for how well Ron adds background to the story in the book. None of the scenes felt “wrong” to me, is what I’m trying to say here.
In one of the interviews Ron also mentioned that because Frank had heard the story of the stones from Mrs. Graham in Season 1, they had to adapt TV Frank’s reaction to Claire’s story from the way a disbelieving Frank reacts in the book. That also made sense to me. To go even further, I absolutely loved that Ron made Frank a much more loving and patient and understanding person than he had been in the book. I liked the detail about her clothes for instance. Frank was a historian and even though it was never mentioned in the book, of course he must have recognized the wardrobe and tried to make sense of it all. It clearly is evidence he can’t just ignore.
I admit I never cared much for Book Frank in the beginning. Probably because he just wasn’t Jamie *g* But also because we only ever see him through Claire’s eyes. Especially when after she had to leave the past and Jamie behind, to her Frank’s main characteristic of course was: He wasn’t Jamie! I think the fact that she loved Jamie so deeply, had to overshadow every emotion she ever had felt or would ever feel again for Frank. So I’m glad we got to see Ron’s version of Frank on TV and his version made a lot of sense to me. Frank did love Claire with all his heart. Maybe even as deeply as Jamie did love her. I am so quick to overlook Frank’s devotion to his wife because my feelings for Jamie overshadow a lot of other things too ;-) And because, like I said, we only ever see/hear his side through Claire’s eyes, even later on in their lives together in the US.
Book Claire never tried to search for Jamie in historical records, because she just couldn’t bear the thought to find out. TV Claire did search and only stopped after Frank asked her to, which is another small change from the book. But also one that works for me. I think. It fits with Frank accepting the truth of Claire’s story? Kind of. I might have to ponder that some more. Yesterday I was skipping through some of Season 1 episodes and watched the scene in which Claire tells Jamie about her time travel and Jamie rather quickly believes her, because he loves her and he trusts her to tell the truth. Book Frank had a really hard time believing Claire, at least that’s how she remembers it and “tells us” about it, even though we later find out that Frank might…. I stop here because: Spoilers! Anyway, I expected to see a disbelieving Frank and to naturally like him less for it, compared to the believing Jamie. I was a bit thrown off when Frank did believe Claire so readily. Or when he was willing to disregard her tales, because she was back and he loved her so much and…. *sigh*
Yes, I definitely liked that Ron made the whole “love triangle” much more tangled, because Frank’s deep feelings for Claire are just as valid as Claire’s and Jamie’s for each other. It’s just heartbreaking for all three of them. But it’s also going to be interesting to see if and when and how in a Season 3 (hopefully!!!) Frank’s feelings and actions might change a bit.
Last thought on Frank for now: It was interesting to see his violent streak reappear even if just for a glimpse. Well a glimpse towards Claire, he did trash the Reverend’s shed quite violently after all.
Another change from the book was that Claire so freely talked to Mrs. Graham about her experience. I say “change” because it wasn’t ever mentioned in the book. Nowhere in the book is stated that she didn’t have these conversations either, so it could have well happened. I don’t know. But I liked that Claire had someone understanding to talk to, someone who did believe her right away.
A very interesting tidbit from that conversation: According to it Jamie had planned to stand and die with his men on Culloden Moor. Book Jamie had planned to get his 30 Lallybroch men off the battlefield and into safety first, before he returned to the battle to fight and die. It’s the historical research for these 30 men that involves Roger Wakefield in the story later on. So I’m curious with which research project Claire might turn up on Roger’s doorstep in 1968. Will she ask him right out to search for Jamie? It’s a shortcut in the storytelling for sure, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Then we’re finally back in 1745, where Jamie and Claire step off the ship in France, ready to change the course of history. More or less ready anyway. To me it felt bit disconcerting to see Jamie still so subdued and haunted by what BJR did to him. Yes, I know it takes time to overcome a trauma like that and in a way you will never really get over it, but I thought to remember Book Jamie being in a slightly better state of mind when they reach France. Maybe because in the book they spent more time at the abbey? Time for Jamie to heal, time for Claire to help him heal and overcome his trauma? One of the reviews of the first few episodes mentioned that some important lines from book 1 which probably all book fans missed from the Season 1 finale, will be in one of the early Season 2 episodes, so I hope we will still get to witness more of Jamie’s healing process.
Another change I noticed or at least I think it was a change, was Jamie’s reluctance to go through with the deception and lies to sabotage the Jacobite rebellion. Or even his idea to rather do everything to make the Jacobites win! I know he comes to that idea later in the book as well, but for totally different reason. I kind of admire and like his enthusiasm about the idea, even if it was shortlived. But all in all Jamie seems much more hesitant to go through with this plan than I remember it. Claire definitely seems a much bigger force in this decision here than she is in the book.
Jared’s introduction and his willingness to introduce Jamie and Claire to the Jacobites in France felt a bit rushed to me, that’s the one change from the books, I might not be 100% on board with, but that’s ok. It’s just one detail. Comte St. Germains introduction on the other hand felt very much taken right from the page. Great scene! And quickly after that the credits were rolling ;-)
What a wonderful, perfectly adapted first episode. Loved it! And now let’s talk a bit more about specific but also random things I loved or noticed. Caitriona and Tobias did such an amazing job in this first half of the episode. Like I mentioned above, it was a great idea from Ron to make Frank a much more emotional person, but Tobias knocked it out of the park in this episode and so did Caitriona in her despair on the one hand and on the other hand her resentment of Frank and the whole situation she has been thrown back into.
The third ring she was carrying with her when she came through the stones is a new detail and only at my 2nd time watching the scene I realized there was supposed to have been a jewel set into the ring. Interesting, especially with what the books later on teach us about the Gabaldonian Theory of Time Travel :-)
I very much enjoyed to hear them speak French and I’m glad they didn’t make everyone in France magically speak English for the sake of the TV audience. From what I saw in the trailer there will be enough French main characters who do so, probably for the sake of the audience after all, but it’s nice to hear the French in this episode. And I say that as someone who only read French in school for a year, because I was so, so, SO bad at it.
Stanley Weber as the Comte St Germain was awesome. Even without raising his voice or any big gestures he oozes evil. What a formidable new enemy. Knowing what’s in store on this front I’m very much looking forward to his scenes later on. Great casting, by the way, as usual in this show.
Had Bear McCreary not mentioned the instrumental changes he did for the new score (and to the opening music) I might not have noticed them right away. But so I did and I think the addition of the viola gamba as the instrument of that time and place, is wonderful. It adds a whole new layer to the new images of the new opening credits. Did anyone notice that they kept the “dagger hidden behind the back” image but changed it from Dougal at the St Ninian’s Spring (I think?) to someone (Jamie?) dressed in a silk overcoat? Neat little detail…
Yes, all in all, I’m obviously over the moon to have the show back on the air!