Outlander Promo Recap: Parallel Lives

Hey all, thanks for the well-wishes, and here’s payback in the form of an unnecessarily long promo recap.

The title of this promo is more than a righteous Magic:The Gathering card. It’s also the nickname for Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, a series of biographies of famous men that highlighted their similar virtues and failings, and a fascinating study of morality and choices. It’s an apt lens through which to view this season of Outlander, in which Claire and Jamie struggle to make the most of their choice to separate, consequently exposing the best and worst of themselves (and those closest to them). It’s a reminder that our heroes are no more human than any of us: sometimes disturbingly fallible, others heartrendingly persistent. Plus I hear there’s a lot of sex.

Let’s dig in.

The promo opens on Claire and Bree, presumably on a plane back to Boston after their visit to Scotland. Caitriona Balfe narrates, letting us know that when we last saw the character it was 1968, right after her character discovers Jamie didn’t die at Culloden. Both Randall ladies seem immersed in thought.

Information like that has a way of jump-starting one’s fantasy life, and Claire gazes out of her plane window while Bree reassures her that they “will find him.” Don’t pat yourself on the back, kid. Everyone finds Jamie eventually. He’s pretty noteworthy.

Cut to Bree and Claire researching at what looks like a library with Roger. This promo needs more Roger. If this keeps up I am just going to start Photoshopping his face onto vases and stuff. Here he is, color-coordinating not only with the rich wood paneling but also Bree’s vest. I assume he’s the head researcher because he’s the only one who can read fluent Scottish noises.

It’s worth noting that the group searching for Jamie in the past is also in a prime position to see their relationships most significantly affected in the present. One woman longing to leave the present to return to the past, another firmly anchored to the present but potentially fragile in the face of the loss of another parent, and a man re-evaluating his past identity while harboring new hopes for his future.

Meanwhile, we flash to Jamie gasping in a tortured breath and opening his eyes on Culloden field, a familiar uniformed ponytail visible over his left shoulder.

As the camera pans out to show the field almost obscured by fallen Scots, Sam Heughan’s voice tells us that for Jamie, waking up comes with “a great sense of loss,” since the death he awaited and expected did not come to pass. This seems to set the scene for the first act of Jamie’s life post-Culloden. The commiserate survivor seems to lose his will to go on. Jamie isn’t so much surviving as enduring.

A wounded Jamie sees an apparition of Claire walk up to him and ask sweetly if he’s alive. “I may be,” he rasps out, two steps from death’s door but still aware enough to flirt. Color me impressed.

Back in the 40s Claire is experiencing apparitions of her own, laying awake in bed next to Frank and imagining Jamie smiling sleepily at her in his place.

Cait mentions that Claire is coping not only with the loss of “the love of her life,” but “an important part of herself.” It’s not only about survival for her but how she builds a life going into the 50s and 60s.

Whereas Jamie’s life continues on its adventurous course, Claire will experience the decidedly lower profile of a mid-century housewife, and I can’t think of someone less suited to it. Her search to reclaim herself as an individual and a healer is one I look forward to seeing.

There is previously-seen footage of 50s Claire holding a briefcase and walking across a bridge, and 60s  Claire and Frank clapping for Bree’s high school graduation. A blonde character who I can only assume is a grad student or a marriage counselor or an assistant tells Claire that she’s lucky. “You won’t find another man like Frank again.”

A chagrined Frank looks down.

Later, (wearing the same clothes as when she threw something at his head in the Starz fall promo) a heavily pregnant Claire cries while the door closes behind Frank. I am pretty sure that the show now means to clearly resolve the ambiguous question of Frank’s fidelity in the books, but even if they show him having an affair, I can’t really blame the guy. It’s a pretty heavy burden to pine for someone you live with for twenty years. No easy answers here.

A quick flash of Jamie, kneeling in front of a fire and turning to look over his shoulder as Cait says that “But for two decades, no one came into her life that came in any way close to Jamie.” For both Jamie and Claire, no one measures up to their remembrance of each other.

In the closest the show has to the present (the 60s), Brianna asks her mother if she still thinks about him. OH HONEY. “I do,” Claire admits.

Shift to Jamie, and Sam talking about how his character has been in hiding at Lallybroch for several years, still pining over Claire and seeing her superimposed over his pregnant sister. Not disturbing at all. Also not disturbing is his almost flawless Johnny Harrington drag. I won’t dwell except to say I hope he’s got a hair net on when he cooks.

Sam says that it takes Jamie’s family, which now includes Fergus, to really remind him what he has to live for. As capable, intelligent men do, Jamie takes loss very hard. There was loss of power and impotence at Wentworth, after the loss of his daughter, and now, at the loss of his wife. During the previous two, Claire was there to help him back to himself, and the story is hinting that he might not do so well on his own.

Cut to a gruff Jamie, telling Fergus that there will be “no more fighting” and Fergus tearfully telling him that just because he’s  a coward, doesn’t mean Fergus has to be.

Superimposed over the specter of Claire appearing to Jamie at Culloden, Sam explains that the love of Jamie’s life is “essentially dead to him,” and in an echo of Roger’s question to Claire in the S2 finale, asks “how do you come to terms with losing the one person that is [Jamie’s] world?”

Too brief to capture is a fade from a carriage headed towards Helwater to Claire walking to work as Cait calls the upcoming season “incredibly romantic.” Next are brief flashes of Claire and Jamie talking about each other to Joe Abernathy  and Lord John Grey, respectively.

Of note here is that Jamie, speaking not long after Claire’s loss, speaks of her in the past tense while Claire, anticipating her reunion with the husband who is presently deceased, uses the present tense. Ah, such is the power of love.

Sam speaks of Claire and Jamie’s great love, and as that happens, a visibly heartbroken Jamie falls into his sister’s arms in the kitchen at Lallybroch. Later, Lord John Grey asserts that Jamie told him his wife was dead. “I said she was gone,” Jamie replies.

Back to Cait, who says that “this is a couple that lasts a lifetime.” In the background, 50s Claire and Frank walk through Boston smiling at each other. Later, they sit opposite each other, looking haggard, tired and angry. “Claire,” Frank states gravely, “when I’m with you, I’m with you. But you’re with him.”

Maybe Frank isn’t Claire’s HEA, but the man certainly has a gift for effective communication. That quote should be embroidered onto the pillows in the Randall living room.

Then to finish, a series of quick images: a crying Bree hugs Roger, Jamie shoots a figure that book readers can easily guess, and Claire gives us one last gander at her Anne Bancroft cosplay.

No Gabaldon book is strictly linear, but fan-favorite Voyager has a truly wide scope, and contains seeds for plots that reveal themselves in all the books to come. It’s also a book that introduces many of the characters we will come to know and love: the deeply moral Lord John, headstrong Ian, and fierce Marsali. We learn more about adult Fergus, and get a glimpse into the beginning of the next generation of characters with the spark between Brianna and Roger. Season 3 is not only a reintroduction of two characters who have been apart, but of a new world that is ever more complex, ever more challenging, and ever more absorbing.

Plus I hear there’s sex.

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One comment

  1. Maria · August 14, 2017

    Love the levity as we patiently await Sunday. Thanks!