“Black Jack Randall is dead” — or not.
Full spoilers for Outlander continue below.
Outlander certainly isn’t in Scotland anymore in Season 2, and it leaned fully into that premise in the second episode of the season.
Welcome to 18th century Paris, and all the glitz, glamor and political intrigue that comes with it. “Not in Scotland Anymore” leaned into the humor of the Frasers being a couple in the wrong setting (twice over for Claire, as she’s not even in the right time period). If there was one through-line of the episode, it’s that it was funny, and that balanced the darkness that was plaguing Jamie and Claire.
Speaking of that darkness, the big reveal at the end of the episode is that Black Jack Randall didn’t die at Wentworth Prison. Showrunner Ron Moore was smart not to keep that a secret past two episodes (especially given the fact Black Jack’s “alive” status in Dragonfly in Amber is well-known by book readers). Still, the structure of the episode underlined well just how significant that reveal is. Even if Black Jack had been dead, he still is alive in Claire and Jamie’s relationship. The poison of his torture is keeping them apart intimately, in both a sexual sense and a personal one.
Outlander is known for its steamy sex scenes, but because of Jamie’s residual trauma, Moore has been restrained in how he uses sexuality so far in Season 2. There were two partial sex scenes in “Not in Scotland Anymore,” and both were used to showcase just how deep Black Jack is embedded into Jamie’s psyche. It’s a great way to remind the audience why Claire faces such a conflict when she learns at the end of the episode that Randall is still around, and why that conflict will carry over going forward.
It’s a lot to chew on, which was why it was wonderful to see how light this episode was, especially coming off of the emotional premiere. Paris is glorious and gorgeous in Outlander: Season 2, both the city and the representation of Versailles. It’s in this episode that we meet many of the series’ new players: Andrew Gower as Bonnie Prince Charlie, Claire Sermonne as Louise de Rohan, Rosie Day as Mary Hawkins, Dominique Pinon as Master Raymond and Lionel Lingelser as King Louis XV.
Though some characters, like Charles Stuart, Louise and Louis XV, felt almost cartoonishly drawn at some points, it only helped emphasize the point that Claire, Jamie and Murtagh are very, very out of their element. From Claire’s servant not being able to handle her taking care of herself to the reaction to Jamie and Murtagh’s exposition-heavy fencing lesson, it’s nice to see them thrown into this type of complex society with its own set of rules and watch them learn the ropes. That makes it all the more satisfying to see them succeed at their respective politicking. Also, introducing Louis on the toilet while he’s constipated? Almost as brilliant as introducing Bonnie Prince Charlie at a brothel.
Terry Dresbach has gone above and beyond costuming this season. Both Claire’s New Dior look and her iconic red dress are stunning (and here’s more information on why that dress looks so modern). Every outfit that the men and women at the French court at wearing are phenomenal. The details used to Claire, Jamie and Murtagh’s costumes apart from their French peers is storytelling subtlety at its finest. The sets, too, are visual feasts for the senses. Everything about the shift in setting to Paris works.
But just having everything look lovely isn’t enough. Fortunately, playing around in politics is working well so far for Outlander’s second season, and there are some bread crumbs dropped for the ripple effects to come. Word has gotten around about Comte St. Germain having it out for Claire for the boat burning. Mary Hawkins and Alex Randall share a quiet, cute moment. Louis XV acknowledges something in Claire even though they’ve only just met. Charles Stuart is admittedly dangerous, but also a man with a passion who has already turned Jamie into his right hand man.
More importantly, Claire notes in her monologue the fact that this Parisian society doesn’t stay so powerful and glorious for much longer. Revolutions come. Wars change nations. Nothing is forever. It’s an interesting and important idea to explore given this season is about trying to stop the battle of Culloden, an event that changed and, in many ways, destroyed Highlander culture forever.