Back to IndieWire

Review: ‘Outlander’ Witnesses Worlds and Wars Collide

In Season 2 Episode 9, "Je Suis Prest," the Jacobites gear up for war, and Claire is reminded of bitter times from the future.

Sam Heughan in "Outlander."

Sam Heughan in “Outlander”

Starz

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Outlander’ Season 2 Episode 8, ‘The Fox’s Lair’: We’re Not in France Anymore

That’s What She Said

Ever since Claire convinced Jamie to try and stop Scotland’s Jacobite uprising she knew they were facing the impossible — why else spend so much of the season dedicated to the idea of changing the future and wondering if it’s even possible? This week, though, with actual battles looming, reality hit the protagonist hard. As she launched back into her memories of the war and the casualties from those horrific events, it was impossible for her not to draw parallels. Only this time, as she morbidly reminded Jamie, it would be men she knew well who would lose their lives in the process. And all for a man they didn’t want to support in the first place.

That’s What He Said

As much as Jamie put his faith in Claire, the time has come for him to do everything in his power to train a proper army and fight for Charles, now that he’s been backed into a corner by the Bonnie Prince. Knowing how ill-prepared the wannabe leader is for war (remember, he’s never even been to Scotland), and what a joke the rest of the clansman think the entire thing is, he and therefore Jamie obviously have a bit of a struggle ahead. Unfortunately for the true Scotsman, the return of his cousin in this episode did little to help him there, other than to provide a few extra men and battle cries along the way.

Caitriona Balfe in "Outlander."

Caitriona Balfe in “Outlander.”

Starz

Haggis and Kilts

Dougal MacKenzie and Jamie’s reunion was a short-lived one, given the clansmen’s opposing views on how to train for a war. Whereas Dougal encompasses Scottish stereotypes, like hot-headedness and absurd loyalty (no matter what), Jamie is trying to win this thing battle-by-battle with cooler heads prevailing. His impassioned speech to his men showcased as much, or at least it did before Dougal ruined it by running in during the training session with that “surprise” shirtless attack. If anything, the entire charade only proved that no one is actually ready to fight when the time comes. As a result, no one really knows what they’re getting into.

Reunions and Ridicule

If you needed further proof that the clansmen aren’t taking the war seriously, you’d have to look no harder than at their personal hygiene – especially that of Angus and Rufus. Their return to the show should have meant some comedic relief (their bouts with Claire in the first season were some of the better “light” moments, for sure), but things are at too dire of a point for that now. Claire, who is seasoned in the art of preventing things like trench foot from developing during such situations, easily projected one war on the other when she freaked out on the men’s disgusting feet and their inability to even wash themselves properly. It was a motherly moment meant to show how much she cares and how frustrated she is by the entire turn of events. It’s unclear if Angus and Rufus took it as such, but at the very least she shocked them into listening with her liberal use of an F-Bomb… not that they necessarily knew the meaning behind it.

Lashes and Thrashes

It takes a lot for Jamie to discipline anyone — Fergus, his own men or otherwise. That’s kind of what happens when you’ve received such a terrible whipping of your own from an enemy. But when Jamie does break out the disciplinarian voice it’s always for a good reason. Between his men not taking this uprising seriously and two of them letting in strangers to the camp (Jamie did nearly lose his life as a result of such carelessness), it was lashes for everyone involved. Obviously that still didn’t sit well with Claire, who tends to be a bit of an idealist in these situations and hopes that forgiveness and kind words will make men change their minds or flip sides.

Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in "Outlander."

Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in “Outlander.”

Starz

READ MORE: Does ‘Outlander’ Need Its Sex Scenes to Survive? (Even If It’s the Best Sex on TV)

A Little English Lie

If Jamie’s men thought having Claire around was going to be a hindrance, she put any such negativity to rest with her show towards the 16-year-old boy who tried to slaughter Jamie. The young man was quick to give up his secrets in order to preserve her honor, making Claire a powerful secret weapon in such circumstances. Unfortunately who knows how long her identity can be preserved. She is, after all, the Dame Blanche, and if her husband now has enough of a reputation for a rogue kid to try killing him, it’s only a matter of time before Claire becomes an even bigger target. So while such tactics work for now, even Claire will have to get bloody before long in order to win these types of situations, dropping her rose-colored glasses in the process.

A Revolutionary Cause

Most of the episode was dedicated to the training and exposure of the ill-prepared Scottish army, and as a result it dragged. Comparing how these men stack up against the well-trained enemies, who come with uniforms and discipline, is surely effective for viewers in terms of setting up the situation, but if only a few characters care about the outcome it creates an overall hopelessness to the story.

As we learned in France, Charles only cares about himself, and without the proper training or rations he’s obviously sending these men out on a death march. Hopefully he arrives soon in order to take stock of the situation, and perhaps rethink some of his more grandiose plans while he’s at it. Given his history, however, and how quickly he jumped into this thing to begin with, we kind of doubt it.

By the Book

While the second novel in the “Outlander” series only touched upon Claire’s experiences in the war, this episode dove deep into that back story by presenting us with characters she shared a connection with. In the end it made the episode feel more personal and about her, rather than the overarching theme of the uprising and the ill-prepared men, but it also drove home just how much is at stake in the coming weeks. Not just for her and Jamie, but for all the characters we’ve met on this show so far.

Grade: B-

“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9pm on Starz.

Stay on top of the latest TV news! Sign up for our TV email newsletter here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , ,