Episode 2 of the season is Surrender. It is the perfect title, as many characters do just that. As everyone surrenders to their lives as they are now, the loneliness oozes off the screen. I also found myself longing for some elements of the book that were changed. Overall I have to say this is one of my least favorite episodes. While I feel I am generous in understanding major changes from the books, I feel like several choices in this episode change my long term feelings towards many characters. I also think this episode was more exposition than entertainment.
1. The Dunbonnet
This episode defines a narrative change from the book that I expected, but missed nonetheless. In the book Voyager we flash back to Jamie’s post-Culloden life as Claire, Roger and Brianna do historical research to track him down. Obviously in a cinematic sense I understand why we have jumped to parallel timelines. I feel like the audience is missing a chance to connect with Brianna though. In the books we join with her in finding out what happened to her father and it gives us a way to bond with her. The way they are going I don’t think we will really see her again until the narrative catches up to the season 2 finale.
As we return to Lallybroch we see the English soldiers harassing Jenny and family over the whereabouts of a fugitive called the Dunbonnet, suspected to be the infamous Red Jamie. The family insists they have no knowledge of his whereabouts, even though we are shown him hiding in the hills above Lallybroch. With Jenny about to have a baby, they take Ian, presumably to teach him a lesson. We learn this game of cat and mouse has been the reality for 6 years. And the cracks in everyone’s fortitude are beginning to show. Jamie is barely speaking anymore, and he has visions of Claire. He has surrendered himself to a life of solitude, even though he remains in close proximity to so many that love him.
2. Back to Life
Returning to Claire, Frank and Brianna in the modern timeline, we see them fighting to live a normal life. Claire dreams and fantasizes about her lost love. She decides that rekindling a physical relationship with Frank will help her move on. Things begin to appear outwardly normal soon after. They host their new friends for a dinner party and look to be on the right track. That night, however, Frank realizes she can’t even look at him. He basically ends that part of their relationship.
Soon after we see her going through mundane chores and thinking about what she really wants and needs out of life. This is a short replacement for the pivoltal flashback in the book. In the book she has a disaster of a parenting/housewife day and runs from the house to find peace. Frank brings her back from this panic. It bonds them in a way this alternate story does not achieve. This definitely helps the cracks show faster, but they are really moving fast to make me not care about Frank and I am not crazy about that. It is almost too simple for them to surrender to the fact that they are now in a loveless marriage.
3. Fergus Lends a Hand
Fergus is my favorite part of this episode. I am glad because I have a hunch this will be the last we see of young Fergus. They announced casting of adult Fergus very early in the shooting of the season, so I imagine they will not get back to teen Fergus. In this episode Fergus is very eager to prove he is a man. He shows the other boys of the estate a gun hidden in the chicken coop, he brags about the battles he fought in and the battles he could have fought. He exhibits little patience with the constant scrutiny of the soldiers.
The main action of the episode develops when a raven lands on the house as Jenny gives birth. Seeing it as a bad omen Fergus gets the pistol and shoots the bird. This brings the English down on Lallybroch and in the end our favorite fighting Frenchman loses a hand to the cruelty of the soldiers.
The aftermath of this attack finally breaks through the wall Jamie has built around himself. The boy he promised to protect at all costs loses a limb protecting him. He first melts down when Jenny points out if he had intervened they would all be dead. Jamie and Fergus have a touching conversation. Fergus surrenders to his new lot in life as a “man of leisure.” I find myself quite sad that this is likely our last look at young Fergus. I would be happy to be wrong on this one, but given the events at the end of the episode, I don’t think we will return to Lallybroch for several years in the show timeline.
4. Back to School
Claire’s housewife crisis ends for now with her heading to school. As hinted in the previous episode, she is the first woman in the medical school and nobody wants her there. Her class is full of Mad Men extras and they all spend their screen time shooting daggers at Claire. We meet the other outcast of the program, a black man named Joe Abernathy. While I am sad to lose the circumstances of their book meeting, I am inclined to think more time with Joe is time well spent.
That being said, I hope we skip through most of this time period. We get it, becoming a doctor is hard for a woman in the 50s. I would rather see Claire challenged by the task of becoming a doctor rather than challenged by the men that think she shouldn’t be there. It is just not interesting to me. We know Claire. She doesn’t need to prove herself to the audience.
Jamie realizes the very real toll his secrecy has on his loved ones. He decides there is only one thing to do. He needs to surrender himself to the English. Always thinking of the people he loves, he decides Jenny should report him in order to collect the reward for the estate. Preparations are made for his surrender and he is visited in the cave by Mary McNabb. She helps him shave and clean up. Then she seduces him, both of them surrendering to the need for human companionship. The next scene we see Jenny in the courtyard and Jamie enters boisterously, as though he is only now returning home. The English soldiers appear from behind the walls and arrest him.
He and Jenny share a staged argument over her “turning him in.” The line that most gets me is when she says, “I’ll never forgive you.” For just a moment I believe her. I think something has broken between them and the next time we see Jenny things will not be quite the same.
That sums up most of my feelings on this week’s episode. Let me know what you think about the paths our characters are on. I feel like next week should do a little more to raise the stakes based on the preview. See you next week!