PEOPLE Review: Where in the World Is Outlander's Heroine for Season 2? Try Versailles
The series returns Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on Starz
We aren’t too far into season 2 of Starz’ woozily passionate time-travel fantasy Outlander when Claire Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) receives a bit of information so jolting, so disturbing in its implications, she probably wishes she were doing anything other than swirling, swishing and swashing her way through the elaborate frivolity and beauty of 18th-century Versailles.
This, even though she looks as if she’d spent most of her life in the 20th century in anticipation of dressing as though she were in [Dangerous Liaisons.] If anything, poor Claire probably wishes she could take a high, even swing and knock the periwig off the head of any nobleman foolish enough to crowd her space. Because at this moment Claire really needs her space.
This isn’t a spoiler. Claire is simply confronting the kind of mind-warping, migraine-inducing conundrums that kept Marty McFly hopping with anxiety in Back to the Future movies. When you monkey around with the past – not just the past, but your own – you’re apt suddenly to hear the future howling and pounding its gorilla chest. If you ever get to time travel, you ll probably screw things up, too.
What makes the moment so keenly felt on Outlander is Claire’s stature as romantic heroine, a woman who gets to suffer exciting new pangs of love in different centuries and different coutures. (And then there’s her nurses’ training, which gives her a one-up on just about anyone in any age.) She has much less in common with Marty McFly than with someone from the deeply felt, deeply feminine, deeply psychological realm of Daphne du Maurier.
Anyway, Claire, who’s been known to toggle between the previous century and the one that wrapped with Louis XVI guillotined, arrives in the court of Louis XVI-minus-one on the arm of her dashing, auburn-curled husband, Jamie ( Sam Heughan). They’re wading into dangerous international waters of political wheeling and dealing in order to forestall any financial support for a Scottish rebellion – the one, as Claire knows, that will end in disaster at the Battle of Culloden. “Life with you is never dull,” Jamie tells Claire – a statement so blatantly true that an eavesdropping courtier might conclude that Jamie was tres stupid. But, then, how foolish does love make our speech sound to the ears of the unloving and the unloved.
In fact, one suspects the couple have overestimated their own wits and wiles among such worldly, cynical people: They seem to think this is all some marvelous game of skill, that playing at history is like placing bets at a casino table in Barry Lyndon. They may soon learn their mistake.
Outlander season 2 premieres at Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.