After half a season in France, Jamie and Claire are back in Scotland. There’s a new title sequence to go with their journey. The scenes of the French court have been replaced with scenes of Highland battles, and the accompanying lyrics have changed back to English. It’s pretty cool to see a show with a dynamic title sequence like this, and the changes help prepare viewers for the dramatic shift in the show itself. Episode 208 is about healing for everyone. There’s redemption, regrouping, repairing of relationships, and enough reappearances of familiar faces to make the events of Paris seem like little more than a bad dream. Then the post arrives, and viewers are right back into the world of sword and skin. Rather than try to strike a balance between sword and skin in each episode, the writers seem to favor focusing on each for an episode and balancing them across the season. Last episode was so heavy on the relationships that the skin score had to be broken into two parts. This week, the pendulum has swung back in favor of the swords.
Sword score: 8/10. Claire and Jamie may have returned to Scotland to heal, but they’re still very much under the employ of Prince Charles. Jamie is publically named as a supporter of Charles via the 16th century equivalent of a campaign email. He and Claire see no alternative but to stay and fight for Scotland. They weren’t able to prevent the rebellion from occurring, but they may be able to change the outcome. Their first mission is to visit Jamie’s grandfather, Lord Lovat, and convince him to send his men to fight with Charles. The expected family drama between the hot-headed Frasers ensues, but it’s Lovat’s son, Young Simon, who ultimately saves the day. Some encouragement from Claire and Jamie help the young man grow a backbone, and he defies his father to stand with Jamie. Lord Lovat predictably hedges his bets, but he does send his men to fight with Simon, Jamie, and Charles. Viewers will also enjoy the reappearance of Season One antagonists, Colum & Laoghaire MacKenzie.
Skin score: 7/10. Jamie and Claire’s return to Scotland is met by a horde of familiar faces. Jenny and Ian are up to three kids now, and Rabbie, the boy that Jamie saved from abuse at the hands of his father, is also still living at the manor. Murtagh returned with Claire and Jamie, as did everyone’s favorite curly-haired thief, Fergus. They all quickly settle into a daily routine of farming the land and enjoying some much needed peace and happiness. There are some funny scenes here, such as the cook not knowing what to do with potatoes. There are also some touching ones, such as Jamie sitting with his new nephew by the firelight while Claire and Jenny watch from the balcony. These glimpses of harmony make it clear why Jamie knows he has to stay and fight for his country. There’s too much at stake to try to run away again.
Final score: 7.5/10. It’s a building episode, but definitely not a filler one. Viewers get to really understand why Jamie can’t simply pack up his family and flee to Ireland or the colonies to escape the coming rebellion. Their efforts may have failed in France, but Jamie points out that they’ve already succeeded in changing the future in smaller ways. People are alive by their actions that otherwise wouldn’t be. This power may be what’s needed to ensure victory, and more importantly, survival, at Culloden Moor.