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Recap on Steroids-Episode 201

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Title: Through a Glass, Darkly

Written by: Ronald D. Moore

Directed by: Metin Huseyin

Approximately, every two weeks, OLA will be publishing an episode-based Recap on Steroids (ROS) for Season 2.  These ROS will incorporate an OLA writers’ opinion on the episode woven in with information from both the official Starz podcasts hosted by Showrunner Ronald D. Moore along with comments from the official episode script including things changed or edited for television. OLA editorial comments in the ROS recognize and respect the experience of those associated with the show even though we may respectfully disagree at times with their thought process or assumptions.  We hope you enjoy these recaps as they take many hours to prepare and create!

LeHavre 201Source: Starz

The podcast was hosted by Ronald D. Moore (RDM) and also included post- production members Michael Hall (an editor who worked with Ron on both Battlestar and Star Trek) and Alicia Bessette who focuses on sound and music.

The beginning of Season 2 was actually filmed in a super block of 3 episodes versus the more traditional block of 2 episodes used for Season 1.  Each episode must be approximately 59 minutes and 35 seconds of actual TV time.

Book fans noted right away that the show began not in 1960.  Instead, RDM chose to start it just after Jamie sends Claire through the stones in a heart-wrenching farewell that will ultimately be shown in episode 213.   RDM noted that originally they wrote the beginning of S2 as the end of S1 after the beautiful shot of Jamie and Claire on the ship to France.  Frank’s feet walking into the hospital would have been the start of 201.   They discussed this with the network who wanted the more beautiful ending.  Good call, Starz.

It actually was interesting to watch 201 over again after seeing the entire season.   It really connects where Claire was just moments before and her anger that Jamie’s wish of returning her to safety in the 1960’s worked.  The significance of the loss of the ruby from Brian Fraser’s ring will be made clearer as the “rules” of time travel are learned.  (My personal opinion is she needs the jewel to go back but that the pull of Jamie will always be enough to get her safely through the stones whenever she goes back in time.)

Michael Hall’s primary job in this episode is to cut and edit the multiple shots of scenes into one cohesive scene for television.  He noted that there was originally a lot more voiceover when Claire comes through the stones but he cut that to be more cinematic.  According to the script, Claire has a conversation with Jamie about wishing she was dead but she knows she made a promise to him.  She tells him that she could not have born the thought of seeing him die at Culloden.

The scene with the Scottish man confronting Claire on the road was filmed very late in the series.  I recall an interview with Caitriona Balfe where she was annoyed  about how it came together so she channeled that emotion into her anger with the man in trying to learn the fate of Jamie, Murtagh and clan Fraser at Culloden.  Her grief is just as palpable as if she had learned of it 200 years before.  I encourage all who watch all of Season 2 to rewatch this episode with that in mind.

The transition to the theme song (introduced for the first time partly in French) ends with a title card of Wee Roger holding his plane.  RDM noted that making the title cards significant became a “thing” in Season 1 and now great care goes into them.  Because of that they have become more challenging for production.  Matt Roberts handles the title cards and they must be 16.6 seconds.

Alicia Bessette selected the music that was playing in Claire’s hospital room as Frank approaches her for the first time.  She described how hard it is to find music that fits the era, was playing in Scotland at that time and that they can get cleared for TV.  In many cases they are lucky in that Sony’s Music division can be very helpful. The music reminds Claire of how noisy the 20th century was, just adding to her desire to be anywhere but there.   And while she prepared herself for the Frank/BJR resemblance, it still startles her.

Fun fact: The dog walking by as Claire looks out the window belongs to RDM and Terry Dresbach!

As an aside, even though some of the podcast tidbits were interesting, I found myself getting annoyed during the podcast that it was all production and not much story.   For instance, when Claire is eager to share her story with Mrs. Graham and she believes her, none of this was discussed in the podcast.  Yet, I thought it was an important part of the story in both Claire needing to tell someone and that someone would not only believe her but perhaps help her find out what happened to Jamie.  But seeing how much they loved talking about production  did help me understand the mental filter that RDM most likely uses to make certain creative choices.  I think he focuses more on a good television show rather than the good story.  It’s neither right or wrong but I think some times filter improves things and sometimes it hurts things.

The scenes with Claire and Frank led to a discussion in the podcast.  Alicia Bessette was Team Frank as was RDM.  I found this to be interesting as these are the people who edit the story.  (For the record, Team Jamie all the way here.)  RDM is amused that the fans get upset. My problem with that is not so much that he’s kind of ignoring what his “customers” like but that it can create a mood that may not be true to the story.   In the end, the creative process is subjective.

In the scene where he wrote Frank accepting Claire’s “affair” with Jamie, RDM associated that back with episode 101 where Frank tells Claire he could forgive her for having an affair during the war. I see it in a different way.  I think Frank forgave her because he himself had affairs (and SPOILER ALERT will continue to have them as they raise Brianna).  end spoilers

RDM stated in the podcast that Frank wants to be a noble guy with moral courage.  I saw it as avoiding the humiliation he felt when the police told him to accept that his wife took off with another man back when Claire first disappeared.  I accept various points of view on Frank; the original book version, RDM version, my version.   I wish the TV version was closer to a mix of all three.

Michael Hall was very impressed with the performances of Tobias Menzies and Caitriona Balfe as they discuss where Claire has been for the last few years.  Tobias left for England as this scene was being cut and stopped into the editing room to see the scene.   Michael Hall notes that Tobias was very humble about it and asked “did I get it?”  Michael told him it was an Emmy worthy performance.  He hated to cut anything.    They filmed that scene in only 2 takes and he loved the way Cait performed Claire with great restraint when she really just wants to send him away.  She sees BJR in Frank’s anger but just as in the 18th century, she’s not backing down.  I wonder how much Tobias and Cait bring back and forth to the scenes when they are playing opposite each other as either Frank/Claire or BJR/Claire.

Frank tearing apart the Reverend’s tool shed was executive producer Ira Steven Behr’s idea after the first draft of the script and also took 2 takes as the crew was tired of setting up the shed again.  Good thing Tobias is good at breaking things!

Alicia Bessette noted that the Reverend Wakefield’s house was a very cool home in real life, although the exterior and interiors were two different houses.  She said that sometimes you would be surprised at the small details that require attention including things like there was  no white trim around windows in the 1960’s.

I was hoping that they would discuss the scene where Claire agrees to stay with Frank and where she starts to take off her ring.  This was not in the book and both author Diana Gabaldon and executive producer Maril Davis had to talk RDM out of writing it that way.  OLA was fortunate to attend the NYC premiere and there was a noticeable gasp from the audience when she attempted to take off the ring.  It was simply not who Claire is.  If she chose to keep Frank’s ring on during her years of happy marriage to Jamie, there is no logical reason why she would not do the same in reverse.

The scene on the airplane flying to the United States was almost entirely done with CGI except the window.  The transition was originally nothing special but Starz CEO Chris Albrecht told RDM it was boring and to make it more cinematic.  I was a little taken aback that they landed in New York first but maybe there were no direct flights to Boston in the 1960’s.  I feel your pain, Claire.

Many will notice that there was a date error when Claire and Jamie exited the ship into Le Havre France.  The note on that scene showed 1745 when the correct date (and noted in the script) was 1744.

I recall that Sam Heughan said that he wanted to play Jamie as half a man in these early episodes and that he should look different right down to his hair.  (As an aside, I hated his hair in these first few episodes because he didn’t look like JAMMF but I think that is exactly what Sam was going for.)

Other random observations in this episode from the podcast.

*Cait is always spot on with her instincts in her voiceover work and they rarely require multiple takes unless she wants to try something else

*The network occasionally aske=s Sam to Americanize his accent in a few scenes as his brogue is too thick and hard to understand.  This will also happen from time to time with other Highlanders.

* It is hard to cut scenes said in French when the editor doesn’t speak French but Maril Davis is fluent.  Is there nothing she can’t do?

*I was disappointed that some of the humor in the script between Jamie and Claire was cut for the program.  I think non-book readers miss a lot of what makes their relationship so special and humor is one of them.  Most edits seem to be for time constraints.  It’s quite amazing to read how much more they film that never makes it.  Adding up all the episodes and you could probably save a month of the filming season.  However, I hope many of the missing scenes in Season 2 make it to the DVD.  (You can pre-order the DVD or blu-ray  at the OLA Amazon store.)

RDM noted that the scene where they watch the Comte’s diseased ship burn was originally written by him  with the following exchange:

Jamie:  Another country, another enemy. Life with you is never dull, Sassenach

Claire: If you want dull, you should have married Laoghaire.

Cait asked RDM to cut that line as she thought it wasn’t appropriate for the moment.

It was learning that plus what Sam said about Jamie at this point in time so soon after Wentworth makes me confident that Cait and Sam know and care about their characters as much more than just an acting role.

 

 

 

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