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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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Disclaimer: The following is based on public reports on the acquisition, some personal experience and opinion.

The deal, valued at $4.4B in stock and cash was announced just before Wall street opened for business and at the very end of the second quarter.  I bet the financial and strategy types were burning the midnight oil this month.  What the headline doesn’t say is that they had to refinance debt of both companies to raise the cash.  Lionsgate (LGF) was in a bit of trouble financially this year.

The stock prices closed up 6% for Starz and down 3.3% for LGF.  This is not unexpected, often the buying company sees a decline in stock due to either the impact on their balance sheet (loss of cash or increase of debt) or because Wall Street thinks they paid too much.  After hours trading helped erase some of that loss.  Stock prices reflect investors’ opinions on what this means for the future of the company, so there is some modest optimism for Starz.

Why did they do this?  Content and content delivery is king. People consume content in so many ways now, and so media consolidation is happening so that the two companies can diversify and shore up their weaknesses. It’s the reason for the Comcast and Dreamworks deal.  3-4 years ago, in a meeting with a major media player, they said that the Comcasts of the world would go under if they did not change their model.  (I wasn’t there but an SVP of Marketing at the time relayed this story to us.)

LGF is fairly young, formed in 1997.  They have had some success with Twilight, Hunger Games, Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, etc., but they had some major bombs this year.  They need help diversifying that content with something profitable and reliable, and Starz with sustained successes in its premium original programming offers that.  With MadMen being off the air, LGF lost some of that cushion.

Starz could not make it as just a distributor of movie content, especially after their major film studio deals, most recently Disney.  They could not compete with HBO due to sheer size, and the fact that HBO often comes with expanded cable packages but Starz is an add-on.  Chris Albrecht’s transition of the company to original programming has been their saving grace.  First they captured the male audience and then with Outlander, the female one.

When you put a company up for sale, you create a major document called an Information Memorandum.  It contains anything from the current business plan to strategic plan (usually 3-5 years out), financials, etc.  It describes their assets which in this case are its studio contracts, intellectual property, licensing deals, studios,  programs, etc.  Even actors under contract are considered an asset as are to a lesser extent social media followers, although obviously these are harder to quantify than other more tangible assets.  When an acquiring company is reviewing the information memorandum, you don’t want anything to change with the assets that influences stock price or financial projections (unless it gets better, but you really want stability during this time).

So is this a good deal?  I read a lot this evening, but so far there aren’t any in-depth analyses that weren’t all saying the same thing.

PROS

  • The reasons I gave above
  • Tax break as LGF originated in Canada
  • Expands distribution for both
  • Available original content extends the brand
  • Lionsgate knows how to work the Emmy system, 215 nominations/32 wins and considering that film is their first asset, that’s pretty good
  • Grows subscribers to 66M
  • They plan on investing $1B in TV content in the next year

CONS

  • Some bad leadership decisions by LGF
  • Starz can’t distribute their movies right away; LGF still has a deal with Epix unless they divest them.
  • John Malone has way too much power now
  • LGF has had financial trouble, will they be stingy with budgets
  • This may not be over; there is talk about them merging with another film studio like Paramount or Sony, but that’s more what if talk at this point from analysts

I found it interesting that LFG listed a strong benefit of the acquisition that Starz could utilize LGF marketing expertise and relationships.  I’m going to dig through Advertising Age to see if I can find who does their ads.

Chris Albrecht cannot be terminated without Cause for 18 months but I think this is a stay-pay  arrangement to ensure continuity and stability, which shareholders will be seeking.

So, what does this mean for OL

Outlander was spotlighted in 2 of the 13 slides presented at the press conference.  It is seen as very strategic to the acquisition.

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal used a picture of Jamie and Claire as the headline shot to their article on the acquisition.  That means it is seen as a brand identifier for Starz.  This is also a good thing.

Once Starz can show MadMen, etc., think of the new eyes on Outlander, which can only increase interest.

I think that the new company will protect this asset and was likely one of the reasons Starz was seen as attractive.  I’m curious as to what it might mean for Tall Ships as their deal is with Sony.  I could find nothing that said Sony lost any of its rights in either international distribution or merchandising.

The deal is expected to close before the end of the year; I wouldn’t anticipate any government push back or SEC concerns.   We will follow this closely and update the story as the deal moves toward close.

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Wee Caps are written at 1 AM after the midnight release and are my immediate reactions/feelings about the episode. 

PrestonPans

History tells us this was a 15 minute victory for the Scots.  And to win in 15 minutes, you kill and wound a lot of people.  So the one thing I will tell people is that this episode is graphic and violent, from the first minute.  If that sort of thing bothers you, this episode will be harder to watch.  I did grimace a few times.

The title card shows the juxtaposition of the Highlander music and the British army music.  One that wails in the night, the other that is rigid yet direct.  It is a symbol of things to come over the next few episodes.

I can see why Sam was proud of this episode.  He was in and out of it for the whole hour but  it was really the rest of the expanded cast that had the spotlight.  But whenever Jamie is on screen, the camera just finds him.  This episode explored his relationship with everyone in his life who is at the camp with him.

I thought it started a bit slow.  We got 2 of the 3 MarkMe early on.  You can see that even when other men/generals are arguing, Jamie is always thinking.   One of the most accurate lines of the night about Jamie is when Dougal tells him that something he just engineered (on his feet) was smart and cunning and that he reminded him of Colum. I wondered if Dougal recognized at that moment why Colum wanted Jamie to succeed him and not Dougal.

The actor that most impressed me tonight besides our two leads?  Young Romann.  He was good, I mean really really good.  I love the relationship that has developed between Claire and Fergus as well.

The scene that was in the preview where Fergus interrupts a kiss?  I could tell they weren’t going to kiss because Jamie didn’t lick his lips.  But don’t worry, there was some great kisses in this episode.  Jamie had what can only be described as battle lust in his eyes both before and after the skirmish.

There is a scene with the specimen bottle that shows boys will be boys no matter what the circumstances.

The parallel stories between the two soldier friends Rupert and Angus and the two farmer friends Ross and Kinkaid were nice but not exactly original writing by Ira.

The set production/cinematography was really good, I actually would love to see that on a big screen.  The use of the morning fog was excellent.

The scene with Claire and the women at the hospital while the battle sounds began shows that sometimes waiting and wondering can be just as hard as swinging a sword. Claire was back in field hospital taking charge mode.  I wonder if she hadn’t worked through her PTSD with Jamie last week if she would have had a hard time at the hospital.

The music was superb and the heartbeat type sound before the battle was unique sounding and really captured the adrenaline of both nerves and excitement that I would imagine precedes a battle.

With war comes loss.  Loss of life, loss of innocence, loss of stability.  And PrestonPans is no different.

I wonder how many times they had to film those scenes, it must have been exhausting.  I also wonder if those were the scenes that Sam filmed while Cait was doing Faith.

I look forward to watching it again on my HDTV tomorrow to catch the little things that one misses on first watch.  It certainly isn’t the kind of episode that you watch over and over like last week but it was very important in many ways.

Even though this was Sam’s favorite, I’m glad it was not submitted for Emmy.  He had deeper performances in other episodes in terms of meaty scenes that voters like.  But I loved watching his eyes in this episode.  I’m glad they are continuing to show how intelligent Jamie is.

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I loved this episode.  Even the last week’s highlights section felt like a very fast pace as if preparing us for the urgency of what is to come.

I also loved the war is war comparison.  From the Jacobite Rebellion to WWII and even the Gaelic singing at the very beginning had a somewhat Native American sound to me, I felt that Matt Roberts (great writing again, Matt!) tried to show that men preparing for battle go through the same things.

PTSD Claire was a surprise because I hadn’t realized she’d done more than field hospital work.  It was yet another reminder that war is the same at its essence.

I managed to go four paragraphs without raving about Sam.  This episode underscored the “He’s the man he was meant to be”.  So many things I observed watching with bleary eyes on my ipad.  I canna wait to watch it again Friday night on a larger screen.

  • Sam still does a great job with his left hand in the injured position.  I know it’s a small thing but it so impresses me.
  • I love how he wore the Laird’s coat during his troop rally speech.
  • Standing up to Dougal, giving out punishment when it was due, taking it as well.  He showed all signs of a leader here and his men saw it.  Well written and well acted.
  • COMMANDO?  Yes, Jam that’s what it is called and you’ve been going commando for awhile now.  Oh, you meant commando raid?  Love the black eyes, his real eyes popped right out through the camouflage.  I wonder if they will play hide the commando in full face paint when things calm down.  I know I would.
  • Minor point but I loved the color of his hair in this episode
  • I also loved how he gave his men his full name to get the MacKenzie connection

Other random observations since this is just a wee cap and not a full recap

Full Metal Murtagh

Fergus: Mom! Dad! equivalent and how he called for Claire first

Young William Grey.   The ForeShadow Knows.  There was a grand canyon worth of foreshadowing there but non-book readers will think he’s just another character to come in and out.

Willie got married?  I wonder if they just cut the part since he’s not in the books or if the actor had other obligations. I wanted more Rupert!

Claire’s fuck yourself speech to Dougal was classic.

I loved how Claire emphasized the word “sadist” before starting her next fake performance and Jamie caught on right away.  It really shows once again how in tune they are with each other. I want to watch that fight over again, their looks between them were great.  And I’m glad that he didn’t rip her bodice off.  See, Diana.  There are ways to get your point across without pretending to rape someone.

THIS is the Outlander that everyone came to love last year (minus sexy times but Jamie was sexy as hell) and #SexisComing

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