Claire has already begun to establish a friendship and mutual attraction with Jamie, but after a rocky start, in “Rent” she finally solidifies her relationship with the Highlanders.
Once on their journey to collect rents, it isn’t long before Claire begins to feel isolated from the Highlanders. She is concerned that their use of Gaelic represents an effort to exclude her, and she reminds herself that being on the road would be her opportunity to escape. Jamie notices her unease and comes to her. She asks him if the Highlanders hate her. Jamie reassures her but admits that they don’t trust her. Then she asks him if he thinks she is a spy for the British. He tells her, “No, but I do think there are things ye’re not telling us, and I know you tried to run during the Gathering. It’s on your mind still, plain and clear.”
What is interesting about Jamie’s observation in that in the books, Claire is frequently puzzled by Jamie’s seeming ability to read her mind.
Once again, Claire’s righteous indignation causes conflict, and Jamie comes to her rescue when Angus does not take kindly to being called a thief. Claire believes Dougal is not only collecting rent from clan members, but is using Jamie’s scars to garner sympathy from them in order to line his own pockets.
Claire’s healing skills had begun to give her some credibility and help build a measure of trust with Dougal and Colum. However, when she confronts Ned about her suspicions, that trust quickly dissolves. It isn’t until another collection night that Claire realizes Dougal is raises the extra money to finance a Jacobite rebellion.
This is my single most favorite scene from the episode. The collection party stops at an inn for the night. While the men drink downstairs in the tap room, Claire retires to her room upstairs. A noise outside her door leads her to investigate the source of the disturbance. She finds Jamie just outside the door after she steps on him. For fear that the drunken men might wonder upstairs, he again intends to protect her by sleeping at her door. She offers to let him come inside, but he fears it “would ruin [her] reputation.” Amused, Claire instead offers him her blanket, “If it isn’t too scandalous,” and he bashfully accepts. The sexual tension in this scene can be cut with Jamie’s dirk. (Yes, pun intended.)
The next morning during breakfast when Claire tries to convince Ned that history will never again record the name of a Stuart king, a group of rowdy locals are heard referring to Claire as a “Hoor.” Ironically, Angus, who had previously drawn his knife on her, is the first to throw a punch in defense of her honor. After the fight, Murtagh explains to Claire that as she is a guest of the Mackenzie, “We can insult ye, but God help any other man that does.” Even Dougal joins in the fight. This represents a turning point in Claire’s relationship with the Mackenzies. A bond is strengthened and she is defended as one of their own.
Rupert regales the group with a story about his experience with two women in bed, where they become jealous and begin arguing over who he will “swipe” first. “Can you believe it?” he jokes. Claire replies, “I believe your left hand gets jealous of your right. That’s about all I believe.” After a brief silent pause, Rupert breaks into a hardy laugh, the Highlanders following suit. “Ah, you’re a witty one,” Jamie says. Amazed at what he has heard from Claire, Rupert says, “I’ve never heard the woman make a joke!” Claire responds, “There’s a first time for everything.” Clearly the entire groups appreciates the moment, and the bond with the Highlanders is now solidified.
Now Claire needs only to convince Dougal that she is not a spy.
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!
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.
Episode 103, “The Way Out,” gives us so many good Jamie and Claire moments. Their attraction builds, though Claire would prefer to deny it, at least to herself. Claire also builds her friendship with Geillis, but draws upon herself the wrath of Father Bain after healing Mrs. Fitz’s nephew. Finally, at the end of the episode, Gwyllyn’s song gives Claire hope of returning to her home.
This exchange between Jamie and Claire is so precious. Jamie seems impressed that Claire isn’t fully intoxicated yet, and Claire seems proud of herself that he recognizes her ability to hold her (or Colum’s) rhenish. This leads us to the next great scene.
The sexual tension in this scene could be cut with a knife. Out of feat that Claire will soon be too drunk to find her way safely back to the surgery, Jamie asks Claire to check his bandages. When he confesses his true intent, Claire decides she may as well check him anyway. The looks they exchange speak volumes about what they’re feeling. Jamie looks pleased that Claire is taking such an interest. Had Jamie not been the gentleman he is, he probably could have had her right there in the surgery.
I am no fan of Laoghaire, but this scene is important because it triggers some unexpected reactions in Claire. Laoghaire lassos Jamie for a kiss, but Jamie especially enjoys it when he realizes Claire is watching. Is he trying to make her jealous?
After seeing Jamie and Laoghaire kissing, Claire teases Jamie in the dining hall. Clearly it was a dangerous thing to do, and Murtagh chastises her for it. Murtagh seems to share our sentiments regarding Laoghaire’s suitability as a mate for Jamie.
Immediately after the dining hall scene, Claire goes outside to be alone and cries. Claire’s voiceover tells us that she feels guilty for teasing Jamie and that she did it because she was jealous… not jealous of Laoghaire but of their “intimacy.” Then she has thoughts of Frank. However, I believe in this scene Claire is an unreliable narrator. She will not admit to herself that there was indeed some jealousy of Jamie and Laoghaire. She is fighting the attraction she has for Jamie.
As Dougal promised, he takes Claire to visit Geillis so we can replenish her herb supply, but Jamie is sent to “fetch” her after Dougal is called by to Leoch. This scene illustrates Jamie and Claire’s ability to communicate with each other non-verbally. The expressions on their faces tell us everything.
This is the first of many times we see Jamie and Claire working together as a team. With a hefty price on his head, it is quite a risk for Jamie to be seen in public. This also makes me suspicious about Jamie being sent there to “fetch” her in the first place. Did Dougal intend to put Jamie at risk of being caught?
There are so many great scenes in Episode 102, but we have picked some favorites to share. In this episode we begin to see the attraction and trust develop between Jamie and Claire. We also are introduced to the fabulous Mrs. Fitz.
When the group arrives at Castle Leoch, Jamie introduces Claire to Mrs. Fitz. I love our Jamie gives Claire the once over. Though Claire’s dress is appropriate for her modern times, it arouses suspicion in Jamie’s time.
There really is so much to love about Episode 2 – Castle Leoch. We discover this world right along with Claire and it is beautiful, and more than a little dangerous. Picking a favourite scene was difficult and it changes the more I watch it. Today, I think my favourite scene is when we are introduced to Mrs. Fitz.
It is perfect that Mrs. Fitz is the first woman that Claire encounters in this new and strange world. Mrs. Fitz show herself to be loving, and welcoming, but also entirely capable of handling a herd of warrior highlanders. She commands their respect and obedience, but it is not out of fear. They adore her as we will come to. In this one small scene we learn that Mrs. Fitz is the heart of Castle Leoch. She is very much like Claire, and Claire recognizes that kindred spirit. She feels more at ease by Mrs. Fitz’s presence, and we see her regain her confidence and poise.
Probably my next favourite scene would be where Claire tends Jamie’s wounds and reveals his scars.
Jamie is obviously nervous and uncomfortable. He doesn’t know how Claire will react and you can see his vulnerability. Claire responds not with pity, but with compassion and empathy. It is her heart and her healing spirit that come through in this moment. She is being Nurse Beauchamp and it is the start of her finding her place, with Jamie, and in this world.
These are relationships that help shape her, help give her a sense of security, and help her to grow into the woman she is meant to be.
Temptation! Being suddenly thrust back two hundred years in time has to be stressful on a girl, but Claire is tempted here. Who wouldn’t be? For a few seconds she forgets about the husband she left behind two hundred years in the future. Being the gentleman and King of Men that he is, Jamie doesn’t take advantage of Claire’s emotional state, but rather comforts her when she breaks away in tears. As for sexy scenes, this is about as HAWT as it gets with clothes on.
Mrs. Fitz is a wonderful character, and it was fun watching her and Claire build a mutual respect for each other that eventually evolves into a true friendship.
Another favorite scene is when Claire visits Jamie in the stables, presumably to check his wounds and take him lunch. In the book we learn that Claire finds herself making excuses to visit Jamie around the castle grounds. We know what you’re up to, Claire. You, too, Jamie. The mutual attraction is undeniable.
Outlander’s premiere episode, “Sassenach,” is one of my favorite episodes containing a few of my all time favorite scenes, Claire meeting Jamie for the first time, Claire fixing Jamie’s “scratches,” and Jamie threatening to throw Claire over his shoulder. Any scene with Jamie and Claire could be called a favorite.
However, there is one scene in this episode that has become the subject of countless discussions. This is the scene where Frank meets presumably “Ghost” Jamie. When this episode first premiered show-only fans couldn’t fully appreciate the significance of the mysterious highlander, whom we have come to call Ghost Jamie. By the Season 2 finale it is safe to believe that most of those fans would recognize the figure as Jamie Fraser. Book readers would have immediately recognized him, but neither group has reached agreement on the nature of Jamie in the scene.
Show only fans and many book fans claim that the figure is indeed the ghost of Jamie Fraser. However, there are some book fans, myself included, who believe that the figure is an astral projection of Jamie. In a few places in later books we learn that Jamie has either visions or dreams in which he travels to the past or the future. He even recounts to Claire a dream he has of seeing her in the future in a place that sounds eerily similar to the scene where Jamie watches her in the window. It is for this reason, and others, that some believe Jamie has the ability to astrally project himself into other places and times.
Regardless of the nature of Jamie’s form, he has come to see Claire on the eve of her first trip through the stones. Since we are still reeling from the Season 2 finale where Claire leaves him to return to 1968, this scene has renewed meaning. In the finale, Jamie promises Claire that even if he has to endure two hundred years of purgatory that he would find her, and we see that Jamie kept this promise. He found her.
Hopefully, one day Diana Gabaldon will settle this issue once and for all. -D
This one was easy for me. My favourite scene in Sassenach is the opening scene.
I had NO idea Outlander even existed when it started (I know….was I living under a rock? How did I even go through life?).
My eldest son and my father both nagged me endlessly to watch “this show Outlander”, they just KNEW I would love it. Finally, I buckled and started watching right before the hellatus break between 1a and 1b.
This was the moment that I knew I was hooked. The black screen, the slow reveal, the beautiful landscape…..then the voice over.
[for the sake of cohesion, I’m not writing this scene by scene as I normally do]
“Children accept the world as it is presented to them”. Reverend Wakefield’s words couldn’t be more true. Brianna only knows Frank as her father. As she describes him to Roger I can’t help but think, Huh?? But that’s Bree’s reality. However, for someone who seems to love her dad, she’s asking an awful lot of questions regarding who he was and what he was like. Because she knows there’s a back story to her parents’ marriage. And for some reason, she only wants to learn of it after Frank is gone. Because of his temper? Because sometimes after death we idolize someone and don’t want to face the fact that they weren’t as perfect as we’d like to remember? I love the references she makes about her mum “living in another world”, “she’s insane”. It lead me to think that Claire has never been 100% present in Bree’s world. That a part of her, for the past 20 years, has been somewhat cut off at times, when she may have allowed herself to turn inward and return to Jamie in her mind. She may never have spoken of him, like she promised Frank, but Frank couldn’t control her thoughts.
Bree is sensitive, argumentative, ready to battle her mother at every turn. That could be grief talking. Or young adulthood. Because Bree is at a point in her life where she notices relationships, and how they work. What she may want in one, or doesn’t want. And because she knows there’s an “incident” in her parents’ marriage, the curiosity is killing her. She’s desperately trying to make sense of it. And we witness for ourselves how she tries to talk to her mother about it, but Claire shuts it down.
I love how she is with Roger. It’s the 60s, and she’s forward and blatantly teasing/flirting/interested in Roger and giving him lots to think about.
Older Claire. The voice tone is different, measured, controlled. This Claire doesn’t put her foot in her mouth. This Claire thinks before she speaks. I love the conversation between her and Roger in front of the fire. He’s asking how you say goodbye, thinking she’s talking about Frank, when in fact, we all know she’s talking about Jamie.
At first, I found the transitions between the 1960s and the 1700s very jarring. I didn’t like it. It was too harsh. But after a while I realized that it very much mirrored Claire. Her present life is having to face the harshness of her past life. And she doesn’t mourn her recently passed husband, but her long dead husband. Which is why the trip to Lallybroch broke our hearts. When she is faced with her happiest memories and she sits on those stairs and pictures Jamie, her Highlander, Laird of Lallybroch, he isn’t looking as she last saw him, but as he is in her mind. Strong. Tall. Handsome. God, one might even say, Majestic. She feels him on her lips and closes her eyes in remembrance of all she wanted. And had to live without. And we see the crack. The very small fissure in a very tough exterior that is Dr. Claire Randall. And then, she visibly pulls herself back together again. That’s how she’s done it. That’s how she’s lived for 20 years and managed half a life.
And when Claire is on Culloden Moor and the woman asks if she’s a Fraser, Claire says, “Yes. I am.” and gives a small smile. Because now she can finally claim her true identity. She can freely call herself Claire Fraser. And she can finally speak to Jamie and of Jamie at the same time. Through Brianna. Brianna IS Jamie to her, in looks and manners. She could always share everything with Jamie, and he would listen. And she does, again. And only when she’s come back to him to tell him that he was right, and Brianna is alive, can she say goodbye. Their story wasn’t finished until she could tell him he had a daughter. And now both soldiers, she and Jamie, can rest easy.
When she’s back in Inverness leaning against the car, it echos the very first time she’s in Scotland. Dreaming of vases and settling down. That Claire, on that trip, was cute and bouncy and happy. This Claire is serious and melancholy and guarded. Which war did more damage? History may say it was WWII but not for Claire. Culloden changed her forever.
Did anyone else catch the parallels in Brianna and Claire’s confrontation? Because in this moment, Bree is Frank. And Claire is repeating the same speech she gave Frank when she returned, speaking of another man that she loved deeply. But Bree is also Jamie, because she wants honesty, where Frank really didn’t want the story at all. Brianna states that Claire isn’t perfect, just as Frank declares that she is not the Virgin Mary, and they both accuse her of being fucked by someone else. And once again, Claire reiterates it was all so much more. In the face of their anger, she will not diminish who and what Jamie is to her. Claire tells Bree that she didn’t want to fall in love, that she fought it, yet it was the most powerful thing she’d ever felt in her life.
Also, when Bree talks about “every other bored housewife” did anyone else think she was referring to Frank’s affairs? Because I sure did.
And when we flip back to Culloden we see a very desperate Claire. A reactionary Claire. The direct opposite of the Claire we’ve just seen in the 60s. And it’s a different Jamie. Flashback to Jamie back in Paris telling Murtagh he would never stoop to regicide, but now, NOW he’s looking at Claire considering her plan. We see how Culloden has changed and shaped Jamie as well. Jamie is cold and tired and really, really gaunt. (Well done, Mr. Heughan. I believe you are as weak as you say you are.) And he is 100% done with Bonnie Prince Wackadoodle thinking he’s Jesus Christ. This is why Jamie can entertain Claire’s plan. Because the Prince is quite clearly, out of his mind. It’s changed him enough that he’ll commit murder. And he does. To protect Claire. To protect Scotland. It’s just not the murder he expected to commit. But in order to move forward in this desperate attempt, one more obstacle has to be overcome. And in the midst of battling Dougal the look on his face says, “don’t make me do this, Uncle”. And when Claire joins in, the sheer horror on both their faces gave me chills.
When it’s time to leave the camp, we finally see the depth of Claire’s love for the first time. She begs Jamie to run away with her. She begs him to let her stay and die with him. Jamie accepts his fate, but Claire will not. Until they speak of the child. And in the middle of this turmoil we have Jamie’s small smile, and Claire’s in return as they share this beautiful secret. And as Jamie once told her that she was his home, she tells him that now. And she tries to argue, but you see Claire give way to obedience. Remember (as I’ve mentioned before) when Claire promised Jamie before he punished her, that she would do what he said, even if she didn’t agree with it? (Ep. 109) Claire proves yet again that she loves and respects Jamie. Jamie never demanded her obedience. It was Claire’s to give freely.
The Stones. My God, the Stones. The reversal of roles. When Jamie stops Claire from going through the first time because he isn’t ready, she does so now. And again, Jamie gives Claire choices. He lets her decide how to tell Frank. In some small way he probably expects Frank to believe it, because he believed it. He doesn’t doubt Claire. He trusts her implicitly. Claire knows Frank is different. But how can Jamie conceive of someone who doesn’t literally worship Claire like he does? Claire begs and it’s heartbreaking. Claire Beauchamp hasn’t begged once. Not once. Except now. And as Jamie lists his crimes you can tell in his voice he regrets none of it. Because it’s been for Claire. And as he tells her he will stand before God, and punctuates his sentence with kisses, you can hear in his voice all the love he feels for her, and you can hear his desire for her rising. When he takes her to the ground it echoes the moment in the glade when he says, “Does it ever stop? The wanting you?” Because for Jamie it never stops. Never. And he’ll have his wife before she goes. And as the cannons distract him, he nods at Claire but this time she doesn’t nod back. She doesn’t. And won’t. Because in this they are not Team Fraser. Instead of repeating the vow “Blood of my Blood” as she did on her wedding day, Claire initiates it. And they stare and memorize each other’s faces as Jamie walks Claire back to the stones. Her “I love yous” are so much more passionate than the first one she said at Lallybroch, so long ago. And Jamie is so moved by it. And the fact that he keeps nodding and she won’t respond is breaking my heart. Claire will not lie. She will not give him any indication that this is okay with her, because it’s not. Honesty pledged is honesty honoured. Jamie’s voice breaking on her name, it’s too much. I can’t even see through my tears to type this stupid sentence…
Finally, when Brianna accepts her mother’s word, and echoes Jamie’s words of “I believe you. I don’t understand it, but I believe you” Claire cannot contain herself. Bree’s acceptance plays beautifully across her face. Then, when she asks for honesty, it’s more than Claire could hope for. Jamie’s daughter, indeed. And as gotham-ruaidh so eloquently reminded me, the sun breaks over Craig Na Dun in the form of Jamie Fraser. “…and the sun came out, in the person of James.”– Outlander, “A Marriage Takes Place”
Richard Rankin does an amazing job of showing us how Roger is hit by the lightening bolt that is Brianna Randall.
Gonna go all shouty caps here and say THE TRANSITION FROM BRIANNA SLEEPING TO JAMIE GAVE ME CHILLS. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT.
I like Geillis in this episode. I like seeing her past. And I like how it won’t clog up Voyager and take time away from the scene we will be waiting for. And I LOVE, “Why are you here?” And did anyone else catch the hesitation in Geillis after Roger introduces himself??? Ah, time travel. How do you work?
Murtagh’s bow to Fergus. Perfection. Fergus’ nod to Jamie. And Jamie’s nod back. Frasers. Family. And Murtagh, Godfather until the end. His promise to Ellen, to watch over Jamie. Even if it means dying together.
I’m gonna say it again. Dragonfly in Amber is a beast of a book to get through. And the writers did an amazing job of cutting it down into manageable pieces and making it coherent. However, I’m excited for the new writers next season and what they may bring to the table.
But I want to end by saying that the cast was stellar this year. Extraordinary. Sam Heughan’s acting is nuanced but the way he uses his voice as a tool is outstanding. He delivers lines like no other.
But Caitriona Balfe stole every damn scene she was in this year. Every. Scene. She was beyond amazing. I love her Claire so much more than book Claire. We really are lucky to have them.
From the upscale halls of Parisian royalty to the blood stained battlefield on Culloden Moor, Outlanderbrings fans on a life-altering journey with season two. The monumental season two finale, “Dragonfly in Amber” effortlessly weaves together the 1745 and 1968 storylines, introduces two, fan favorite book characters and leaves fans with an emotional pit in their stomachs.
When season two of Outlander began, fans learned that Claire (Caitriona Balfe) had been sent back through the stones to 1948 leaving Jamie (Sam Heughan) behind. Not only had Claire returned to Frank (Tobias Menzies), but she was also pregnant with Jamie’s child. Now after twelve, emotionally charged episodes, fans return to the future storyline, this time in 1968. Writers Toni Graphia and Matthew B. Roberts do a beautiful job at bringing Diana Gabaldon’s book to life as they effortlessly intertwine the 1745 Battle of Culloden with Claire’s 1968 storyline. With the 1745 storyline feeling claustrophobic and rushed, the 1968 storyline breathes and lets the weight of Claire’s decisions fully sink in. More than any other episode the repercussions of time travel are at the forefront. Outlander is about time traveling and dealing with those consequences and the season two finale gets back to that basic theme.
After an entire season of waiting, fans were finally introduced to Roger Wakefield MacKenzie and Brianna Randall Fraser in an epic 90-minute finale. Following so much secrecy surrounding Brianna and Roger’s introduction into Outlander, Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin were formally ushered into theOutlander family. Rankin brings his A-game and brings Roger to life with as much heart and charisma as his character has on the page. One of his first outstanding scenes in finale comes between him and Balfe. After Claire and Brianna arrive in Inverness after the passing of Roger’s adoptive father, Reverend Wakefield, Claire begins to relive the mistakes of the past. One night when she can’t sleep, Roger and Claire have a heart to heart about saying goodbye to those you love. It’s a small scene in the grand scheme of the episode, however it introduces Rankin as a formidable scene partner for Balfe. Rankin’s ability to be the calming voice amongst a sea of chaos in this episode of Outlander proves he’s the right man to bring Roger to life.
When it was first announced that Outlander would come to life on TV, the first thing fans did was dream cast their favorite characters. Of course, Jamie and Claire were at the top of the list, but next came their daughter, Brianna. The actress stepping into the role had to embody characteristics from Heughan and Balfe and be able to bring this eloquently crafted character to life. Seeing British actress Sophie Skelton bring the role to life in the finale is something truly special to witness. From the moment she walks the halls of Roger’s house, Brianna Randall Fraser has leapt off the page in the most perfect way. Skelton has several key moments in the season two finale. Between her chemistry with Rankin to going toe-to-toe with Balfe, Skelton proves herself in this episode.
With more storylines going on than ever before, each actor on Outlander steps up their game and delivers truly remarkable performances. First off, Caitriona Balfe leads the cast with such fierceness and heart that it’s hard to separate Balfe from her character. Only leaving the screen a few times in the finale, Balfe gives her second best performance this season. Between Claire’s life in 1745 to her new world in 1968, Balfe effortlessly separates the two versions of Claire, while still maintaining a common thread: a constant love for Jamie. Balfe has several Emmy award worthy moments in the finale and for some of them she doesn’t even have a scene partner.
With Roger showing Brianna around Scotland, Claire decides to visit a very special place: Lallybroch. In one of the most emotional moments, Claire pulls into the abandoned estate and it’s hard not to shed a tear for the place that housed so much life and promise in the 18th century. As Claire exits her car, voice overs from past episodes come flooding back reminding her of everyone and everything she left behind. With no dialogue uttered, Balfe delivers a remarkable performance. With a beautiful score byBear McCreary, coupled with a silent, sobbing Balfe, Outlander proves it can thrive in the quiet moments as much as the big ones. What really brings this scene home is when Claire is seated on the steps of Lallybroch and envisions a strapping Jamie standing in the entrance. As Heughan voiceovers a beautiful poem, Balfe weeps. Any fan will surely remember this scene and it’s all thanks to an utterly speechless performance by Balfe.
The next cry-inducing moment for Claire comes in 1968 when she visits the Clan Fraser memorial on Culloden Moor. Again, a scene that only consists of the beautiful Scottish scenery and a perfectly executed monologue by Balfe. “Here I am,” Claire utters to Jamie’s grave. Claire says she isn’t going to cry, but I never promised anything. In a heartfelt moment, Claire tells Jamie all about Brianna. How she is named after his father, how she was raised and every detail she can possibly remember. This small moment is where Balfe truly shines and proves she can own a scene even when her scene partner is a rock.
Although the actual Battle of Culloden doesn’t take place in this episode, tensions are high as the Clans prepare to march into battle. Tensions seem to be the highest between Claire and Jamie as the duo decide whether or not to kill Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Andrew Gower) before the battle commences. Of course, nothing can go as planned for the duo as Dougal (Graham McTavish) overhears their entire plan. In one of the most intense scenes in the episode, Jamie and Dougal fight in closed quarters. Heughan and McTavish bring a monumental book scene to life as Dougal’s world comes crashing down in front of him. With one last struggle, Jamie turns Dougal’s knife on him. A great addition to the TV show from the books, Claire assists Jamie as the great Dougal MacKenzie takes his last breath. Between seasons one and two, McTavish brought Dougal to life with equal parts intensity and heart. Dougal’s death and McTavish’s absence will loom large on Outlander going forward.
Before I discuss the gut-wrenching final Jamie and Claire scenes, let’s go back to 1968 for a second. After exploring Scotland with Roger, Brianna begins to piece together her parents past. When she discovers the news article about Claire’s disappearance and realizes Frank couldn’t possibly be her real father, Brianna confronts her mother. Skelton does a great job and combining characteristics of both Jamie and Claire to create Brianna. She has Jamie’s heart and Claire’s scientific mind. So, when Claire begins spewing some “nonsense” about time travel and her real father dying during the Battle of Culloden, Brianna doesn’t believe her at all. This is a scene book fans have been waiting for and both Skelton and Balfe did it justice. It was a rare sight to see Claire step back and be a lesser presence in a scene with another character. If anyone was going to loom larger in a scene, it would be her daughter. Skelton and Balfe do an incredible job at establishing their mother/daughter bond from the beginning. It will be wonderful to see Balfe and Skelton grow that bond going into future seasons.
Outlander may thrive on time travel, war and perilous historical situation, but at its core it’s a story about love. No matter where you place Jamie and Claire, their love story will come bubbling to the surface. Jamie makes the harrowing decision to send Clan Fraser back home to minimize casualties. Before the battle begins, Jamie first must get Claire to safety and then he will come back and die in the battle alongside Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix). With this decision, Outlander delivers a gut-wrenching farewell that should earn the two stars Emmy nominations.
There are two major parts to the Jamie and Claire farewell. Both scenes fans have been dreading since season two began. The first part comes when Jamie tells Claire he has decided to send her back through the stones at Craigh Na Dun. If this scene was a test before the final goodbye, I failed miserably. From the moment the camera pans and you see Claire’s face as she realizes Jamie’s plan, I was a goner. On top of Jamie telling his plan to Claire, he also reveals that he knows Claire is pregnant. In order to save Claire, their child, and to keep his legacy alive long after the sun sets on the Battle of Culloden, Jamie must say goodbye to his love. Heughan and Balfe nail this scene. Heughan brings Jamie’s conflicting emotions to life while Balfe perfectly encapsulates Claire’s grief. The duo continue to amaze audiences and critics alike and it has been an honor and pleasure to watch them work.
Like I said, there are really two major parts to this goodbye. The second part probably qualifies as the scene that fans used the most tissues on all TV season. I should’ve bought stock in Kleenex before this scene because an entire box of tissue met its demise. Claire and Jamie ride to Craig Na Dun and it’s there that Heughan and Balfe deliver one of their best scenes this season. From Balfe’s gut wrenching pleading to Heughan’s stoic moments, Outlander shines the brightest during this scene of total defeat. Balfe and Heughan exceed every expectation and bring this pivotal scene from Dragonfly in Amber to life.
“Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.” Heughan delivers this iconic line from the novel perfectly. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, Heughan is the breakout star of Outlander. He has grown so much as an actor during the first two seasons. Heughan, alongside Balfe, have brought two iconic fictional characters to life with grace, heart and tenacity. This final goodbye between Jamie and Claire showcases Heughan and Balfe at their strongest. With one final kiss, Jamie steadies Claire and walks her towards the stones. A beautiful moment perfectly executed by every department onOutlander. From the synchronized choreography executed by Heughan and Balfe to the incredible location to the writing, Outlander proves it’s a heavy hitter. With one final tear down Jamie and Claire’s cheeks, Claire passes through the stones leaving fans and Jamie utterly heartbroken.
Back to 1968, Roger, Brianna and Claire come across Gillian Edwards (Lotte Verbeek), Geillis Duncan before she travelled back in time through the stones. In the last five minutes of the episode, Claire, Roger and Brianna rush to the stones to stop Geillis from going back in time and ultimately dying. In an unforgettable moment, Roger, Brianna and Claire witness Geillis travel through the stones and in that exact moment a number of things happen. One, Brianna now believes Claire’s journey into the past. Second, if fans pay close attention they can hear Roger and Brianna mention the buzzing near the stones. Only time travelers can hear the buzzing near Craigh Na Dun, which means Roger and Brianna can travel back in time. An important plot point book fans will know a lot about.
Now that Brianna believes Claire about Jamie living in the past, she asks Roger to reveal some pertinent information. In a heart warming moment, Roger tells Claire that five Fraser’s made it out of Culloden and were taken to be executed. One Fraser escaped and survived: James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. With tears in her eyes and her daughter by her side, Claire looks to the stones and decides she needs to go back and find Jamie. A beautiful full-circle moment perfectly executed by Balfe, Skelton, Rankin and the entire crew of Outlander. With this final moment, Outlander season two comes to a heart-breaking, but hopeful conclusion. From high-society Paris to the Battle of Culloden to 1968 Inverness, Outlander accomplished a lot this season and gave fans a hell of a ride.
Looking ahead, for fans that aren’t prepared to go into “Droughtlander” pick up Gabaldon’s third novelVoyager. Start preparing for a season of learning more about Brianna and Roger as well as Claire’s tireless efforts to reunite with Jamie. Until then, this reviewer (and sassenach) raises a glass of whisky to a heart pounding, Emmy-Award worthy season two of Outlander.
Outlander returns with season three next year on Starz
As the second season of Outlander officially concludes Saturday night, many fans have recently binged on, discussed, and reexamined the past twelve episodes that have occupied our social media feeds for the past five months. “Come for the action, stay for the conversation” I wrote in a February 29 article responding to the Entertainment Weekly cover that generated heated debates from both fans and detractors as to its appropriateness and message. I admit that my first reaction to the two leads, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, embracing on a bed with only the fabrics of one kilt and one sheet between them (plus the inclusion of “bodice-ripping” in the cover lines) was “Oh, geez,” because I knew it would only fuel the misconception of the show as some Harlequin revue of heaving bosoms and muddy kilts and PASSION. As I noticed all the details referencing prior events and characters’ motivations (physical vs. mental scars, sexual intimacy influencing spirituality), I realized that was the kicker: the image both acknowledged and countered that cover line.
Over the last thirteen episodes (yes, I’ve screened the finale but won’t reveal spoilers), the brilliance of Outlander has been its continuous ability to place those assumptions under the microscope and flip them over, reshape them, or recontextualize them. “Brilliance” as a descriptor is in danger of being reduced to the worth of a participation medal for any show that requires a thinking hat, but what makes this show so worthy is that it challenges the assumptions of not only its detractors, but also for its most ardent fans. The intricate and painstaking process of adapting Diana Gabaldon’s epic story of Jamie and Claire for the medium of television means change is inevitable within the confines of time, space, budget, context, and other variables. This is what makes the show an interpretation of the novels, not a word-for-word mirror image of each chapter, and it carefully balances the wants of the book fans with the needs of the strictly show fans. Each facet of its production, from dialogue to costumes to cinematography, demands the engagement of the audience (and often repeated viewings) to discern the meaning behind the images: issues of power and control, masculinity and femininity, and the manipulation of genre and stereotype.
To put it plainly: it is one of the smartest and most proactive shows on television, embracing love and passion and intrigue and refusing to apologize. Will Outlander ever break free of its “kilty pleasure” stereotype in the press? It’s getting close. I don’t think anyone could watch “Wentworth Prison,” or “To Ransom a Man’s Soul,” or “Faith,” or “Prestonpans,” just to name a few, and still reduce the show’s appeal to only one gender or viewers who like only one genre. Yes, the romance of the two leads is at the forefront of their ongoing story, and rightfully should be celebrated as part of a healthy adult relationship. Jamie and Claire’s friendship and later marriage unfolds and matures within a violent and chaotic world, where their decisions are tempered by forces beyond their control as well as factors they try their hardest to influence.
Much has been written and rightly so about costume designer Terry Dresbach’s magnificent creations that have adorned the characters both in Scotland and France, from a salon in the 1740s to a country house in the 1940s and 1960s. Following Dresbach online is participating in a master class about what costumes bring to and reflect about the story and what they reveal about the characters. Claire’s Highland wardrobe was primarily a matter of function and defense against the elements (i.e. the layers upon layers of wool) while her Parisian dresses reflected her very pointed political and social strategy. As she and Jamie establish themselves in Paris to try to thwart the Jacobite rebellion, their carefully structured public personas were shown through their appearance and style. As Jamie needed to perfect the image of the successful businessman to the French elite as well as his Scottish heritage to Prince Charles Stuart, Claire utilized her newfound wealth and privilege to design a wardrobe that reflected her most unique situation: as a woman of the future, she brings a 1940s sensibility to mid-18th century haute couture with equal parts refinement and titillation.
Throughout the Paris episodes, each creation was an examination of womanhood under the spotlight: confronting societal expectations with a silent protest in each cut of skirt or peek of décolletage. Like a sartorial chess game, Claire had to predict what situation she would be in, and what lines of etiquette she could tiptoe across, and who she had to impress. Of course, as a woman of the 1940s transplanted to the 1740s, as she becomes acclimated to Paris society, her style becomes brilliantly meta, such as when she wore a gown that resembled the famous Bar Suit of the late 1940s by Christian Dior, which was itself inspired by 18th century designs. She is a woman of her own time asserting her identity within the societal structures of the 1740s.
As Outlander blends elements of science fiction, military history, and action-adventure, when considering the aspects of romance and love it is crucial to examine how the male characters are portrayed. There are several types of love depicted on the show: romantic love, filial love, love of country, love of self. While we are predisposed to focus on the women and their displays of love, the Outlander writers place as much if not more emphasis on how their male counterparts deal with matters of the heart (or lack thereof).
James Fraser is certainly the dashing, attractive partner of Claire, but the paths they take towards loving each other are very different. Jamie knows romance on a more personal level than Claire, as his parents, Brian and Ellen, ran off and eloped. Claire was orphaned at a very young age and raised by her uncle; as she lead quite a nomadic existence until adulthood, she has a deep, internal craving for home. For Jamie, his family home of Lallybroch is his stability and sense of self, and his years away from it – first as a soldier and later an outlaw – have made the farm his idyllic dream in most of Season One. When he tells Claire in “The Reckoning” that he fashioned her wedding ring from the key to Lallybroch, as she is his home now, you can see that emptiness in both of them has been filled.
The spiritual connection between the two continues to develop in and out of the bedroom, as Jamie’s respect for Claire as a healer and Claire’s witness of his increasing skill as a leader of men make them ideal partners, best friends, lovers, and soulmates. Jamie recognizes that love is all-encompassing and requires sacrifice and devotion, and he demonstrates this not only for his wife but for his home and family and clan. This is what makes Sam Heughan’s performance so heartbreaking after Wentworth: even the demonstration of love has been tainted. After his assault by Jack Randall, he cannot physically connect with his wife, causing him to literally and figuratively withdraw from her for the first few episodes. When Claire discovers the bite marks a prostitute left on his thighs in “La Dame Blanche,” and surmises that he can still muster the will for physical intimacy, just not with her, he confesses his ongoing torment. This is not something a romantic male lead is supposed to experience, let alone admit to, but Outlander presents his suffering honestly and openly, and it is Claire who comes to him later that night, assuming the roles of protector and nurturer and lover, instigating their physical reunion.
Once the episodes return to Scotland, we see the Frasers continue to work together in a shared cause to save their friends and Highland culture altogether. Jamie rides with his wife by his side, consults her in all matters, and recognizes her independent and tenacious character. The weight of prescience about Culloden weighs on the couple, and one of the most tender scenes shared between them is when Jamie is leaving for Prestonpans. He says no words to his wife, but their passionate kiss and his deep bow to her is testament enough to the emotion between them.
Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) is one of the most romantic characters in the last two seasons, and not because of his brief romance with the chambermaid in Paris. Jamie’s godfather carries the burden of unrequited love for Ellen Fraser and a steadfast devotion to her son. He is grave and intense and gruff in a Gary Cooper sort of way, his dark eyes attesting to the hard life he has lived and his social awkwardness in Paris revealing his introversion and isolation from home. Murtagh is a romantic in the unswerving attention he pays to his loved ones, which come to include Claire, and his appreciation for love itself. When he argues with Claire in “The Search,” or wraps Jamie in his kilt and carries him out of Wentworth, or later argues with him against suicide in the Abbey, or becomes Fergus’s unwitting big brother back in Scotland, or offers to wed Mary Hawkins to save her from possible abuse by Jack Randall, his gallantry is unaffected by pretension or expectation. He has not been lucky in love, but he will not let that stop him from devoting his life to helping others, and recognizing love in turn.
On the other hand, Charles Stuart (Andrew Gower) merely thinks he is a romantic. He is in love with passion and desire and glory. Most devoutly, he is in love with himself, and his attentiveness to his beloved in terms of appearance and bearing is tenderly wrought. He is in love with dramatic gestures, and frivolous women, and the faux-liberality that comes with strong wine and dimly lit brothel parlors. Unfortunately, his rose-colored glasses extend to grander schemes, where a combination of ego and entitlement layered over a foundation of daddy issues threatens the very lives of the people he hopes to regain sovereignty over. He sees the romance of war, the style of military regalia, the songs and tributes and crowns of laurels. He cannot be bothered with the elements, the mud, the broken of body and sick of heart. That would ruin the spectacle he has created in his mind, the everlasting glory of his predestination that renders the reality around him a necessary sacrifice. He is a foolish dreamer that has created a nightmare that all come to see except himself.
Frank Randall is a polarizing character, depending on how actively you feel he participates in the hand he is dealt. Without spoiling the books for the “show fans,” the television portrayal of Claire’s hapless first husband is fantastically done because he is not relegated to the dimwitted cuckold nor some beastly tyrant who drove his wife into the arms of another. He loves Claire, and she loved him, though not at the intensity of her connection with Jamie. He loves her enough to want to rekindle their passion at Inverness in the first episode of Season One, and he loves her enough to want to start over with her unborn child in the first episode of Season Two. Frank believes in new beginnings, and when Claire physically and spiritually can not return his love, he channels it into a devotion to Brianna who he takes as his own child.
Finally, how could Jack Randall have any part in a discussion of love? Praise must be heaped on Tobias Menzies for not only portraying Frank with heart and hope, but exposing the pathology of Jack in a meticulous, brutal way. A year ago, I debated whether or not Jack could experience love in a review of the last two episodes of Season One. In “The Garrison Commander,” he interrogates Claire as a possible spy and tries to get her to confess by assuming the persona of a man in need of redemption. Just when he moves her to tears with his profession of remorse, he physically beats her and assures her that he is in total command of the evil with which he surrounds himself. Later, moments before raping Jamie in Wentworth Prison, Jack challenges Jamie’s determination to remain numb to the assault by saying, “You think I cannot control the darkness I inhabit?” He wants his victims to know and believe in his complete power over them, and over the evil that causes one human to commit such cruelty to another.
I thought Jack might have some degree of anhedonia as a result of his wartime experiences combined with a diseased psyche, especially given his displays of physical and verbal rage. He cannot experience love with anyone but his brother Alex, so he desecrates the flesh out of self-hate. Even worse, he has mastered how to pantomime acts of love as witnessed in his final assault of Jamie, when he figures out how to break him by emulating Claire and displaying a grotesque tenderness. Not satisfied merely to destroy a man physically, he requires the active participation of the victim in his own violation: if Jack can not unite with another in love, to achieve that physical and spiritual connection that comes with true intimacy, then they will unite in fear and anguish.
As the books were written by Diana Gabaldon, and the show has several female producers and writers (Maril Davis, Toni Graphia, Anne Kenney), and a female costume designer (Terry Dresbach), the female gaze and perspective is finely tuned and acutely felt throughout the episodes. The challenges and risks of being a woman both in Scotland and France in the 1740s, including issues of reproductive health and social stability, are examined from Claire’s modern perspective. Something as natural as pregnancy and childbirth could bring a slow, painful death, while a victim of rape could face social suicide if the assault were made public. As Claire navigates the different worlds she and Jamie live in, she has the ability to discern the parameters from which she must conduct herself, and with whom, and to what extent. She has come to a time where women are considered property and marriage a business transaction, and she utilizes the preconceptions of the men she encounters to her advantage in order to survive. The objectification of the male gaze is not limited to the 1740s, either: as Jen Yamato points out in her condemnation of recent profiles of female celebrities by male writers, a woman’s worth is still relegated to a Likert scale of how threatening, physically attractive, and useful she is deemed to be. Regardless of the environment in which she lives, Claire has to gingerly tread the social minefield where her intelligence, independence, and foresight could elicit begrudging respect as easily as distrust or even danger. Like Jamie, however, Claire possesses a natural grace and dignity alongside her resourcefulness that establishes trust, both from the other characters and the audience. We believe in Jamie and Claire, in their actions and decisions, and in the endurance of their love for each other. Throughout the show, Claire’s roles as healer, lover, mother, friend, and leader continue to evolve as she confronts each new challenge with a resiliency and fortitude, bolstered by the man who she allowed into her heart and soul.
Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen the “Outlander” Season 2 finale, Episode 13, titled “Dragonfly in Amber.” Refresh your memory of where we left off with our previous “Outlander” recap.
After a season spent barreling towards the Battle of Culloden, it felt like something of a relief to be spared the gory details of that fateful fight, with the Season 2 finale of “Outlander” spending most of its time focused on what really mattered — Claire and Jamie’s relationship, both in its vibrant immediacy on the morning of the battle, and through melancholy memories that played out across Claire’s face 20 years later as she revisited Scotland. Claire took a monumental journey in the extended episode, moving from grief and repression to a rekindled sense of hope as she realized that Jamie hadn’t died at Culloden, meaning there was still a chance for her to reunite with him, even two decades (and two centuries) after leaving him.
The episode skipped back and forth between the 18th century and Claire’s “present” in 1968, allowing us to meet Claire and Jamie’s daughter, Brianna (Sophie Skelton), and Reverend Wakefield’s dashing adopted son, Roger (Richard Rankin) — as well as catching up with Claire’s Season 1 friend Geillis Duncan — aka Gillian Edgars — before she traveled back through the Standing Stones and met Claire for the first time back in the 1700s.
The finale provided yet another showcase for Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan’s nuanced performances; Heughan exuded both strength and vulnerability as Jamie was forced to say farewell to his wife — and that was after the ordeal of killing his uncle, Dougal, when the war chief discovered them plotting to kill Bonny Prince Charlie in a last-ditch effort to avert Culloden.
“You just see how desperate they’ve become that they would even consider something as horrific as this, but as Claire says, it’s take the life of one to save the lives of thousands,” Balfe says of their scheme. “It’s a really heartbreaking moment for Jamie because no matter what Dougal has done, he’s his uncle, he raised him for a lot of his life and trained him, and there was a very complicated love there, but there was some kind of love there.”
Heughan agrees, telling Variety in our video recap above, “We decided that Claire should be involved in that and that isn’t in the books. I think it makes them both complicit in the murder of Dougal, it makes them both guilty. So they’re united in their desperation of trying to save everyone and everything, and in doing that they’ve had to kill Jamie’s uncle, which doesn’t sit well with him.”
At that point, Heughan admits, “it’s about trying to save Claire — she doesn’t quite know that until they get closer to the Stones.” Their farewell scene was monumental both for the characters and the actors, he says. “We were both very aware that this is the last time they’re together, so there is a pressure, but you also don’t want to pressurize yourself as an actor, otherwise you begin to tense up – we just wanted to see what happened, and out of it came this wonderful almost choreography, this moment where it’s almost like a dance, where Jamie’s guiding Claire with her back towards the stones so she’s staring at him… it seemed to work because we couldn’t work out how to get to Claire to the stones, because she doesn’t want to go.”
The farewell at Craigh na Dun was one of the series’ most heartbreaking and evocative yet, made all the more desperate because they know Claire is pregnant again. Balfe admits that there was some debate about how Claire and Jamie’s final moment of intimacy should play out during filming.
“In the book it’s very different, because they stay overnight in a cottage and we were condensing the time and because we’d filmed things in Season 1 where there was no cottage, we couldn’t do that, so then there was a whole thing about ‘where do they have their last moments together? They have sex and where is that gonna be?’ There was a lot of talk about up against a tree and I was like ‘no, not gonna happen that way! That’s so not romantic, it can’t be up against a tree, that’s not right,’” she laughs, recalling the moment. “I was so adamant about it, and they were like ‘well, it’s gonna be cold and wet, are you gonna wanna be on the ground?’ I was like ‘I don’t care, I’ll be on the ground, it can’t be against a tree.’ It just seemed so wrong and so not beautiful.”
Despite the need to save their baby, Balfe says, she felt that “Claire would fight towards the end and she wouldn’t want to leave, so how do we get Jamie to take her to the stones and yet how do we get Claire to go, because I just felt like she just wouldn’t want to. I know she has to go to save her child, but she just wouldn’t want to, and somehow we came up with this beautiful almost like a dance, where they’re locked together and they’ve got their heads together and they’re looking in each other’s eyes and he sort of dances her to the Stone and she’s just crying and telling him that she loves him and it’s so beautiful. When we were filming it, I feel like everyone got so swept up in the moment. It’s so sad. These characters are so much a part of us at this point, it was just heartbreaking – how do you let go, how do you say goodbye to someone? It was just awful. I think some of the crew were all misty-eyed, it was great.”
In addition to those emotional scenes in the past, Balfe also deftly managed to portray a wholly new version of Claire in the future — one with 20 years and countless life experiences behind her — while still maintaining her character’s integrity, fire and resolve.
“I went ahead and I read all of the information from [book three in Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series] ‘Voyager,’ that showed Claire in Boston, because I wanted to really get a sense of what her life had been like in that interim 20 years,” Balfe says of tackling the later iteration of her character. “I really wanted to more concentrate on ‘what does 20 years of, in some ways, a compromised existence, how does that weigh on a person?’ Claire is a survivor, we know that about her – we know that she’s a fighter, but having lived in a marriage of convenience in many ways with Frank for 20 years, that has to have had an effect on her shine in a way, on her vitality. And yet, at the same point she’s become a surgeon so I wanted her to have a bit of gravity and she carries herself very well and it was really interesting to play with all of that.”
Balfe says she looked to the work of some of her favorite actresses to inspire her performance, including Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep. “I watched films they did in their late twenties and then I went and watched some things that they’d done in their fifties and obviously people physically age, but how do you carry yourself?” Balfe says. “It’s always very slight, there’s a maturity but it’s more in how they carry themselves.”
Despite the tension between Claire and her headstrong daughter – who is reluctant, to say the least, to believe that her real father was a Scottish warrior from the 18th Century, Balfe notes that “a big part of Claire now is that she’s a mother, and that relationship with Brianna was very important. At this point when we meet them, they are somewhat strained, there’s distance between them, but myself and Sophie when we were talking about the relationship, [we felt that] it can’t be that this has how it’s always been. Even with Claire’s relationship with Frank, it couldn’t have been miserable for 20 years, otherwise she wouldn’t have stayed in it. So there have to have been moments where things were working, and I think always in the back of Claire’s mind, she’s never really loved him again in that way, but there have to have been good times and they co-parented and there’s joy in seeing your daughter grow up and all of these things, but it has been more compromised, so there was all of that was so interesting to play.”
We’re spared the brutality of Culloden and what happens to Jamie after Claire says goodbye to him at the Standing Stones, but Heughan promises that all will be revealed in Season 3.
As Jamie lets Claire go, Heughan says, “he knows he’s going to die, but at least she is going to be safe, and his unborn child, who will be Bree. We won’t actually see what happens to Jamie after she’s gone through the Stones until the next season – for me that’s a really big question and something that will be really interesting to look at – who is Jamie without Claire, why is he still surviving or what has he got to live for when he’s lost the woman that he loves? She will eventually return, but they’re both older, so who is the man he’s become age-wise, physically? I think that’s the joy of the show, it’s never the same thing, it’s constantly moving, so next season should be quite an adventure.”