Outlander 201: Holy Crap, Outlander’s Back!

Oh, hey, look out, you’re about to get hit with a GIANT FRIGGIN’ SPOILER ALERT.

Seriously, read this after you’ve seen Season 2 Episode 1 of Outlander, which you can watch right now on the Starz app or by “adding on” Starz to your Amazon Prime subscription (and no, I swear, I am not being paid by these companies to plug them. But, um, if these companies are reading and would like to pay me, I’m totally open to that.)

Okay, moving on, let’s talk about the first episode in relation to Dragonfly in Amber and also just, well, as a TV show.

I don’t know about you folks, but this episode was like Ronald D. Moore took a back scratcher and scratched an itch that has been bothering me since reading Dragonfly. As everyone who’s read my earlier posts like this one and this one, and well, this one, knows, I’ve always had a humungus problem with Diana G starting Dragonfly 20 years after the events of Outlander.

1-claire-finds-jamie-888x456To recap, Outlander ends with Claire helping Jamie to recover from the emotional and physical wounds of his vicious rape at the hands of the evil Black Jack Randall, whereupon they escape by boat to France to begin a new life together and (hopefully) stop the doomed Jacobite rebellion which will lead to the demise of the Highland culture at the Battle of Culloden. Oh, yeah, also Claire is pregnant with Jamie’s baby. Everyone got all that? Good.

sophie_skelton_outlander_-_h_2016
Guess who I am?

And Dragonfly then begins… 20 years later, where we quickly learn that Jamie died, Claire lived her life with Frank in the 20th century, and her daughter Bree—a towering redhead—was raised by Frank as his own. Also did I mention that Jamie died? And life sucks. And everything you ever wanted in the 900 pages of Outlander is like that time in eighth grade when you were totally sure Andy Pinkowitz was going to ask you to the spring dance but then he asked Jenny Stein instead and then you overheard him saying you were a loser who smelled like cat poo.

Where was I?

Starting Dragonfly with Claire being 50 instead of 28 damaged me psychologically for a while there, but now I feel better, thanks to this episode.

Episode one gives us all the scenes we don’t get at the beginning of Dragonfly. Right off the bat, with Claire asking a passing motorist who won the Battle of Culloden, then breaking down crying in the middle of the street at the answer—all the feels, people. All the feels.

The episode really belongs to Frank, which is not surprising, since throughout season one, Frank has had much more of a presence than he did in the books. Also when you’ve got an actor as talented as Tobias Menzies in your show, you should give him as many big scenes as possible, including one where he learns that his wife time traveled to the 1700s, married another man, and is expecting a baby.

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In fact, as soon as Claire gets out of the hospital and back to Reverend Wakefield’s house, we are treated to a virtual Merchant Ivory production of fabulous acting, deft writing, and a really satisfying plunge into the emotional whirlwind that these characters will now have to endure.

Also, we get to see this little cutie for a second:

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Thus we are gently reminded who he is for when he—you know—pops up later. (It’s Roger Wakefield, in case you have no idea what I’m talking about.)

Another thing that I thought was just so smart was keeping the character of Mrs. Graham at the Wakefield residence, AKA the fortune-telling woman who predicted early on in Outlander that Claire would go on a journey… and have two husbands. By giving Claire this confidante to talk to, we give her a chance to exorcise her feelings in an actual scene, not just in voiceover.

image“Don’t spend the rest of your days chasing a ghost. Not when there’s a flesh-and-blood living man who loves you still with all his heart.” – Mrs. Graham

Mrs. Graham also serves the same purpose for Claire as Reverend Wakefield does for Frank, ie: nudging them back into each other’s arms. They’re basically the Friar Lawrence and Nurse of this episode, which frankly we needed. It was quite a leap in the books to accept that Frank took Claire back, pregnant with another man’s child.

But here, we get it. It’s not an easy decision for him. But knowing that he himself is sterile and that this might be his only chance to have a child, well… life is never as clean as we would like it to be. Still, it’s nice to give him his moment to be angry, frustrated, hurt.

image“Now as for this other man—Jamie—I will not say that I understand your feelings for him. How could I possibly? But I can accept them. I can accept that you—that you did feel that way. That you had this experience with this man. And that leaving him broke your heart. I can accept it.” –Frank

And then when Frank presents Claire with his conditions for remaining with her, it makes sense. It gives him a moment to stand up for himself in a way that is glossed over in the books. Because we never see these scenes in Dragonfly, it can be read that Frank was just a huge pushover. But he isn’t. He’s a man who has to make an impossible decision.

And so he insists that the baby will be raised as his own.

“Raised in a lie?” Claire asks. “No, with a father… not the echo of a memory that they can never catch,” Frank responds.

His other condition—that Claire truly let Jaime go and stop combing the history books trying to find word of him—makes sense. Claire is certain that Jamie died in the Battle of Culloden, and is therefore already dead on the other side of the stone portal. So what is there to cling to?

imageAnd now we get that beautiful moment where she hands him the clothes from the 1700s, tries to take off her second wedding ring. “It’s all right,” he tells her, when Jamie’s ring won’t budge. “When you’re ready.” The ring stays on… for now.

And then off they fly to America, when…

 

 

Well, we come back to where Dragonfly would have us go.

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From here, the story is pretty true to the opening France scenes of the novel. We see this handsome devil again:

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Och, aye, we did, Sam.

And this other handsome devil:

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We meet some of the new cast of characters, namely cousin Jared, whose doubt of Jamie’s true devotion to the Jacobite cause gives us a lovely reason for Sam Heughan to—you guessed it—take his shirt off. (Thank you, Outlander. You never disappoint.)

Oh, I hate seeing this back… but I don’t mind the front.

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And, just as in the book, Claire screws up royally by outing the horrific case of smallpox on the boat of the Comte St. Germain, played by this stone-cold fox.

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As the boat of the comte is destroyed and Claire and Jamie get in their carriage to ride away, well… I guess we’ll tune in next week to find out what happens next. So far, however, I’m as happy as Jenny Stein must have felt at that spring fling dance… or as happy as I was ten years later when I found out Andy Pinkowitz is gay.

Follow Rebecca Phelps on Twitter: @DownWorldNovel and “like” our FB page: Novel2Screen for weekly reviews of Outlander and more on your favorite upcoming movies and TV shows adapted from novels. Or just follow this blog (little button, lower right-hand corner).

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34 thoughts on “Outlander 201: Holy Crap, Outlander’s Back!

  1. Very entertaining write up. I giggled and smiled the entire way through. I very much look forward to more from movel2screen in upcoming episodes of Outlander.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This first episode was really good in, I thought, keeping to a time line. What was glaring for me was Claire was going to spend the next 20 years looking at the face of Jack Black! The way she pulled back when Frank leaned in to kiss her in the hospital. She would always see Jack Black when she looked at Frank. It was and intense moment.

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  3. Reflecting on what is written here, it was a very good beginning to Season 2. However, since I read the books and also did not like Claire skipping 20 years before their (with Jamie) time to connect again, I will really miss their youthful relationship. Of course, I loved the relationship development and courting in Season 1, but most of all, I loved Scotland. As beautiful as the Paris background will be this season, I still already miss Scotland. I was one that actually saw Season 1 prior to reading the books, so fell in love with this show visually first. Either way, I love Outlander in general and will be a loyal follower for hopefully many years to come!

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  4. I am still wondering WHO is the ‘ghostly’ character at the very beginning that Frank sees starting thru the window as Claire is brushing her hair? We have had many different discussions with many different theories? I want to believe it is Jamie, come way into the future to see the woman he will love.
    Can you help! We would all be soooo happy to have this solved.
    G’day!
    Louise Sustar celticlb17@msn.com

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    1. There are a ton of things that are revieled in the Outlandish Companion. I to wondered about this and my boss saw an interview with Diana Gabaldon in where she confirms that the “Highlander” that Frank sees and then seems to disappear is truely Jamie’s ghost. Not him traveling to the future. There is so much that is revealed in the extra books and the little Novellas that are never truely explained in the Outlander books. Hope this helps. I know it was for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awesome, thanks. Also, lest we forget, episode one of season one begins with Jamie standing in the street watching Claire brush her hair through the window.

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    2. This conundrum is answered in book 7 or 8. Jamie tells Clair he saw her brushing her hair in a room very bright, in a Dream he had.

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  5. I love your website and how you intersperse photos to go along with your synopsis, but with a great deal of respect for you, I disagree. This is not the Frank and Claire show. This is the Jamie and Claire love story that transcends time. I waited a year to see Claire and Jamie not Frank. His hideous look alike is still too fresh in my mind as well as Claire’s to have wanted to see Frank immediately. I agree that Tobias Menzies is a terrific actor, but so is Sam Heughan. Ronald D. Moore could spend a little more time showcasing his talent, although it is harder to play the hero than the villain. The focus of episode one was just off a bit for me. The fact is in the source material Claire is taking Bree to Scotland to tell her about her real father. Frank is dead. We learn about their less than happy life together in bits and pieces after the fact. We don’t have to be hit over the head with it. We learn he was unfaithful and that she never stopped loving Jamie. In the telling of the story at the beginning of Dragonfly in Amber, Claire is remembering her soul mate, the love of her life. She has never taken off the ring. Why would she? She never took off Frank’s as a token of the love for him she once had but was never able to recapture. She has never stopped loving Jamie and the other six books continue their story. Jamie was present to the reader throughout the telling of their story in the opening chapters of the book. The focus was on the relationship between Jamie and Claire and what it would mean to Bree. I did not need to know more about how Frank accepted her back. It was clear in the book that he wanted to be a father and this was his only chance. I didn’t need a showcase for Tobias Menzies. It didn’t make sense that one look at little Roger calling Reverend Wakefield father made him have this epiphany. I needed to reconnect with Claire and Jamie. I did enjoy the second half of episode 1 when the focus returned to the two central characters. It made no sense to me to begin with Frank and Claire, shifting that focus away from the central theme. I hated the transition. Is she supposed to be standing on the steps of the plane throughout the telling of her life with Jamie up to Culloden? Or is this season a minutes pause in her relationship with Frank? I wanted to meet Bree and Roger as grownups. I wanted more detail in what is happening between Claire and Jamie in France rather than just a season set up for the adventure to come. The show spent about 15 minutes too long on the return to the 20th century. I do agree though that Caitriona Balfe was amazing in those opening scenes.

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    1. I totally understand. And I’m sure you’re not alone. I guess the writer in me has always felt like if I were writing the books, I probably would have had Claire go back through the time portal maybe five years later instead of 20. But then of course, there would be no Bree storyline, which is many people’s favorite. Not to mention, if I were writing these books, I would be a world-famous, very successful, rich fabulous author. Hold on, now I’m just thinking about that.

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  6. Herself, Diana Galbadon, has quoted many times that the ghost in episode 101 is indeed Jamie but won’t reveal what he was doing there until the last book. I personally suspect he is wanting or willing Claire to come thru the stones.

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  7. Oh come on….the ghost was Jamie! Diana has said it multiple times and it’s clear Sam is the actor protesting the ghost. This is a moot point.

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  8. I thought Clair was too healthy and dressed up when she came back to the 20 th century. I remember them hungry and beat up from the was. Otherwise I loved the episode. Anxious to meet Bree and roger

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  9. I know everyone’s saying how very different the first episode was from the book, but in a way I enjoyed the first episode the way they did it. I went through a lot of tissues in that first half!!

    The one thing that upset me though was Claire taking off Jamie’s wedding ring. In the book the fact that she hadn’t taken off the ring for 20 years was a major thing. To my mind Claire finding out about the inscription Jamie had put in the ring in 1968 is more poignant than if she finds it there in 1948.

    I’m hopeful the writers don’t change that

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess I worded it wrong. It bothered me that they left it with the possibility of her taking it off. And it also bugged me because Frank wants her to…….Jamie never asked or made her take Frank’s ring off.

        I’m reading the books for the second time and the scene in the book where she removed it for the first time in twenty years and they find the inscription…….It always gets me!! I just hope they don’t change that.

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      2. Yes I agree, I have 2 more books to read, via CD audio. Before I finish them for the second time. I find I missed things, by listening the second time. We cant compare, Frank to Jamie at all. I dont think they will change it. Ron is doing a really good job, and he consults Diana. We will jut enjoy our Jamie and Claire.

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    1. I agree. What struck me was the way Claire drew back from Frank when he leaned in to kiss her. She saw Jack Black’s face. I realized she was going to be looking at that face for the next 20 years. I’m reading series for second time, and find new things each time. Love these books.

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  10. I have read all of the Outlander books – twice! Plus I have gone through all of the Lord John books and The Outlandish Companions. I loved episode one of season two. Tobias Menzies is a great actor! Showing the vulnerable emotions of Frank as he comes to terms with a wife who returns after a 3 year absence and pregnant by another man. The book, Dragonfly in Amber, did not give enough details of Frank’s struggle since it was told from Claire’s point of view. But, I am already looking forward to Voyager and wondering how they are going to ‘age’ Cat Balfe and Sam Heughan to play Jamie and Claire.

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      1. I really like the way Jamie aged in the books. How he matured and grew into himself. As a young man he was impetuous but so romantic, where as a more mature man, he has wisdom and patience ( to some degree)

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