Some really great acting by Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe
A great performance by newcomer Richard Rankin
Some solid emotional scenes just where you wanted them- we cried multiple times (that Lallybroch scene was everything)
Lovely scoring by Bear McCreary
Some transitions were just too rapid fire
Some scenes we wanted felt like more length was necessary for bigger emotional punch were shortened for what felt like more exposition
Some weak writing for Brianna made it difficult for Sophie Skelton to make any sort of mark
The season finale of Outlander delivers some solid gut-punches, but we wish it had gone for the TKO
Well Outlander fans, we’ve arrived. The Season 2 finale. Season 2 has been a lot of ups and downs; what was wonderful was pretty special, and what wasn’t so hot wasn’t so hot. We’ve gasped, we’ve hidden our eyes, we’ve thrown up our hands and had some serious moments with our television sets. Overall we’ve enjoyed season 2, but we do feel that the series did hit a few bumps in the road and had a bit of a sophomore slump. The framing device that worked so beautifully in the book was such a wonderful shock, and we totally understand wanting to preserve that, but we do felt it leeched the tension from the large amount of political maneuvering that happened this season. We still had a lot of love for season 2 (Stanley Weber, anyone?) and a host of other glorious moments keep us coming back.
Last week we had a slow burn character study as the show inevitably marched towards the destruction of Culloden. Two more of our favorite supporting characters died, and we’re pretty sure that since it’s a war, more will follow. How will Claire and Jamie eventually part? Will Charles Stewart say “mark me” again? Will we all live through this finale without crying rivers of tears? Let’s not stay in suspense one moment longer, on with the show!
Wake for a Wakefield
After an “Avengers” opening, we meet the first of our “new” characters, Roger Wakefield (Richard Rankin). You actually might remember him, he was the little chap with the airplane asking for a biscuit last season and again in the season 2 premiere. He’s aged well, right? Though we’re not precisely in love with how he’s been styled, we are in love with Rankin as Roger. He basically nails it as a young, slightly smitten professor. How appropriate it is that he’s playing this smitten kid at his own father’s funeral is kind of debatable (for real, Rog, maybe we should dial it back a bit, it is a wake after all), but we’re on board with him. We also meet Brianna (Sophie Skelton) who we’ve actually also seen before, at the opening of episode 7. Brianna seems like a typical pushy American, so that’s fun. The big reveal is that we finally catch a glimpse of 1960’s Claire (Caitriona Balfe), glorious streaked bouffant and all. Frank has died, Claire’s a surgeon, and she’s in Scotland with Brianna for reasons unknown.
“I was always curious about Scotland. It was a special place for both my parents.” -Brianna
Roger is clearly immediately smitten with this fascinating new creature before him, you’d think he’d never heard a geographically neutral American accent before. Fiona, Mrs. Graham’s granddaughter (Iona Claire) wants to make sure that Roger doesn’t forget his wake duties in the face of this new American siren. Can we start a hashtag, guys? We propose #weareallfiona. Because we are all Fiona. This chick had two lines and we already wanted to be her best friend. They managed to make the actress look so plain, and even in those two lines you just felt so badly for her! Who hasn’t been there? See somebody you dig and then swoop comes in some sass-talking Hahvahd American chick invading your turf. You get in there, Fiona. We love you. Hashtag we are all Fiona.
“So many things are the same, and yet, things are so different. Quite a lot of memories here.” -Claire
Claire is wandering about the manse steeped in 1940’s memories, and since the manse is stuffed with Jacobite artifacts, we particularly loved her reaching up to the pistol with Jamie’s wedding band practically screaming from her right hand. It’s quite possible that Bear McCreary wins season 2 MVP for us. His use of the choir here singing the Jamie & Claire theme was a total win. Roger not-so-subtly hits on Bree again by inviting the ladies to stay at the manse (smooth, Rog). Too bad Netflix and chill wasn’t a thing, then. Bree’s jumping on the opportunity to “see the sights” suggests she might be down. We want to see those sights, too, Bree. Roger’s a dish. After a brief conversation with Claire revealing Roger’s a Mackenzie, Claire confesses she’s never really said goodbye to Jamie in a roundabout way. Claire also says over a sleeping Brianna she sees so much of him in her, but other than some hair and a bit of ‘tude, we confess we didn’t really see much Jamie in Brianna.
“A Hundred and a Thousand More”
Back in the eighteenth century, Prince Charles is still terrible and had to get in one more “Mark me,” because that’s what he does. Then we’re with Bree and Roger again, this time in Fort William. Looks like Roger’s made good on his promise to show her the sights, and what better place than the site of her father’s flogging? Through their overly long conversation we’re meant to glean a bit of info: 1- Brianna’s good at American history, 2- She loves Frank Randall a lot, and 3- There’s tension between her and her mother. Thank goodness Richard Rankin’s basically nailed Roger expressions because they were the most fun thing to watch this scene.
“And let amorous kisses dwell, on our lips again and tell…” -Jamie
Moving on from this we got to our favorite part of the episode, Claire at Lallybroch haunted by the ghosts of the people she loved there. The voiceover on Outlander can be unnecessary sometimes. Here, the voiceover was absolute perfection. Perfection. Jamie standing in the doorway while they’re reciting the English translation of the Catullus gave us our first feels this episode. The poem was a little nod to fans after last season’s wedding ring meltdown (it was supposed to be engraved on the inside of Claire’s wedding ring) and including the voices of Jenny, Rabbie, and showing the life Claire should have had if it hadn’t been for their own meddling in France was just beautiful.
King slaying and ancestry.com, 60’s style
Back in ol’ 1745, down to the minute, Claire figures since they’re already in pretty deep they might as well kill Charles Stuart because that would surely just make everyone toss their hands up and abandon the battlefield. Should’ve done that episode 2, Claire. Back in 1968, Brianna’s conveniently wondering what major thing happened in her parent’s past that was huge because she’s found hints. Claire’s a crack historian because she hits the archives and immediately finds the perfectly preserved deed of sasine that she signed in 1745, and of course nobody seems concerned with touching this ancient historical record without gloves on. Most of the documents they dig up in the episode are in perfect condition, even when they’ve been moldering around in rat infested attics. That’s a stroke of luck!
“I am Bonnie Prince Charlie. You are Bonnie Prince Charlie. We are Bonnie Prince Charlie!” -Gillian Edgars
Back in 1745, Dougal’s overheard Claire and Jamie’s plan to kill Charles Stuart. Crap. That won’t end well. In one of the episodes slightly more jarring transitions, we’re suddenly back with Bree and Roger as he goes about doing his own research to help Bree (we dig the song though). Someone is speaking, and holy cow, it’s Geillis Duncan! Remember when Geillis mouthed “one nine six eight” and told her to run back at the trial in season one? Guess what year it is, guys! 1968! Bad stuff is coming, we can just feel it. Clearly Gillian Edgars (her name in this century) just kept her intensity and Scotland love because this speech is pretty impassioned. Did anyone else start screaming about Scotland with her? Just us? …Ok then.
Avunculicide and overdue goodbyes
Back in 1745 Dougal isn’t taking overhearing Claire and Jamie’s murder plot very well. Dougal wasn’t the most stable of characters since we’ve seen him join Charles Stuart and this has pretty much sent him over the edge. This scene didn’t break our hearts because Graham McTavish was just so good (and oh boy was he), but because it was just too short. Jamie and Dougal as characters deserved better here. This acting in the scene was great, McTavish hit betrayal, confusion, rage- all in such a short amount of time. It was all especially heartbreaking because you could see his anger at himself for his own lusting after Claire. We especially loved the part where Claire was complicit and helped Jamie kill Dougal, as if he just couldn’t bear to bring himself to do it. And the heartbreaking, “I’m sorry, Uncle,” in both Gaelic and English was a gut punch we happily took! But then we were absolutely cheated, because the scene was cut short to cut back to characters that we don’t feel anything for yet. We get that the writers want to set up season 3, and we know these guys will be important later on, but it’s a real shame that a character that’s been such an integral part of the series until now went out so quickly. The best part about Outlander are relationships: Familial relationships, the relationships between husband and wife, chieftain and men- we could go on and on. We’ve been increasingly sad that these explorations have been sidelined in favor of political maneuverings we know will fail and other expositions and this scene was a good example. But bravo to Graham McTavish & Sam Heughan for making this scene still really pop for us even though it was so short.
“Any good rat satire should always be original.” -Roger
Back in 1968, Roger and Bree go digging for documents, and there they are, perfectly preserved for them. Super! Back in 1745, Rupert’s seen Jamie pulling the knife out of his uncle and he isn’t happy, but he’s a swell guy so he’ll give him two hours to get his affairs in order before he makes him answer for Dougal’s death. It’s a short moment, again, before we’re back in ’68 and Claire is at Culloden to visit what she thinks is Jamie’s grave. Balfe really brings it in the scene, but we’re sad about this “no tears” nonsense. Claire’s been grieving Jamie for the past twenty years, guys. She’s never said goodbye in all that time. Not only would tears be appropriate, the fact that she didn’t shed any made us not shed any, though we know your mileage may vary- did you need tissues for this part? Because of the lack of intimacy between Jamie and Claire this season, it was also hard for us feel that twenty year loss. That being said, it was a touching moment and Balfe sold the hell out of it even through all that hairspray.
Who’s your daddy?
After all her research in attics with Roger, Bree’s discovered Frank Randall wasn’t her father and she’s understandably upset. The zeal with which she tears her mother apart doesn’t quite endear her to us, though, and we’re disengaged from her because it’s hard to tell what sort of emotions she’s having beyond just being a brat to her mother. Also, her asking Roger to stay may have been the most awkward of awkward things. We totally invite near strangers to confront our moms with huge family secrets, don’t you? Balfe sold the nonsense out of this scene, though. Back in 1745 Murtagh isn’t surprised that Dougal’s dead and simply gets on with it. They write the deed of sasine that Claire found earlier before we flashback to Bree not believing a word of Claire’s time travel adventures.
“He was the love of my life!” -Claire
Well. We don’t blame her here. The story is pretty insane. Claire gets increasingly more desperate to make Brianna believe her and Balfe steps it up more, bringing all the emotion here. The best moment for Skelton comes after Claire finally confesses to Bree that Jamie was the love of her life. Bree saying, “Why are you doing this?” felt like a truly authentic moment. Her suspicion of Claire and Frank’s relationship earlier, her hurt at Claire’s perceived affair, it was best summed up in this line and this moment of delivery for us. We are really hoping for some serious flashbacks of what exactly went on in the twenty year interim for Claire, Frank & Bree, because we really, really need them.
Tears for you, Fergus!
When Jamie said, “You’re a soldier now, mon fis, I love you like a son,” who else cried? Because we cried right there. Jamie keeping Fergus safe by sending him to deliver the deed was absolutely sweet. In 1968 Bree and Roger are back in a bar, and Bree’s clearly taken after her mother for her “whiskey through crisis” habit. Kudos to Richard Rankin again for selling the, “I sort of believe your mother’s crazy time travel” story, and we can’t wait to see more of him as seasons progress. Meanwhile Claire’s found Gillian Edgar’s advertisement for her “free Scotland” campaign and is obviously a little shocked so she goes right out to find her. She goes to her house, meets her drunk husband and steals her journals because Greg Edgars makes it just so easy.
“Afraid I’m leaving tonight to… further the cause.” -Gillian Edgars
A few hours later Roger and Bree are still living it up at the pub and Gillian just happens to drop by the right crowded pub and makes a beeline for her brand new redheaded American friend. Because if you’re planning a super dangerous journey through the stones that requires a sacrifice and gemstones, why wouldn’t you drop by a pub first? Claire reads her crazy pants journal and determines to stop her good friend Geillis from burning in the future/past.
Murtagh: Loyal to the end
Jamie makes a plan for Murtagh to save his Lallybroch men so they don’t needlessly die on the battlefield. Murtagh agrees, but tells Jamie that he’ll return to fight by Jamie’s side. Murtagh is the greatest and so is Duncan Lacroix. More Murtagh in the 18th century, because we just know he’s gonna die and we can’t handle it. Just put him on screen as much as possible so we can savor the moment!
“Well then maybe we all get to watch her slam her head into a five ton block of granite.” -Roger Wakefield
Back in the 60’s, Brianna calls truce with mom to hear a little about Jamie Fraser before Claire starts going all Culloden on her, so Claire goes down to grill Roger about Gillian Edgars. Claire finds out Roger and Bree have actually met Gillian and Claire tells them that she needs to find her so she can stop her from going through the stones. Catch is, because of all of Claire’s superb genealogical research (you are so good, Claire), if she stops Gillian/Geillis from going back to through the stones, Roger won’t exist! We can hear Bree’s eyeroll and Roger seems to take it pretty well. Haven’t you heard of the butterfly effect, Roger? You could be making a huge mistake! Bree’s miffed as usual, but Roger says it’s the perfect opportunity to force Claire to either face her delusions are false or see if they’re right. Good thinking, Rog.
Jamie recognizes he’s an infamous leader in the Jacobite rebellion, and there’s no escape for him. Sam Heughan does a great job in this scene, Jamie’s resigned and firm. He’ll die, but he’ll save Claire and their unborn child (creepy as hell that you’re keeping track, Jamie). His hand shaking as he contemplates his immortality in their child starts our feels. Jamie’s sending her forward in time to another man, and because we didn’t really love a lot of dialogue in this episode we should recognize that this dialogue we totally dug.
“This home is lost.” -Jamie
Back in the 60’s, Roger, Bree and Claire head up to the stones just in time to see Gillian/Geillis burning her husband Greg and walking right through the stones. Take that, Bree! See? Totally real. Bree & Roger can hear the stones buzzing as well, and finally Bree’s a believer.
The final farewell: Don’t do this to us, Outlander!
Jamie brings Claire to the stones, and she wonders how she’ll go back. We don’t know, Claire, how can you go back? She says she’s not ready, and you know what? We’re not ready either Claire! Jamie’s got some great dialogue ripped straight from the book about what Claire should say to Frank and it’s feels all day long. As much as well loved this scene, this just needed to be longer, or extended in some way, or… something. Why are we just getting this between them now? They knew it was lost and could’ve been pseudo saying goodbye for days. We wanted Claire and Jamie scenes like these throughout the entire season! How could have you tease us this way, Outlander? We get this moment where we feel everything and we think, “Yes! This is the Jamie and Claire we wanted!” We feel with them, we cry, and then we just get sad because this is exactly what we’ve been missing. Jamie and Claire have a quickie at the stones before Jamie hear’s the battle has begun and knows it’s time to go back. Claire gives him the dragonfly in amber and they recite their wedding vows to each other. This is all the more poignant because Claire’s not just leaving Jamie, she’s leaving him because he’s planning on dying. He’s pretty calm & resigned except for a single tear (well played, Sam Heughan- you slayed), and he physically moves Claire backward towards the stone as they keep eye contact. We adored that, that Claire couldn’t bear to even move towards the stone without his help. We almost wish he wouldn’t have turned her and pushed her the rest of the way through the stones backward, but we do get the symbolism of him kissing her, turning her and sending her forward to Frank. Either way, this was a multi-tissue moment.
Back in 1968 Bree finally believes her mother, and the doubting Thomas metaphor Prince Charles used in the beginning was finally realized through Bree. After calling the police, Bree tells Roger to tell Claire what they found: A Fraser of Master Lovat’s regiment didn’t die at Culloden, and Claire realizes that though Jamie meant to die at Culloden, he didn’t. He survived, and in a rising sun, Gone with the Wind moment of spectacular cheese and soaring orchestra, Claire’s states, “I have to go back,” and thus season 2 is a wrap.
This episode definitely sucker punched us in our emotional centers a few times and delivered a few multiple tissue moments, but the brilliant moments in the episode only made you more angry about the moments that weren’t great in both this episode and throughout Outlander’s sophomore season. If the show could just keep up the level of consistency and focus on everything it does best- the relationships between the characters- we’d be fangirling and gushing with every moment. What we liked in the finale, we absolutely loved, and what we didn’t like made us rage. Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe did an gorgeous job, as usual, and major kudos to newcomer Richard Rankin- we can’t wait to see more of you and how Roger fits into the story moving forward. Love it or hate it, the finale did set up season 3 and we’re bracing ourselves for a terribly long Droughtlander. Catch you next year, Outlander! Don’t stay away too long!
Comments and Concerns:
- Claire’s styling was more than a bit puzzling. We get that the bouffant was a popular 60’s ‘do, but Claire bucked nearly every trend in 18th century France in a huge way. Why can’t she now? Is this a subtle way the show was hinting at Claire’s constriction in her modern life? It was almost as if Claire was more free to be herself in the past, bucking trends and conventions to stand out from the crowd and when she went back to her old life she slipped in to play a role that someone else chose for her. Or maybe we’re overanalyzing it. We wish Claire could’ve been a bit more of a trendsetter in the 60’s, though, because that bouffant has got to go.
- The few Gaelic lines in the show again made us realize how much we’ve been missing it this season. Why wasn’t there more when we went back to Scotland? Roger’s one line saying goodbye to the wake attendees and Jamie’s one line just wasn’t enough. Please bring back the Gaelic, Outlander!
- Did anyone else notice Claire spelled “Fraser” with a z? What was that about?
- Roger got all the best funny lines in this episode, especially the f*cking barbecue line- Like great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, like great-great-great-great… Well. You get it.
- Claire seemed super enthusiastic to ditch her daughter and get back to Jamie. Talk about a strained relationship!
- Will Fiona make more plays for Roger? Come on, Fi. Don’t just let Brianna walk all over you girl.
- Please don’t let Murtagh die. Please don’t let Murtagh die. Please don’t let Murtagh die. Please don’t let Murtagh die. Please don’t let Murtagh die. Please don’t let Murtagh die. Etc, etc, etc.
- Where were you battle of Culloden?
- We’re desperate to see flashbacks of Claire’s twenty lonely years without Frank. Did she love him? Or did she love 1940’s him?
Outlander Review Episode 213 “Dragonfly in Amber”
Thank you! This review sums up all of my issues with the finale. Loved Rankin and feel he’s a perfect Roger. The dialogue and character changes they made to Brianna did Sophie Skelton no favors. I also thought the time jumps were jarring. The transitions in previous episodes flowed so much better. Dougal’s death lost its punch with the sudden jump back to 1968. And I never understood why Jamie and Claire didn’t tell Rupert that Dougal was trying to kill them, although I have the same issue with the book. I’d have preferred the episode was laid out a bit more like the book, with Outlander and DIA being the narrative of Claire telling them what happened. Moslty I wanted longer bits in 1746 and longer bits in 1968, with it ending on them seeing Geillis go through. While Roger goes to the police, Bree asks Claire why she came back so Claire tells Bree about the last time she saw Jamie. Then we jump to the moment where Jamie says he knows she’s pregnant and watch til the goodbye and stone touch. Then we jump back to 1968, Roger reveals the letter, and no ‘I have to go back’ because it just screamed LOST and was an odd thing for Claire to say with her daughter, and their strained relationship, just standing there. And I TOTALLY agree about Claire’s bouffant. It was not the right choice for her character. It was too much effort for a woman with thick, unruly curls, who bucked trends as you said, and is a surgeon. How’s she putting her surgical cap on that poof? I expected her to have her curls and a much more natural style. Something she could perhaps pin and go as she runs out the door to the hospital.
Forgot to mention that I found it odd that 95% of the 1968 moments took place over one day. That was a LOT to accomplish in one day. Roger and Brianna visited Fort William, picnicked, met Geillis, dug through an attic of paperwork, while Claire visited Lallybroch, stopped by a Hall of Records, visited Culloden Moor, told Jamie’s ‘grave’ all about Bree, then Bree confronts Claire, Claire tells them about her 3 years in the 1740s, Roger and Bree drink while Claire decides to find and visit Geillis’ house, steal those books, read those books, then convinces Roger and Bree to go to Craigh na Dun to stop Geillis…….all in one day.
Do you think it took place over one day? I thought it was more than one… I could be wrong, though.
haha there were multiple outfit changes but it starts with the wake and being asked to stay over at the manse on one day
Fort William + picnic was day two with Claire going to Lallybroch & Inverness hall of records, after which Brianna came home and Claire asked how their date was.
Going to the college, meeting Gillian, and going through the attic was day three, when Claire went to Culloden moor to say goodbye — then Brianna confronts Claire about the affair and R&B go to the pub, seeing Gillian again while Claire goes to Gillian’s house to find answers and finds her husband + notebooks.
More confrontations after these trips out of the house and Claire finds out Gillian is going to the stones and they go after her and that goes into day four when the sun rises and Claire realizes she has to go back.
It appeared to be one day but I believe I’m wrong. I rewatched just the ’68 scenes. After the wake, it looks like Claire appears to wear the same outfit the entire time. A beige sweater, skirt, and the short-heeled brown shoes. It’s covered occasionally by her coat and scarf. But when she’s sitting in the room massaging her feet after getting the deed of sasine, it is nighttime. So I guess they do go to bed after that and it’s more than one day. I think I found it confusing because all of Claire’s clothing is pretty much the same color. Both sweaters are beige…..skirts are reddish brown…same shoes. But it appears from the scene where Bree meets Geillis to the end when they are at Craigh na Dun is all the same day. Still alot of stuff to happen in one day, but at least it’s not the insane amount I thought. LOL!
Speaking as someone with thick, naturally curly hair (aka Claire hair), I can tell you that the way to get smooth hair at that time would have been to put it in curlers. When you put that kind of hair in curlers, the finished product gets really big, like Miss America hair.
The producers need to do something with the actress playing Bree – I fear for Season 3. So far the acting has been of a very high caliber as it should be. Her flat delivery & lack of comfort in her skin detracted from the episode. Perhaps it would have been more helpful had she delivered her lines in her native accent. Whatever the case I hope someone intervenes and gives her much needed guidance and direction. I shudder to think what her interactions with Jamie / Sam will look like in following seasons. The only thing the casting department may have gotten right was the color of her hair.
You’re 100% spot-on!!. I’m glad I’m not the only one to notice the misspelling in Claire’s signature on the Deed of Sasine. Certainly after 3 years of marriage, Claire would know how to spell FraSer correctly. The signature definitely looked like a Z. How could they just leave that. Huge mistake/oversight even though it’s a small detail, I noticed.