With the season 2 finale, Outlander really succeeds in putting us in Claire’s shoes - we spent so long invested in the 1700s only to have it ripped away from us at the last second in favor of the 1900s. Oh show, you’re so meta.
This episode had some beautiful moments, and compelling imagery, alongside a rather rushed conclusion to the past 12 episodes. We started off the season with Claire back in the 1940s, so we knew she was going back through the stones; we stuck around for the “how” and “why” of it all. Then they decided to speed through the “how” and “why” in favor of watching Roger bumble at Brianna (which was cute, I admit).
One of the things I love about the book, Dragonfly in Amber, is that it jolts you into two realizations, both with devastating effects. First, the book opens on Claire and Brianna visiting Roger in 1968, so immediately we figure out that
- Claire left the 1700s, left Jamie, to travel back to the future;
- She and Jamie had a kid;
- Jamie has been dead ever since (or so Claire thinks).
So the reader spends hundreds of pages thinking, “Holy crap, Claire has had to live basically a widow for 20 years, enduring the loss of the love of her life, for the sake of his child.” And then, realization number 2 - that Jamie didn’t die! Only...”Holy crap, that means she endured the loss of the love of her life, and so did he, for 20 years, and he never met his daughter, but holy crap he’s alive, yaaaaaaay!”
However, the show didn’t really give us this roller coaster of emotions until this episode. And we don’t get a lot of breathing room to work through it all.
That being said, this episode does manage to pack a lot in. Brianna and Roger, Geillis Duncan/Gillian Edgars, Dougal’s demise, and the Great Parting.
Dougal’s death seals the fate of all Jacobites and precipitates Claire and Jamie’s parting. He overhears Claire and Jamie conspiring to poison Charles to stop the battle of Culloden. (In the books, Claire and Jamie both come to the conclusion that they can’t murder him; I am glad the show kept it open, like maybe they would have.)
Dougal freaks out and accuses Claire and Jamie of being traitors to Scotland. Dougal’s fervor for the cause (which the show has carefully seeded in previous episodes) drives him to attack Claire and Jamie; after a rough and tumble fight, Claire and Jamie both drive a dirk through Dougal’s heart. Then, the shit really hits the fan: Rupert walks in. Jamie is able to persuade him not to sound any alarm for two hours, giving Jamie enough time to tie up some loose ends, namely:
- Forging a deed to give Lallybroch to his nephew;
- Getting the Lallybroch men back home safely;
- Getting Claire and their child back safely through the stones;
- Dying in the battle of Culloden.
I wish they would have given us more time with Jamie coming to these decisions. We just went through the fallout without feeling the weight of Jamie giving up his home, his men, his wife, his child, and his life, all in the space of two hours. Sure, maybe Rupert forced him into making quick decisions, but he doesn’t question it, doesn’t hesitate for a second. It makes him feel less human, less fully realized as a character. I mean, no one could make that decision without hesitation or doubt. But Jamie is the King of Men, so we’ll roll with it.
(It also might have detracted from the focus on Claire, so maybe I shouldn’t complain too much that they gave up a character moment for the male lead in favor of the female lead.)
Dougal’s death and its fallout are juxtaposed with the revelation that Geillis Duncan was a Scottish Nationalist from the 1960s named Gillian Edgars who murders her husband to go back in time and help the Jacobites. Peas in a pod, those two. Up to and including murdering for the cause.
Jamie’s last two hours are spent efficiently, filling out paperwork and dispatching his most trusted companions (Fergus and Murtagh) to see to his wishes, while he sees to Claire. Fergus will end up safely at Lallybroch away from the fighting, we hope, but Murtagh refuses to go back. He agrees to see the Lallybroch men on the road, but then promises to come back to Culloden to fight (read: die) with Jamie.
If there’s no Claire and Jamie, Murtagh wants to die too.
Finally, Jamie sees Claire to the stones at Craigh na Dun. He persuades her to go by imploring her to look after the last thing that will be left of him: Their child. We get one last beautiful speech, one last act of lovemaking, a few tears, and then he places her hand on the stone. Then presumably goes to fight and die at Culloden.
In the future, Claire goes to Culloden to visit the closest thing to his grave - the Fraser clan stone. She gives Jamie the recap of all recaps, recounting for him the past 20 years of her and her daughter’s lives. (I loved the subtle lighting cue with which they tell us just how long Claire spent talking to the love of her life after 20 years of never speaking of him.)
Claire has come to Scotland with Brianna, hers and Jamie’s daughter (named for Jamie’s father). They visit Inverness to attend the wake of the Reverend Wakefield, who succumbed to a heart problem. Born and raised in Boston, Brianna is an American college student who catches the eye of young Roger Wakefield (aka Roger MacKenzie), now not so young but with a similar dashing mop of brown hair over his eyes.
Roger and Brianna are both history students (d’awwww) and they hit it off. After he offers to let the ladies stay at the manse instead of driving back to London, he takes Brianna around to see the sights, leaving Claire to “putter about town” - i.e. Visit a run-down Lallybroch, talk to Jamie at Culloden, disparage Prince Charles at the museum, look up some old historical documents she signed in the 1700s...you know, putter.
Brianna, meanwhile, has a mission of her own: Find out what happened between Claire and Frank in Scotland. Thanks to Frank’s secret letters, she only knows there was an “incident” and that it wasn’t good. Roger helps her research using his father’s journals, and they find out about Claire’s vanishing act. Brianna even puts the dates together and realizes her father might not be Frank.
When Brianna confronts Claire, she’s very angry, but Claire is almost excited that Brianna broached the topic. It seems like she’s been aching to tell Bree about her real father, and she’s glad she has an opening. She eventually tells Roger and Bree about her entire time in the 1700s. But Bree doesn’t want to hear any of it; she feels betrayed, and that her mother is delusional, so the
Randall Fraser women duke it out.
It’s not until Roger, Bree, and Claire all drive up to Craigh na Dun, to warn Geillis/Gillian about the witch trial (but not stop her from traveling, because you see Roger is a descendant of the child she bears by Dougal MacKenzie), and they see her go through the stones, that Roger and Bree start to believe Claire’s story. And that gives them an opening to reveal to Claire that they researched Jamie, and found out that he may not have died after all!
Claire could go back!
And that’s it! Boy, it’s been one heck of a season. Remember when we were in France?? That feels like ages ago. But they’ve covered just about all of the ground that the book covered, and we’re set up for next season, where presumably Claire plans to travel back through the stones. (Voyager is actually my favorite of the series, so I have high hopes.) What did you think? Was Claire’s 1960s eye makeup a little distracting, or a lot distracting for you? Was this a satisfying conclusion to the season? What were your favorite episodes or moments? (Mine might be “Faith,” or it might be “Prestonpans,” or “Not in Scotland Anymore” (aka the funny one).) What are your musings about the future? Spill it all in the comments!
Oh! One last thing: The sound design and the music in this episode were ON POINT. From the hints of the Craigh na Dun song as Claire examines the Reverend’s Scottish history collection, to the 1960s songs, to the sounds of cannon fire as Claire and Jamie say goodbye, a reminder of the urgency of Claire’s departure. Hat tip to Bear McCreary and all of the sound people on this show.
“To death, the jolly old bouncer now.
Our glasses let’s be clinking,
If he hadn’t put other out I trow,
tonight we’d not be drinking.” - Roger
Brianna: “Are you Roger Wakefield?”
Roger: “Yes, definitely. That’s me.”
“I was always curious about Scotland. It was a special place for both my parents.” - Brianna
“The truth is I’ve never been very good at saying goodbye. That’s the hell of it, isn’t it? Whether you want to say goodbye or not, they’re gone, and you have to go on living without them. Because that’s what they would want.” - Claire
“He was a snappy dresser. Wore his hat down over one eye, very dashing.” - Roger, on Frank Randall’s fashion sense
“Come and let us live my dear
Let us love and never fear...
And let amorous kisses dwell
On our lips begin and tell
A thousand and a hundred score
A hundred and a thousand more” - Claire and Jamie quoting Richard Crashaw
“Jamie, I was angry at you for such a long time. You made me go and live a life I didn’t want to live. But you were right, damn you. Brianna was safe and loved and raised well. But sometimes, when she turns, and the light catches her red hair, or I see her smile in her sleep, it takes my breath away. Because I see you.” - Claire
“I was not bored. And what Jamie and I had was a hell of a lot more than fucking. He was the love of my life!” - Claire
Roger: “I’m just saying, maybe we should keep an open mind.”
Brianna: “How bout we keep an open tab instead?”
“I’ll find you, I promise. If I have to endure 200 years of purgatory, 200 years without you, that is my punishment, that I have earned for my crimes. I have lied, killed, stolen, betrayed, and broken trust. But when I stand before God, I’ll have one thing to say to weigh against all the rest: Lord, you gave me a rare woman, and God, I loved her well.” - Jamie