The second season finale of Outlander was what a finale should be, tying up the season, providing an opening for the next season, and in this case surpassing virtually everything done so far this season. Before getting into the inevitable spoilers, for the benefit of those (like myself) who are having difficulty keeping up with all the excellent television shows on but also have not seen this season, the finale almost stands on its own as a show worth watching. If you have seen the first season but not the second, it is possible to watch the start of the first episode which has Claire back in the 1940’s, and jump from there to the finale. Of course there are some other events during the season which are well worth seeing. For those who might want to binge on the essential episodes only, TV Guide has a list which includes essential episodes from both the first and second season. TV Line has summaries of the episodes leading up to the finale which will be helpful for those who don’t have the time to watch them all.
Further discussion of the episode includes major spoilers. The structure of the episode was a surprise in primarily taking place in 1968. (starting with television scenes from the British version of The Avengers), with flashbacks to the Battle of Culloden. This worked very well, finally tying together the scenes from the 1940’s at the start of the second season with the overall narrative, showing why Claire returned to her present. It was also enjoyable to hear the 60’s music, with many of the lyrics applying to the show. Plus, after seeing Claire’s medical skills in the past, we learned that she has become a surgeon.
The episode served to introduce Claire and Jame’s daughter Brianna and Roger, and handled the matters of setting up a reason forcing Claire to tell her story to Brianna, her daughter’s logical disbelief in the story, and ultimately proving the story to her. This was accomplished partially from Brianna and Roger investigating the past, and further enabled by the introduction of Scottish nationalist Gillian Edgars.
Gillian Edgars cared so much about Scottish independence that she planned to travel back in time to try to change history, becoming known to Claire as Geillis. When we previously saw her, she had told Claire that she had come back from 1968. Geillis knows more about time travel than Claire did when she first went back, but also had at least one misconception, believing time travel required a human sacrifice. The rules of time travel on Outlander remain vague, and from what we have seen so far I also have my doubts that it is possible in this world to change time. While perhaps there will be incidents we have not seen, so far we have seen the actions of the two time travelers we know only working to create a consistent history which their actions became a part of.
Once Claire found that Geillis planned to travel back in time, it was rather obvious that she would not be successful in either preventing her from going to her doom. Her point in the story was clearly to allow Brianna to see her disappear into the rocks and convince her that Claire had told her the truth.
There would also be continuity or time travel issues to deal with if Geillis had not gone back in time. While she had interacted with Claire, the more important matter was that Geillis and Dougal had a child who was Roger’s ancestor. Roger felt confident he would not just disappear if she did not go back to conceive his ancestor. While we don’t know the rules for certain, it appears there would not be reason to be concerned about such a paradox as events in this world cannot be changed, and Geillis did go back in time.
The episode interspersed events from the past with the events in 1968. Claire came up with one final scheme to try to change history by poisoning Prince Charles and preventing the battle which destroyed the Scottish clans. Dougal discovered the plan, setting up a fight in which he was killed. When it became obvious that there was no way to change history, Jamie revealed that he knew Claire was pregnant due to missed periods, and convinced her to return to the future where Frank would care for Claire and their child after his expected death in the Battle of Culloden. We saw the aftermath of Claire’s return in the first episode of the season, and that now finally makes sense.
Back in 1968, Roger had another major reveal, having found evidence in his father’s papers that Jamie had survived. This leads to the dramatic words from Claire to end the episode: “We have to go back.” Earlier in the episode, Claire did take a notebook from Geillis’ home with her ideas on time travel, but we do not know if they are incorrect on other details Perhaps they will help Claire with matters such as choosing which year to arrive with a second trip back.
Fortunately we know that Outlander has been renewed so far for a third and fourth season, allowing the next two books in the series to make it to television. While readers of the books know for sure, I suspect that the information in Geillis’ notebook allows Claire to return to Jamie when their ages are closer as opposed to being twenty years older than him. Of course this would mean that Jamie had lived without her for twenty years, but we can safely assume that he will welcome her return at any point.
Ron Moore and others involved with the show have granted several interviews, some of which deal with altering the structure of the books for the show, plans for the third season, and even a brief discussion of the rules of time travel.
The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Ron Moore about the finale:
Since you altered the structure of the beginning of the season, how did that affect the way you told the story in the finale?
I had the finale planned out pretty much at the beginning of the season. When we were talking about the beginning of season two, I just felt that right away, starting in 1968 wasn’t going to work on TV. It was too big of a leap to go from Claire and Jamie on the ship sailing off to France to suddenly go to 1968, with 20 years passed and Claire is now in the 20th century, she’s a doctor, she has a grown daughter, Jamie’s dead, Frank’s dead. It’s like, whoa. Too much for the audience to take in one big swallow. So I decided to start more chronologically in the premiere with Claire returning to the 20th century, which in and of itself is a huge leap. That’s an enormous thing just by itself so let’s do that. And so when would we get to the 1968 story that book readers are expecting? That’s how we decided to get to 1968 at the end of the season, way back at the very beginning of the season. And then I felt it would be powerful to intercut that with the last moves of the 18th century story so while you’re watching Brianna realize who her real father is, and Claire is realizing that maybe Jamie didn’t die after all, we’re cross cutting that with the 18th century story when they arrive at Culloden Moor with Jamie’s goodbyes to Claire and all that.
Did you discuss with author Diana Gabaldon about the way you were structuring the season? It was a pretty massive change.
No. She sees all the story outlines and all that, so she knew as it was happening. She liked it. She thought it was smart. She totally got behind my choices.
We finally learn that Claire is pregnant again only when Jamie is convincing her to go back to Frank for the safety of their baby. Why did you want to wait until that scene to reveal that she was pregnant again when it actually comes earlier in the book?
The book was very similar in its structure, in that Jamie is the one that tells the reader that this is happening. But what we did is slid it a little bit further down so it was much closer to the very end of the season. It felt to us that if you put that in earlier, it kind of colors everything that took place after. They start talking about the baby, where she’s going to have the baby, would she stay or would she go? We didn’t want to be in the middle of that discussion while everything else was going on. So we opted to make it one of the last pieces of the puzzle, playing that Claire has this suspicion but she’s not quite sure so she doesn’t want to bring it up now because she knows that Jamie would most likely send her home and she’s determined to stick with him no matter what. Meanwhile, he’s figured it out on his own and he’s holding it as his trump card, that if things go bad, he’s going to pull it out at that moment to force her to return to the stones. It’s playing both characters a little cagey in terms of her pregnancy and each holding their cards until the last moment.
The circumstances of Dougal’s death turned out a bit different in the finale than how it played in the books. Why did you make those changes to that scene?
The one thing we did change is that we had Claire participate a little bit more. The scene reads fine on the page, but when we came to dramatize it, we quickly realized that in the books, it literally just looks like Claire is standing and watching throughout the entire fight and Dougal’s death. That didn’t feel right, dramatically for our characters. We wanted to see Claire take part in it more and be more active in that scene. And also, seeing Claire and Jamie work as a team one more time before they split up, this was the perfect opportunity for that.
It’s interesting to note that they didn’t get far in their plan to assassinate the prince, whereas in the book, they had decided against their plan before Dougal walked in on them. Why did you accelerate that scene when that change completely alters what Claire and Jamie were planning to do?
For that scene, you had to see Dougal overhear something that was damning in order to get Dougal to where he needed to go in his rage. If they had already decided against it, what was it that Dougal heard that made him come into that room with blood in his eyes? What sparked the fight in him that leads to his death? Again, because it’s a TV show, you have to let the audience see that they were being overheard and even though they hadn’t made a definitive decision to do it yet, what Dougal heard was enough to get him to go in there and want to kill them. We just had to parse it out a little finer than in the book…
In the finale we learn that Geillis believed you needed a human sacrifice to go through the stones, but with Claire, obviously she didn’t need that both times she went through the stones. How much of the rules of time travel did you discuss with Diana?
We did have a conversation with Diana and she explained her rules of time travel to us. We tried to translate that into something the audience can wrap their minds around on the show. Her rules of time travel have evolved and are spread out over many books and many characters and many scenarios. We needed to really understand both what Claire thought and what Geillis thought in this episode so we honed in on a couple of things. There are still a couple of things for Claire to figure out and discover as we move into next season though.
He added a little more in this interview with Deadline Hollywood:
DEADLINE: Season 1’s finale may have been more brutal, but this year’s ender certainly matched it for dramatic twists — especially the killing of Dougal. How do you think fans will react?
MOORE: If they don’t know the books, I think they will be surprised and shocked that we killed Dougal MacKenzie because he’s such a great character and such a powerful force. Especially since Colum (Gary Lewis) just died the week before, and you would think that there would be a long route to go with Dougal. I assume that the broadcast audience was assuming that we would see Dougal fighting to the death at Culloden, right? He would be one of the principal players in that story, so I think it will come as a pretty big surprise.
DEADLINE: Last season ended with the rape scene with Black Jack and with Jamie, about which there was a huge and shocked response from fans. This season finale had a different tone. Was that intentional?
MOORE: It was certainly intentional what we went for, but I don’t think we set out to set it apart from Season 1. It just had its own kind of organic feeling to it. It had a different rhythm and a different kind of overarching idea to what we were doing in the finale this year. Last year’s finale was a one-off, that was where that story ended. I don’t think the show or the book set out to try to top themselves each year or at the end of each book. That was the end of that story, and this one is the end of this story…
DEADLINE: To that end, you made a number of strategic changes from Dragonfly In Amber the book to Outlander the second season – all of which in many ways saw us end where things started, in the UK of the 20th century…
MOORE: I mean, the biggest change we made obviously was starting in the 1940s instead of starting in 1968. That was the biggest change from the book. I just felt that at the beginning of the season it was too big of a leap to take the audience from Claire and Jamie on the ship sailing off to France to then suddenly jump all the way to 1968 and reveal that not only did Claire return to the 20th century, but she has a grown daughter and she’s a surgeon, and the reverend’s dead and Frank’s dead, and it’s just like, whoa — traumatically that was just too much.
So I thought, “l right, let’s start in a little bit more chronological way. Let’s start with her return to the 1940s, establish that she’s with Frank and going to have a child, because even though that alone is still a huge leap for the audience, it’s not quite as big.” So from that point, then it was sort of letting the 18th century story pick up the balance of the season while touching base every once in a while, reminding the audience that actually this is all doomed to failure, and then catching up with 1968 at the end and intercutting that with the 18th century story in the last chapter, because I thought that that would be an interesting juxtaposition.
I like the idea that we’re going to take this 20-year leap forward in the 20th century and then catch up with adult Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and a more mature Claire, seeing that she really lived all those years and her life is moving on, while simultaneously telling the audience the last few moves of Claire and Jamie in Culloden and timing it all so that the moment that Claire goes back to the stones and leaves him behind to his doom, we also find out that actually he survived and now the Claire that lived those 20 years realizes that she needs to go back. I thought that would kind of bring everything together in a nice way.
DEADLINE: Are you planning on taking a similar approach with the Voyager book and Season 3?
MOORE: Yeah, some things get moved around, but the third book is not nearly the same challenge as the second book is. Voyager is a little bit more of a straight-ahead narrative and the adaptation process has already proven easier in the writers room because the structure is a little bit more straightforward.
Even in the first season we resequenced things and moved certain elements around, so that’s just part of doing an adaptation, but it’s just not as big a hill to climb in the third season, so we’re all feeling pretty optimistic and pretty good about where the third season is taking us.
DEADLINE: Outlander got a two-season pickup from Starz last month, so where are you at, if anywhere, with Season 4 and adapting the America colonies-based Drums of Autumn?
MOORE: We’re only just sort of talking in very general terms about Four. I mean, we know what the broad outlines are of it, but right now the lion’s share of our attention is on Three. Still, having the two-season pickup makes all that easier because you can sort of put Four over here to the side for a moment knowing that you’re going to do it. Then, as we get deeper into Season 3 — the planning, logistics — we’ll get closer and closer to start talking in earnest about Four.
Also, the writers will start turning their attention to Season 4 while this season is still underway. So we’ll write all the scripts for Season 3, get them all in train, get them all starting to prep, and then the whole writing staff will start to work on Season 4 while we’re still shooting this one. That gives us a big leg up, get on schedule and production and budget and all that — it’s enormously helpful.
Another key event in the episode was discussed with TV Line:
TVLINE | In the book, Claire is present for, but not directly involved in, Dougal’s death. In the finale, she helps Jamie push the blade into his uncle. Why the change?
We felt that when you saw it on screen, you would be struck differently than you were on the page. If you watch the scene play out on the screen [the way it does in the novel], Claire would very much be a spectator during the entire thing. We felt like she should participate, and watch her and Jamie be more of a team again. It just didn’t feel right for our Claire to stand and watch while this life-or-death struggle was playing out just a few feet in front of her…
TV Guide talked to executive producers Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia, who wrote the episode:
What was the greatest challenge in setting up this finale and what objectives did you know you had to achieve in the final 90 minutes?
Toni Graphia: Ron [Moore, executive producer] always said it was kind of like writing a pilot, in a way, because we have to introduce Brianna and Roger. They are such new characters, but ones that the audience are potentially interested in, obviously. The character of Brianna being half-Jamie and half Claire, they’re really into that. We had to introduce them and sort of kick off a whole new storyline for going forward.
We did it in a different way because the book [Dragonfly in Amber] opens with the introduction of Brianna and Roger. We chose to steal the opening of the Book 3 for the opening of Season 2, and then end the season with the introduction of Brianna and Roger. That’s a twist that we did that we think ended up well.
Matt Roberts: Literally, the whole book of Dragonfly in Amber and Season 2 is told in flashback because we already know Claire goes back. We know that Claire survived; it’s just how she survived. Toni and I had to be very careful not to tell [Bri and Roger’s] story in the finale, as opposed to just whet everyone’s appetite — because it’s not their story. It’s still Claire and Jamie’s story, and that’s whose it will always be.
Your initial instinct with [Brianna and Roger] is to give them a beginning, middle and an end to the story. … We had to be careful to reel ourselves in and not go too far with their story because that’s another season down the road.
What is different about the versions of Brianna and Roger you bring to life in the finale from the ones fans know in the books?
Graphia: We wanted to give Brianna a little more of a drive. We thought it would be a little more interesting if Claire, instead of already making the decision [to tell Brianna about Jamie] off-screen, was drawn back by the ghosts of her past. Even though she has the freedom to tell Brianna now, she hasn’t made the decision. In the book, your mind fills in all that, but when you’re watching it you don’t want the decision to be made off-camera. So when Claire comes back, we gave that drive to Brianna. In that way, Claire is being drawn in by the ghosts and Brianna is like, “What’s up with my mom? She’s always been a little distant and strange, but now she seems really moved by this place and she’s sneaking off to go see things.”
In the book, its Claire and Roger — Claire sort of shoves Brianna off to the side and secretly asks Roger, “Will you help me find out what happens to Jamie Fraser?” We switched it to Brianna and Roger, both for the sake of their developing relationship, because they’re now doing this project together, and to sort of have Brianna be the strong one that comes at Claire and demands these answers.
Finally, Claire can’t hide anymore from her past and has to come clean with her daughter. We just thought for the screen that was the more interesting story. It makes Brianna a more interesting character because she’s driving the story and she has something to do. She’s interested. She wants to know about her past and it makes for some explosive scenes between her and Claire, which we loved doing.
Vulture interviewed co-executive producer Maril Davis and touched on the rules of time travel in the series:
Even after 20 years apart, they now have a chance to be reunited. We don’t see it in the finale, in that moment, but it’s implied that it’s about to happen. And when it does, they’re going to be different people…
We talk a lot about that in the room right now, for season three. It’s a big transition. People expect that if they were to just see each other, things will fall back easily into old habits. That doesn’t happen. Twenty years is a long time, and they both met when they were very young. So we’re talking about, “How are they different? How does that change them?” Also, in your mind, you build up things about a person that aren’t really reality, and they were together for a relatively short time. Certainly Claire was with Jamie longer than she was with Frank, but still, you change as a person, and your expectations get built up, and once you see them again, that’s a huge thing to go through.
Originally, we had a fun idea for the end of season one — we’d cut to black, and fade up, knock knock, and it would be Claire knocking on Reverend Wakefield’s door, 20 years in the future. In anticipation of that, we started looking for Brianna and Roger early. We decided at the end of the day not to do that, and suspended the search until later. But then we came up with this idea of starting with, “Oh my god, Claire’s already back. Holy crap! How did that happen?” and then the rest of the season, not peppering it through the way the book does, not dealing with it until the end. In some ways, it should be like the books, but telling the TV version should be fresh. Even for book fans, you want to give them what they want, but in a different way sometimes. We want try to do that for season three as well.
Let’s talk about Geillis. She returns for the finale here, but we’re not quite finished with her yet.
Even though Geillis saves Claire at the witch trial, there’s a little more animosity between them in the books, or at least that’s what I felt. We tried hard to give them more of a friendship in season one, to give Geillis some more layers. I love Geillis from the book. She’s witchy and mysterious. But we wanted to make her more human because that was a little more interesting to show. So even though Geillis does a lot of bad things, she still sees Claire as a true friend. Granted, her ways are a little more wicked than Claire, and for a different purpose …
Because she’s trying to control her time travel, and she’s willing to use blood sacrifice. We get to glimpse her notebooks, and we’re getting more of the rules, such as they are…
I can’t tell you how many discussions we’ve had in the writer’s room about the rules of time travel. [Laughs.] I’ve certainly pestered [author] Diana [Gabaldon] many times about her rules, because quite honestly, when you realize Claire went through the stones the first time without many of the certain elements you need, it’s a little confusing. Like, Claire went through without anything, so how did that work? And obviously she can do it, but Jamie can’t. Do we show that, or do we not? There are certain things you read in the book that you naturally accept, and you don’t think too much about it, but when you’re trying to dramatize it on screen, you have to. It almost makes your head hurt! [Laughs.] So I’ve asked Diana things about Master Raymond being a time traveler, or the Comte St. Germain, since she’s written that he might be a time traveler in The Space Between. But we didn’t really delve into that in this season.
So long as Claire gives more thought to her return journey, and realizes that she should bring some things back with her before just stepping through the stones again. Penicillin, for instance, could be handy.
Of course! She has to bring that back. [Laughs.]
In other time travel genre news, there are stories that Steven Moffat has hinted that Matt Smith might return to Doctor Who. He technically wouldn’t be the first Time Lord to regenerate as himself as the linked article claims as David Tennant’s Doctor did that. It would still be a first for the show to have a Doctor return after being played by someone else. If this becomes true, there is also the question as to whether he would be made to look like his previous version of the Doctor and if he would have the same personality. He might even hate bow ties. Another possibility could be returning to the show as an entirely different character, as some actors, even if not as prominent as Smith, have done.
Another time traveler from Doctor Who will be seen a lot more on television next season, but in the Bellantiverse on CW as opposed to Doctor Who. John Barrowman has been made a sort of regular throughout their DC based shows rather than being limited to Arrow. There have been questions as to whether the shows will be more connected next season with The Flash doing a version of Flashpoint.
CW shows such as Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl will no longer be available on Hulu. At least their new deal with Netflix will have them be available eight days after the season finale.
Alex Kingston will have a recurring role in the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix. She will play an eccentric character, but presumably not River Song.
Like Outlander, Sleepy Hollow sometimes takes place in two different times, and we have seen time travel. Not only have they lost the female lead, they are moving from Sleepy Hollow to Washington, D.C. There will be a new female lead who has been described as Scullyesque.
Soon after the series finale of Person of Interest, The Washington Post has a story which makes it sound like the ideas behind the show could become reality: How artificial intelligence could help warn us of another Dallas.