When Outlander began with Season 1, we knew this was a special show in its own right, filled with heightened drama, real stakes and compelling characters. Season 2 had a lot to live up to, and by the end of it, it was clear that everything had changed and all the better for it. This was thanks to its multi-layered story, having different format by being condensed to 13-episodes instead of 16, having the bulk of the season spent away from Scotland, and ending with a “new status quo” finale that pushed the show in a brand new direction. This was its most ambitious season, not least considering that the book it was adapted from (‘Dragonfly in Amber’) was widely considered to be a very ambitious and tricky book, and even showrunner, Ron Moore himself admitted that. For the most part, it was a solid adaptation, but Moore’s statement ended up foreshadowing some of issues this series would face.
When the action shifted back into Scotland, there was some momentum lost in the storytelling, but it was the fact that we never got to witness anything of the actual Battle of Culloden that proved to be the ultimate letdown. All that build up and all that foreshadowing only for the payoff to be anticlimactic was saddening; maybe they will probably show some of that in Season 3, but it was deeply unfortunate that this didn’t crop up in Season 2’s grand finale. This season lacked some consistency, but that never stopped it from being a great series for when the series worked it, it delivered phenomenally. There were a lot of great iconic moments and great episodes with the particular standout being episode 7 (‘Faith’), which dealt with the fallout of Claire’s miscarriage and it produced tear-jerking and truly heartbreaking results. The production and costume design is still exquisitely detailed and the score is very operatic.
The performances were great all round with Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan still both being the true beating heart of the show with electrifying chemistry, whilst Tobias Menzies continues to prove that he’s one the show’s secret weapons in his dual role of Frank Randall and Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall despite having limited screen time this time around. There were a lot of welcome returned faces form Season 1, including Graham McTavish, Stephen Walters, Laura Donnelly and Lotte Verbeek, with Duncan Lacroix shining in particular as Murtagh Fraser.
There were also plenty of new faces in Paris with Rosie Day as Mary Hawkins, Dominique Pinon as Master Raymond, Romann Berux as Fergus and Frances de la Tour as Mother Hildegarde standing out from the crowd. By the time the finale rolled in, we were introduced to new faces that will come to define the future of the show as we go from the core two in Claire and Jamie to a core four with the inclusion of Roger Wakefield and Claire and Jamie’s daughter Brianna. Newcomers Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin are both perfectly casted, immediately feeling right at home in the world of Outlander from the very beginning and both delivering a chemistry that was genuine and sweet.
Overall, Series 2 of Outlander did a solid job of adapting a tricky source material and set the series on course for a brighter future. The production design is still impressive by bringing to life Diana Gabaldon’s world, and the cast bring their A-game, particularly from leads Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan. If this season could be summed up in one word, it would be: change. While it still maintained the spirit and heart it had going for it in its first season, the new status-quo had more of a chance to be shaken up, especially in the finale. This included a lot of familiar faces coming and going by the end and two new main characters coming into the fold with Sophie Skelton’s Brianna and Richard Rankin’s Roger, so things were in a state of flux. Everything has changed, and the possibilities this opens are exciting enough to draw in new fans as well as old, which is something the showrunners should take full advantage of.
Dir: Metin Hüseyin, Douglas Mackinnon, Mike Barker, Philip John
Scr: Ronald D. Moore, Ira Steven Behr, Anne Kenney, Toni Graphia, Richard Kahan, Matthew B. Roberts, Diana Gabaldon
Starring: Caitriona Balfe, Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies, Gary Lewis, Graham McTavish, Andrew Gower, Stanley Weber, Rosie Day, Frances de la Tour, Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin
Music: Ben McCreary
Number of Episodes: 13
Episode Run time: 51-88mins
Outlander: Season 2 is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray.