It’s about to get all spoilery up in here, sassenachs. If you haven’t watched the season two finale of Outlander, “Dragonfly in Amber,” avert your eyes now and do not travel through the stones.
The Battle of Culloden is nigh, and though Claire and Jamie have tried a number of desperate moves over the course of the second season of Outlander to prevent the fateful fight, nothing has worked. In the season two finale, they took one last swing–another hail Mary of sorts–with disastrous results leading directly to the opening events in the 90-minute “Dragonfly in Amber.” Those events were set in 1968. Wait, what?
For the sake of less timey wimey wibbly wobbly-ness, I’m going to recap the episode by time period. The story jumped back and forth between 1968 and 1746 like a billiards ball bouncing back and forth across a pool table. The editing worked exceptionally well for the story, pushing the dramatic tension and heightening emotions. However, that’s not going to translate so well as we look back…
So, 1746. Claire came up with a “screw it all” solution and offered to poison Prince Charles. With him eliminated, the battle wouldn’t happen and the Jacobite rebellion would be over. The range of feelings that played across Jamie’s face are a testament to Sam Heughan’s acting abilities. Jamie was initially shocked–as if someone had punched him in the gut–but you could see him coming to terms with the idea. But as they were ironing out the details, Dougal overheard them. Mad, irrational, emotional, devoted to the cause Dougal. Yeah, it didn’t end so well.
By not so well, I mean Claire and Jamie killed Dougal. Dougal was a wild card, yes, but he was also Jamie’s family. His loss hurt. It got worse when Rupert walked in on the scene and looked at his former friend Jamie with utter disgust and coldness. It was a lesson in how fast things can change. And change they did. Jamie asked Rupert for two hours, and Rupert agreed to wait to turn him in.
Leave it to Jamie to remain practical in such an intense situation. He didn’t despair or lose his head; he took care of business. It was like he had a “in case I’m about to die” checklist running in his head. He had a deed transfer drafted for Lallybroch–dated before Jamie was branded a traitor, so the legality wasn’t an issue–and tasked Fergus with delivering it to his sister Jenny. He left instructions with Murtagh to lead their men away from Culloden. Finally, he took Claire to Craigh na Dun.
He knew Claire had become pregnant again and wanted to send her back through the stones to keep her safe. Because of murdering Dougal, Jamie’s neck was set to have a rope around it. He was either going to die by hanging or in the Battle of Culloden, and either way, he didn’t want Claire to stay. Was it a necessary choice aside from the interesting effects on the story? It’s something I’ve considered again and again. It’s the safest and most secure decision for Claire and her unborn child, and from Jamie’s perspective, that makes it the only course of action.
Their parting was as painful as you’d expect. They’ve found such love in each other in their brief years together–as Claire later tells her and Jamie’s child, Jamie was the love of her life. Heughan and Caitriona Balfe executed the scene beautifully. They didn’t have to break down in sobs to illustrate the sadness. They did it with impassioned looks, gripped hands, and some tears.
So, Claire traveled back. We meet her again in 1968, 20 years later. Claire and her grown daughter, Brianna, are in Scotland. It marked Claire’s first trip back there since the ’40s. They were there to attend the wake of Reverend Wakefield, a colleague of Frank’s we met in season one. The Reverend’s adopted son Roger took an instant liking to Brianna, and rather than a quick one-night trip to Scotland, Brianna and Claire (now Dr. Claire Randall) stayed. This is a good place for me to point out the elegance of the older makeup look they chose for Claire. I don’t know how realistic her appearance is for a 50 year-old, but she does look like she’s aged.
Brianna and Claire’s relationship doesn’t seem bad, but it’s obviously strained. Brianna made a remark to Roger about how her mother lived in another world; she also seemed a little bitter towards Claire for not loving Frank. We don’t know what Frank and Claire’s marriage was like after Claire returned, but at the very least, they had some kilt-shaped baggage to sort through and it’s not exactly the kind of problem Claire could put on the table at counseling. “What’s the problem, Mrs. Randall, don’t you love your husband?” “I do, but there was this man in 1746 I loved more…” She would have been put into an institution.
All of their history is swirling under the surface when Brianna and Roger sort through the Reverend’s paperwork to find information on an “incident” with her parents Brianna had heard about. As she learns Claire went missing for three years, Claire visits familiar places–Lallybroch and the memorial at Culloden, where she assumed Jamie had died, and Frank–who is now deceased–had made her promise to make no mention of Jamie. Frank didn’t want Claire searching through history for him; he wanted her to let Jamie go. So, believing Culloden to be Jamie’s final resting place, she sat down to tell him all about Brianna and to say a word she didn’t say when she came back through the stones in 1746: Goodbye. The scene is one of many tear-inducing points in “Dragonfly in Amber.”
In a turn of events that was not at all surprising even if you haven’t read the Outlander books, Claire tries to tell Brianna the truth about her biological father Jamie Fraser. Brianna had none of it, as you can imagine. She believed her mother to be delusional. Roger, however, was more open-minded. Maybe it’s something about his Scottish background. I think they have more folklore and legend than we do in America. Or maybe he just wants an adventure.
Regardless, let’s pause for a moment to discuss casting. Richard Rankin is spot on as Roger. He captures the character’s charm and slight goofiness. He looked so uncomfortable when Brianna insisted he stay to listen to Claire’s explanation about Jamie. I felt fidgety on his behalf. Sophie Skelton has room to grow as Brianna. The character is somewhat naive so maybe that’s part of her awkwardness in the role, but I’m not entirely sold on Skelton. Not yet.
Brianna doesn’t necessarily believe her mother, but she does come around enough to ask questions about Jamie. The excitement on Claire’s face over getting to tell her daughter about Jamie is sweet. But before Claire got too far into the story, she stumbled upon a way to prove the whole time traveling through a stone business. It came through Gillian Edgars, a.k.a. Geillis Duncan.
Remember, Geillis was a time traveler too and she left in 1968. Claire and Brianna happened to be in town the night Geillis was departing to go to the 18th century. Geillis’ reason for making the jump was because she wanted to further the cause for Bonnie Prince Charlie–which adds another layer to her relationship with Dougal, a Jacobite through and through. Oh, PS: Roger Wakefield is actually a MacKenzie and Geillis and Dougal’s illegitimate child is his ancestor. Small world, eh?
Thanks to some stolen notebooks, Claire has seen Geillis’ research and knows Geillis believed a human sacrifice was required to pass the stones. Since Geillis conveniently hinted at her plans to Brianna and Roger, Claire took them to Craigh na Dun to try to warn Geillis about keeping a low profile in Scotland. She couldn’t stop Geillis from going through the stones because it would have screwed with Roger’s history. However, they arrived a touch too late. Geillis burned her husband and jumped into the stone and disappeared. On the upshot, Brianna has no doubt about her mother’s story now.
With Claire’s time traveling confirmed, Roger decides to share an important tidbit he disocvered. His research shows Jamie escaped the Battle of Culloden. That was all Claire needed to know. She’s going to go back to the 18th century.
If you haven’t read the books, what was your reaction to the jump to the future? Did you suspect who Brianna was? If you have read Diana Gabaldon’s source material, what did you think of the editing? Discuss all the things in the comments or come chat with me on Twitter.