The 2nd season of Outlander has reached its end. I’ve been writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode right after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.
I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!
Outlander, episode 213: “Dragonfly in Amber”
The official synopsis (via Starz):
Flashing forward, Claire revisits the past and reveals to her daughter, Brianna, the truth. Back in the 18th century, the Battle of Culloden has arrived, and Jamie must do everything he can to save the ones he loves.
The Outlander season finale… sob.
Major plot points:
- In 1968, Claire comes to Inverness with her grown daughter Brianna for the funeral of the Reverend Wakefield, where they meet the adult Roger (who was oh-so-adorable as a small child).
- Brianna and Roger hit it off and go exploring, including exploring the secrets of Claire and Frank (who is apparently recently deceased).
- Claire visits Lallybroch and Culloden, reliving memories of the past.
- Brianna learns the truth about her parentage, but doesn’t believe Claire until she sees Geillis go through the stones.
- Back in 1746, it’s the day of the battle of Culloden. Desperate, Claire and Jamie scheme to kill Prince Charles in order to stop the rebellion, but they are overheard by Dougal, who attacks Jamie.
- Jamie kills Dougal. Rupert witnesses the death blow, and agrees to give Jamie two hours to get Claire to safety before he tells others of Dougal’s murder.
- Jamie takes Claire back to Craigh na Dun. Claire does not want to leave Jamie, but he makes her go in order to protect their unborn child.
- Jamie and Claire say good-bye, and she returns through the stones to the 20th century.
- In 1968, Roger and Brianna tell Claire that they’ve discovered proof that Jamie did not die at Culloden, as Claire has believed for the past twenty years.
Wow. What an intense and heart-wrenching season finale — the perfect conclusion to a tumultuous, emotional 2nd season.
Where to start? The 1960s are probably a good place. Well done, show, for the great use of period music, hair styles, and even TV programs. Claire looks amazing in her mod hair-do, silver streaks and all. Claire is one hell of a woman, no matter her age or the era.
Brianna… well, let’s just say that I may need time for her to grow on me. And it’s not the character — book Brianna is fairly bratty and abrasive at first too. No, it’s the actress and her acting. She wasn’t terrible, but she does come across as pretty strident, and I wish we’d had a chance to see positive interactions between Bree and Claire before jumping so quickly into Brianna accusing Claire of adultery, lying, and being a crazy-pants.
Roger is awfully cute, though, and he sang a terrific rat satire for Brianna. Adorable.
Claire’s journey back through her memories is a heartbreaker. First, she visits Lallybroch, now a boarded-up, desolate shell, where she hears bits and pieces of past voices in her mind, including the romantic poem that is so important in the book.
Next, she goes to Culloden, where she visits the stone marker for Clan Fraser and spends what appears to be hours telling Jamie all about his daughter and their life over the past 20 years.
It’s clear that Claire has never gotten over Jamie. She carries such a heavy air of sadness with her. What must it have been like for Brianna to grown up with a mother whose heart was always elsewhere? And how did Claire and Frank manage to stay married all these years, when they both knew she loved someone else? On the plus side for Claire, apparently she focused all her pent-up passion and devotion into her career — she became a surgeon! You go, Claire!
I got absolute chills in the scene where Brianna is waiting for Roger at the university and approaches a crowd to hear a charismatic speaker talking about Scottish nationalism. Just the sound of that voice — it’s Geillis Duncan, pre-time travel, going by her original name, Gillian Edgars. Wow. I didn’t realize she’d be in this episode (although I suppose I should have anticipated a brief appearance by Geillis, to match book events). Back in season 1 at the witch trial, Geillis told Claire that she’d come from 1968. Toward the end of the episode, Claire, Roger, and Brianna are just in time to see Geillis disappearing through the stones. It’s eerie and lovely all at the same time.
Okay, back in the bad old days of 1746, the battle seems lost before it’s even begun. Seriously, I wanted to throttle the Bonnie Prince, who refuses to see that his army consists of starving, broken down men who stand absolutely no chance against British soldiers. This is just tragic, and it’s awful to watch, knowing what’s about to happen. No wonder Jamie and Claire feel desperate enough to consider regicide… too bad Dougal showed up in time to interfere.
The fight between Jamie and Dougal was well-done, with every ounce of Dougal’s passions, resentments, and jealousies apparent in every move.
And oh, that good-bye scene between Jamie and Claire. What is there to even say about it? I thought it was done so beautifully, with Jamie guiding Claire to the stone and holding her hand up to it, knowing she doesn’t have the strength by herself to leave him willingly. Tears… all the tears…
There are big moments — Claire and Jamie’s good-bye tops the list — but small moments of great meaning and power too.
Jamie sending Fergus back to Lallybroch, after signing the estate over to Jenny’s son so the property won’t be lost to the family. The good-byes between Jamie, Claire, and Fergus. Murtagh agreeing to see the Lallybroch men safely away from battle, but vowing to return to fight and die by Jamie’s side.
A few great little call-backs to earlier themes and episodes… My favorite is Roger saying that Craigh na Dun (where Geillis has just set her husband on fire) is like a “f*cking barbecue”, echoing Geillis’s line from the season 1 witch trial. Having Roger and Brianna tour Ft. William, the scene of Jamie’s flogging, is all kinds of chilling. And let’s not forget that Geillis murdered one husband in season 1, so seeing her get her start by murdering her first husband here in season 2 seems appropriate (and disturbing).
I’m not sure I loved the use of the dragonfly in amber as a token from Claire to Jamie, later seen by Claire in the Culloden museum. It’s kind of a big chunk of rock to tuck inside one’s shirt and carry into battle.
And really, I’m not sold on Brianna, but maybe she’ll grown on me. It didn’t help that Claire has a couple of lines where she talks about Brianna being so like Jamie. It would be fine if there were actually a resemblance, either in looks or gestures or body language, but I’m sorry — apart from red hair, there really isn’t a resemblance, and it felt forced for Claire to act as if there was.
I know some critics and viewers are already complaining that the entire season was a build-up to Culloden — and then the battle didn’t actually happen within the scope of the show. I suppose that’s a fair criticism, but it doesn’t particularly resonate with me as a book reader. In the book (Dragonfly in Amber), we never actually see the battle of Culloden. Jamie forces Claire to leave before the battle, and all we know of it is what Claire knows from history — the British won, the Scots lost, and Jamie and Claire’s scheming and plotting were all for nothing.
I’m okay with the season ending as it did, particularly knowing that the 3rd book fills in so many of the blanks. We can only assume that season 3 will pick up with Jamie and Claire’s story and fill us in on the battle and all of those lost years for both of them.
It’s been a beautiful, crazy, turbulent season, from Paris aristocrats and royalty, Versailles and brothels, to Scottish lairds and chieftains, Highlands and moors. Visually, it’s been stunning, and oh, the Paris costumes! Kudos and much love and admiration to all of the cast and crew and production team!
The idea of at least two more seasons of Outlander, as confirmed by Starz, is such a thrill. Bring on season 3!
Yup, so do we all, Claire.