If you are reading this, I assume you have made it through the stones to the end of the Outlander season 2 finale, Dragonfly in Amber. If you haven’t, then stop now! Go watch it! What are you doing reading posts online? I was completely surprised that they managed to squeeze in every remaining important plot point from the book into these last 90 minutes. I really shouldn’t be surprised at this point. The skill these writers use to make engaging television without losing the major scenes, themes, characters, and heart of the books is like nothing I have ever seen. I am not quite so talented. With an extra 30 minutes of material I could not get my recap into a top 5. So here is my top 6 recap of Dragonfly in Amber.
- Introductions: I don’t think I have been this giddy for new characters and revelations since the first episode premiered. I kept yelling at my tv. “Ah! It’s Roger” “Ah! Bri!” “OMG Claire!” You get the idea. The episode picks up in 1968, in Reverend Wakefield’s study. In a few quick minutes we find out pretty much everyone from the 1940s storyline is now dead. Our setting is the reverend’s funeral. Mrs. Graham and Frank have both passed away in the last few years. Only Claire has survived from that time in the story. Speaking of Claire, she ages so well. By that I mean she actually looks 20 years older and it suits her. This episode jumps timelines much more rapidly than any previous episode has. One timeline is in the past where it is the morning of Culloden. The other is in 1968 where Claire is trying to find peace, but Brianna suspects there is more to her personal history and is chasing the truth down. I found the timeline jumping a little jarring at times. I don’t see how they could have done it differently though.
- Geillis Duncan: She’s ba-ack! Brianna first encounters Geillis, known in 1968 as Gillian Edgars, at the university. This scene has my favorite costume piece of the episode. I want Bri’s emerald coat so badly. Back on topic, Geillis is holding a rally for Scottish independence. Gillian tells the crowd about the failed rebellion in 1745. Brianna realizes that Gillian’s view differs from what she has been taught of Scottish history. As the story unfolds Claire, Roger and Brianna try to reach Gillian before she passes through the stones. Gillian’s research into time travel has her convinced that a blood sacrifice is required. Claire knows this is not the case, but they arrive too late. Gillian has already killed and burned her husband and they see her go through the stones.
- Brianna Randall: For those who haven’t read the books, the appearance of Brianna is interesting. Let me assure you though, it is one of the most important character introductions of the series. Sophie Skelton seems more than up to the task. The first day in Scotland she goes sightseeing with Roger. Their chemistry is excellent. There is some slight romantic tension, as I think there would be with any gorgeous young people. But the performances make it so natural for them to become fast friends. They are both historians and he takes her to Fort William, which gives Bri chills for unknown reasons. She confesses to Roger that she knows some sort of horrible event happened to her parents in Scotland. Her mother has always loved her but seemed distant. Roger agrees to show her the Reverend’s old papers to look for information. We get a great moment from the book when Roger performs a rat satire to chase away the rodents. Soon after the search begins, Brianna finds an entire box labeled Randall and the gig is up.
Bonus! My favorite exchange between the two is as they sit in a pub and Bri is trying to cope with the recent revelations.
Roger: We should keep an open mind.
Bri: Maybe we should keep an open tab instead.
- Claire: As always, Claire is the glue that holds the show together. Caitriona’s performance continues to stun me. My favorite line from her comes in the first moments of her in Reverend Wakefield’s house. “Mrs. Graham had warned me not to spend my days chasing a ghost and so I hadn’t. But now that I was here, the ghosts were starting to chase me.” While Claire thinks Bri and Roger are off on a date, she decides to put her ghosts to rest. She visits a decrepit Lallybroch, with a haunting audio overlay of the ghosts that haunt her there. We hear Jenny and Ian. And Claire can see the ghost of Jamie in the entry to the courtyard. Claire then travels to town where we get my single favorite shot of the episode. Claire gets out of her car and leans back on it, just like the very first episode. It is absolutely brilliant. It drives home just how far we have come. From there Claire visit’s an office to get town records. They actually possess the original document Jamie signed gifting Lallybroch to his nephew. Claire discovers that it is signed by Jamie, Murtagh, and Claire herself. Claire’s signature is blurred. But her first name and maiden name are legible. She also asks for the records on Roger’s family history. We later learn she has discovered Roger is descended from Dougal and Geillis’ bastard son. She sees this as a reason to let Gillian continue through the stones but Roger insists they try to stop her. We also see Claire visit the Fraser stone at Culloden, where she tells Jamie the story of Brianna and says goodbye. In the museum there she sees the piece of amber with the dragonfly that Hugh gave her as a wedding present. As viewers we think it had just been left behind at camp. But it proves she was there. Soon after this scene, Bri storms in telling Claire she knows Frank was not her father by blood. She can do math and Claire returned in April and her birthday is in November. Claire tells her the entire story. Bri doesn’t believe any of it until she witnesses Gillian’s passage through the stones. Brianna and Claire commit to a truth pact that is very reminiscent of the one Jamie made near the beginning. The similarity is not lost on Claire who says, “You are so like your father.”
- Culloden: The events on the day of Culloden begin early in the morning. The British troops are moving and Jamie pleads one last time with the Prince to surrender. Jamie and Claire go into the attic of Culloden house to decide how to proceed. Claire’s suggestion is to kill the Prince with the same poison she gave Colum. After his outrage at the assisted suicide, Jamie starts to entertain the murder plot. Little do they know, Dougal is in there and he overhears the entire thing. Graham McTavish gives an outstanding monologue about how betrayed he feels by Jamie. Then they fight and the fight ends with Jamie and Claire stabbing Dougal with his own dagger. Rupert comes in and sees and agrees to give Jamie 2 hours to get his ducks in a row before he avenges Dougal. Murtagh responds to the information that Jamie killed Dougal with another Murtagh gem of a line. “Can’t say that I’m surprised, only that it took you so long.” We see the signing of the very deed that modern Claire recovered. The smudge is not from time. It is from the single tear Claire sheds as she signs. They send Fergus to Lallybroch to deliver it, saving their adopted son from danger. My first tears of the episode came in this scene. Small as he is, Fergus looks nothing short of a man as he leaves camp. Next Jamie sends Murtagh to lead the Lallybroch men home, assuming things are about to get so chaotic nobody will bother with a handful of deserters. Meanwhile Jamie will take Claire to safety (the standing stones.) After which Jamie will return and fight at Culloden. Murtagh says he will return too. My favorite exchange between them ensues:
Jamie: I said I will not have you dying for nothing.
Murtagh: I won’t be. I will be dying with you.
And then I died from dehydration. I thought I could not cry more. Then we go to the stones with Jamie and Claire. He knows she is pregnant. In all the chaos he has noticed she hasn’t had her “courses” in two months. I love this tiny part of the story. Through everything with the war, she is still the focus of his world. Sam Heughan has one of his shining moments as he tells her what to tell Frank. Then they kiss (and more) goodbye and he leads Claire to the stones as the cannons begin in the distance. She begs him to come, but he knows he can’t. He doesn’t hear the same buzzing from them. Incidentally, both Bri and Roger can hear the stones. Before going through, Claire gives Jamie the piece of Amber. This lets us know that he did in fact return to Culloden, and the amber was found in the aftermath. When Claire saw it in in the museum it was just further confirmation of his fate. Jamie gives her his father’s ring and she promises to name the baby after Brian. We then get an excellent shot of Jamie’s hand on hers as they approach the stone.
- Through the Stones: If you read beyond the jump in my very first recap of this season’s premiere, you will know I mentioned the empty ring in the first scene. In this episode we recognize that ring as Brian’s. We also learn that in addition to blood sacrifice, Gillian Edgars believed you needed gemstones. It seems she was half right. Clearly something about the passage entirely deteriorated the stone in the ring. As Claire and Brianna descend the hill at Craigh na Dun and make their truth pact, Roger returns from calling the police. Bri encourages him to tell her what he knows. He has found evidence that Jamie survived Culloden. Claire keeps herself from running up the hill. It is easy to see that she is torn between Brianna and what could be. As the sun rises on her face, she declares that if he is alive, she must go back. And that is it! We have made it through the episode!
The next season is ready to pick up with the story of Voyager. We definitely need to know what happens to Jamie in the 20 years without Claire. I think it could go two ways. Either they condense all of it into the premiere, or they spend most of the season on it. My money is on the latter and I think Jamie’s story will be filled in in the first half of the season, much like the France story in this season. Whichever way the writers go, I have faith in their storytelling. The only fact I know for sure is that droughtlander will be far too long.
I want to end this post by asking a favor of you, my readers. I looked back at my first post (you can read it here: http://wp.me/p5SfJT-xp) and I gave a brief rundown of my favorite things. As the season progressed, I got to putting all the details into my top 5. Which do you prefer? Short and sweet? Or talking about every little thing? Let me know!