Like many avid Outlander fans, I have been watching the Second Season waiting and wondering when the show was going to soar, not just entertain, but lift us up to those high emotional ecstatic states we loved in Season 1. Though not every episode was equally intense in Season 1, there were enough dramatic and romantic “highs” to keep us wanting more. Unforgettable scenes we watched over and over include: Claire setting Jamie’s dislocated shoulder (1.1); Claire cleaning Jamie’s wounds by the fire (1.2); the Wedding vows and the unparalleled sex scenes (1.7); Claire’s choice to stay in Craigh na Dun (1.11); Jamie’s rehabilitation after his rescue from Wentworth (1.12). Along the way were many amusing and suspenseful scenes. Who can forget precious lines, like, Dougal’s “the idea of grinding your corn does tickle me“ (1.6), and Geillis’s dramatic confession at the witchcraft trial (1.11). Outlander Season 1 was an extraordinary show that made us see the visual and aural possibilities of adaptation. We didn’t just imagine but saw Claire’s nursing skills and Jamie’s fighting abilities in action. We were presented with an example of how a dramatic TV series could enrich and add to our favorite novel.
We have now watched 12 episodes of Season 2, and there have been a number of high moments, but were they as dramatic an experience? In Season 2, the best episodes seemed to cluster in the second half while a number of the early episodes in Paris and about politics felt rather flat. The most dramatic moments were tinged with sadness in Season 2. They include: losing Faith and the graveyard scene (2.7); Murtagh’s revenge on Sandringham (2.11); Claire ministering to Alex Randall and his deathbed wish (2.12); Colum’s plea to die and his deathbed wish for his clan (2.12); the death of Angus after Prestonpans (2.10); Claire’s traumatic flashbacks to World War II in the training camp (2.9); the attempted rape of La Dame Blanche (2.4).
From my lists of favorites in each season thus far, there is a marked difference in tone and content between the First and Second Season, where romance, love, and passion of Claire and Jamie featured much more prominently in First Season. In the Second Season, the dramatic moments often included loss, grief, and the demise of secondary characters like Alex, Colum and Angus. Having read Gabaldon’s books and knowing the history of Culloden, the Second Season seems to have nowhere to go but downwards to its tragic conclusion.
Yet, in Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber, there were some passionate, and many tender expressions of love that didn’t make it to the screen. One scene that broke my heart (and might yet be included in the finale) occurs in the kirkyard of St. Kilda (Chapter 5 My Beloved Wife). Because of the rearrangement of the opening of the book in the show, this scene might not have the impact it did on Claire or the reader if it is shown.
There are also a few romantic scenes in the book that many readers have highlighted in Facebook groups or in Goodreads. One occurs when Claire compares her self to Jamie’s petite ex-girlfriend, Annalise.
“Well, I’ll tell ye, Sassenach, ‘graceful’ is possibly not the first word that springs to mind at thought of you.” He slipped an arm behind me, one hand large and warm around my silk-clad shoulder.
“But I talk to you as I talk to my own soul,” he said, turning me to face him. He reached up and cupped my cheek, fingers light on my temple.
“And, Sassenach,” he whispered, “your face is my heart.”
It was the shifting of the wind, several minutes later, that parted us at last with a fine spray from the fountain. We broke apart and rose hastily, laughing at the sudden chill of the water.
Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, Chapter 11 Useful Occupations
Another scene between Claire and Jamie occurs when he still has nightmares about what Black Jack did to him and does not understand how love can be so closely linked to violence:
Jamie says, “Claire. To feel the small bones of your neck beneath my hands, and that fine, thin skin on your breasts and your arms…Lord, you are my wife, whom I cherish and I love wi’ all my life, and still I want to kiss ye hard enough to bruise your tender lips, and see the marks of my fingers on your skin.”
To which she replies:
“Do you think it’s different for me? Do you think I don’t feel the same?” I demanded. “That I don’t sometimes want to bite you hard enough to taste blood, or claw you ’til you cry out?”
I reached out slowly to touch him. The skin of his breast was damp and warm. Only the nail of my forefinger touched him, just below the nipple. Lightly, barely touching, I drew the nail upward, downward, circling round, watching the tiny nub rise hard amid the curling ruddy hairs.
The nail pressed slightly harder, sliding down, leaving a faint red streak on the fair skin of his chest. I was trembling all over by this time, but did not turn away.
“Sometimes I want to ride you like a wild horse, and bring you to the taming—did you know that? I can do it, you know I can. Drag you over the edge and drain you to a gasping husk. I can drive you to the edge of collapse and sometimes I delight in it, Jamie, I do! And yet so often I want”—my voice broke suddenly and I had to swallow hard before continuing—”I want…to hold your head against my breast and cradle you like a child and comfort you to sleep.”
My eyes were so full of tears that I couldn’t see his face clearly; couldn’t see if he wept as well. His arms went tight around me and the damp heat of him engulfed me like the breath of a monsoon.
“Claire, ye do kill me, knife or no,” he whispered, face buried in my hair. He bent and picked me up, carrying me to the bed. He sank to his knees, laying me amid the rumpled quilts.
“You’ll lie wi’ me now,” he said quietly. “And I shall use ye as I must. And if you’ll have your revenge for it, then take it and welcome, for my soul is yours, in all the black corners of it.”
The skin of his shoulders was warm with the heat of the bath, but he shivered as with cold as my hands traveled up to his neck, and I pulled him down to me.
Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, Chapter 17 Possession
It is not possible to show every scene from Gabaldon’s novels, but I highlight these passages to make a point. The lack of sex and romance scenes in Season 2 was a choice (or inadvertent slip with so many different writers?) that the producers made. I am still glad that Season 2 gave us lavish Parisian costumes, and made the mud, the starvation, the history of the Jacobite rebellion come alive. But I also wished that more time was devoted to what Gabaldon readers really enjoy, namely the interaction between Jamie and Claire, their domestic trials and their passions, and yes, the sexual “conversation” between them. We are grown-ups… we don’t need the cutaway shots and the fade to black!
By: Eleanor Ty