The second season of “Outlander” got off to a surprising start — especially for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s series of books.
Rather than picking things up where we left off at the end of Season 1, with Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) disembarking in France in the 1700s, the show picks up with Claire back in the 1940s — and not the 1960s, where the book’s flash forward begins.
The change left Claire face to face for the first time with the modern society she left behind, to say nothing of her still-devoted husband Frank (Tobias Menzies). Of course, she’s now married to a different man, and carrying his child.
It’s a dramatic change from the aftermath of events that kicked off the book.
“I felt that was a bit too far to take the audience,” showrunner Ron Moore told TheWrap of the decision to start in the ’40s rather than the ’60s. “You’re going all the way into the portion of the time where Claire has lived in the 20th century for 20 years, she has a full-grown daughter, Frank’s dead…
“There’s a huge amount of information and I thought it was sort of overwhelming,” Moore explained. “It’s already a big change for the non-readers to be in the 20th century again, so let’s be in the 20th century where that story begins.”
Altering the timeline from the book source provided other narrative possibilities to explore. “This is how Brianna will be raised, this is why Frank accepts her back, how that story starts,” Moore said. “We’re still telling the audience the Paris story is a failure. Culloden happened. She comes there in defeat. She’s sad, she’s really heartbroken.”
Despite her sad state, Claire is immediately reunited with Frank, though their reunion is far from happy for either party.
“It’s one of the most beautiful episodes of the season. I just thought it was so tragic for Claire,” Balfe told TheWrap.
At this point, the actress added, Claire thinks Jamie has died and she will never see him again. “She’d lost everything, she’d lost Jamie, obviously their mission failed. But also for Frank, because the guy is like, ‘It doesn’t matter, I”ll take you back, I love you.’ But she’s incapable of giving him anything back. She’s bereft, she’s grieving. I feel like she doesn’t want to hurt him but she thinks the best way to not hurt him even worse is to not give him any hope.
“Like, I’m in love with someone else, I’ve been in love with someone else, you need to know this. It’s so tragic and ugh, it’s so good. It was so good to play, so good to read. It’s just really beautiful material.”
While the first episode featured heavy flash-forward scenes, the rest of Season 2 will return to the 18th century and the story of Jamie and Claire.
“This is really the only episode [with flash-forward scenes],” said Moore. “There’s a couple of flashes, sort of like after the pilot, we saw bits and pieces of Frank, it will be like that.”
“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.