It only really hit home just how obsessed I’d become with Outlander when I found myself re-watching the DVD extras from the first season at 4 in the morning, sampling the delights of the featurette: The Making of the Kilt. This was despite having been bored stiff watching it the first time round. It was then I realised two things about myself: I am slightly unhinged and I need to get a life, but obviously only once the second season of Outlander had finished.
And how was the second season? Well, as a rule, no TV producer in his right mind would move the show’s setting and get rid of most of the main characters that he has so deftly set up in the previous season. The demands of the story meant that is precisely what happened.
It therefore speaks volumes for the source novels that Outlander can afford to be so cavalier with its characters. You missed the old ones for sure but the new French ones also whetted your interest, and were incredibly well-cast. And as for the look! Well, Outlander must be one of the best produced shows around –the costumes, the set design, the music. Soundscapes usually pass me by but the background music, particularly in the Je Suis Prest episode, was outstanding.
Diana Gabaldon, the author of Outlander has been quoted as saying Outlander is not a romance story. However, the romance between Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) is the very heartbeat of the show. It’s why people are so obsessed about the series. But if season one was your everyday romance story – boy meets girl, girl pisses off boy, boy pisses off girl, boy gets back in her good books, season two is definitely a romance for grown-ups.
So whereas the love story in season one was an enjoyable watch, in season two we are faced with a Claire and Jamie often at cross purposes with each other. That meant a rather uncomfortable watch for someone like me who, despite the advancing years, has doggedly insisted on remaining emotionally immature.
Secondly, and it took me a while to realise this, I sorely missed the Jamie of old. To meet the demands of the story both Claire and Jamie are no longer the same people they were in season one, but more so in the case of Jamie.
This is because in Outlander, unlike most TV dramas, our hero doesn’t have a traumatic experience, deal with his demons for the best part of an hour and then go back to being himself in the next episode, having apparently forgotten all about it.
In season one Jamie was on the cusp of becoming a man so there was a boyish charm to him, an innocence, a naivety, an idealism which Sam Heughan managed to nail with consummate ease. Thanks to Gabaldon’s creation and Heughan’s acting, that version of Jamie must be one of the most endearing fictional characters ever created. (How Heughan didn’t get nominated for a string of acting awards for season one I have no idea).
By season two that Jamie is gone. There were the odd glimpses; when he catches Fergus stealing Sawny; talking in Gaelic to his niece: the bed scene with Claire after the Gaelic prayer and his quip at the Stones asking Claire to tell Frank he hates him to the bones. But that’s about it.
Exactly how different this new Jamie has become is highlighted by the drastic change in Jamie’s relationship with his uncle Dougal (Graham McTavish). Previously Dougal ran rings round Jamie. In this season it is definitely Jamie who has the upper hand.
As for Caitriona Balfe, she proved yet again she is one of the best screen actors around. The Faith episode, in particular, showcases how good an actor she is but her acting is incredibly detailed throughout. Tobias Menzies as Frank was just as brilliant, making sure we understand Frank’s pain and judging the performance just right so Frank doesn’t come across as a woos.
However, one of the main joys of this season was that we got to see a lot more of Murtagh, played by Duncan Lacroix whose deft eyebrow acting puts him in the same lofty league as Bill Nighy and Bill Murray. The bromance between him and Jamie is truly a lovely sight to behold.
Oh and while we are talking about acting, particularly fine work by Tom Brittney as Lieutenant Foster and Brendon Patricks as Captain Claremont. All small roles but as Douglas Henshall proved in season one, a fine actor can make the most of a limited amount of screen time.
Just check out the dinner scene in The Watch episode from the first season where Henshall is trying to suss out who Jamie is. Henshall is brilliant. It’s a shame they killed Henshall’s character off, as I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in being up for watching a spin off series of The Adventures of Taran MacQuarrie.
And though I don’t envy the writers having to condense the novel into a TV series, the series did occasionally feel like a slightly scratched record; the story jumping occasionally due to the constraints of trying to fit all the various plotlines into 13 episodes. The clearest example of this being Jamie furious at Claire at the end of the Untimely Resurrection episode and then by the next episode massaging her feet!
Talking of physical contact, there were complaints in the Twittersphere that there was a paucity of sex scenes this time round. In part this was understandable given Jamie’s traumatised state at the start of the series.
Perhaps the actors put their foot down. (Don’t blame them). Maybe the producers felt it wasn’t necessary for the storyline. Or maybe it was simply time constraints. But I can understand the frustration. As a rule, most screen sex is made by men for the benefit of men, so as a woman your immediate reaction on watching it is either sheer incredulity or utter boredom. Outlander was a welcome change. The sex was hot; it was romantic, and it definitely wasn’t boring.
Let’s hope then that in season three there is some great make up sex to keep all those disappointed fans happy. As for me, am I still obsessed? Well, I’ve written this, haven’t I? What do you think? I really do need to get a life…..
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