When we left Claire, she was in the clutches of Black Jack Randall again, having been captured by the redcoats as she made a daring attempt to reach the stones at Craigh Na Dun, and hopefully return to her life in the 20th century with her beloved husband, Frank. According to Moore, this is where things get even more interesting. "At the end of the first half of the season, we're caught between Frank and Jamie. There's that moment at the end of the wedding episode where she looks at the two rings on her fingers and realizes that she's trapped, caught between two men, and wonders what she's going do? But when she had an opportunity to leave, she takes it, which says a lot about where she is in her relationship with Jamie. In the second half of the season, as she comes to terms with being in the 18th century, she has to figure out, what does it mean to be married to Jamie Fraser? How will that affect her? Can she adapt to being a married woman in this time? What will she do in this world?
"In the first half of the season, her goal was clear: get back to the stones and go home. In the remaining episodes, it's unclear. She's not sure what she wants to do anymore, and she's groping for an answer throughout the second half."
An Uncomfortable Justice
But first Claire needs to deal with the consequences of her decision to make a run for it. "When Claire disobeys Jamie and breaks her promise to stay in the glen, it causes a huge tumult. She put all these men's lives in danger, and now she has to face the aftermath of that," Moore explains. Jamie's upbringing taught him that this kind of transgression must be addressed by means of physical punishment, which might be traditional among his Highland clan, but does not sit well with his new bride – or with many readers of Gaboldon's series.
Caitriona Balfe, who plays Claire, admits it took some time to come to terms with this controversial plot twist. "It's tough as a modern woman to determine how you feel about it," Balfe says. "On one hand you can rationalize that for a man of that time it was an acceptable form of justice. But then your mind immediately screams, ‘there is never an acceptable form of justice that involved beating.' And that's how Claire feels. She finds it very hard to wrap her mind around what the man that she's fallen in love with is about to do. There's so much disbelief. And so Claire fights back and gives as good as she gets for as long as she can. And that's something that I had a very strong idea about: As Claire, I'm not going to stop fighting. Claire is never a victim, and she never gives up. She never lies down and takes it."
Love Forces a Person to Choose
The early episodes focused on Claire's self-preservation as she came to terms with her strange situation – falling under the protection of the MacKenzies and her role as a healer to the Clan, adjusting to the status and expectations of women in the 18th century and missing Frank and her life in the 1940s. Not to mention her run-ins with the cruel "Black Jack" Randall, the prominent British Army Captain stationed in the Highlands, who is Frank Randall's ancestor and bears a striking resemblance to his great-great-great-great grandson. And while the remaining episodes continue to tell the story of the nascent Jacobite rebellion against the British crown, and delve into superstition and Clan politics, Moore says the main focus is on how Claire and Jamie figure out what married life is going to be like for them. "They've had a unique relationship because when they got married, it wasn't even their idea," Moore explains. "It was forced upon them suddenly. And then they had their long wedding night where they got to know each other for the first time and developed feelings for one another. They are still trying to find their roles as a couple."
"After Jamie punishes her, Claire has to become very honest with herself and honest with him," Balfe says. "And he does the same. It's the beginning of them laying down the geography of their hearts. They have this incredible row, and she says to him, look, if I'm going to stay here, and if I'm going to be your wife, than this is who I am. And this is what you need to know. And this is what I'll accept and not. And he does the same. It was important that even though she may not have been able to accept what he did, she had to come to an understanding of his reasons for it, and that allows her to find a way to forgive him. And that's when they really get to know each other and truly marry each other. They give each other their bond, not under the duress of Dougal's plan or for any political reasons, but because they've decided that they love each other and they want to do it. And we explore what it means for the two of them to stay together, rather than get together."
One glance at the opening credits and you realize that OUTLANDER is a stunning visual tribute to the beauty of Scotland, and establishing those iconic images has been a priority for the entire production team. But the bulk of that work falls on the location and art departments, who are committed to bringing to life the world fans have imagined for years. And there is no setting that has captured fans' hearts more than Lallybroch, Jamie Fraser's ancestral home, and the place he brings Claire to commence their life as husband and wife.
"Claire has known how important Lallybroch is to Jamie for such a long time," says Balfe. "He always had this dream of bringing her home as the lady of Lallybroch, but Claire has a lot of apprehension about this: In the 1940s, the idea that she was going to become a housewife was sort of terrifying to her. In a strange way, going back to the 1740s helps her find her purpose, being useful as a healer full time. During the war, life was on the edge and exciting, and now she finds herself in the same position. It's a confusing time, but Claire slowly realizes that this is the first time she's really had a proper home since she was a very small girl And there's a great moment where she just kind of starts to settle in and realize that, oh, maybe this is actually what I've wanted all along. And then very quickly that rug is torn from under her feet again."
Production Designer Jon Gary Steele was tasked with creating an 18th century home that is warm and intimate, something with a much more human scale than the rooms of Castle Leoch that featured so prominently in the earlier episodes. "Ron (Moore) is a stickler," says Steele. "He wants you to completely feel like you're walking back in time. Which is fun. You can walk through the sets and there are billions of things scattered around. One big challenge is that there are not that many 1700 buildings available. They are either on the National Historic Register and they are very, very strict about what you can do, or they've added on rooms or wings, or there might be roads or freeways or paving."
The Lallybroch exteriors were shot at Midhope Castle, a property close to Edinburgh that was built in the 15th century, which had fallen into disrepair - an unused historic monument that was virtually forgotten, perched next to a sawmill and some old farm buildings. Because the interior was long ago damaged in a fire, the crew built the rooms of Lallybroch on the Cumbernauld soundstage, which is the home base for the entire production. "Jamie is the laird, but Lallybroch is smaller than Leoch and I wanted it to feel more like a home, with a library, and a smaller dining room and furniture that you can sit on and be comfortable," Steele says. "There's a reason we don't have that at Leoch, which was designed as a showcase for Colum's power, whereas when you get to Jamie's house, it is much less rigid and stark than the castle."
While much of the season was shot on the road, and features Scotland's majestic landscape from the Highlands to the coast, viewers will also get to see some of the country's historical buildings in the second half, including Hopetoun House, Blackness Castle, the Village of Culross and Doune Castle. The final episodes also includes the crew's first and only venture across the Scottish border into England, to shoot at Carlisle Castle, which stands in for the forbidding Wentworth Prison, the scene of the most disturbing encounter in the season.
And in addition to the new sets, fans will notice another change concerning Jamie's wardrobe – while he was only seen wearing a tartan kilt in the first half of the season, in his new role as husband and laird, he often dons traditional Highland form-fitting trousers. "We decided in our first fitting with Sam (Heughan) that we were going to introduce trews for Jamie to wear some of the time, in the second half of the season," explains Costume Designer Terry Dresbach. "Jamie's costumes tell a story, and we need to believe him as nothing more than one of the Highlanders in the first part of the season. We then learn he is a laird, a member of nobility, and we wanted to show that transition to Jamie as a man of means. But Jamie will continue to wear kilts; he is still a Highlander, after all."
A Lasting Bond
OUTLANDER is also introducing some new characters, from the flamboyant Duke of Sandringham, played by Simon Callow, to the duplicitous members of the Black Watch, which Moore describes as "the Scottish version of the Mafia – they go around and extort people for protection money, but sometimes help them out as well." Two characters close to Jamie's heart also have prominent roles in several episodes – his sister Jenny, who has been running Lallybroch in his absence and her husband Ian Murray (played by Steven Cree). "Ian is Jamie's best friend going a long way back," Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser, explains. "They fought together in France, where Ian lost his leg. When Jamie sees him again, Ian is a changed man – he can no longer live the life that he wants to live, as a mercenary, a fighter, a hired arm. He's a settled man. He's a grownup. And that's what Jamie faces as well – he has to grow up. He can't always live this life of adventure."
And Jenny, who made an appearance in episode 102 (when Captain Randall first encountered Jamie, and whipped him at Lallybroch) is a force of nature brought to life by Irish actress Laura Donnelly. "It's wonderful to be stuck in between these two strong characters," says Heughan. "Jenny doesn't back down and Jamie certainly doesn't back down. And there's a real standoff between the two of them, and it can be quite fiery. And for once, Claire is the mediator, not the one that's in the midst of the fight. It was really nice to see another side of Jamie, not just the husband or the young warrior; he's a brother. And he feels responsible for what happened to his sister, and he guilty that he's left her to fend for herself."
For Heughan and Donnelly, these roles came fairly naturally. "It's wonderful working with Sam," she says. "We go back a long way, I've known him for about 13 years and we've worked together before. That makes the family bond seem quite real for both of us. We already have that basis in real life which means that we've just been able to build on top of that, which has been really great."
But it's the partnership of Claire and Jenny that is truly formidable, once they get past their differences; in fact EP Maril Davis calls them the "'Thelma and Louise' of the 18th century. They're strong, funny, stubborn and intelligent– they think on their feet. They're also independent and they go after what they want, which was not something that was expected of a woman at that time."
Davis believes the reason the OUTLANDER books and now the series resonate with so many women is that the protagonist is such a strong female character. "Women want to be Claire. There's a sense of fantasy fulfillment in how she was able to step right into the action as a healer when she arrived in this strange world. I think we all want to be in a different time that's exciting and new, and be able to actively participate."
"Claire's strong nature and the fact that she won't back down are the reasons she's survived and can succeed in this world," Davis says. "When you think of all the people she goes up against – Colum, Dougal, Murtagh, Black Jack – she stands up to all of them. She has such a strong sense of self, and it's also why her relationship with Jamie works – traditionally, he would be used to a woman staying behind at home, but because Claire insists on going where he goes, and insists on being an equal partner, they face tremendous challenges and adversaries together."
Geillis Duncan is another strong woman who is a central character in these episodes and in Claire's new life. While Geillis, played by Lotte Verbeek, is Claire's first friend when she arrives in the 18th century, she quickly realizes that she can't really trust the mysterious woman. "Even though she's dying to confide in someone, she's smart enough to know that she has to keep her cards close to the vest," says Davis. "And when the women are charged with witchcraft, Claire is outraged because she can't abide by the injustice of it all. While she knows that her friend Geillis has done a few things that might convince people she is a witch in this time period, Claire expects a fair trial. And she's not confident that they'll get a fair trial even though Claire knows she's innocent and that everything she's done has been in an effort to help someone."
"Geillis is such a polarizing character. Some people love her, and some people love to hate her. But she has a purpose. And I think that's why she's so upset with Claire because she feels like Claire doesn't have a purpose, and maybe isn't fighting for the same things Geillis is fighting for."
The Battle for Jamie's Soul
The first season, like Gabaldon's first book, ends with a devastating confrontation, when Black Jack Randall's obsession with Jamie Fraser reaches a horrifying conclusion. "Jack has been fascinated with this young Highlander for quite some time" Moore explains. "And in the second half of the season, he finally finds a resolution to that. He's also been interested in Claire – he knows that she has some kind of secret, and he's equally determined to get to the bottom of that. He gets to deal with both Claire and Jamie in a very graphic and intimate way, to get his information from both of them. So it's his opportunity to finally bring closure to a story he's been in for a while."
Tobias Menzies, who plays both Captain Randall and his great-great-great-great grandson Frank, describes the sequence at Wentworth Prison as "the culmination of the ongoing battle between Jack and Jamie. It will be discomforting to watch – as it should be. I've been very keen to make it as much psychological as it is physical. The violence that Jack deploys is a tactic. But that's not his aim. The aim is to break Jamie psychologically; to make sure that Jamie dies, and when he does, Jack wants his to be the last face Jamie will think of and see – not Claire's face. He seeks to poison that relationship. His cruelty is not just some sort of voyeurism, it's a genuine investigation of another person, I think. Obviously in a very twisted way. But I was reaching to do that. And I really hope that's what we did."
"There's this bond between them ultimately, a kind of strange, twisted respect," Heughan says. "It's about a man's word. And I think that they both know that if one man says, ‘I'll do everything I can to kill you', then you know this man is going to do everything in his power to do that."