To dismiss “Outlander” as “the show with a lot of sex” rather spectacularly misses the point. Lots of programs, especially on pay cable, display writhing bodies and people with great abs getting busy. The mechanical couplings on most of those shows follows a script so rote that it feels as though a couple of centuries have passed since pay-cable sex actually felt edgy, and it almost never seems real.
“Outlander” is different — truly, thoughtfully different. It shouldn’t be revolutionary that it is forthright and honest about female desire; it shouldn’t be unusual that its depictions of a woman introducing a man to various sexual pleasures are sweet and never infused with a sense of adolescent nervousness or condescending mockery. It shouldn’t be odd that women — well, one woman — isn’t an object in this story, but a flawed and believably contradictory subject. There are more memorable female characters on TV than ever these days, of course, but few of them can be found on ambitious dramas that look like a million (or several million) bucks.
“Outlander” strikes a rare and unusual balance: It paints with bold colors, and yet it’s true to human complexities that are felt rather than articulated.
AV Club: Outlander’s not just sexy—it’s important
That’s the thing about Outlander: It’s not just well-written and lovely to look at. It’s downright immersive.
And while season two of the show isn’t quite as horrific—at least through five episodes—it’s still pretty gut-wrenching at points. Time travel and high society have taken its toll on Claire and Jamie, and at times, viewers are left to wonder if the Sassenach and her lover will make it at all. And even if they do—even if their sexy, sexy lives continue on—will everything ever really be okay for a couple of star-crossed lovers born 200 years apart? That’s the mark of a good serial drama, though: not just the anticipation for each new episode, but the feeling that what you’ve already watched bears some sort of weight in the real world. Outlander feels important—even moreso in its second season.
The New Yorker: Out of Time
But the bond between Claire and Jamie—who has his own scars, literally and figuratively—slowly becomes far more complex, a rule-breaking love affair that the audience roots for on every level.
“Outlander” is, finally, as thoughtful about male vulnerability as it is about female desire, a rarity for television. It’s a quality that makes the show appealingly romantic in multiple senses.
The Globe and Mail
What we have is a gorgeously concocted costume drama (the sets and costumes are stunning), but what makes Outlander a drama so passionately embraced by viewers is the living, breathing authenticity of the two main characters. Especially Claire.
Outlander has been called many things, often erroneously, but the critical acclaim given the ending of the first season at least removed the term “bodice ripper” from most descriptions. It is formidably complex in its layering of history, fantasy, romance, politics and violence. Above all, though, it is uninhibitedly direct in its assertion that history is very different when seen through the eyes of a sturdy woman.
Collider: The French Connection
Rating: ★★★★ Very good / Très bon
For the most part, the first episodes of Season 2 focus on what Outlander does best: it’s lush, emotional, full of wit, and can find warmth in the smallest of scenes. It also sets up its character interactions in ways that often feel like they belong on the stage. There are extended conversations with fascinating layers, and real time given to explore thoughts, feelings, context, and the weight of reactions …
Interesting? Yes. But fitfully involving. The intrigues are small, slow-moving, and fuzzy, and if not for Claire’s voice-over, I’d be lost. Jamie, and especially Claire, are more passive this season, perhaps intentionally. Being “dragonflies in amber” might reflect their personal and cosmic condition, but it makes for tepid drama. I’m not convinced the show is well served by faithfully following Gabaldon’s books. Some of the best choices are deviations, including one that allows Claire’s present-day predicament to mirror Jamie’s plight. Season 2 could represent an epic allegory on sexual healing, as well as acquiring grace for what can’t be changed. But let’s get it on already.
TV Line: The Frasers Take Paris With Stylish, Sexy Aplomb
The TVLine Bottom Line: Clad in the silks and satins of 1700s France,Outlander‘s Jamie and Claire Fraser clean up nicely. What a relief, then, that the Starz series does, too, delivering a second season that explores their complicated relationship amid a historical plot with a looming, deadly deadline.