A look back on Outlander Season 2 (and the series overall)

I meant to write this sooner, but … that’s the story of my life. Or at least of this blog. And I tend to get insecure when I don’t know who my audience is. When it comes to Outlander … Well, I don’t actually know any other Outlander viewers – or even readers, for that matter. I’ve never had a conversation with another viewer that extended beyond pleasantries. And the outside perception of Outlander is … frustratingly inaccurate: That it’s a sappy guilty-pleasure bodice-ripper for shallow women, all superficial sex and wish-fulfillment and bla bla bla. You know, the stuff you should be a little bit ashamed of watching. I dunno, that’s obviously one aspect of Outlander, but another aspect of Outlander is that it grounds the central love story in a world that is realistically dirty, unpleasant and cruel. And it takes unusual turns – and bold ones, I’d say. Really, that’s one thing you have to respect about Outlander: this show isn’t afraid to topple its whole premise over and change radically. This is especially true for Season 2. I’ll proceed with spoilers. (And also some Hannibal spoilers.)

Season 2 was different from Season 1, and it looks like Season 3 will be even more different: Not only have Claire and Jamie been separated and she returned to the 20th century, but there was a 20 years time skip on top of that! This ought to change pretty much everything, including the dynamics between all the characters. Bold!

I thought the move from the Scotish Highlands to the Parisian upper crust in the first half of Season 2 was already a big change. I’m sure it did not help Outlander‘s accessibility, btw. Imagine newcomers tuning in, expecting some Highlanders frolicking through the heather, and instead getting people speaking French and discussing politics in fancy clothes! XD But on the show, Paris was always communicated to be an interlude, an interruption, and things would eventually get back to normal: they’d return to Scotland, they’d recover from their traumas, and live happily ever after.

The back half of Season 2 goes on to show that this happiness is short-lived as fuck. One complaint: I think I would have preferred to have one episode dedicated to Claire and Jamie settling in back at Lallybroch. To get a sense of time having passed and to establish the new/old normalcy. It’d also have been nice to see everyone reconnect with Jenny. And with Ian, I guess, but Jenny > Ian.

I had similar issues with Hannibal Season 3. The two story archs were separated by a time skip, but because the Red Dragon storyline immediately started with “Will gets drawn back into the bullshit he tried to leave behind” and has him go see Hannibal practically at once, the effect falls flat. As a viewer, you know rationally that there was a time skip and that they had not seen each other in years. But it doesn’t feel that way because they hadn’t even been apart for one episode. I feel like the effect is less problematic for Outlander – but I am hardly unbiased. There’s a lot I disliked about Hannibal‘s third season. My main issue was that … yeah, it started to feel like Will/Hannibal was all that mattered, so skipping over their separation and throwing them back together at once is symptomatic. For Outlander, it mostly just felt that they had to cover a lot of time and a lot of plot, and this was a moment where the pacing stumbled. Of course, that sort of thing is always in the eye of the beholder. I think I prefer the slow pace of Season 1, but there may be people who like how quickly Season 2 zips along.

The second half of Season 2 returns to Scotland, which is both great and depressing, because we know from the start that the Battle of Culloden will eventually take place and put an end to all of this. The back half of the second season is just full of character deaths! And compare this to Season 1, which had very, very few character deaths. It’s pretty impactful that over the course of just a few episodes, the main cast beomes so much smaller and sadder – every death is somehow really touching. :( Goddammit.

I’m sot of expecting everyone but Jamie to die at Culloden, which is tough because Murtagh is my favourite character of the bunch, haha. D: Seriously, I can’t help but love characters like Murtagh. Quietly loyal, rough exterior but deeply caring? You don’t really notice him at first, but after a few episodes you realize that he’s always been there to be supportive and protective of Jamie. Murtagh was Team Jamie before it was cool. ;_;

With the season finale, Outlander becomes a much more complex show – structurally, I mean. Outlander started out with a very simple structure: just one POV character (Claire), telling just Claire’s story in a straight-forward manner. Now, things get more complicated and there are new POV characters, and it’s crossing the centuries. Time travel becomes more important, and it’s revealed how intertwined the characters really are across the eras. That was fun. I liked Brianna’s reaction when Claire told her the whole story: utter disbelief and anger – of course. To Brianna, it all just sounds like a pathetic wish-fulfilment fantasy – and this mirrors the prejudice that Outlander is facing in real life, as I talked about at the beginning of this post. It’s amusingly meta. :3

Yup, I just decided that this post is long enough now. I’ll just have to make new posts if I remember something I’ve forgotten to talk about.


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