Welcome back to our TV coverage of Outlander book two. Read our past reviews and recaps here.
There are few things that I didn’t like about tonight’s season two finale of Outlander. The abrupt transitions between Claire’s past and present never quite came together well. The ending was rushed and a tad cheesy. “I have to go back,” Claire breathily exclaims at the end when she learns that Jamie did in fact survive the Battle of Culloden, honestly the only true moment where Caitriona’s performance slips into over-acting.
I don’t typically like to dwell on the bad though, especially if they’re not really problematic. For a finale as ambitious as this one, it does more good, emotionally-charged and intriguing throughout; it’s the episode I’ve been waiting for since I cracked open Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber a few years ago.
From the opening shot, we know we’re in the 1960s, to be exact 1968, and the camera pans from the television to Roger Wakefield (Richard Rankin), who looks handsome and strong but completely lost. He’s at his father’s funeral, Reverend Wakefield, who we’ve met a few times with Frank Randall before. An older Claire, looking elegantly poised with a streak of gray in her dark hair, gives Roger her condolences and introduces her daughter, Brianna (Sophie Skelton), a sprite American girl with hair as red as Jamie’s.
What makes “Dragonfly in Amber” so riveting is the introduction of Brianna and Roger, and that is all squeezed into an extended 90 minute episode. While bookending the season with Claire’s present timeline initially made sense, it’s this episode that made me a little disappointed that we couldn’t have met Brianna and Roger earlier, maybe spent a little more time with them and see them more properly investigate Claire’s time traveling confession.
Claire’s confession and Jamie’s daughter are not just only revelations made, but we meet an old character thought long gone. Gellis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek) is alive and well in 1968, going by Gillian here. She’s rallying support for the White Roses, pretty much a version of the Jacobite cause for this time. She has a few interesting encounters with Brianna and Roger, which eventually leads to Claire finding her. Only by the time they try to stop Gellis, she had wrongly sacrificed her husband to time travel through the stones. It’s this moment that makes Brianna believe her mother’s story of traveling to the past. We also learn earlier that Gellis is Roger’s eight times great-grandmother.
That also means Roger is a descendant of Dougal, who finally meets his demise in this episode. I’m not too sorry to see Dougal finally go, but I mostly feel bad about the predicament it finds Jamie and Claire in right before the inevitably disastrous battle at Culloden. While the 1960s were interesting and a total change of scenery for the series, these past moments were extremely emotional and fast paced, which helped communicate the urgency of their situation and intensified that last heart-breaking scene between Jamie and Claire.
Major props to season two of Outlander for its ambitious storytelling and the incredible filmmaking and performances that accompanied it. While not perfect, this season gave us some thought-provoking and very moving moments. “Dragonfly in Amber” holds a lot of promise for the next season and all that comes after, and “mark me” once again, I find myself feeling so impatient for what’s next.
A couple extra thoughts on “Dragonfly in Amber”:
Episode Rating: 8.5/10
Season 2 Rating: 9/10
Outlander is rated TV-MA and returns to Starz for season three in 2017.