Fans were told there would be changes, and if you’re a book purist and a fan of A Song of Ice & Fire, aka Game of Thrones, the word “changes” can actually mean “Destroy awesome source material.” Fear not, Outlander fans. So far, so good. Changes from page-to-screen take place immediately.
If you haven’t read the novels, proceed with caution. POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD!
In A Dragonfly in Amber, we find Claire not in the late 1940’s, but the late 1960’s. She’s in Scotland, at the Reverend’s home, but has in tow her college age daughter, Brianna. However, showing that would be a very confusing thing to do on screen. It was confusing enough for non-book friends with her jumping forward to it being two years to from her disappearance. She does not return to the date of her disappearance. There is a 203-year difference, give or take a few months, between where she’s from, and where she traveled. The amount of time she spent in the 1740’s is the same amount of time she was missing in the 1940’s. Got it? Okay.
Claire’s narration is going to be key this season. In the novels, before she leaves, Jamie tells her, “I am asking you to tear out your heart and live without it.” Her first narrated words, “I wished I were dead,” with her anguished screams and sobs at the foot of a Craigh nah Dun, are not in the novels, but work perfectly on screen and convey that sentiment. Claire not recognizing the car horn, and appearing confused by the noise, car and the dress of the stranger who has happened upon her, were great. It’s the same when she’s in the hospital room, looking out at the busy, noisy street with the loud radio playing. She’s lived a much quieter existence the past two years. There’s relief of sorts when she is told the year she is in, but absolute devastation when she is told that the British still won the Battle of Culloden. It isn’t just that Jamie is dead, he would be at this point in time anyway, she knows this. It’s knowing that everything they did to change the outcome of the Jacobite rebellion was for not, and Jamie’s death, she assumes, was pointless.
It looks like the gemstone she used for passage through the stones was the ruby ring given to Jamie by his father. This doesn’t happen in the novels. As a matter of fact, she may not have traveled with a stone at all during this time. This ring is only important because in later novels, it’s what Brianna uses. It’s easy enough for the stone to be replaced, the ring is charred, but otherwise in good shape, making available for later use. I’ve seen a few complaints online about this. She doesn’t have her pearls, it appears, which were of great importance to her, unless they were in her clothing that Frank burned. There isn’t a letter authenticating the gowns nor are there conversations about Jamie with Mrs. Graham, who we know believes this story, as last season it was she who suggested that something supernatural had happened to Claire.
In the novels Claire discusses coming back through the stones, and it’s understood that it was incredibly heartbreaking and traumatic, but the readers learn about what happened 20 years later, after Frank has died. Speaking of Frank, what readers know little of him and his reactions in the novels. Bits and pieces are given throughout the very long series in regards to Frank’s reaction. In the novels, the doctors tell Frank that Claire is pregnant. She tries to tell them what has happened to her, but everyone thinks she’s absolutely lost her damn mind. She even attempts to force Frank to leave her, as she’s inconsolable with grief over leaving Jamie.
Tobias Menzies is just wonderful here. Without the change in story, this wouldn’t have been possible without the use of flashbacks, which often get in the way of telling the story. There’s a small flash of BJR that Claire imagines as Frank comes toward her with a bit of speed, and she is terrified. Frank’s reaction is perfect. His reaction to the news of the pregnancy is perfect. It’s really Reverend Wakefield who impresses upon him, after Frank admits his sterility (another tidbit that readers weren’t told he had known this early), that he is a man without a child, and the baby is a child without a father.
The newspaper headlines are constantly about Claire, her whereabouts, who she is/what she is. A shot of Claire with the headline “Kidnapped By The Fairies,” leads to Frank angrily tell Reverend Wakefield, “The Devil take the press.” Who responds “That’s not likely. Even the devil has some standards.” This interaction appears to spur Frank’s decision and ultimatum for Claire. They will have a fresh start, away from the headlines, in Boston, where he has been offered a job at Harvard. He will raise the baby as his own, but Claire must never look into what happened to Jamie or discuss it with the child, as long as he is alive. He also allows Claire to keep her silver wedding band when he sees the anguish on her face as she begins to remove the ring. This is something similar to what happens in the novels, that Claire speaks of years later, but there was never the undertone of understanding or acceptance on Frank’s part there as there appears to be here. It could be that there is a bias readers have when it comes to Frank and Jamie.
This half of the episode ends with Frank and Claire arriving in New York on a Pan Am flight. As she hesitates to take the last step off of the plane, Frank holds out his hand and she smiles. This transitions to Jamie’s hand helping her off the ship in France. This is where the page to screen changes might become a worry. In the novels, it’s 1744 when they arrive in Le Havre, France. On the show it is 1745. This shaves off a lot of time between arriving in France and the Battle of Culloden back in Scotland. There are some very important moments during this time that are absolutely wonderful in the novels. Hopefully they will include them all, but one important issue- that of pregnancies, will be most affected by this timeline being sped up.
Murtagh is as wonderful as always, if not more groomed than ever before. Jamie is still in pain and bandaged, compounded by the fact that he has severe sea sickness. He is still tormented by the events at Wentworth prison, telling Claire “Sometimes I feel his touch.” The aftermath of Jamie’ s torture and imprisonment did not follow the novels as closely as it should have, it felt rushed, which has started this season off a bit strange where Claire and Jamie are.
Robert Cavanaugh was pretty great as Jared Fraser. Jamie showing his scars as his “in” into the Jacobite rebellion was unexpected, mainly because in the novels he isn’t as skeptical. He has asked Jamie to work for him in the past and welcomes him taking over the business while he attends matters in the Caribbean.
Stanley Weber as the Comte St. Germain was sufficiently villainous. The scene on the docks is pulled directly from the novels and sets up one of the big story-lines in the novels. Jared’s reaction to what was playing out is great, he’s very neutral, but pleased at the outcome- the Patagonia, the Compte’s ship, must be burned due to the smallpox outbreak that Claire discovered.
Overall, a great episode, one that set a few fears aside. We knew Menzies would be back as BJR this season, but seeing him as Frank and getting to see this version of events upon Claire’s retturn, worked very well. What’s needed? More sex. Don’t worry, it’s coming.