Now that's how to do a cliffhanger.
"Outlander" wrapped up the first half of Season 1 on Starz with a heart-pounding episode of surprises (like that delightful wee laddie cameo), suspense, heartbreak, interrupted outdoor romance, death, shock and one jaw-dropping ending. Just as Claire Fraser was about to be assaulted and tortured by Black Jack Randall (the villainous ancestor of her 1940s husband Frank), her current spouse, Jamie Fraser appeared in the window with a gun.
Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore penned the episode and Access Hollywood spoke with him to find out more about some of the engaging and unexpected moments, like those scenes with Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies), set at least six weeks after Claire's disappearance. The EP also told us about putting in wee Roger Wakefield.
And with six months before the show returns for the second half of Season 1, he also gave us a few hints at what we can look forward to, starting on April 4, 2015 on Starz.
Access: Whose idea was it to put more of Frank in the 1945 period, dealing with the loss of Claire and those scenes with the police and then the people who tried to fake him out?
Ronald D. Moore: It was something that happened in the writers' room as we were going through the season and at the beginning of the year and just sort of breaking down individual episodes and sort of carving out what we thought each hour would be. And after the wedding show, we knew sort of where we wanted the cliffhanger to be, and then it was, 'Okay, well, what's the rest of that episode?' and we started kicking around different ideas and somebody in the room just said, 'We could cut to Frank and see what he's doing.' We hadn't done that to date. We had never cut cold to him to see what he was doing after Claire left and we all kind of got tickled by that idea. And I think, for me, the moment when I saw the show -- I sort of had the image of starting over black and hearing the telephone ring, which is so anachronistic to the show, and then suddenly you pull up and you're in the police station. I love the idea of starting in Frank's world as a way of just sort of throwing the audience for the moment and doing something unexpected and something that would be surprising even to the fans of the book [because] this isn't in the book, but it's all legitimate stuff that is pretty much what Frank would be doing or would have done. And the more we talked about it, the more we all became in love with the idea of cutting back and forth and doing the parallel stories, because it was a new direction for the show and then it all kind of led towards that sequence at the end of Claire and him running up towards Craigh na Dun, sort of at the same moment, or at least the same moment in the show, and that seemed like a great ending and we could still get to the cliffhanger and it all just sort of really came together.
Access: It's really haunting when Frank hears Claire through the stones. Whose idea was that? It's a real tearjerker, because you do feel their love and this man's about ready to give up and he hears this sound and then it fades away.
Ron: Yeah, it was something I put in in the story stage when I was writing the story for it -- that they would get up there because there had been an audio component to Claire's experience -- that she had heard something when she was up there initially. And in the book, when she first got up to Craigh na Dun, she actually heard gunfire and she heard more specific sounds than we played in the show. So that idea was still in my head, so I thought it would be interesting to play for a moment -- does Frank hear her voice or is it just the sound of the wind that you can really get that sort of connection through time?
Access: It feels like you guys are having a lot of fun with Tobias [Menzies'] talents on this. He gives so much in both parts. Is part of writing Frank also because you just know you have this great actor in Tobias?
Ron: Oh, absolutely. There's the point in any series where, you know, you stepped into a show with just scripts and ideas in your head of who the characters are, but the deeper in you go, the more you start writing towards your actors. You start learning their voices, you start appreciating what they're good at, what they're not so good at, and you start, you know, particularly [tailoring] their parts for them, so the more we saw of Tobias, we were like, 'Oh, wow. We can really go some places with him,' and we just kept going because we just saw that there was a lot of fertile ground to work with.
Access: [Frank] really erupted in the scene where he was duped. [Tobias] previously told us you see a little bit of Jack in Frank in this episode. I'm curious if you think that also has to do with the fact that [Frank is] just pushed to the brink, or if you think there's a lot of Jack in him that we just didn't know about until then?
Ron: Well, I wanted to play the fact that there is something in Frank that has its roots back in Jack, that they are men connected on some level through blood or through time or through karma or something. But, I wanted to see shadows of Jack Randall come out when this guy got pushed far enough that you would see this sort of violent eruption and see him tempted to go too far and the difference being, of course, that Frank is able to pull back and Jack was not. But they were two men that had gone through combat, they had faced and seen horrible... in Frank's case he had sent men to their deaths and had been deeply affected by it and carried the burden of that down through the war, so they were both soldiers, they both experienced horrible things that had happened in war time and I thought there was something interesting in sort of having an echo of one in the other.
Access: Will we get to see more Frank after this point or is he sort of gone for a while?
Ron: There's not too much more of him this season, but you know, if you know the book, we'll talk more about him in the second season.
Access: Filming difficulties Ã¢â¬â I noticed in the Hugh Munro scene it was very wet on the hillside that day.
Ron: It was very wet (laughs).
Access: How hard was that to deal with from a production standpoint, because it's raining and Sam [Heughan's] hair is soaking, and you're trying to keep Caitriona [Balfe's] hair -- well, Caitriona's hair is allowed to be a little wild sometimes, but still...
Ron: It's a challenge, but we just have to shoot in the elements. We just keep shooting unless it's literally so bad that it's dangerous or you just can't practically do it. But it's hard on the crew. They're out there hauling cameras and equipment up those slippery hills. It's hard on the cast who has to stand out in the rain. It ain't easy, but that's what it is to shoot in Scotland.
Access: What have been sort of the biggest challenges when you look back on the season so far, regarding filming outside in Scotland?
Ron: The weather's certainly been a big challenge. I think also the hours of daylight has been a challenge. When you're shooting through the winter, suddenly the hours of daylight are very, very short and so anything that you're shooting outside for day becomes hard to schedule, hard to get your day complete. And then, the opposite occurs in summertime. The hours of night are so short that anything that's requiring a night scene becomes really hard to schedule. And that was a new challenge that I hadn't really dealt with before and that made scheduling and just sort of completions of scenes and the production requirements all over the place.
Access: So... we got to see little Roger in the mid-season finale. How long have you kept that under your hat? And he's so adorable!
Ron: I know, he's so cute. We had some early conversations about whether we would try to establish him in the first episode, but there was so much to establish in the first episode and having some kid and trying to explain that Ã¢â¬â it was like one element too many. But, we did want to get back to it and when we were working on Episode 8, then it was like a golden chance to get back and to establish Roger, so it was just a nice bit of serendipity.
Access: How are you hoping viewers feel at the end of the mid-season finale -- I mean, the viewers who haven't read the books and who aren't as invested in Claire/Jamie because you guys have done such a great job of doing Claire/Frank?
Ron: Well, I hope that their reaction is similar to mine the first time I read the book. You get to that point and it's a great cliffhanger because you have no idea what's gonna happen next, and how did [Jamie] get in the window? How did he know, and now he's got a gun, and Jack's got the knife on her and you literally have no idea what's going to happen next and that's the perfect point to cut to black. So for new viewers, it should be a classic like, 'Oh my God! I can't believe they stopped there! Wait a minute!' and that they're hankering for the continuation.
Access: What do you want to tease about what's to come when the show resumes in 2015?
Ron: Well, we see some more of Castle Leoch. We will see Geillis again. She'll be a bigger character in the second half. We're gonna get to see some of Jamie's relatives and then the finale's going to go [through] some very unexpected directions for people that donÃ¢â¬â¢t know where the book is heading.
Access: Can we expect to see more of Laoghaire?
Ron: Yes. Laoghaire will return, Mrs. Fitz will return, most of the people that we established at Castle Leoch are coming back.
Access: We're you surprised by the reactions to like, Lt. Jeremy Foster and Lord Thomas? People really liked those two characters.
Ron: Yeah, that was great. Since those were characters that we kind of just invented for the show, it was nice to see that they were welcomed and that people enjoyed them and they kind of rounded out the story a bit.
Access: Will we see them again or have they kind of gone off fighting battles at this point?
Ron: There's no plans to revisit them this season, but you know, we will be in Scotland again next season and dealing with Redcoats so you never know.
"Outlander" returns for the second half of Season 1 on April 4, 2015 on Starz.
-- Jolie Lash