The cast and producers of Starz’s “Outlander” weren’t wrong when they predicted viewers would need tissues to watch the show’s Season 2 finale – “Dragonfly in Amber.”
(Spoiler alert: This article contains major plot details from the episode.)
Saturday night’s finale was full of tearful, emotional moments, as Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) had to say goodbye to each other on the morning before the battle of Culloden in 1746. The couple had tried to change history and stop the Jacobite rebellion, but were unsuccessful. In order to save his wife and unborn child from an uncertain fate, Jamie Fraser made his time traveling wife go through the stones again, back to her own time.
The opening of Season 2 began in 1948, a moment after Jamie sent his wife through the standing circle at Craig na Dun, but the finale opened twenty years after that, as an all-grown-up Roger Wakefield distracted himself at his late uncle-turned-father’s wake, watching “The Avengers.” Viewers quickly met not just Roger (Richard Rankin), but an older Claire (Fraser) Randall and her 20-year-old daughter, Brianna Randall (Sophie Skelton).
The mother and daughter ended up staying at Roger’s house in the episode after the wake, and Brianna and Roger got to know each other as they visited historical sites in Scotland and ran into a pre-“Outlander” Season 1 Geillis Duncan, who in 1968 was known as Gillian Edgars. As Roger and Bree spent time together, Claire went on her own journey across Scotland, visiting Culloden Moor, where she said goodbye to Jamie, 200 years later, at the Fraser headstone.
Access Hollywood spoke with Season 2 finale writers Toni Graphia and Matthew B. Roberts (who are also co-executive producers on “Outlander”) about some of the big moments in the episode, including introducing the grown-up versions of two characters book readers had been waiting to see for a long time on screen – Roger and Bree.
Roger Wakefield & Brianna Randall’s introduction
“We kind of — with every character we have, we treat with kid gloves. We want to make that character shine, and I think they were no different,” Roberts said when Access asked him and fellow finale writer Graphia, about getting to write the adult versions of the important characters.
“From the beginning, Ron [Moore, ‘Outlander’s’ executive producer] always said that the finale was actually like writing a new pilot, because these characters are so important that we had to think of it as it as their introduction, and that the show is a little different after they join, even though Claire and Jamie will always be the center of the show, but these guys were very important and the audience very interested in them, especially Brianna because she is… the blood of Jamie and Claire. And we knew that was a tall order,” Graphia said.
Richard Rankin, who plays Roger Mac (a direct descendant of Dougal MacKenzie and Geillis Duncan), and Sophie Skelton, who plays Bree, actually auditioned with material that was included in the finale episode.
“We knew that these characters were so important, we didn’t want to just write some piece of fluff to see them audition with,” Graphia said. “So, Maril — our producer, Maril Davis — sort of challenged us and said, ‘I think we need to really see the scenes of what they can really do. They’ve got some giant, important scenes,’ and she really did something that I haven’t ever done in another show, which I really love, which is challenge us to go ahead and write the scenes, the big scenes that they were going to have to do, because if we had cast them on some trivial scene and… then they got on stage and had to perform the big scenes they did, like the fight with Claire or some of these bigger moments, and couldn’t pull it off, we would’ve been dead in the water. So Matt and I, before we ever wrote the script — and not many people know this — we had to write the scene [with] the big fight where Claire tells Brianna about time travel and about who her real father is. We wrote that before we ever even had an outline, I think, for the episode.
“When we cast them, the scenes they were actually reading were the scenes that ended up in the episode. … When we did see them do it finally on screen, I was like, this is the scene I’ve seen a million times because this is the one that [they] had auditioned with, but these are the people that knocked those scenes out of the park and made us cry,” she said.
On Jamie & Claire Fraser’s goodbye at the stones
On the morning of Culloden, under the Scottish sun, Jamie took Claire up to Craigh na Dun to send her back to her own time. In a meaningful and heartbreaking scene from the finale, Jamie actually moved Claire toward the standing stones and pressed her hand into the rock that transported her back to 1948.
Roberts was supervising on the day the scene was filmed in Scotland and he explained more about how the moment came about.
“We mapped it on one of our stages. … We rehearsed it and played this last scene because once you get up to the stones, weather is always a factor and we didn’t want to be doing that up there while 200 people stood around and waited for us to work out the [blocking]. But inevitably, once we got up there, the original rehearsal, it didn’t really work out the way we wanted it to and they felt too distant, so I asked if Sam could walk her — she’s so caught up in the saying the goodbye [that] Claire absolutely fought against going and she doesn’t want to leave him no matter what,” Roberts said. “Even though he’s rational, he makes [a] really good argument — ‘I want you to be safe with my daughter, the thing that’s going to be me, the only thing that’s going to live,’ because he knows he’s going to go die — [he had to] actually dance her back to where the stone was so when she turned around, the stone was just right there and it was almost like the decision was made, rather than to just walk over to it, because we were finding it was very difficult for Claire just to make that journey from the edge of the stones.
“She just wouldn’t walk there, so he had to kind of coerce her in his soft voice,” he continued. “And she knows she’s going, but it’s kind of a denial and you could see it in her eyes and we decided in the editing of it there were a few wider shots of them walking across the top of the stones there and to play it tighter, to once we come in from the wide [shot], to just stay tight — it’s all about them, it’s all about their eyes, it’s all about their connection, all the way until you get that final moment where he puts her hand on the stone.”
“Yeah, he literally dances her backwards, which I really love,” Graphia added. “And also, the decision to have him be the one that says goodbye, and she doesn’t say goodbye. She can’t bring herself to say it and we deliberately did it that way so that when, in the scene in the grave, when she visits Culloden Moor, she can say, ‘For 20 years I haven’t said goodbye and it’s time now to say goodbye,’ and we knew to plan that so that it would be a call back to the moment at the stones.”
Claire Randall’s visit to Lallybroch in 1968
After the Reverend Wakefield’s funeral, Claire traveled around Scotland, visiting Culloden Moor, the hall of records and places she spent time with the love of her life, 1740s husband Jamie Fraser, including Lallybroch.
“I think it’s my favorite scene in the show, because it’s just so simple and there’s not a lot of dialogue,” Graphia said of the scene, which Roberts directed. “It’s just Claire when she looks up through the car window at Lallybroch and how it’s crumbling and all the memories there.”
An earlier draft of the tearful moment where Claire approaches the 1968 version of the home she once shared with Jamie involved another character, but they decided to make it just a Claire scene.
“I think originally… there was like a dog walker that came by and talked to Claire and told [her] how they were going to demolish the building soon and all this,” Graphia said. “But then, we eventually took that out because we knew that Caitriona Balfe just doesn’t need a lot of words. She’s so good and we knew that sitting on those steps that she would play that scene where she hears these voices and sees Jamie in the arch — just this beautiful shot, and Matt did a great job.”
Before driving off, Claire was reminded of Jamie and saw him in the archway. As she remembered her Highland love, the voiceover had both Claire and Jamie reciting lines from Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus.
“The poem that she hears during that scene — that is the poem from the book that was inscribed, a quote from it, on the inside of Claire’s wedding ring, and we chose a different kind of wedding ring [in the show] and we didn’t have the poem there, but we loved the poem and we wanted to include that for the fans,” Graphia said.
What about Rupert? What about Murtagh? And Frank?
The last time viewers saw Rupert MacKenzie in the finale, he told Jamie he’d give him two hours before reporting Dougal’s death. Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser’s last scene saw him pledging to die fighting alongside his godson, Jamie. The finale also revealed, in the 1968 setting, that Frank Randall had died without showing how that happened, or any of his life with Claire after they touched down on American soil (in the Season 2 premiere). Asked if they are planning to revisit any of those things in Season 3, Graphia and Roberts said they are sworn to secrecy – for now.
“We could tell you all this stuff, but you would have to wrap yourself in a cone of silence for a year,” Roberts said.
— Jolie Lash
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