It’s finally time. Time to go back in time with Jamie and Claire (and Murtagh!), who, if you don’t recall, decided they were going to take it upon themselves to change history at the end of season one of “Outlander“
Easy task, right?
Well, this is “Outlander” so while nothing is ever easy, it is a thrill to watch and I can safely report that Season 2 is just as compelling as the first season. In fact, given the change in location, a different look and a different objective for our characters (as well as a pregnancy, some PTSD – which wasn’t called PTSD back in the day – and some more time traveling), the new season of Starz’s adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s second book, “Dragonfly in Amber” is sharper, moves swiftly and still leaves you with some big time chills. [You can watch the premiere episode earlier than everyone else via the STARZ app, streaming on Starz.com or right here on XFINITY TV.)
But, going into the season, I had the chance to talk to series creator Ron Moore about how he tackled the second season, how he and his team of writers go about breaking down the second book and how the trauma of abuse that Jamie (Sam Heughan) endured at the hands of the sadistic Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) still impacts him as well as his pregnant wife, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) moving forward. (And don’t worry, I had chats with Heughan, Balfe and Menzies, too, but those are best posted after some of the big events of the first episodes happen.)
What did you learn from season one that actually helped you craft season two?
Ron Moore: Most of the lessons were production lessons. It was a very complicated show to produce season one primarily because of the lack of standing sets and it’s really a travelling show. The lessons learned on that were invaluable as we approached season two just because it give us a bigger understanding of how much more complex season two was going to be even than season one. So we started planning much earlier, we started prepping much earlier and those were the biggest lessons of all.
There is a different feel to the show given the change in location, costume, etc. How did you work to still keep it familiar for viewers who are returning for the new season?
RM: The whole complexion of the show really changed, but that was embedded in the book. So we knew that ‘oh, suddenly we’re going to Paris in the 18th Century.’ And these characters that you had seen dealing in the Highlands, and then old Scottish castles and stone walls and heavy, heavy wood furniture, suddenly were going to be in the most sophisticated city in the world and popular city in the world at the time, and dealing with the French aristocracy.
So the whole palette just was going to shift. We knew we had to kind of reinvent the show and rebuild the show because none of the sets, none of the costumes, none of the set decoration could be used from season one. So it was really starting all over again and it was going to have the different tone because it was going to be more political. It was going to be more about intrigue, politicking, and conspiracy, and who do you trust really than season one, which was more of the grand-sweeping adventure.
From a writer’s standpoint how did you approach that scene where Claire and Frank see each other again?
RM: I really enjoyed that whole little story of her in the ‘40s. I was intrigued by it when we decided to open the story there and the book, as you may or may not know, opens in 1968, actually. We decided that was too big of a leap to take for the TV show, I thought it was just it is just too far to go. It was better to start a little bit more sequentially to see that she was returning to the 20th Century…that was a big enough leap as it was.
So then it was, okay, what happens when she first gets back? What would be the first thing that Frank says to her, and how would she react? And you know, how would she tell him, and how would he react once he heard this story? I really enjoyed writing those scenes. It was like okay, let's get down to some really basic human truths here about who these characters were.
Frank had laid down a marker in season one with her. He had said, 'I just want you to know there's nothing you could ever do that would change the way I feel about you, I love you and I will love you forever,' which is a very high-minded thing a man says to a woman, and then it gets puts to the test here.
And I wanted Frank to be the guy that would try as valiantly as he could to live up to his own words…I wanted Frank to be worthy of Claire just as Jamie is worthy of Claire. If Frank was not worthy of her, then it would diminish Claire in a weird kind of way.
Here’s a look at Season 2 of “Outlander”….
Do we get to the 1960s toward the end of the season?
RM: Yeah, we will catch up to the 1960’s story in season two.
As knowledgeable as Claire is about the medical field, psychology is a very different thing in the 1940s. What is Claire's thinking of what Jamie is going through post-being tortured by Randall?
RM: I think she is definitely a woman of the mid-20th Century and she has no training in psychology and this wasn’t a time when people talked about their feelings as much and therapy and posttraumatic stress syndrome wasn’t even something that people knew about. So, she’s operating from a very different mindset. But she’s an empathic and sympathetic character as a person [and] she knows he’s gone through this horrible trauma and she’s empathetic to that to an extent and sympathetic to that to an extent, but she doesn’t know how to talk to him about it, she doesn’t know how to guide him on his past to being healed. She just wants to be there for him and help in any way that she can figure out. So it’s just kind of operating from an emotional caring place rather than a, ‘okay, well, here’s what I should do, and here’s what he should do, and we should talk about it,’ and that kind of thing.
What's your process for you and your writers in making cuts from the book because the second book is massive and you only have so many hours for the TV show. How do you do that?
RM: Well, we start with the book. We have the assistants break down the book into discrete bites and then we put all the cards up on the board. So, we have the book order of events and we have all the scenes and we just start from there. You go through the first stage is, okay, let’s cut it up into 13 pieces. Here are the events from the book that will take place in those 13 hours.
Okay, now let's talk about individual episodes and I start looking at the first hour or the second hour and you say, 'Okay, well, these are the things in the book. That doesn't quite work as a dramatic hour of TV. This is actually where we're going to end. This would be a good midpoint. Let's actually start over there. This is confusing.'
You just get into it but you're always starting with what the book gave you and then you're always mindful of that as you make changes, if you make cuts. If you make additions, you have to be careful because then there's the next episode, 'oh, wait a minute, this now fits with knocked-overs and dominoes, we still have to get to that point. So wait a minute, let's go back and we can't make as many changes as we thought,' or 'we have to do it in a different way because you're always trying to get back to the same lane.'
“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9pm on Starz. You can still catch up on season one right here with XFINITY TV.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.