The superbly filmed, scripted and presented hit television series STARZ Outlander commenced Series 2 with our heroes Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) travelling from the misty hills and valleys of the heath covered highlands in Scotland to the cobbled pavements of Paris in 1744, where we enjoyed watching them wearing French textiles and living in sophisticated surroundings, at least for a while.
But Scotland was still calling them home.
Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on that day
Over the sea to Skye…*
By the end of Episode Six in 1745 after witnessing the end of a violent duel between Jamie and their mortal enemy Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), in dire trouble, Claire had been raced to hospital where her and Jamie’s first baby sadly joined the angels. After saying goodbye they sail for home.
From Episode 8 onward Jamie with Claire, Murtagh (Duncan Lacrox) and the young French orphan Fergus (Romann Berrux) whom they have adopted, find themselves once again on the road supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie as he attempts to raise his army to reclaim the throne of England.
There are many myths surrounding the Battle of Culloden, that landmark event in Scottish history, which was so much more than just a Scottish versus English affair.
It’s fact that far more Scots fought on the Hanoverian side than that of the Jacobite army, although in the immediate aftermath, all the clans were punished and the Scottish people demoralised by England.
It you don’t want to know what happens, don’t read any more as there are spoilers involved in our story.
Followers of the series to date knew from Episode 1 of Series 2 that Claire and Jamie would become lost to each other, because it started with him sending her back to the future and to life again with Frank in order to save her life and that of their unborn child, just before the Battle is to take place.
Episodes 8 – 13 leading up to the finale of this second series, continues the sensitive approach to the wonderful intimacy of the relationship between Jamie and Claire, which Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan draw so exquisitely with their fine acting skills.
They pay a call upon Jamie’s grandsire, Lord Lovat (Clive Russel) who ensures that his support for the rebellion is covert, so he appears to remain loyal to the crown in an endeavour to gain his support for Bonnie Prince Charlie (Andrew Gower).
The Prince believes he has been chosen by a divine power and royal blood to lead the people of Scotland forward, despite it being the first time he has set foot on Scottish shores.
However the best laid plans of men can and often do go astray especially when Colum MacKenzie (Gary Lewis) Jamie’s maternal uncle and laird of the MacKenzie clan who is visiting, decides otherwise. The Lallybroch and MacKenzie men are both in training under Jamie Fraser’s guidance.
Claire is suffering from what can only be described as a type of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Watching their efforts elicits memories of destructive and dastardly World War II scenes of battle in her head and she realises she cannot allow herself to feel that helpless again.
Trusting in Claire’s knowledge of “history,” Jamie leads the Jacobite army into the critical battle of Preston pans in East Lothian in September 1745 with British opposition. While a victory for the Scots, Claire attends to the some 70 wounded, a reminder of the truest cost of war.
She and the Highlanders are then sent north after the Jacobite leaders as Jamie puts all his efforts into convincing the Prince and his commanders to not be involved in the impending slaughter, however he’s not achieving much success.
They decide to halt their march on London with a band of redcoats ensuring ongoing trouble for the Scots, which unexpectedly leads to a most unexpected reunion for Claire, who has been attempting to comfort the sick including the terminally ill Alex Randall (Laurence Dobiesz).
He already has a plan to save the mother of his child Claire’s friend – Mary (Rosie Day), although it is not one anyone would expect. He insists his fiancée marry his brother Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) whose presence infuses the last two episodes of this part of the series, with his darkness.
Claire knows now that her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) back in the twentieth century is safe because he is not a descendant of Black Jack who has caused her and Jamie so much pain, but of his kindly gentle brother Alex.
In many ways, it must ease her mind.
As the finale to Outlander Season 2 starts we are back in Scotland. It is 1968 and we are in the home of Reverend Wakefield (James Fleet) who has been such a friend to Claire and Frank through all their challenges, although it is the wake following his funeral.
There are so many memories here…Mrs Graham warned Claire not to spend her days chasing a ghost… now it seems the ghosts are chasing Claire…
COME and let us live my Dear,
Let us love and never fear…
Then let amorous kisses dwell
On our lips, begin to tell
A Thousand, and a Hundred, score
An Hundred, and a Thousand more**
Claire has silver streaks in her hair as it is now twenty years on, and we find Claire is a surgeon practicing in Boston in the United States. Frank is dead we discover, and she and her daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) a history major at Harvard have been in London where they had news of the Reverend’s death.
She brings Brianna, she of the flaming red hair the colour of her father Jamie’s, to pay her respects to Roger (Richard Rankin), who is also a history major at Oxford. The last time that he saw Claire he was eight years old.
A handsome young man with blue eyes, a kind countenance and with considerable intelligence, she’s seemingly happy that he and Brianna will become friends.
After all they both share historical connections they do not know about and that Claire has witnessed first hand.
During this ninety minute episode we are destined to jump back and forth throughout history to uncover the truth and it’s achieved so well, it is hard not to believe in time travel.
Back in 1746 its early morning and Jamie is telling Bonnie Prince Charlie the army is not ready for battle… and they should not fight at Culloden. Bonnie Prince tells him affectionately, that Jamie is his ‘doubting Thomas’… blessed are those you have not seen and believe… it is clear the Prince wants to make a believer of Jamie.
However he will never make a believer of Claire, who in her desperation to prevent the battle happening, asks Jamie whether or not they should ‘kill’ the Prince – ending one life to save the many. It’s a watershed moment, especially when Jamie is forced to kill Dougal Mackenzie (Graham McTavish) who overhears their conversation and in his stubborn way, refuses to listen to any explanation.
Immediately signing his estate Lallybroch over to his nephew post dating it a year earlier with Claire witnessing the deed, Jamie sends young Fergus to deliver it, wanting to ensure that he’s not part of the battle either.
He knows he will have to pay for his crime if he lives through the battle and tries to send Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) home as well. However he refuses to leave Jamie’s side because he’s loyal to the end and says if they are to die then it will be together.
Then Jamie tells Claire he’s taking her to the stones as he knows she is pregnant… their love is so very real… and saying their goodbye is played out poignantly in the stone circle of Craigh na Dun.
Back in the future Claire and Brianna are staying with Roger. He is taking Brianna for a drive through the ‘wilds’ of the Scottish countryside and a visit to Fort William, the infamous black garrison, where she asks him does he remember her father Frank?
Telling Brianna about Frank, Roger says all that he remembers was that he was very kind. My mother lives in another world she observes to him…little does she know it, but she’s standing on the spot where her father was flogged so viciously by Black Jack himself, no wonder she gets the shivers.
Claire meanwhile is on a journey of her own… back to the ruins of her home in the past and she’s haunted by memories and of her time spent without Jamie and the warmth and security of his love.
Brianna reveals to Roger her mother is keeping a huge secret and it must be something to do with what happened when she and Frank were staying with the Reverend. She wants the truth, whatever it means… but she should be careful what she wishes for.
Roger promises to show Brianna the Reverend’s daily journals filed away in the attic, in a hope that she can uncover the truth. There are many papers that throw up many questions for them both and its not hard to imagine there is a lot more to ‘Roger’ than meets the eye, but that will have to wait for Series 3.
Now a firm friend to Brianna, Roger also takes her with him to a meeting in the town where she happens upon a very radical Gillian Edgars aka Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek) who is asking her followers “…where are the leaders of history… now? The question is with the Bonnie Prince, did they take a fool and turn him into a hero..?
The most common symbol of Jacobite support was the secret symbol, which was rendered on the lead infused wine glasses of the times the rose. When open it represented the throne of England and the two buds with it, the two Stuart sons of James III, Bonnie Prince Charles Edward and Prince Henry the Cardinal Duke of York. Gillian calls her movement,
Time wise it is before Gillian travelled back through the standing stones and met Claire for the first time back in the 1700’s, where she would die dramatically as we witnessed in Series One.
As we are whipped into a frenzy of expectation Claire is out on the battleground of Culloden… as she believes Jamie was killed there and she’s telling him all her secrets and the story of raising their child in the modern world.
Then we find ourselves back at the stone circle again with Brianna and Roger witnessing Gillian dramatically entering the past, vanishing as she leaps at the great stone after giving ‘sacrifice’.
How can Brianna and Roger now not believe what Claire has been trying to tell them, that Brianna’s father was a Fraser who lived in the eighteenth century, because they have seen Gillian’s transition in time with their own eyes.
Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone
Roger then suddenly illuminates Claire’s whole countenance when he tells her that while helping Brianna search his father’s papers in the attic, he has come across evidence Jamie Fraser survived the Battle of Culloden.
As the sun rises Claire is saying tearfully, then “ I have to go back”.
How do you say goodbye to that one person you loved most in the all the world… truth is I have never been good at saying goodbye says Claire…
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016
* Skye Boat Song