Here we are at the end of the second season of Outlander. This finale is an outstanding end to what has been, overall, an outstanding season. “Dragonfly in Amber” is impeccably written, acted, directed, and produced. I really couldn’t ask for much more.
I must admit I’m surprised to be so impressed. Some of the early episodes in Paris left me wondering where the show was going, but taken as a whole, this season manages to tell a full and satisfying story. It also makes plain that Outlander is at its best when Jamie and Claire and their compatriots are at home, in Scotland.
]That said, Paris was not without its pleasures. Claire’s costumes were exquisite. The intrigue of the court was always sharp and interesting. We met colorful characters like Louise de Rohan, getting waxed 18th-century style (which is the same as getting waxed in the 21st century—a barbaric affair). With Geillis Duncan largely out of the picture, Claire got to talk plants and potions with Master Raymond. Murtagh got laid by a French maid, literally! Black Jack Randall lurked about being dastardly while his poor brother Alex was sweet and sickly. Claire had sex with a king to free her husband from prison. And, of course, there was the incessant trauma, laid relentlessly bare—Jamie recovering from being raped by Black Jack Randall, Claire recovering from the loss of her daughter, Faith.
All the while, Jamie and Claire tried and tried and failed and failed to sabotage the Jacobite rebellion so they might save the Highlander way of life. It was a noble if futile pursuit. There is something to be said for persistence.
The greatest success of this season was how fully realized the story was, and how as new questions were asked, lingering questions were answered. The season finale continued in this vein, with a bit of a twist: the action jumps between 1746 and 1968 throughout the episode. The interweaving is done so well that by the end it feels as though time travel is truly possible. This episode is also 90 minutes long, so there’s also a lot of room for what’s left of this season’s story to unfold. As I noted in last episode’s recap, this show is not shortchanging its audience.
It is, finally, the day of the Battle of Culloden, and Prince Charles will not be swayed. Claire desperately comes up with one last plan (because of course the season cannot end without one last scheme). If they kill Prince Charles, she says, then the rebellion is over. It’s really chilling, how mercenary Claire can be: When she commits to something, our girl commits. Jamie doesn’t put up as much of a fight as you might expect, but he looks exhausted. Like all of the Highlanders, he needs a long bath, a hot meal, and a good night’s sleep. None of that is coming his way anytime soon, unfortunately. Claire still has some Yellow Jasmine left over from pulling a Dr. Kevorkian on Colum, so they resolve to do the unthinkable to prevent the unthinkable.
As always, there is a fly in the amber—er, ointment. Dougal overhears their scheme and flies into a cold rage, well past anger. Before long, he’s on his back, and Claire helps Jamie drive a knife into his heart. As they stand over Dougal’s body, in walks Rupert, who is so disgusted he can barely speak. Jamie asks for two hours to get his affairs in order before Rupert tells everyone else what has happened. Rupert agrees, if only for the memory of the friendship he had with the man he thought Jamie was.
Jamie is quick about his next steps, signing Lollybroch over to his nephew and dispatching Fergus with the deed. Jamie also has Murtagh send the Lollybroch Frasers home so they don’t perish in a senseless battle, but Murtagh refuses to go with them. That man is loyal through the marrow of his bones and won’t ever leave Jamie’s side. Theirs is probably my favorite relationship on the show.
And then there is Claire. Jamie tells his wife he is taking her to the stones. At first Claire refuses, but then Jamie tells Claire he knows she is pregnant because, get this, he has been tracking her period. It’s both sweet and kind of creepy. Even Claire is taken aback, marveling at how he was able to do that while fighting a war. When love is real, it is very, very real.
Speaking of love, Claire and Jamie’s final moments are deeply satisfying. At the rocks, they kiss and drown each other in words of love, and then Jamie is pushing Claire to the ground and raising his kilt and they’re having goodbye sex while the Battle of Culloden looms, not so far away. Sadly, their lovemaking is cut short by cannon fire in the distance. Jamie stands and pulls Claire to her feet and walks her to the traveling stone, his hand over hers. And then, just like that, she is gone.
Cut to 1968, as Claire and her 20-year-old daughter, Brianna, are visiting Scotland. In many ways, Claire finds herself in the same spot she was at the beginning of this season—near Inverness, in the home of (the now-dead) Reverend Wakefield. And all my Nurse Doctor Claire jokes were prescient because, in 1968, Claire Randall is not only a doctor, she is a surgeon. And her hair is fly. In not-so-good news (depending on how you feel about him) Frank Randall is dead, though we never learn too much about how that came to pass. Fine by me.
Claire and Brianna attend Reverend Wakefield’s wake, where they meet the reverend’s son, Roger—an age-appropriate and handsome love interest for Brianna, if I do say so myself. He’s also the little boy who was hanging about at the beginning of the season. The mother and daughter end up staying in Roger’s guest room, and for the next few days, Claire busies herself with memories—visiting Lollybroch Estate, which has fallen into disrepair, and Culloden Moor, where she finds the Clan Fraser headstone and tells Jamie all about their daughter. While she may have loved Frank, she remained wildly, madly in love with Jamie.
Left to their own devices, Brianna and Roger get to know each other. I suspect they are supposed to have chemistry, but they do not. Roger is absolutely relegated to the friendzone even if he doesn’t know it. As he plays tour guide, he takes Brianna to Fort Williams, where Jamie was flogged by Black Jack Randall, among other misadventures. Later, Brianna runs into one Jillian Edgars, aka Geillis Duncan, giving a passionate speech about Scottish independence. All the while, Brianna reveals that she is pretty sure her parents have kept a secret from her all these years, and she quickly gets all Nancy Drew about it. She and Roger head into the Wakefield attic and begin snooping through the Reverend’s journals, which seems like a very respectful thing to do.
Working with incomplete information, Brianna confronts her mother about her parentage and accuses Claire of cheating on Frank. Brianna is really petulant and snotty and largely indifferent when Claire exclaims “He was the love of my life!” so that Brianna might know Claire didn’t have a cheap, tawdry affair. As Claire tries to explain that Brianna’s father in a Scottish man who lived in the 18th century, Brianna only gets angrier. It is, admittedly, refreshing to see someone finally be skeptical of Claire’s wild story.
Once Claire learns that Brianna has met Geillis, she pays a visit to the woman’s house, where she meets Geillis’s first husband, drunk and full of sorrow because his wife has left him. Claire also finds one of Geillis’s notebooks, full of theories about time travel. She takes it, of course. Boundaries? What are boundaries?
Geillis, ever so quirky, believes that to travel through the stones requires human sacrifice, and she is so passionate about an independent Scotland that she’s willing to travel through time to change the past. Claire manages to convince a deeply skeptical and irritated Brianna and a whipped Roger to accompany her to the rocks so they can stop Geillis from murdering her husband—but mostly, Claire wants to save Geillis’s life because she’s a good friend.
They are too late. When they arrive at the stones, Geillis’s husband is already burning as Geillis falls into the past. Just like that, Brianna totally believes her mother and is super chill, and then Roger drops a bomb. In some of his father’s correspondence he finds proof that Jamie survived the Battle of Culloden. For the first time in the episode, Claire truly smiles. She beams, really, and given that subtlety is not this show’s strong suit, the sun rises and beams of golden light pulse from the rocks. It’s all very beatific. “I have to go back,” Claire says tearfully, and now we know that there will be a third season (and more sex) between Jamie and Claire. And really—as I have been saying all along and will proudly say once more—that’s what matters most.