As anyone who has read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels knows, the old adage “Look back to where you have been for a clue to where you are going” certainly rings true for our favorite ragtag gang of time travelers and freedom fighters, as well as for their constant tormentor, Black Jack.
“Not one character really leaves book one unscathed or unchanged from when we first met them, and those demons haunt them throughout the second book and the second season of the TV show,” executive producer Ronald D. Moore teased in an interview with Yahoo TV at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. “Actions in Season 1 have consequences and lasting effects on their relationships and their mission to alter history or the future, depending on how you look at it.”
As simply fleeing to France and busying themselves with infiltrating the Jacobite rebellion led by Prince Charles Stuart and stopping the Battle of Culloden to save the Highlander way of life (and likely Jamie’s neck) will not heal old wounds when the new season begins this weekend, we asked the show’s main trio to pick the first installment scene(s) they felt had the most monumental effect on their character(s) and explain how that might rear its ugly head when the kilty pleasure returns this Saturday on Starz. Spoiler alert for all the wannabe Sassenachs out there: Sam Heughan threatened that one unfortunate repercussion may be a little less naked ginger goodness.
Caitriona Balfe (plays Claire Randall Fraser)
“Oh, wow. I think for the relationship of Claire and Jamie, two of the very important scenes were that big fight that they have right after he rescued her by the river and when she tells him her story. At the river, I feel like that was where they laid down their boundaries. When she tells him after the witch trials that she’s from the future and explains her journey, and he believes her and he accepts that [explanation], I think that’s a major turning point for them as a couple and for their relationship as well. You definitely relish being able to really sink your teeth into big, meaty scenes. They are always fun. They ask a lot of you, but that’s what we all enjoy as actors… Because we have this fantasy element to our show and you have to sell outlandish ideas like telling someone you’re from the future, [the challenge is] making that real, making that feel honest to the characters, and making that believable. It’s a really big challenge, but it’s quite satisfying when, hopefully, you pull it off.”
Sam Heughan (plays Jamie Fraser)
“The most pivotal moment for Jamie was in Wentworth Prison [when] he’s tortured by Black Jack Randall. It has such a huge bearing on everything that happens in Season 2. His whole psyche is sullied and poisoned by the image and the memory of Randall. In Season 2, he’s still affected by that and doesn’t really deal with it. He kind of sweeps it under the carpet and tries to forget about it. Ultimately, it leads to him and Claire losing track of each other, forces them apart a bit, and really affects their relationship. He is definitely having a hard time being intimate with Claire, which certainly wasn’t a problem last year. It might mean I am naked a little less often. Maybe you will have to tune in to see. He is angry and ashamed and feels belittled. I was very proud of those scenes with Tobias [Menzies]. They were really tough to shoot — very intense and long, long, long days [covering] very heavy subject material. But I think the level of trust that we all had in each other allowed us to go to those places. Looking back on it, I don’t think any other TV show has gone there or even challenges [actors] enough. I am delighted that on our TV show, we’re always being challenged as actors to do something new. The show is always moving forward and always changing goals. Every episode, I’m having to learn a new skill or there’s a new challenge, so it’s a great proving ground for us as actors.”
Tobias Menzies (plays Frank Randall and Captain Black Jack Randall)
“My favorite Frank stuff is the stuff that was written away from the books, which is the stuff where we come back and see Frank wrestling with the disappearance of Claire and the impact on him. You see little bits of Jack in Frank, and we really fleshed him out in an interesting way. As for Black Jack, I guess the stuff toward the end — the encounter with Jamie in Wentworth — was some of the most dramatic stuff that we shot last season. It all just sort of built up toward it. The fans of the book knew that was coming, [so] getting the tone and feeling of that right was challenging. I think we got the writing and the tone of the episodes to a really good place. I was very keen for it not to be gratuitous. It had a kind of psychological underpinning. I think we managed to get that it was complicated for both parties and I hope that makes it more emotional, not just unpleasant. Obviously, it is hard to watch, but there had to be other reasons for having to sit through that. Certainly the fallout for Jamie through the first however many episodes is big — seeing him go through posttraumatic stress while he’s dealing with the psychological impact of having gone through something like that. Sam was certainly keen that he didn’t recover too tidily. We don’t meet Jack again until [Episode 5], and we meet a slightly less confident Jack than we’d met in the first season. That is a fallout of his injuries and the fallout from what happened in Wentworth. There have been some disciplinary issues, and obviously he gets very badly hurt. Overall, we meet a less robust and less confident man in the second season.”
Outlander airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz.