Outlander swaps kilts for couture and bloody Scottish battlefields for French ballrooms in its second-season premiere. But it’s managed to keep all of the sex, scandal, and romance that had fans falling over themselves last year while giving its stars more to work with in the way of juicy storylines and meaningful character journeys. Forget the mind-numbing overload of costume porn (we’ll talk about that later), what makes the second season of the series based off the bestselling books by Diana Gabaldon — which follows a World War II British nurse thrust back in time to the 18th century Scottish Highlands — superior to the first isn’t the change in scenery or plot but the change in the characters themselves.
The second season picks up where the first left off, with Jamie (Sam Heughan) fresh from his torture at the hands of vicious British officer Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) pushing for the pair to venture to France in order to prevent the Jacobite Rebellion — an uprising she knows spells disaster for all of their friends back home because, well, she’s from the future.
Jamie’s still healing from his scars — both emotionally and physically — and a shout-out should go to the show and its writers (led by showrunner Ronald D. Moore) for not flippantly dismissing Jamie’s rape by ignoring the traumatic after-effects and psychological damage it would undoubtedly leave on the brawny Highlander.
Starz knows its audience and because this is a show with a dedicated and vocal fanbase (especially when it comes to spoilers) there’s not too much we can give away about the first half of the season. Book fans might know how season two will end but I guarantee the first episode will shock everyone. (The first 40 minutes of the premiere are especially jolting.) The show’s decision to deviate from the books by introducing a major time jump earlier than expected feels, at best, off-putting and at worst like a deliberate attempt to cause unnecessary anxiety for its viewers all for the sake of drama.
Instead we’ll focus on the Frasers, who, once safely in France, begin plotting how to undermine a cause while pledging loyalty to its leader at the same time.
In a bit of convenient timing, Jamie’s uncle Jared Fraser (Robert Cavanah ), a Jacobite supporter and wealthy wine merchant, is in need of someone to run his business while he takes a trip to the West Indies. The Frasers are able to use Jamie’s new position to gain entrance into French court and access to Bonnie Prince Charlie (Andrew Gower), the man hoping to stage this little war. The prince is an overgrown man-child with a major God complex — what King in waiting isn’t? — but he’s just clever enough to make the married pair’s mission difficult.