Show/Episode: Outlander Season 2, Episode 13, “Dragonfly in Amber”
Last week’s episode felt like we were making progress on this whole “changing history” thing. Until Prince Charles went and ruined everything by getting lost. In the season finale of Outlander, we dabble in all the things that make this show a favorite. It makes time travel feel real and plausible. It showcases love as paramount—the sacrifices we make for those we care about most and the secrets we’ll keep for them. Love is sticky and complicated and sad and glorious, and with “Dragonfly in Amber” the show hit all those notes.
We started this season in 1948 with Claire having just returned to Frank. She arrived back in Scotland pregnant and distraught. We close the season twenty years after that time. Claire and her now grown daughter Brianna are back in Scotland, and the memories are frequent and heavy. Brianna doesn’t know anything of Jamie. She doesn’t know of her Scottish heritage. She doesn’t know that her mom and dad had a rough patch. She’ll learn though, and at the same time Claire flashes back to that final day with Jamie before the Battle of Culloden. She makes peace, as much as one can, twenty years after leaving the love of her life.
Claire’s solo trip back to Lallybroch in 1968 hurts to watch. The gorgeous home is in ruins with chains on the broken doors and a hand-painted “Keep Out” sign posted. The simple audio from her and Jamie’s arrival at the home yanks on the heartstrings, but seeing the memory of him in the archway in his dashing regalia and looking every bit the powerful Scot we know makes me want to cry as much as Claire.
The balance of quick flashes back to before Culloden and this long gap since she’s seen Jamie, with their grown daughter looking so very much like him, is incredibly well done. The ache of time is omnipresent, the underscore of lost love channeled throughout all the characters we’re seeing on 1968 Scotland. It works, even for this viewer who really wanted us to stay in Scotland with Jamie forever.
The heartbreaking scenes fell one after another in “Dragonfly in Amber.” Back on the day of the Battle of Culloden, Claire wanted to murder Prince Charles to save Jamie, the Frasers and MacKenzies, and Scotland. If he died, they wouldn’t have to go to battle. The men wouldn’t need to die. Only Dougal overhears Claire and Jamie plotting this, and immediately acts. He’s ready to kill them both for being traitors. He doesn’t know or understand the consequences of the Battle of Culloden, and he likely wouldn’t care. Loyalty is loyalty to Dougal. He does his damnedest to kill Jamie, and in defense Jamie and Claire are forced to kill him. Together. The abject horror on Jamie’s face has he pushes a blade into his uncle is raw and gutting.
Back in 1968, Brianna is trying to learn about her mother and the “incident” between her parents. When she finds the news clippings from Claire’s return, it isn’t ideal. What makes it more complicated, is there is this clear relief and hint of elation from Claire when confronted. She’s had to hold on to this secret for twenty years. She hasn’t been allowed to say Jamie’s name. She hasn’t been able to tell anyone about him, properly remember or mourn him. Now Brianna has given her this chance, and she wants to talk about the love of her life. Brianna, though, is finding out that her mother loved someone other than Frank Randall. That Frank wasn’t her mother’s one true love. She’s been lied to her whole life. The juxtaposition of utter joy and cutting truth in these scenes strikes the right balance for Outlander. Beauty, heartbreak, successful battles, death. If we weren’t on an emotional roller coaster, it wouldn’t be Outlander.
As this episode approached, and we knew Claire would go back to the 1940s, I wondered how Jamie would get Claire to leave. Yes, she’d promised him before she’d go back through the stones, but they aren’t a couple that gives up on one another. They’re more powerful together. It was Brianna, of course. The realization that Jamie would need to answer for killing Dougal would have pushed him to send Claire back anyway, but she wouldn’t have agreed if she wasn’t carrying Jamie’s baby. As they both pledge that they are each other’s homes, I melted. And then Jamie proclaimed their home lost, and defeat sank in.
Back at the stones Jamie continues being this honorable man we’ve all fallen in love with. He has (mostly) kind words for Frank, and as he talks about how he wants Claire and the baby to be taken care of over his own desires or needs to be with her, there might have been tears for this viewer. His love for Claire is paramount. Above his life. Above his happiness. Above everything.
Roger’s research lets us end this season on a happy note, though. Jamie Fraser did not die in the Battle of Culloden. He survived, and Claire intends to get back to him.
Claire: I used to know quite a few MacKenzies. Once upon a time.
Brianna: Grubby doesn’t bother me. You should see my bedroom.
Claire speaking to the Clan Fraser headstone/Jamie’s memory: See, no tears. Bet you didn’t think I could do that, did you?
Claire: Goodbye, Jamie Fraser, my love.
Jamie: I’ve killed Dougal MacKenzie.
Murtagh: Huh. Cannot say I’m that surprised. Only that it took you so long.
Jamie: I won’t have you dying for nothing.
Murtagh: I won’t be. I’ll be dying with you.
Brianna: I don’t want to discuss your whole time travel delusion, but I do want to know more about this Jamie Fraser.
Jamie: This child, this one, is all that will be left of me ever.
Jamie: Tell him I’m grateful. Tell him I trust him. Tell him I hate him to the very marrow of his bones.
Next Stop: We’ll be back next year for Season 3!
Quick note: We’re recapping only on the show (not the book, but please add context in the comments!) and we’re focused just on the Jamie/Claire ‘ship for this post. If you’re a Roger/Brianna ‘shipper, though, hit the comments with your take!