“Outlander” brought its sweeping second season to a close with “Dragonfly in Amber,” an episode titled after the Diana Gabaldon book upon which Season 2 is based. In it, viewers were treated to the eagerly-anticipated introduction of Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin) in 1968 as they learned from Claire (Caitriona Balfe) exactly what happened to her 20 years prior.
In that 20-year time jump, Balfe was charged with taking her character from her late 20s to her late 40s. Executive producer Maril Davis commends Balfe for her performance, saying they wanted to make it more about the acting than any kind of make-up or prosthetics.
“We talked to Caitriona about this idea of we wanted to sell it through her acting and her demeanor,” Davis tells Zap2it. “She does such an amazing job, there’s such a gravitas to her performance in [episode] 13 that completely sells this mature woman who has gone through agony and turmoil in 20 years. We did that with very little alterations to her looks. Most of it is her acting and how she chose to sell that and I commend her, she did a fantastic job.”
Another aspect of the show the producers didn’t want to lean too heavily on special effects for was the actual process of Geills (Lotte Verbeek) or Claire moving through the stones. It’s something best left to viewers’ imaginations, says Davis.
“People maybe expected we would do some sort of woo-woo, time travel, sidetrack maneuver through the stones and we realized that nothing was really satisfying,” says Davis. “We didn’t want to use anything that would make the time travel aspect feel any more non-realistic. We wanted to make it as grounded as possible … and leave it to the viewers’ imagination. That seems much more scary and realistic than actually seeing them go through the stones.”
Speaking of Geillis, Davis says the writers loved finding a way to incorporate Geillis more into the 1968 storyline. She says producers Toni Graphia and Matt Roberts “came up with this great idea of what if Brianna met Geillis?”
“It won’t affect anything down the line with Geillis and we thought it was so cool, a way to have her meet our people — not only Brianna, but Roger, who she’s connected to, obviously — it was a great way to connect our characters without spoiling anything.”
In addition to the 1968 storyline, the episode also featured Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire being forced to kill Dougal (Graham McTavish) as he overhears their last desperate effort to stop the uprising and the Battle of Culloden. It was a fairly significant amount of the book to condense into one episode, and Davis says that they were thrilled to be able to super-size the episode.
“When we realized how much material we had, Starz said, ‘Hey, if you guys wanna supersize it and make it a 90-minute episode, we would be up for that,’ and obviously we jumped at the chance,” she says. “Because we’d already seen Claire go back [to 1945] in the first episode [of Season 2], we knew we weren’t going to be doing any of that stuff, so it was really about just leading up to Brianna and Roger finding out the truth.”
Warning: Spoilers ahead
In regards to the way Brianna finds out about her mother’s journey and relationship with Jamie, there is a change in the show from the books that non-book-readers might find a little spoilery. Davis talks about it below and if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading.
“If you’ve read the books, there is a little — and I hope Diana won’t mind me saying this — but there is some wonky stuff about Jamie’s grave that we find out. In the books, we find out that Frank put a grave marker in a place where he thought Claire might find it, but it’s not Jamie’s real grave marker. It’s a little convoluted. We were having trouble with ourselves in the writers’ room, trying to figure out how that would work and how we would buy that.
Davis adds that none of them really bought that plot point, nor did they decide it was particularly important to the story.
“You don’t find out until [much] later that that happened, so … it’s very odd. Forgive me, Diana,” says Davis with a laugh. “But I think we decided we wanted to simplify it a little bit. We also realized that we decided early on that Frank was going to stop looking for Jamie, that he wasn’t the one who was going to find out that Jamie didn’t die at Culloden and he wasn’t going to continue his correspondence with Rev. Wakefield, so we just wanted to simplify it.”
Look for part 2 of our interview with Davis Sunday (July 10), where she talks about Seasons 3 and 4.