The first time I watched the two-hour pilot of Outlander I was furious. I was really excited for this show, but the pilot was a two-hour diatribe that I didn’t want to listen to. I couldn’t understand why they wanted to tell this time travel story, but after having to marathon the entire show in a week for a job recently I fell in love. Every choice in the series is totally specific and there for a purpose, and I so appreciate that. For this episode, we’re looking at Season 2, Episode 11, “Vengeance Is Mine” because it is a very fan service-y episode that still works on its own and follows a plot we’ve seen the show do MANY TIMES.
Outlander is a British-American television drama series based on the historical time travel Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon. Developed by Ronald D. Moore and produced by Sony Pictures Television and Left Bank Pictures for Starz, the show premiered on August 9, 2014. It stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse in 1945 who finds herself transported back to Scotland in 1743, where she encounters the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings. The second season, consisting of 13 episodes and based on Dragonfly in Amber, premiered on April 9, 2016. On June 1, 2016, Starz renewed the series for a third and fourth season, which will adapt the third and fourth Outlander novels, Voyager and Drums of Autumn.
Claire, main character; woman from the 1940s thrown back to the Scottish Revolution where she marries Jamie
Jamie, husband of Claire, knows she traveled through time
Murtagh, Jamie’s friend and Claire’s often bodyguard, feels responsible for the rape of Mary in Paris
Dougal, fellow Jacobite, friend/rival of Jamie
Rupert, fellow Jacobite
Charles, Prince and leader of the Jacobites
Mary, naive friend of Claire’s, goddaughter of the Duke
Duke of Sandringham, untrustworthy foe of Claire and Jamie who plays both the Jacobites and the British
A-Story: While en route to Inverness, the Jacobites come under attack and Jamie must retrieve Claire yet again.
Post-Preston Pans, the Jacobites camp in Northern England for word from Prince Charles. The generals tell Charles and Jamie they want to turn back. The pair are upset, wanting to continue on to England.
Outside, Rupert terrifies children who are receiving dental treatments from Claire, with stories of their recently passed friend Angus.
The generals vote to turn back. Charles is furious and storms out. No choice but to comply.
Jamie tells Claire and apologizes that so far they are unable to change the past. She consoles him.
Jamie tells the soldiers from his home of Lallybroch that he will see them home, but it feels like an empty promise. He gives a quieter and more sincere promise to Claire to get her “home.”
Jamie prays over Claire as she sleeps. He appears more terrified of losing her than ever as they get closer to the inevitable battle.
Dougal arrives the next day and tells Jamie they are being exiled to Inverness by order of Charles (who also took Jamie’s horse). Jamie has no choice and they pack up their things. (First Act Decision)
Rupert continues to tell stories of Angus, this time to Fergus, who shirks it off.
British fire descends onto the Jacobites and they are forced to bolt.
The group find a church and hold up to collect their bearings.
The British arrive and the are trapped. The men argue about what to do, everyone offering up a different idea that couldn’t work. Claire cries out to catch the soldiers’ attention.
Claire insists they say she is a hostage to halt the attack and she will go with them (planning to reunite with Jamie later on). Jamie refuses.
Claire demands she is just as responsible for the people of Lallybroch as Jamie. He finally agrees to allow her to go. (Reversal)
Dougal carries Claire out (who is pretending to have fainted) and is taken care of gently by the soldiers.
Jamie sends Dougal along with the rest of the group to Inverness where they will meet up again. He will go on by himself to retrieve Claire, but Murtagh insists on joining.
Claire is taken to a nearby fort, where she keeps to herself, trying not to draw too much attention and too tired to have left Jamie any breadcrumbs on her location.
Claire learns that she is being taken to Belmont, not the fort they had anticipated. She worries for how she will get word to Jamie.
Claire spots Jamie’s friend Hugh Monro and gives him a veiled message to get to Jamie on her location.
Claire is brought to Belmont and comes face to face with the Duke of Sandringham. The Duke instantly recognizes Claire, but acts as though he is meeting her for the first time, allowing her to keep up the facade. (Midpoint)
Once alone, the Duke tells Claire he lied because he wants Jamie to rescue him too. Claire refuses. The Duke says the are surrounded by troops and if she wants to get word of their correct location to Jamie, she will need the Duke’s help in getting a messager out. Claire has no choice by to agree.
Claire writes a letter and the messenger heads out to find Monro to give to Jamie.
Mary Hawkins enters and is thrilled when she sees Claire.
When Claire and Mary are alone, Mary begs that Claire talk to the Duke about her impending marriage to a merchant she doesn’t want to marry. Claire agrees.
The messenger finds Monro, but the untrusting beggar attacks the messenger. He calms down just enough to find out the letter is for to give to Jamie. He takes it and heads off.
Claire recognizes Sandringham’s Valet as her and Mary’s attacker in Paris. Duke is furious, yelling at his Valet.
The Duke reveals that the attack was meant to only rape Claire, not Mary, as payment for his debts to Sangiovese. Claire threatens him but the Duke reveals that Jamie’s arrival is actually a trap that will send Jamie and Claire to jail and make the Duke look like a hero to the British. (Reversal)
Jamie meets up with Monro and, after deciphering Claire’s poor Gaelic writing, head for Belmont.
Claire has been locked in her room, but Mary slips in, wanting to escape the house with Claire. Claire agrees, asking Mary to help her with warning Jamie of the Duke’s trap, but Mary is too scared.
Claire slips downstairs and finds the Duke waiting for her in the kitchen. He is perfectly calm, blocking her from being able to arm herself with a knife. (Low Point)
Mary enters, infuriating the Duke who sends her away.
Mary opens the front door and warns Monro as he and Jamie approach.
The valet catches Mary and brings her to the Duke, who scolds her.
Jamie bursts into the kitchen and the valet grabs Claire, putting a knife to her throat.
A fight ensues, during which Claire reveals how the Duke orchestrated the rape of herself and Mary. Mary is furious and stabs the valet in the back. (Climax)
Murtagh beheads the Duke and lays the head at Mary’s feet.
They head out to Inverness. (Resolution)
This will be quick because this show is very cut and dry with its structure. The show was created by Ronald D. Moore, who also created the cult hit Battlestar Gallactica reboot and previously worked on Star Trek. My opinions of his work in the past have been very wishy-washy. The characters are always so interesting, in super interesting situation, but often the long term story arcs struggled on Battlestar (in my opinion) losing focus or being dropped suddenly. For Outlander though this problem doesn’t happen because the books exist to guide him and his writing team, allowing Moore and his team to make their imprint in the week to week episodes.
His time in traditional television really shows in this series. You could arguably look at this show as a four-act show, but the number of characters arriving throughout lead me to believe they are writing with an eye towards twists and reveals at the end of five acts. They do use the fact that they are on premium cable to include more violence and sex, and while it can be gratuitous, they keep the number of characters on the show small (smaller than say, Game Of Thrones) and so when characters participate in these moments it feels much more personal and impactful.
This is not a show I recommend spec-ing because it does follow a book series, but I think it’s an incredibly important show in the television landscape right now and an excellent example of how even traditional act structures still exist and can be seen in premium television outlets.