[Warning: The following contains spoilers from the Outlander Season 2 finale. Read at your own risk!]
"We have to go back!" are Claire's (Caitriona Balfe) final words of the Outlander Season 2 finale and the sentiments of every Outlander fan now forced to wait at least a year for their next dose of the romantic adventure epic.
The 90-minute episode simultaneously revealed what forced Claire back through the rocks into her original time period away from Jamie (Sam Heughan) in the 18th century while also introducing their adult daughter, Brianna (Sophie Skelton), in 1968, returning with Claire to Scotland for the first time in 20 years. Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) has died, finally allowing Claire to reveal the truth to Brianna about her biological father and Claire's time-traveling adventure.
With the help of Reverend Wakefield's adopted son Roger (Richard Rankin), Claire is not only able to convince Brianna that the tale is true, but discovers that Jamie miraculously survived the battle. The notion that Jamie is still alive is all the prompting Claire needs to return to the 18th century and reunite with the love of her life. Season 3 will follow that adventure with Brianna and Roger in tow.
TVGuide.com talked to executive producers Matt Roberts and Toni Graphia, who penned the episode, about the challenges of introducing Brianna and Roger and what lies ahead for the Frasers next season, which is based on the third book in the Outlander novel series, Voyager.
What was the greatest challenge in setting up this finale and what objectives did you know you had to achieve in the final 90 minutes?
Toni Graphia: Ron [Moore, executive producer] always said it was kind of like writing a pilot, in a way, because we have to introduce Brianna and Roger. They are such new characters, but ones that the audience are potentially interested in, obviously. The character of Brianna being half-Jamie and half Claire, they're really into that. We had to introduce them and sort of kick off a whole new storyline for going forward.
We did it in a different way because the book [Dragonfly in Amber] opens with the introduction of Brianna and Roger. We chose to steal the opening of the Book 3 for the opening of Season 2, and then end the season with the introduction of Brianna and Roger. That's a twist that we did that we think ended up well.
Matt Roberts: Literally, the whole book of Dragonfly in Amber and Season 2 is told in flashback because we already know Claire goes back. We know that Claire survived; it's just how she survived. Toni and I had to be very careful not to tell [Bri and Roger's] story in the finale, as opposed to just whet everyone's appetite — because it's not their story. It's still Claire and Jamie's story, and that's whose it will always be.
Your initial instinct with [Brianna and Roger] is to give them a beginning, middle and an end to the story. ... We had to be careful to reel ourselves in and not go too far with their story because that's another season down the road.
What is different about the versions of Brianna and Roger you bring to life in the finale from the ones fans know in the books?
Graphia: We wanted to give Brianna a little more of a drive. We thought it would be a little more interesting if Claire, instead of already making the decision [to tell Brianna about Jamie] off-screen, was drawn back by the ghosts of her past. Even though she has the freedom to tell Brianna now, she hasn't made the decision. In the book, your mind fills in all that, but when you're watching it you don't want the decision to be made off-camera. So when Claire comes back, we gave that drive to Brianna. In that way, Claire is being drawn in by the ghosts and Brianna is like, "What's up with my mom? She's always been a little distant and strange, but now she seems really moved by this place and she's sneaking off to go see things."
In the book, its Claire and Roger — Claire sort of shoves Brianna off to the side and secretly asks Roger, "Will you help me find out what happens to Jamie Fraser?" We switched it to Brianna and Roger, both for the sake of their developing relationship, because they're now doing this project together, and to sort of have Brianna be the strong one that comes at Claire and demands these answers.
Finally, Claire can't hide anymore from her past and has to come clean with her daughter. We just thought for the screen that was the more interesting story. It makes Brianna a more interesting character because she's driving the story and she has something to do. She's interested. She wants to know about her past and it makes for some explosive scenes between her and Claire, which we loved doing.
Since we pick up in 1968, it's technically been 20 years since we've seen Claire. How has she changed in that time period?
Roberts: She's 20 years older within that episode. One is a testimony to Caitriona Balfe to how amazing she is as an actress. Toni and I knew we could seamlessly go back and forth and she could pull this off. [Claire] is wiser, in a way, and more practical. She's more resilient. She's become a surgeon. She's not just a healer, but she can actually put medicine into practice now. It will help her going forward.
Graphia: She is all of those things, plus she's kind of repressed because she made a promise to Frank that she wouldn't pursue this research on Jamie. She wouldn't mention his name even. She's lived for 20 years with this secret and she had such a passionate love for this guy that she had to shove it way, way down to be able to get through her day to day activities and raise a baby, go to med school and survive this marriage.
When she comes to Scotland, she's a little closed-up. She's got walls around her, but its not a place where you can have those walls around you. The ghosts of that place are going to permeate those walls and bring her back. We're watching Claire in some ways come alive again.
Another person who plays a big part in this finale is Geillis/Gillian. What was the reasoning behind not letting her and Claire have contact?
Roberts: We deliberately chose to do that. We would have loved to have come in contact and then have scenes together, but it didn't make story sense. It's such a big event in Gillian Edgars' (Lotte Verbeek) life, going back through the stones. If she had met [Claire] in the '60s and then saw that person appear in 1743, she would have remembered her. We never played scenes in Season 1 about that; it didn't make sense for them to have any contact.
We played around with them passing by each other on the street and just having that moment for the audience, "Ooh, if they only would have talked!" Then Toni and I came up with the idea if Brianna saw Gillian, we could get a lot of that in — all those exciting ideas of talking with Geillis/Gillian. We bring that into the story if we use Bri. We think we got some really good fireworks with those scenes.
Graphia: Also to have Geillis meet Roger Wakefield — who is her descendant. They're related so to have the briefest cross with them and relating to some of the stuff that's coming in the later books, it's a nice serendipity to have them cross paths.
None of the actual Battle of Culloden shows up in the season finale. Will we get to see what happened in Season 3?
Roberts: Maybe. Culloden never happens in the books. We do have some surprises for Season 3. There are a lot of things we are working on right now: writing scripts, breaking stories. Voyager is a really big book with a lot of action and adventure, a lot of big love story moments. We're trying to incorporate a lot of the big book moments, but we are going to do some things for the television show that book fans and non-book readers will be excited about. We will definitely deal with a lot of the story elements that get left as cliffhangers at the end of Season 2. How we resolve them in Season 3 will be the fun surprises for everybody.
Graphia: Since we started this season with Jamie and Claire being ripped apart and they've been separated, we always saw the season moving towards explaining how they were torn apart from each other. Instead of following the literal arc towards the battle, we followed the emotional arc of, let's see how these two lovers were torn from each other. For us, the ending of that story for us in this season is, here is what happened and why they had to be separated.
Can you tease what the genre of Season 3 will be since Season 1 was an adventure tale and Season 2 was mostly a political drama?
Roberts: Season 3 is a swashbuckling, epic adventure laced with love. It's always a love story. That is the heart of Outlander. I wouldn't call it a romance; I'd call it a love story. All the adventures happen wrapped around that love story. There's sea battles. It's a really cool, fun story and all of the writers are all excited to do it.
Graphia: For Season 3, the title of each book is really a metaphor for that season. Outlander Season 1 was about [Claire] being an outsider. Dragonfly in Amber is about being stuck in time. The third season, Voyager, will be a grand voyage. It will not only be a literal voyage, but an emotional voyage for our central couple.
Outlander returns on Starz next year.