TV Discussion

Outlander: The story so far… (Seasons 1 and 2)

As the latest season premieres, Clara Cook looks back at the first two seasons of Outlander...

Outlander is a science-fiction period drama series based on the novels of Diana Gabaldon. It tells the story of the tumultuous married life of Claire Randall, an accidental time traveller and Jamie Fraser, an 18th Century Highland warrior. The show was developed by Ronald D. Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame. Both shows display the hallmarks of his work, such as beautiful visuals, graceful camera work and the haunting music of Bear McCreary. After a successful first two seasons garnering favourable reviews and a strong fan base, the highly anticipated third season premiered on 10th September 2017.

So to bring viewers up to speed for the forthcoming series, we thought we’d bring you a breakdown of the last two seasons…

Season One starts with Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married World War II nurse holidaying with her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) in Inverness, Scotland, in 1945. After years of separation during the war, Frank and Claire are looking to reignite their relationship over this romantic trip. While researching Frank’s family history and an ancestor of his named Black Jack Randall (also expertly portrayed by Tobias Menzies), Frank and Claire come across an ancient stone circle named Craigh na Dun.

Curious about the ruins and upon hearing that the local women take part in an early morning ritual amongst the stones, the couple sneak out to observe the ceremony. During the ritual, Claire, who is a keen botanist, spots a plant that interests her and decides to visit Craigh na Dun again to investigate it further. The next afternoon, she hears a strange noise emanating from a central stone in the circle. She touches the stone and is transported back in time to 1743. Weird, we know.

The first season of the show is dominated by Claire’s narration, which is no bad thing, as it allows the audience to experience the fear and disassociation that comes from being hurled two hundred years into the past. As Claire runs through the 18th century Scottish woods in a panic, her first encounter is with Jack Randall, her husband’s ancestor, who also shares an uncanny resemblance to Frank and is a Captain in the English Army. Whaddya know?

While under attack by Black Jack Randall, Claire is rescued by a Scottish Highlander, who brings her to the rest of his clansmen. Cue the entrance of the Highland warrior, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). Claire uses her experience as a nurse to help set Jamie’s dislocated shoulder and the leader of the group, Dougal MacKenzie, decides she could be useful and takes her to Castle Leoch, where his brother is Laird. Over the next few episodes, Claire attempts to navigate the complex and alien world of the 18th century Scottish clans. She takes up the unofficial post of medicine woman in the castle due to her knowledge of nursing and botany.

Over time, she becomes closer to Jamie, who has also suffered at the hands of Jack Randall, but resists her attraction to him as she is determined to remain faithful to Frank. Eventually Claire becomes aware of a plot amongst the highlanders to collect funds to support the Jacobite Army and since Claire has the benefit of historical hindsight she knows that the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 will be quashed and the great Highland Clans decimated at The Battle of Culloden. To protect her from Jack Randall and the English Army, Jamie marries Claire so that she can become a Scottish citizen. She is understandably emotionally torn by being married to two different men.

After an attempted escape back to the 20th Century, Claire is captured by the English Army and taken to Fort William, where once again she comes face to face with the sadistic Jack Randall and he attempts to rape her. Jamie rescues Claire but this only serves to fuel Jack’s obsession with both of them. Claire decides to remain in the past with Jamie as she now loves him.

Once back in Leoch, Claire visits her friend, a woman named Geillis Duncan, who professes to be a witch but is actually also a time traveller from the 1960s! After they are both accused of witchcraft, Claire confesses to Jamie that she is actually from the future. The two of them agree to attempt to prevent the future Jacobite uprising to save the Highlanders’ lives.

After a brief visit to Jamie’s ancestral home, he is captured by the English Army and taken to Wentworth Prison, where Jack Randall takes great pleasure in torturing and raping him. Claire rallies Jamie’s clansmen and together they rescue him. She nurses Jamie back to health, despite the mental and physical damage that has been inflicted on him and we also discover that that she is pregnant. Together they sail to France to find Prince Charles Stuart and try to thwart the Battle of Culloden.

In Season Two, Claire and Jamie find themselves in the lavish, dangerous society of King Louis XV’s France, trying to hamper the flow of funds to Prince Charles Stuart, thereby hampering his ability to organise the Jacobite rebellion. The strain of altering history takes its toll on both Jamie and Claire, even more so when Jack Randall arrives in France and is his usual violent self, prompting Jamie to retaliate by challenging him to a duel.

The trauma of watching her modern-day husband’s ancestor being maimed at Jamie’s hands leads to Claire miscarrying her baby. The couple, now both grief-stricken and looking unlikely to prevent the Jacobite uprising, return to Scotland with Charles Stuart. They are determined to help the Scottish forces defeat the English. As the rebellion starts and the Battle of Culloden looms closer, Jamie sends Claire, who is now pregnant again, back in time through the stones of Craigh na Dun to ensure her and the baby’s safety.

The last episode centres on Claire’s return to Scotland in the 1960s. She has raised her daughter (Jamie’s child), Brianna with Frank Randall upon her return to the 20th Century. Brianna is now twenty years old and curious about her mother’s odd behaviour during the trip to Inverness. Finally Claire reveals the truth to Brianna about her time travelling. Although in complete disbelief at first, Brianna realises that her mother is telling the truth after witnessing Geillis Duncan travel through the stones! At the same time, Claire discovers Jamie did not die at the Battle of Culloden as she had previously thought. Both mother and daughter now face the challenge of finding him lost somewhere in the past…

Outlander Season 3 is now airing weekly, every Monday, on Amazon Prime.


  1. I read this so I could watch the next season with my husband without having to watch it myself. I now want to watch it after reading this great synopsis. Thanks Clara !

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