Spoiler Alert: Do not read if you haven’t seen Outlander Season 2, Ep. 11 – “The Hail Mary.”
When the second season of Outlander premiered I lauded the first episode for its flash forward. In that context, returning to 1948, and Frank, seemed ingenious and gave us a thrilling look into what was in store for our favorite heroine. But, as the season has progressed, that decision feels more and more ill considered.
Much of this second season has revolved around the Frasers attempting to prevent the Battle of Culloden and Claire attempting to ensure Frank’s eventual existence. Both worthy endeavors, but when the season starts off by telling us history has not been changed in any way, those plots instantly lose tension.
Last week’s episode was a respite because we didn’t know the fate of Sandringham so that tension could be built and explored and paid off. And it felt great. Then this week we were thrown back into war planning and Mary Hawkins marriage planning and all those good feelings evaporated.
From the moment we first met Alex Randall, coughing and flirting with Mary, it was clear that he would impregnate her, die and she would be forced to marry his brother to avoid destitution. Every tragic turn of Mary’s story has been leading to that outcome so when it finally came it lacked any sort of interest. It was inevitable and then it happened. End of story.
Likewise, we’ve know since episode one that the Battle of Culloden would still happen, so this last ditch effort to prevent it felt like nothing more than filler. Sure, it sounded like a good idea to sneak up on the British army, but since we also knew it wouldn’t work, all the arguing about it felt like a waste of time.
In fact, the only unexpected turn in this week’s episode came from Colum’s return and subsequent death. Colum naming Jamie as his son’s guardian and subsequent successor was the only new bit of information we received and that, along with the wonderful moment of Dougal at his bedside, were the most interesting developments of the hour.
That’s not entirely true, though. We also learned that Jonathan Randall is meant to die at the Battle of Culloden. I suspect it will still be by Jamie’s hand, but I also sincerely hope that he doesn’t die at all. Not because his love for his brother as swayed me in any way about his character, but more that, as the Comte St. Germain proved, Outlander just isn’t as exciting with a different villain.
If the creators of Outlander asked me, which they have not and I assume will not, this season would have been much better served with a whole lot of condensing. As much as I loved the visuals of Paris, since the trip essentially proved pointless, they could have cut the time spent there in half, moved up all the warring in Scotland and provided more time at the end of the season for unknown plot developments.
I understand that each season is based on a book in the series, and given how passionate the fans of the books are, it might seem prudent to keep the same pacing as the books. But TV is a much different medium and what works in one won’t necessarily work in the other. The structure of this season has left the more interesting episodes feeling like diversions and the less exciting ones like little more than wheel spinning.
As least the next episode, the season finale, will (hopefully) give us some new information… just in time for a year long hiatus.
NOTE: As this is a review of the TV show, and only the TV show, please limit comments to discuss only the events that have occurred in episodes that have aired as of this date. Thank you.
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