Five Thoughts on Outlander‘s “Dragonfly in Amber”

By | September 9th, 2022
Posted in Television | % Comments

Welcome back to Lallybroch, Sassenachs. Today is the day the Frasers and their allies hoped for and feared has arrived: the Battle of Culloden.  However this ends, there’s no doubt lives will change forever as a result.  For one last time this summer, let’s take a look at the life and times of the Scottish Highlands in “Dragonfly in Amber.”

It should also be noted that Outlander is very much an 18+ series, with graphic violence and sexuality throughout. As well, there may be spoilers within for both the tv show and the novel series.

1. 1,9,6,8

The opening shot of Emma Peel and The Avengers (no, not those Avengers), sets us in the mod, mod, mod, world of the 1960s, in Scotland at a wake. Claire is also in attendance, looking a bit older and certainly mournful.  The funeral is for one Reverend Wakefield (you will remember him as the vicar that met up with Claire and Frank in 1945), and the toast is being led by his adoptive son Roger Wakefield.  The services allow us to meet Brianna Randall, Claire’s daughter (the little red-haired girl we saw in the first episode) now all grown up and studying history at Harvard.   In the time that has passed, Claire has a medical degree – – and is a widow.

This shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone: we know based on the season opener Claire does return to America.  Perhaps it may come as a surprise then that Claire’s been in the 20th century as long as she has – – and yet, she still has some pull to chase the ghost of Jamie that she promised Frank she would not chase.  As she wisely admits to Roger over a dram, she’s never been good at saying goodbyes, but learns in time to let go, for that is what they want. Has the passage of time – – and the passing of Frank – – broken her free of that bond?  At the very least, it allows her to embrace memories she’s long suppressed, coming to the surface on a trip to a boarded up Lallybroch and the site of the Battle of Culloden.

2. “God, You Are So Like Him” 

This is also our first appearance of the adult Roger Wakefield and Brianna Randall, characters who will start to play a very pivotal role in both book and TV show from this point forward.   Now if you saw Brianna’s fiery ginger hair and wondered to yourself, could it be possible that Jamie is Brianna’s biological father and Claire traveled through the stones pregnant and has Kate been dropping hints about this all in her recaps . . . well you’re right. Claire admits this to the Clan Fraser marker at the Culloden site: Brianna, named for Jamie’s father, “just as I promised.”  And in this moment, Claire starts to finally make peace with that past that Frank denied her.

Note the tension between Brianna and her parents.  She’s a true daddy’s girl, idolizing him in a way that she would probably not had she known some of his past – – but her mother “is in another world.” And she wants the truth about her mother, no matter what it takes: even at the risk of that relationship.

What’s also fascinating to hear is that Roger’s surname of Wakefield is that of his adoptive father – – his birth name is Mackenzie. Indeed, this is a common Scottish surname, but could this be a Mackenzie that Claire knows, suggesting that Roger is a descendant of Dougal? Claire’s convinced, and her research from the genealogical society confirms it.

Also take a note of the longing and somewhat flirtatious moments between Brianna and Roger: at the wake, on their drive through the Highlands.  Something will come of that later.  (That also means you don’t have to worry about Fiona over there posing any threat, even though she also seems keen on our young Scottish historian.)

3. 1,9,6,8 Redux

Does that woman from the White Roses of Scotland, lecturing at the local university in support of a sovereign Scottish state, look familiar?  Indeed, it does look like one Geillis Duncan, friend and later betrayer of Claire from the first season.  This woman is named Gillian Edgers, someone who seems very keen on Scottish history and ready to make more history.  Could she be a descendant of Geillis? We know her child with Dougal did survive.

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But she isn’t any descendant: she’s the actual Geillis Duncan, obsessed with Scottish nationalism (to the detriment of her marriage). The discovery of her notebook with a sketch of Craigh na Dun all but confirms it.  Claire knows she need to stop Gillian/Geillis . . . but the fact that Roger is now a descendant of Geillis and Dougal puts a wrench in these plans.  The decision is made to warn Gillian/Geillis, so that she manages to live and set for the lineage that Roger has.

Of note here is her interest in Brianna. What could she want with Claire and Jamie’s daughter?

If it seems like we’re spending a lot of time in the 20th century, don’t worry: we’re going to get to the Battle of Culloden.  But what you’re seeing here does well to set up the eventual third season, where past and present become even more intertwined.  And the script’s structure and pace keep things moving.   This is the longest episode of the series to date at 90 minutes, but it doesn’t feel like it.

4. “Goodbye Jamie Fraser, my love. Rest easy, soldier.”  

Over the course of these two seasons, we see just how much Claire loved Jamie, more so that Frank.  It makes the moments in which she not only says goodbye to him, but offers to tell all to Brianna about her parentage quite liberating, if difficult. You can see it on her face and how carefully she starts to spell out who he was, struggling to even say the word “Culloden.” Unfortunately, it does in fact come at the expense of things with Brianna, who doesn’t take the news well, accusing her mother of being a bored housewife who needed an affair to spice up her life.

I can’t help but feel anger towards Frank at putting this ridiculous condition on his wife all those years ago.  Claire needed the time and the space to come to terms with what she had been through, and Frank prevented that.  It probably would not have prevented Brianna’s reaction; it’s natural when confronted with news like that.  But Claire would have been better prepared for that eventual moment of truth.

5. Culloden, 7:36 AM

It’s back to the 18th century, and Claire is desperate to do anything to prevent the Battle of Culloden from happening – – even if it means killing the Prince to do it.  For a woman who seemed to accept the course of history a few episodes ago, she’s getting desperate, and even gets Jamie to agree to the plan before Dougal puts a stop to it, leading to fight with Jamie ending in his death. The last remaining option aside, Jamie makes plans to ensure Lallybroch stays in Fraser hands, gets the Frasers home – – and then get Claire to safety.  Then it is time to fight until it is done.

Getting Claire to safety means taking her to the stones and sending her back.  And it’s a matter of urgency since Jamie’s figured out Claire’s secret: she’s pregnant. (With Brianna, obviously.) He wants to ensure a piece of him lives past Culloden, just in case he doesn’t. Before Claire has time to protest, it’s off to Craigh na Dun for one very passionate goodbye just before the battle begins and Claire departs.

Meanwhile, in 1968, Claire, Brianna, and Roger make it to Craigh na Dun where Gillian has set fire to her dead husband, believing a human sacrifice is necessary for the time travel. Before Claire can get to her, she disappears through the stones.  All this is right in full view of Roger and Brianna, who have seen and now believe.  For Brianna this allows her to make peace with her mother and set their relationship anew and into a better place.

And in happier news, Roger found research that confirmed that Jamie did not die at the Battle of Culloden.

And as the sun rises over the stones, Claire makes a promise to find her way back to Jamie.

This love story is not over yet.

The Lost Papers of Black Jack Randall (Our Afterthoughts Section)

  • The title of the episode comes from the title of the second Outlander novel, Dragonfly in Amber. 
  • Continued below

  • The setting of the 1960s allows for some great fashion and music.  I absolutely love Brianna’s corduroy hat.  She got her snappy dressing skills from Frank, that’s for sure.
  • While at the stones, Roger and Brianna also hear the buzzing that only Claire could hear, signaling she could travel through time.  This is important to remember later.

And with that, we travel back through the stones to return to real life, as we have reached the end of our 2022 Multiversity Summer TV Binge of Outlander.  Perhaps we have left with more questions than answers. Perhaps we have left with heavy hearts.  But we’ve all left perhaps some changed people, those with a deeper understanding of the true human cost of war.

We will see you next summer where we’ll take a look at Season 3 of Outlander, a season that splits its time between 20th century America and 18th century Scotland, with Claire and Jamie painfully apart.  But don’t worry, that won’t be for long.

As of this writing, the first five seasons of Outlander are available for viewing on Netflix in the US and Amazon Prime Video in the UK.  All six seasons of the show are also available with a subscription to the Starz network in the United States. The seventh season of Outlander is currently in production.

//TAGS | 2022 Summer TV Binge | Outlander

Kate Kosturski

Kate Kosturski is your Multiversity social media manager, a librarian by day and a comics geek...well, by day too (and by night). Kate's writing has also been featured at PanelxPanel, Women Write About Comics, and Geeks OUT. She spends her free time spending too much money on Funko POP figures and LEGO, playing with yarn, and rooting for the hapless New York Mets. Follow her on Twitter at @librarian_kate.


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