SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Outlander Season 2 finale.
After a dazzling 13-episode run that saw Outlander in the 18th century salons and intrigue of Louis XV’s Paris, the Jacobite uprising and then back among the Scottish highlands, the Starz series led by Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan wrapped up its second season tonight with renewed hope. It also saw the end for a major character, revelations in many eras, and a trip back through the Craigh na Dun stones from the late 1960s to the late 1740s for Balfe’s Claire.
As fans of the Diana Gabaldon books on which the sensual Outlander TV series is based know and viewers discovered in the 90-minute finale, it seems Heughan’s Jamie Fraser did not die at English hands at the Battle of Culloden, but War Chieftain Dougal MacKenzie (Graham McTavish) did meet his end tonight — at Jamie’s hand.
Deep into production on Season 3 of the series, executive producer Ronald D. Moore spoke with me about tonight’s finale, crafting the now-concluded cycle and changes it saw from the Dragonfly In Amber novel on which it was based. The show won’t be at Comic-Con this year, but the former Battlestar Galactica EP also discussed adapting Gabaldon’s 1993 book Voyager for the next season and whether the author will pen a script. Moore also sketched out plans for Season 4 of the show from Sony Pictures Television and Left Bank Pictures and how he thinks Outlander will fare in Emmy nominations this week.
DEADLINE: Season 1’s finale may have been more brutal, but this year’s ender certainly matched it for dramatic twists — especially the killing of Dougal. How do you think fans will react?
MOORE: If they don’t know the books, I think they will be surprised and shocked that we killed Dougal MacKenzie because he’s such a great character and such a powerful force. Especially since Colum (Gary Lewis) just died the week before, and you would think that there would be a long route to go with Dougal. I assume that the broadcast audience was assuming that we would see Dougal fighting to the death at Culloden, right? He would be one of the principal players in that story, so I think it will come as a pretty big surprise.
DEADLINE: Last season ended with the rape scene with Black Jack and with Jamie, about which there was a huge and shocked response from fans. This season finale had a different tone. Was that intentional?
MOORE: It was certainly intentional what we went for, but I don’t think we set out to set it apart from Season 1. It just had its own kind of organic feeling to it. It had a different rhythm and a different kind of overarching idea to what we were doing in the finale this year. Last year’s finale was a one-off, that was where that story ended. I don’t think the show or the book set out to try to top themselves each year or at the end of each book. That was the end of that story, and this one is the end of this story.
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DEADLINE: Now that you are even deeper into the series and hence the books with Outlander, how do you balance the small-screen adaptation to keep both audiences involved?
MOORE: I’m constantly trying to keep both audiences in mind. It’s a source of ongoing conversation in the writers room and in editing. It’s my job to keep my eye on both those audiences. I know the books, but I always have to try and watch the show with a mind toward if I don’t know the books, if it doesn’t make any sense to me, I have to ask, “Am I engaged by it emotionally? Is it a great piece of entertainment whether or not I’ve read the source material?”
And I always go to my own experience on Game Of Thrones. I watch Game Of Thrones. I think it’s great, I enjoy it, but I’ve never read those books, and so there are definitely times, especially in some of the earlier seasons, where I was lost. I would have to hit pause and turn to my wife and say, “OK, wait a minute, who is that and how did this happen?” and then she would explain it and I would watch the show again.
So with Outlander, I’m always remembering my own experience as viewer who doesn’t know the source material, and using that to sort of help guide me through Outlander because they are very different audiences. I think it’s easy for us to sort of start with the fan experience that knows the books so well because we know the books now. So, as we’re outlining the show and as we’re writing the show, we know what the major tentacles are, we know what the backstories are, we know the narrative, and we’re moving this around — and it’s OK because this is what happened later, so we have all that stuff locked in. It’s the other audience that you have to take a step back for. I kind of see it as my job to constantly try to keep the broadcast-only audience engaged with it.