Warning: This postmortem contains spoilers for the “Useful Occupations And Deceptions” episode of Outlander.
When sparks stop flying in the Fraser bedroom, even when a freshly waxed honeypot is involved, you know something is definitely rotten in the state of France. Season 2 started smack dab in the middle of Jamie’s shame spiral over being raped and tortured by Black Jack, and thanks to all the political maneuvering, manipulating, and general misogyny of the 18th century and Parisian high society, the rift between the Scot and the sassenach continued to grow in the latest episode of Outlander.
“Jamie is not in a healthy place when they begin this part of their journey,” says Sam Heughan. “And France and the mission they are on there — trying to infiltrate the Jacobite rebellion and stop the battle of Culloden and a race of people being wiped out — has a lot of consequences on their relationship, and love may not be strong enough to see them through. They’re not comfortable in this world.”
Caitriona Balfe (Claire) admits that she experienced an adjustment period when they started filming season 2. “Even though we were playing the same characters, it felt almost like a different show. Our characters, in a sense, were also playing characters as well. We’re so used to Jamie and Claire being so honorable, honest and forthright. And here, we find them in a situation where they’re being quite duplicitous and manipulative. It was an uncomfortable readjustment for us, but they were also feeling that, so it helped us [as actors] too.”
“They’re people dealing with very personal journeys alongside the shared mission,” Balfe continues. “Privately, they’re both struggling. Together they’ve found this common language of this mission, this goal. But it’s not exactly healthy ground for them and it really puts a lot of strain on their marriage. But that’s what happens in a marriage — people have work stresses and evolve at different times and deal with things — and we always said the series is the story of how a marriage stays together. It’s that constant elasticity that you need to have as a couple. It’s so intriguing to explore.”
Jamie is most certainly battling post-traumatic stress disorder and the lingering effects of what happened at Wentworth at the end of season 1 causes him to retreat inward. Heughan explains, “You’re so used to Jamie opening up to Claire and telling [her] exactly how he feels. Season 2 he’s doing the exact opposite of that. He’s doing this mission all day and getting drunk all night. He doesn’t talk about what has happened to him. We miss them connecting, which then pulls them apart, and we’re missing that intimacy between them. Ultimately that comes to a head because they’re not dealing with those issues.”
Just like in real life, communication is key to a solid standing, according to Balfe. “As with any relationship, lack of communication is never a good sign or a good thing. It drives a wedge between them. I think they’re going on very private journeys in the beginning of this season. For Claire, it’s quite a lonely time.”
Last year “Outlander” broke into the Emmys derby with a nomination for Best Music Composition (Series) and now it’s poised to do much better considering it’s an established mega-hit with strong critical acclaim. But how much better?
“Outlander” recently won top Critics’ Choice Awards (Most Exciting New Series and Most Bingeworthy Show) and People’s Choice Awards (Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show and Actress), but the Emmys can be tougher. Voters are snobs, but they sometimes overcome their bias against “genre” programs when they want to – like when “Game of Thrones” romped last year.
BEST DRAMA SERIES
Instead of the old pattern of five nominations in this category, there are seven, but it’s still difficult for “Outlander” to break in because the race is too danged crowded with Emmy faves like “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” “Downton Abbey,” “Homeland,” “Better Call Saul” and “Orange is the New Black” plus sexy newcomers like “Mr. Robot.”
BEST DRAMA ACTRESS
Last year there were 75 contenders entered in this category, but about two-thirds of them didn’t really have a prayer of nabbing a nom – like Robin Tunney (“The Mentalist”) and Poppy Montgomery (“Unforgettable”). Caitriona Balfe is now a serious contender after scoring a Golden Globe nom.
BEST DRAMA ACTOR
Sam Heughan‘s lusty profile may be a detriment at the Emmys if voters fail to look past his chiseled jaw to observe his fine acting chops. That may be what happened to him at the Golden Globes where he was mysteriously snubbed even though his costars Balfe and Tobias Menzies got in.
BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTOR
Good news for “Black Jack” (Menzies): Emmy voters adore villains like recent nominees Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”) and Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”).
BEST COSTUMES (PERIOD/FANTASY)
Terry Dresbach was recently nominated at the Costume Designers’ Guild, which means that her peers are paying attention. Previously, she won an Emmy for HBO series “Carnivàle.” This year she certainly deserves the kudos, having overseen the design of 10,000 costumes, many of which were made by hand.
BEST MUSIC COMPOSITION (SERIES)
Bear McCreary was nominated for “Outlander” last year and won two years ago for “Black Sails,” so he’s got an excellent shot to return.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (SINGLE-CAMERA SERIES)
Two talented contenders — Neville Kidd and Stephen McNutt – compete for their masterful lens work capturing epic Scottish landscapes and regal French estates.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN (ONE-HOUR PERIOD)
After recreating the haunting splendor of ancient Highland castles in the first TV seasons, production designer Gary Steele faced new challenges in season two that took viewers to King Louis XV‘s court at Versailles. Magnifique! And certainly Emmy-worthy.