“John Sheridan was a good and honorable man.” – “You have come all this way just to say that?” – “Why not? You have come all this way to say less.”
In terms of characters, I became fond of Frank very quickly. It would have been so easy to write him out of the story (as I understand it happens in the books) or in the tradition of the early 1990s (from where the books come) make him a stuffy or unlikeable character. Instead, he takes his rightful place as one of the four central characters. He is strong in a quiet, understated way, spontaneous, with a fine sense of humour.
A lovely detail right at the end of Season 2 is when Roger reveals that Frank actually asked the Reverend to find out what happened to Jamie, despite his condition to Claire that she „leave the past behind“. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
Perfect mirror: “Both Sides Now”
In the final episode of Season 1’s first half the producers showed on a grand scale what Outlander was all about: Mirrors and parallels and juxtapositions. The story switches continually between Claire’s 18th century and Frank’s 20th century lives, seamlessly, contrasting Claire’s carefree adventures and her newfound love with Frank’s growing despair before setting the both of them on the same course with mirroring assault scenes.
While Claire kills her attacker in self-defence and goes into shock afterwards, Frank vents weeks of bottled up desperation and doubt on his would-be muggers, nearly killing two of them. It is Reverend Wakefield’s warning of the „cup of evil“ afterwards that brings him back from the brink of darkness.
Parted by time, Claire and Frank move in the same space. The camera swings from Frank crying out his despair across the invisible axis to Claire running up the hill towards Frank, almost reaching him. The dramatic scene ends still in the same space, Claire being dragged away by British soldiers to the right and Frank walking away to the left.
It is the last we see of him for a long time, but the play with mirrors doesn’t end here. Claire is reunited not with Frank but with his 18th century doppelganger Jack where – irony of ironies – Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies reenact a classic: The good old-fashioned 1950s‘ „wife helps husband with the binding of his tie“ scene. Whoopi Goldberg did a parody of it in Corrina, Corrina.
The Power of the Old Ones: The pagan and female
I personally don’t put much stock in it, but since it’s there for all to see: The neo-paganism/mother goddess/mystical female earth connection made so popular by the likes of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Wiccans and a certain branch of feminists is also very much present in Outlander. Yes, I’m being acidic about it. I positively loathe the made-up worldview of neo-paganism. I am willing to believe its practitioners mean well, but since basically no traditions from „back then“ survive, everyone feels free to put their own fantasies into it. The old ones, I sincerely believe, knew better. And, by the way, those who think paganism (the true one) and monotheism are in competition don’t have the first clue.
But anyway: The standing stones of Craigh na Dun with their (cough, young and beautiful female, cough) druids tie directly into the earthmother belief, along with Geillis‘ neo-paganism, the idea of witches, female healers etc., which might be part of the explanation why both Claire and Gillian/Geillis – being female – are able to travel through the stones and not Jamie or Frank.
Also tied to it but based far more solidly in realism is:
Male and female spheres
Now here we have some lovely examples of both traditional and mythical spheres associated with men and women. My absolute favourites:
Rather unusual for a period drama (it’s more common in the fantasy genre): Two women in traditional male roles, on the road, as scouts, outlaws, aggressors, wielding weapons and even torturing someone.
Beware of people without friends
While it might be argued that Jack Randall and the Duke of Sandringham have something of a friendship going on, it doesn’t really come through. Good people have friends in Outlander, plain and simple.
The dyad, a special kind of friendship. Angus and Rupert, Ross and Kincaid always come in pairs. The underlying theme of death in Season 2’s second half becomes more pronounced when both dyads are broken and the remaining halves form a tentative new pair.
In a way, the dyad also applies to the two sets of brothers in the series, Colum and Dougal as well as Jack and Alex. Both dyads, too, are broken by death in “The Hail Mary”, with the death of the two remaining halves only hours away. Mirrors, again; the twin/doppelganger symbolism, again.
One last thing: While I find it absolutely fascinating to discover all these intricate details, I would be remiss in not pointing out that Outlander can be enjoyed simply as a very good story, full of drama and love and epic stuff and beautiful pictures! I did that, too.