The last time we saw Starz’s “Outlander,” time-travelling heroine Claire (Caitriona Balfe) was left in the clutches of Captain “Black Jack” Randall (Tobias Menzies), with husband Jamie (Sam Heughan) infiltrating the English stronghold of Fort William to try and rescue her from the sadistic Redcoat.
The show’s April 4 return marks something of a change for the ambitious drama series, which spent the first half of the season with Claire serving as the sole narrator and guide for the audience as she acclimated to the treacherous landscape of the Scottish Highlands in 1743. In the midseason premiere, the perspective (and voiceover) switches to Jamie’s point-of-view, giving viewers some insight into the Scot’s thoughts as he mounts his daring rescue mission.
Executive producer Ron Moore told Variety that the decision to switch to Jamie’s POV “evolved as we were developing the season. We knew early on that there was going to be a midseason break and we just said, ‘Okay, this is the perfect cliffhanger, so we’ll end up with Jamie in the window.’ And then as we got closer to doing the episode, we started thinking seriously about, ‘alright, if this is the first time that we’re coming back after a break, we want to restart a little bit and not just pick up directly in the real time, so how would we restart it? And then we started talking about the fact that due to the events of that story, there’s a lot of Jamie in it, so maybe this is an opportunity to shift perspective and tell the story from his point-of-view, because in the life of the series overall, it really is the story of Claire and Jamie. So this was a chance to now open that up and include him in our perspective of what the series is about.”
Balfe didn’t mind handing over her voiceover duties to Heughan for the midseason premiere, noting, “I think it’s really interesting to finally see from Jamie’s perspective of what’s going on, and then to hear his internal monologue about how he feels about things.”
Although Claire’s voiceover isn’t gone for good, Heughan admitted that the back half of the season also allows for plenty of character development for Jamie. “There’s a lot more of who he is; you find out a lot more about him. He is kind of like this perfect man who always says the right thing and does the right thing, and suddenly in the second part of the season, he’s really tested. He’s constantly trying to find his place in the world, in his relationships to Claire; to his sister; to his best friends; his dead father. He’s really trying to find out who he is, and growing up.”
Heughan read Diana Gabaldon’s eponymous book on which the series is based “several times” to help him familiarize himself with Jamie’s journey, but since the first novel is also told solely from Claire’s POV, Heughan admitted to discovering a lot about his character just through the process of playing him. “You can always plot an arc and get a rough idea, but I think for the vast majority of actors, you just don’t know what’s going to happen, how it’s going to come out. And for Jamie, it really is a voyage of discovery, because each episode, he’s being challenged about who he is and what his beliefs are, the way he’s been brought up… and what [Claire] means to him. And then that [relationship] is tested.”
“Outlander” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on Starz. Come back to Variety after the episode for more from Heughan, Balfe and Moore.