Update: Starz's video with Season 1 recap in the end of this post!
When Diana Gabaldon typed in the final stop on her 1991 Outlander manuscript, she could not, for the life of her, imagine the international sensation it'd become over two decades later. Interestingly enough, most of the fans who have now made this series so popular didn't even read the book when it first came out. That just serves to prove that some stories are atemporal and have an universal appeal.
Outlander is such a story.
When Starz bought the rights to the bring the books to life on TV, the commotion wasn't so huge. Yes, the fans have always rooted for Claire and Jamie through the book series, but Starz brought both the story and the hype to a whole new level of expectation. Now, on to season 2, set to premiere on April 9, the Outlander tv series has its own fan-base and it definitely breathes on its own. The plot still revolves around - I had better say is heavily based on - Diana's books, so if you really wish to catch up before second season, 'Outlander' is the book to read as far as season 1 goes.
If you don't have the time or would rather have a quick recap done for you, here are the main things you need to know before the next installment of the series airs.
Well, not so much as you fly through time.
Outlander is set on the premisse that time traveling is possible, albeit not technologically. Claire Beuchamp Randall, the leading lady who you follow on this journey, is a special kind of person and has the ability to, under the right circumstances, travel through time. Unfortunately for her, she only discovers this ability once she touches one of the standing stones in the fictional Craigh na Dun Stone Circle and the traveling takes place, erasing her from Scotland 1945 and taking her back to 1745.
After this accidental trip back to a history book Scotland, she sees herself stuck in that time, until she manages to find her way back to the circle and has the choice to whether stay in the past or return to her old life in the future. One interesting fact is that, while she's standing next to the stones, she can sort of connect with 1975 and hear her husband calling out to her from the future. She finally makes a choice, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Still on the supernatural aspects of the story, Outlander gives us a witch-hunt, with Claire and her 1745 only friend Geillis Duncan, being set up by a jealous lass to burn on the stake. During their trial, Claire discovers that Geillis is a time-traveler like herself and, though Claire manages to escape with Jamie's help, Geillis fate is unsure.
With a little help from their friends
Of course no great story is complete without the supporting characters, the ones that help Claire, Jamie and Frank through their hard times.
For Claire, that's Geillis Duncan. Since Claire only finds out the truth about her being from a different time seconds before she's taken to be burned, it's safe to say Geillis offers Claire some very important hints of how to survive in the 1700s from the very beginning. She befriends Claire when she had no one to talk to, offering a friendly shoulder - primarily because she sees Claire for the time-traveler that she is. Granted, Geillis isn't the best of role models, since she kills her husband because she's having an affair with Duncan Mackenzie - and is regnant with his child - but she lends the hand that centers Claire in Castle Leoch and the reality she's now living in.
Reverend Wakefield is Frank's link to sanity back in 1945. After Claire goes missing, he stays by Frank's side offering support to the least credible indication that Claire might be rescued or found. It's in the reverend's house that Frank finds another explanation for Claire's disappearance, in the form of Mrs. Graham. She's the reverend's housekeeper, who just happens to be a druid practitioner, that tells Frank about the stone circle of Craigh na Dun and how people have traveled in time through it. Unfortunately, Frank's historian mind isn't open enough to believe in her and he leaves Scotland without Claire for good.
On the Fraser front, Murtagh is Jamie's godfather and eternal protector. He's ever present and ready to defend Jamie from anything or anyone and, when Claire becomes Jamie's wife, that protection reluctantly extends to her as well. Though Murtagh may not be a man of many words - or sometimes any for that matter - his loyalty and love for Jamie has no limits - even hopping on a ship when he's scared to death of water.
As if traveling through time wasn't enough, Claire also has to deal with things and facts she'd only learned about in books. Being that she's married - in 1945 - to Frank Randall, who is a historian, she does pretty well sailing around the technology - or lack of there of - in the 1740s. Clothes are her first concern, closely followed by food and shelter, which she manages to achieve by being 'captured' by a authentic Scottish Highland Clan.
The clan system being long abolished in the 1940s, Claire is quick to assess her situation in terms of both vulnerability and protection. The Mackenzies take her in, first as an untrustworthy guest and later as their healing lady, offering her a base for her to plot her return to her own time. With time, she's able to make herself useful to the Mackenzies and earn a small amount of respect from them.
Though Diana maintains an enormous amount of accuracy while describing the clan system and the every day aspects of life in the late medieval Scotland, she takes some liberties with historical characters. Not only in Outlander, but throughout the series, she brings well-known important figures to the plot, however they are most often depicted in a perspective that would suit the story, not history itself. The series also takes us to wonderful medieval castles, such as Castle Leoch - the Mackenzie Clan castle - and Lallybrooch - the Frasers home - which the book fans had been dying to see.
Of course things don't turn out to be that easy and Claire soon finds that life in the 1700s has constant perils she must survive. The main one being Frank Randall's ancestor, the Captain 'Black' Jack Randall. He is the first person she encounter in this new time, causing her to mistake Jack for Frank, which proves to be a grave mistake as he tries to rape her. Later, she learns that Jamie has already suffered in the hands of Black Jack, being whipped twice in the space of just days, which left Jamie's back terribly scarred for life.
As the plot develops, Black Jack becomes the villain of a lifetime for Claire and Jamie, causing them unfathomable pain but also unwillingly bringing them closer. It's because of the threat he poses to Claire, since she's English and so forced to comply to the Captain's wishes, that she marries Jamie so she may become a Scot and be free of Randall.
A love triangle for the ages
Time traveling may be the basis for Outlander to exist, but its moving force is love. This is the story of a married woman, on a second - much deserved - honeymoon with her husband in 1945, and who ends up falling deeply in love with her soulmate in 1745. James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser - or just Jamie to us - becomes Claire's second husband and, as she later realizes, the love of her life.
This season one - as well as the Outlander book - is all about Jamie and Claire, how much she fights her feelings for him while hopelessly loving him all the same. Jamie becomes Claire's anchor in this new world and time, the one thing she's sure to count and depend on amidst all the chaos she's in.
Later, as Black Jack Randall finally manages to break Jamie's spirit, it's Claire who brings him back through her new found love and devotion to him. So when the time comes to choose, back there at the Standing Stones, it's Jamie she chooses and so she seals her fate and stays in 1745 for good.
What of Frank, you say? He does his duty as a loving husband and searches tirelessly for Claire, to the point of being mocked by the police and to no avail. By the end of the season, he's given all hope of finding her, which does break our hearts a bit. Tobias Menzies, who plays Frank, also plays his ancestor Jack Randall, giving us fans two unbelievably different characters with the obviously same appearance. While we feel for Frank and pity his loss, we despise Jack Randall with all our might. Tobias was nominated for the Golden Globe for best supporting role in 2015 for his portrayal of both Frank and Jack Randall.
Where we're at...
When we last see Jamie and Claire, they've been broken to pieces, both individually and as a couple, but we get a sense that they're on their way to a better and more hopeful future. They're sailing to Paris, Claire is pregnant and Jamie has found some of his will to continue living. So it's fair to say season 2 will cement the foundations of their love and bring them - as us viewers - many more adventures.
All caught-up? Check the season 2 trailer and breakdown here.
And for more on what Paris has to offer, don't miss the 'Creating New Worlds' behind the scenes video.