Outlander Season 2 Review Starz

Outlander Season 2 Review: The Frasers Take Paris With Stylish, Sexy Aplomb

TV Review Grade B+Paris is for lovers, which makes it the perfect setting for the sophisticated — and ultimately successful — return of Mr. and Mrs. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.

Sure, Outlander‘s Claire and Jamie clean up nice in the Starz drama’s second season, which moves the action from the rough highlands of 1700s Scotland to the genteel salons of pre-revolutionary France. But the core of the Frasers’ relationship is a deep passion for one another, expressed lustily and often, and the chemistry between stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan only amplifies as Season 2 kicks off. Translation: Fans of the series’ gorgeously shot love scenes may want to practice fanning themselves while murmuring “Mon dieu!”

Which is not to say that reminders of the sexual violence that dominated the end of Outlander‘s first season have been banished from the Frasers’ fancy new life in the City of Lights. Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall is still very much a maleficent presence in Jamie’s mind, and the series handles Fraser’s PTSD with a patient, realistic hand: The rape was the first blow, but Jamie’s hesitance to open up to Claire about his battered emotional state means Randall’s violation lives on.

The bright side to this anguish (and the season in general) is that it allows Heughan to widen his portrayal of Lord Broch Tuarach beyond broadsword and burlap. James Fraser in France is a merchant with his finger on the pulse of the city, a man able to parlay his charm, wit and pragmatism into positions of counsel for the influential and the ambitious. He also is someone feeling the immense pressure of knowing — thanks to his time-traveler wife —  that a terrible battle is on its way, as well as grappling with the supreme doubt he can change history in time to stop the carnage. The constant push-pull wears on the character; when Jamie snaps, such as when he angrily demands that Claire tell him why he must bear everyone’s weaknesses but his own, Heughan dazzles.

But Outlander is first and foremost Claire’s story, and Caitriona Balfe plays the mother-to-be in the same anachronistically forthright style she brought to Season 1. A woman of action in a time where social teas are a lady’s most important endeavor, Balfe sparks with irritation until Claire at last finds her purpose at a charity hospital. (And I’d be remiss not to mention here that Balfe glides about in costume designer Terry Dresbach’s magnificent gowns as though she were born to do so; I defy you to dislodge your eyeballs from the red number Mrs. Fraser wears to French Court. Simply luminous.)

The new characters the Frasers encounter during their Parisian stay provide plenty of intrigue, too. Claire Sermonne as the coquettish Louise, in particular, is eminently watchable as a talk-to for Claire. And Laurence Dobiesz, who plays Black Jack’s younger brother Alex, looks so much like Tobias Menzies, I would’ve put money on the fact that the actors share a bloodline.

The only drawback I encountered while watching the first five episodes provided by the network concerned the tee-hee depiction of life in a Paris brothel in the 18th century. Rather than provocative or envelope-pushing, a scene where ladies of the evening taunt potential customers by lightly boffing them with phallic objects seems just plain silly — a “hey look, we’re on premium cable” moment. Thankfully, that type of thing is sprinkled sparingly throughout the beginning of the season.

“Yes, yes,” all of you Dragonfly in Amber readers are saying, “but tell us what we really want to know!” Starz has put a pretty strict gag order on discussion of certain aspects of the upcoming season, but here’s what I can say: In the episodes I screened, Diana Gabaldon’s story is handled with the same loving care paid in Season 1. For example, a piece of book dialogue I lamented had been cut from the first season’s finale pleasantly surprised me when it showed up a few hours into Season 2 — and when you hear it, you may agree that it has as much emotional impact there as it would have in its original place.

The TVLine Bottom Line: Clad in the silks and satins of 1700s France, Outlander‘s Jamie and Claire Fraser clean up nicely. What a relief, then, that the Starz series does, too, delivering a second season that explores their complicated relationship amid a historical plot with a looming, deadly deadline.

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21 Comments
  1. Can’t wait to see which one of the many emotional dialogue scenes, that was omitted from season 1 finale, made it into season 2.

    • Alichat says:

      I am curious as well. I have an idea what it might be, but I don’t want to speculate.

    • Zoe says:

      I suspect it may be the one about his hand…I missed it a lot in season 1.
      Nice to hear they are finally developing Jamie character and giving him more substance.

    • sm says:

      Probably this one:

      Jamie spoke again, summoning me from my thoughts.
      “Sassenach?”
      “Yes?”
      “Ye know the fortress I told ye of, the one inside me?”
      “I remember.”
      He smiled without opening his eyes, and reached out a hand for me.
      “Well, I’ve a lean-to built, at least. And a roof to keep out the rain.”

  2. Miss O'Ginny says:

    Damn you Roots….your review said Season 2 only to find out it was just the first 5 episodes!

  3. Mable says:

    So the shows beginning is different from the book’s beginning?? If they do the book justice, invest in whisky and tissues!! Can’t wait!!

  4. Cha-cha says:

    More of Balfe’s puppy dog eye acting face when Claire is distraught, which is often. Hate thoughts of having to suffer through another season of it.

  5. Jess says:

    I hate watch so many shows (mostly CW fare, let’s be real) that when shows I’m excited about come back, I get REALLY excited. I’m glad that this promises to be a nice follow up to the first season, which blew me away. I wasn’t a huge lover of the book and it was the show that really got me invested in the characters and plot lines and I’m now looking at the story with fresh eyes as a result.

    • Annie says:

      Lol I sort of half hate-watch Outlander. I hated so much about the first season….but the chemistry between Balfe and Heugan is amazing. I love them. And my love for them makes up for the hate. So it’s a weird kinda hate-watching lol.

      • Viv says:

        I feel ya. I hate watch some of the episodes because I’ve outpaced it with the books. I’m on book 4 and watching the show now feels like slow torture waiting for what’s going to happen in book 3 & 4.

        I love, love, love the costumes and production design of 2 but I don’t wanna to see this story! I need season 3 now!!!

        It’s worse than GOT…

        • Annie says:

          I’ve not read all books (the things I hate about the show are intrinsic to the books so I’d rather watch the show – I like what the adaptation brings to the table). But I’m not super excited for the whole France thing. I’m going to miss the look of Scotland and that vibe. Do they stay in France long? How long until they’re back in Scotland? Lol.

          • Zoe says:

            About half of the book they spent in France, the other half takes place in Scotland.

            What’s that you hate about the books? (I assume you only read the first one?) Just curious :-) we all like different things ;-) I’m mainly books fan, I like the show but I’m not crazy about it and think some of the changes they made are plain stupid.

  6. Vicki says:

    Great article and there are three observations that really struck a chord with me:

    “But the core of the Frasers’ relationship is a deep passion for one another, expressed lustily and often, and the chemistry between stars Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan only amplifies as Season 2 kicks off.”

    “James Fraser in France is a merchant with his finger on the pulse of the city, a man able to parlay his charm, wit and pragmatism into positions of counsel for the influential and the ambitious.”

    “The constant push-pull wears on the character; when Jamie snaps, such as when he angrily demands that Claire tell him why he must bear everyone’s weaknesses but his own, Heughan dazzles.”

    So well said!!

  7. Outlander Kat @mymtbrain says:

    Thank you Kimberly for the information you are able to disclose. You certainly have me curious as to which line will be used in Season2 omitted from Season1.Ron and the writers have a dauntless task to try and encorporate those marvelous books into the limited time constraints. They have done an awesome job so far and I trust it will continue. Naturally, I canna wait for the season to begin (April 10) here in Canada. I am looking forward to your next Outlander article.

  8. @outlanderfan5000 says:

    Thanks for the review, but I’m surprised that you gave it a B+. Why the hesitancy? Didn’t live up to the first season in comparison?

    • Zoe says:

      I think it may have someting to do with Paris part of “Dragonfly in Amber” not being…well not being the best aspect of the book series. No offence, because I’m sure some people liked it, but for me it was easily the least favourite part of the books (along with most of book 6) and from what I heard many readers feel the same.

  9. Liz says:

    I just can’t wait!!

  10. Susan says:

    Although I am still a devout fan of the books, the premiere of Season 2 left a lot to be desired. Slow moving and snooze worthy. If I had not read the books all I would have gotten from it that Claire is a smug, selfish and coldhearted woman.

  11. Bravo to Outlander for explaining a very complicated part of the book. They did an excellent job. We host a party each week for 15 people and they understood how Jaimie was working his tail off and CLaire was bored out of her gourd. They are all such fine actors. Dying to see the show each week. Hope season 3 is not far behind.