The first two seasons of Ronald D. Moore’s production of Diana Gabaldon’s popular Outlander books are now available on Netflix. The series is an adventurous historical romance, with a more contemporary heroine, making it relatable to today’s audience and defying genre classification. Caitriona Balfe plays Claire, an English woman who enters a stone circle in the Scottish Highlands and mysteriously travels from 1945 to 1743. Claire, while young and lovely, has just returned home to her husband after having served with the British Army in World War II. When things get rough, she is not afraid to assert herself and meets the stereotype of a hard-as-nails army nurse.
Season one recounts the adventures of Claire in 16th-century Scotland prior to the historic Battle of Culloden. Season two follows her through an effort to change history, as she visits the royal court of France, travels the Scottish Highlands and makes another trip through time.
Claire requires protection in her travels and becomes romantically involved with Jaimie (played by Sam Heughan). She also meets an ancestor of her husband. Tobias Menzies plays both Frank Randall, Claire’s husband, and Jack Randall, Frank’s sadistic ancestor.
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The locations and costumes are extraordinary. The first season was filmed entirely in Scotland. The beauty of the Scottish Highlands are on display, and we can see an ancient castle presented as an old ruin when viewed in the 1940s, and full of life when visited in the 1700s. Season two was filmed in Paris. The clothes, in both Scotland and in Paris, are outstanding; whether in 1940s London, 1960s Boston, waulking wool with a group of women in the Scottish countryside of the 1700s or in the court of King Louis XV, Claire is dressed appropriately to the time and place in beautiful attire. Menzies, as Frank and Jack Randall, also changes centuries as well as locations; and, with his superb acting, one can always tell who he is by his mannerisms as well as his setting.
Fans of the books should be delighted that Gabaldon has been involved in the production of Moore’s Outlander; she even appears in “The Gathering,” an episode in the first season. The series has remained faithful to the books that inspired it.