'Outlander' Returns to Pay Off First Half's Slow Build

When Starz’s bodice-ripper-cum-time-traveling drama Outlander, about a World War II nurse who is transported back to Scotland in 1743, returns Saturday for the second half of its freshman season, viewers will have had a six-month break from the series. 

But creator Ron Moore treated the genre mashup’s first season as one continuous stretch of 16 episodes. “We shot it straight through,” Moore told B&C, explaining that Starz had given the show's writing team advance word of its two-part plan.  

The midseason kick-off will start “another batch” of tales, which promise a witch trail, a visit to the childhood home of male lead Jaime (Sam Heughan) and “a really dark and harrowing confrontation” between Jaime and his nemesis Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). Starz has picked up the series for a sophomore season, with shooting set to begin in a few months. 

While the first eight episodes focused heavily on Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jaime’s budding romance, the new ones will “broaden and deepen a lot of the people who you’ve met,” said Moore. Both Claire’s mysterious friend Geillis (Lotte Verbeek) and Jamie’s sister Jenny (Laura Donnelly) will have a large chunk of scene time coming up.  

The midseason premiere will also switch up the point of view from Claire to Jaime for an installment. The Outlander team went back and forth on how to best get Jaime’s perspective across to audiences, finally deciding on a voice-over from Heughan. “I think it’s what made the episode come together,” said Moore.

Although in the back-half of the season “picks up momentum,” the showrunner considered his streaming audience while designing the inagural arc. “I’m always remembering that after the show is broadcast,” he said, “People will just watch them, binge them in whatever order. So they kind of have to feel of a piece, as opposed to two separate parts.” 

That’s why instead of having completely independent story lines, ”a lot of things that were set up in the first [half] start paying off in the second." 

The Battlestar Galactica creator is enjoying his time on premium cable, saying he likes the ability to take his time with Outlander’s stories. 

Moore believes the slower pace of the series premiere, which involved a long look at Claire's life before she found herself in 18th century Scotland, would’ve been immediately edited for broadcast or basic cable. “[There’s] pressure usually because those networks are terrified that [viewers] are going to turn the channel,” said Moore. “It’s nice not to have to write to a commercial over and over again and interrupt the show on some note of false jeopardy.”