Before becoming a successful TV show, Outlander was first of all a series of books written by Diana Gabaldon. It was then adapted for TV and it aired on Starz. Two seasons have been released, and two more are to come! How can we explain the incredible success of a TV show in which History is one of the main elements? The two characters named Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe)? The historical events that are dealt with? The Scottish accent? The answer is: the whole package!
Indeed, if you are tired to learn History – even though it is very exciting – with books, you can still watch Outlander as it deals with Scottish history, mixed with British history obviously. If you know a little bit the history of the United Kingdom, you perfectly know that one cannot go without the other. Thanks to its amazing actors, Outlander allows us to have a glimpse of the 1743 Scotland, during the Jacobite risings. Indeed, in 1688 the Glorious Revolution put an end to the reign of James II of England (also James the VII of Scotland) because he was a catholic king. Being a catholic sympathizer in England was unacceptable at that time. Consequently, it was William of Orange who took possession of the crown and got rid of James II. Because the Scots were supporting James II and wanted to see him back on the throne, they were responsible for Jacobite risings/rebellions to show their discontent. Let me tell you that if you watch Outlander, you will definitely fall in love with English and Scottish history as it is very accurate and incredibly well-done. The performances of Sam Heughan (Jamie) and Caitriona Balfe (Claire) but also from the rest of the cast are outstanding. It really seems like we are in Scotland, back in 1743 when we watch the show. It is shot in Scotland and landscapes are very impressive.
Not only do we learn History by watching the show, but we also have a glimpse of what it is like to feel Scottish. Through the characters’ personality, we can witness their rebel sides and the rivalry that existed with the British. Their accent is also a good way to separate them from the chic – or even posh – British accent. It also puts forward the notion of “clans” not really well-known abroad. Some parts of the land were controlled by different clans. Those mentioned in the show are the MacKenzie clan or even the clan Frazer of Lovat (see the Crest on the right). As you can see, watching Outlander is like discovering a new world full of elements we might not be familiar with. The rivalry that existed between British people and Scots is well described thanks to one main character named Jack Randall. He is hateful, violent and he is a rapist. It gives quite a negative image of British soldiers and it shows that in a period of rebellions, not everything was black nor white for English or Scots.
For now, the show is composed of two seasons. The first one mostly focuses on the matter of legacy. Jack Randall may be a horrible man, it does not mean that his descendant will necessarily be bad. Claire – the main protagonist – married him when she was living in 1945. However, she never could have married Jack Randall in Scotland, back in 1743. In season two, things are different. In order to prepare the revolution of 1746, Claire and Jamie have to go to France. Here, we wonder if it is possible to change the past in order to have a brighter future. The answer is, of course, no. However, Claire will still try to give her knowledge to Jamie and other Scots so that they could beat the English in the battle of Culloden (1746). At the end of the season, we understand that it did not help, because the Scottish king was defeated – again – in the battle by the English who killed a myriad of Scots. It was the last Jacobite rebellion, the most murderous one. Consequently, we can say that it gives us a certain lesson: we cannot change History. It is what it is. But we should learn the mistakes of the past so that we don’t make the same mistakes in the present.
Finally, my last point deals with the loving couple Jamie & Claire that is formed all along season one, and maintained throughout season two. We cannot stop watching the show for one reason: we want – no, we must – know what will happen to them. We learn History through their eyes, through their partnership. At first, it seemed impossible. It is well-known that impossible love stories are always the strongest and the most passionate ones. This couple is the alliance of the past and the future and it creates a great chemistry between the two. Now, we will have to wait a few months more if we want to devour the new season of Outlander. The fate of Claire & Jamie is not cealed yet. Their lives will continue to make us dream, and their own history will surely continue to impress us for a long time.