After five episodes of waiting, Jamie and Claire were finally together again in last night’s heavily-anticipated episode of Outlander. But why keep fans agonizing for almost half the new season to see it? According to Ronald D. Moore, it was a line drawn in the sand due to the show’s commitment to the original novels.
Speaking to Indiewire in the wake of the episode, Moore said that the show’s commitment to sticking faithfully to the arc of Diana Gabaldon’s novel series meant that the team was faced with a daunting task heading into the new season: a 20 year stretch of time in the books where Claire is returned to her original time, leading an entirely separate life from the one she built with Jamie back in 18th century Scotland.
It was something Outlander couldn’t ultimately cover in a series of flashbacks. Important things happened in that period that affect both Jamie and Claire that were worth covering in the season, even if it meant having fans wait to see the couple together again:
It felt like there was no scenario where we were just gonna skip over it or just do it in little flashbacks. It’s too big of a change in who these people are, to not really show what they went through. I felt like, ‘Well, I want to see some of that story.’
... It was fun to do. It gave you a lot of new backstory to play around with and ways of deepening the characters. But to really take your two main leads and age them 20 years and play that over the course of multiple episodes, it was just new. It was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know how we’re gonna do that. I don’t know how it’s going to be,’ but I was looking forward to getting to try it.
The events of the books—specifically the third in the series, Voyager—also factored in on just how many episodes fans would have to agonize over waiting before last night’s reunion:
We quickly decided on the basic structure because the book just sort of pointed it out to us. Jamie’s story in [the book ‘Voyager’] is episodic. He’s at Culloden, then he’s in the cave, then he’s in the prison, then he’s at Helwater, and then he goes to Edinburgh. That’s five episodes. Once you put those cards up on the board, it was like, well it seems they’re gonna get together after five. All right. Let’s construct a parallel Claire line to go along with that. Because unless you were gonna pull one of those entire chapters out of Jamie’s life, it was always gonna be five episodes. Once we did that, we just never really changed it.
Although the wait caused a bit of a fan frenzy, there’s something to be admired in Moore and the show’s commitment to following Gabaldon’s novels so closely. In the end, it made getting to finally see Jamie and Claire together again last night so much more exciting than if all this material had been rushed through.