SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Outlander Season 1 finale.
The first season of the Starz series based on the best selling historical novels of Diana Gabaldon came to a bare, bold, bloody and brutal end tonight. With a strong August 9 2014 start to a 16-episode run that has seen Outlander average about 4.9 million viewers an episode across various platforms, tonight’s To Ransom A Man’s Soul finale will certainly have a lot of them talking – and not just for the stampeding herd that helped free 18th century Highlander Jamie Fraser from Wentworth Prison and the sadistic clutches of Black Jack Randall played by Tobias Menzies.
With the now No. 2 most subscribed premium cabler pinning some of their Emmy hopes on Sam Heughan’s performance as Jamie and Caitriona Balfe’s portrayal of the time traveling Claire Beauchamp Randall, the Ronald D. Moore led series went to a very dark place within the walls of the prison the past couple of episodes. Where devout Outlander viewers, which are 59% female, have become used to stimulating dalliances between Jamie and Claire, tonight’s finale was the ugly flip side of that love. It was a relentless raping and torturing of the Highlander by Black Jack in an effort to break him and by extension the Scots’ war against the English. Even once Jamie’s friends break him out, and the cows seemingly flatten Black Jack (read the books or wait until next season for the outcome there), the fresh scars and old wounds continue to run deep for both husband and wife, despite Claire’s 20th century training as a World War 2 nurse.
The end of the finale saw the now expecting duo off to France and the second season of the quickly renewed series centering on Gabaldon’s second Outlander book Dragonfly In Amber, the show is about to undergo some big changes. To that end, executive producer Moore, who co-wrote tonight’s Anna Foerster directed episode, explained why the last part of Season 1 went to the harsh places it did and what the future is going to look like for the series in Season 2 and perhaps beyond.
DEADLINE: There has been a lot of sex on Outlander this first season but the mutilation of Jamie’s body and psyche in the finale by Black Jack Randall with the prolonged rape, torture, branding and hallucinations was something very different and very hard to watch. Do you expect a strong or even negative reaction from viewers for being so explicit and brutal?
MOORE: I always knew that our finale was going to be controversial. It was a brutal chapter of the book so we felt obligated to convey that part of the story, and it’s absolutely a brutal, chilling, part of the tale. It’s dealing with, really, tricky subject matter, it’s very graphic and it’s difficult stuff. And we approached it in that light. Now it’s airing when people are already talking about a rape on another show, and having a big cultural conversation about it. It’ll be interesting to see how people react.
VIEWER DISCRETION: Tonight’s episode is suitable for mature audiences only and includes prolonged scenes of violence, nudity and rape.
— Outlander (@Outlander_Starz) May 31, 2015
DEADLINE: But you know some viewers will be shocked, right?
MOORE: If you watched last week’s episode, I don’t think you’re going to be taken unawares by this week’s episode. Certainly fans of the book absolutely know where it’s going and hopefully those who haven’t read the books, especially after watching last week’s episode, are not going to be taken completely unawares by what happens to Jamie.
You know in Episode 6, The Garrison Commander, we did the whole thing about the flashback with the flogging told from Jack Randall’s point of view. We were getting inside of his head, and that was pretty graphic, and pretty disturbing too. We laid pieces along the way to give viewers fair warning that this season was going to darker places.
DEADLINE: The May 17 episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones featured a rape of the Sansa Stark character that erupted into controversy for a show already drenched in sex and violence. Airing so close to that, how do you think what happened there will impact reaction to the Outlander finale?
MOORE: Obviously we wrote the finale, shoot it, and put in the can a long time ago and the rape of Jamie by Jack Randall was always a part of this story. Suddenly I’m talking about our show and we’re stepping into a cultural moment where that Game of Thrones scene has suddenly grabbed everybody’s attention.
To be honest, I still haven’t even seen it. I’m behind in my Game of Thrones and I have yet to catch up on it so I keep sort of defying comparisons as a result. But I will say, it’s just one of those things you can’t control. You never know exactly what pop cultural moment a show is going to step into. Sometimes it happens and there’s nothing else around it, sometimes you’re sort of moving into the stream where something has caused a wake and that’s kind of where we are at this moment.
DEADLINE: While you haven’t seen the Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken episode of Game Of Thrones with the rape, having seen the sandstorm of a controversy it blew up into, did you think of toning down the finale?
MOORE: I’ve never even thought that for a second. This is our show. We stand by it. I stand by it. We made our decision. We’re ready to show it to the audience and we’ll see what happens, but no I never even thought about that.
DEADLINE: The finale also saw Claire and Jamie leave Scotland for France, and Claire reveals on the way over to the continent that she is pregnant. That’s very different from how that plays out in the book, why did you go in that direction?
MOORE: I restructured it for television because I wanted to maintain that sense of jeopardy and that sense of they still have to escape, and there’s still a threat there. Also, in this episode, and in Episode 15 we had been using a point of view to see what had had happened to Jamie in real time, whereas the books maintain Claire’s first person narrative all the way until the very end and what she found out about what happened between Jamie and Jack Randall many weeks after the facts from Jamie. So I felt like I wanted to move all that up closer so it was a little bit more immediate. And it gave me a way to end the episode so, after you had spent all this time in this really dark and terrible prison cell for two episodes, you could have a breath of fresh air. At the very end, I wanted viewers to feel this is another tomorrow, there is a little bit of hope in the air and we could end on that note.
DEADLINE: The season ended on what is basically the end of the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s series – is that going to be the strategy for each season going forward?
MOORE: The general plan is probably to try to do a book a season. Some of the books are bigger than others so we’ve definitely had conversations about, “well, you know, at some point we made need to split a book into two seasons,” but right now we’re not there yet so the plan is to do Dragonfly In Amber for Season 2.
DEADLINE: Are we going to see more changes from that book for Season 2 of the show?
MOORE: There will be twists and turns that aren’t in the book. The second book is more complex than the first book is. It’s a little tougher challenge to adapt it. It takes place in France and it deals with the Jacobite Rebellion. It’s much more political, it weaves in and out of actual historical events. There’s more complexity, just in terms of how Diana structured the story in Paris, in particular, as Jamie and Claire try to change history.
DEADLINE: What’s going to be different?
MOORE: It’s an urban setting and you’re dealing with aristocracy and the court of Louis XV so it’s a whole different thing. It’s not going to look anything like Season 1, so you’re really kind of prepping and shooting a whole new TV show into the second year. It has a lot of, you know, “oh my God, what can we do,” those kind of moments to it.
DEADLINE: How far along are you in Season 2?
MOORE: We’re roughly three weeks in and it’s been great. The footage looks really good. I was there on day 1 and it was a lot of fun, it was like we were going, “Hey, let’s get back together, can’t believe we’re doing another one of these.” We’re off to a good start.
DEADLINE: You’ve worked on and led a number of shows, now that the first season is over on this one, how has Outlander been different for you from a creative standpoint?
MOORE: Well, it’s a very different experience, you know? Galactica was something where I took the old show and then decided to revamp it and reinvent it. But it was kind of something that I was making up in the writers room as we went along and I literally didn’t know where it was going season to season. It was a process of invention and discovery all the way along the road right up until the end. This project is different, it’s an adaptation so there is a roadmap – this is where we’re going. The challenges are very different. It’s the first time I’ve done an adaptation like this.
Just from a strictly producing standpoint, it’s been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. The story aspect and the writing aspect has just been a very different game from what I’ve done before. It’s trying to maintain the spirit of the book, it’s trying to keep these characters, trying to maintain this story and making changes along the way because you have to make changes along the way. It’s trying to get back to that, and hopefully you’re able to serve two masters, the fans of the books and those who’ve discovered the story through the show.
DEADLINE: Diana Gabaldon’s been a consultant on the show, which from the outside looks like a tricky proposition for you. What’s that relationship been like as you’ve brought her best sellers to the small screen?
MOORE: Diana’s been incredibly generous and very trusting, and it’s been great. I can genuinely say I am really impressed and have a lot of respect for the way that Diana has approached this. From the very first time we met, she said, “Look, you know, I’m an author, you’re a TV writer I don’t do what you do. I’m going to have to trust you. I’m going to trust that you’re going to take care of my characters and go with God,” and I was like, “wow,” and just sort of we had a good relationship and I said, “Well. You know, I’m going to try to deliver these books and it matters to me that we try to be as truthful to them as we can and lets go forward on that basis,” and she’s been great. She’s been incredibly supportive.