Blu-ray Review Drama

'Outlander: Season Two' Blu-ray Review: Love before the time of cholera

November 9, 2016Ben MK

Like George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones," Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" is a fantasy series that spans numerous books, boasts a dedicated fan following, and has a hit TV series to boot. Unlike HBO's Game of Thrones, which is nearing its eighth and final season, however, Starz's Outlander is only getting started.

Adapted from Gabaldon's second novel in the series, 1992's "Dragonfly in Amber," season two of Outlander doesn't immediately pick up where the previous season left off, but rather with former WWII combat nurse Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) back in 1948 Inverness. The question of how she got there, however, is something that the show spends the majority of this season answering, as the narrative soon flashes back to 1744, where Claire and her beau, Highlander Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), arrive in Paris to put their plan to change history into action, infiltrating the French Jacobite movement to stop the 1746 battle at Culloden Moor from ever taking place.

Of course, if you've never read the books or seen Outlander's first season, then none of the preceding paragraph would have made any sense to you. In that case, you'll just have to trust that Outlander's sophomore season delivers more of what fans loved about season one, while also shaking up the series' formula. The show benefits from the shift from Scotland to France, which brings with it lavish production and costume design, as well as a slew of new characters. However, for those viewers who prefer Outlander's original setting, rest assured that it makes a return in the latter half of the season, as Claire and Jamie return to the Highlands to finish what they started.

The result is a series that continues to blend history with fantasy in intriguing ways, giving Game of Thrones a run for its money. But why waste time stating the obvious when season two's thirteen episodes speak for themselves:

  • Through a Glass, Darkly - Returning to her own time in the 20th century, Claire must reconcile her future with the life and love she left behind. Shifting back to the 18th century, Jaime, Claire and Murtagh arrive on the shores of France to turn the tides of history, but quickly learn that Paris presents its own unique set of challenges.
  • Not in Scotland Anymore - Life in Paris is not without its trials as Jamie struggles to triumph over the traumas of his past. A fortunate meeting with Jacobite leader Prince Charles presents opportunities, while the Duke of Sandringham's presence brings complications.
  • Useful Occupations and Deceptions - Jamie's days and nights are dominated by political machinations, while Claire finds solace in her healing skills. As their plan to stop Culloden progresses, including engaging the aid of a young pickpocket, the past threatens to derail their forward momentum.
  • La Dame Blanche - Claire and Jamie throw an elaborate dinner party intended to derail investors in Prince Charles' war effort. Meanwhile, Claire's revelation that Black Jack Randall is alive sparks Jamie in an unexpected way as he and Claire struggle to regain their physical intimacy.
  • Untimely Resurrection - Reunited, Jamie and Claire attempt to extinguish the fires their dinner party ignited, however, Claire is set off on an unexpected change of course. Jamie and Claire's relationship is put to the ultimate test when the past rears its ugly head.
  • Best Laid Schemes... - Jamie and Claire use Claire's medical knowledge to devise a scheme to stop a wine deal which could fill the Prince's war chest. When Claire learns Jamie has gone back on his word, the couple is met with dire consequences that will forever change their lives.
  • Faith - Claire is brought to L'Hôpital des Anges where doctors try to save her life and that of her unborn baby. King Louis asks Claire to judge two men accused of practicing the dark arts — one an enemy, one a friend.
  • The Fox's Lair - Claire and Jamie call upon Jamie's grandsire, Lord Lovat, in an attempt to elicit support for the Jacobite cause. However, a visiting Colum MacKenzie has other plans, and Lord Lovat's manipulative machinations ensure that no matter what, his own interests will be served.
  • Je Suis Prest - Claire and Jamie reunite with the Lallybroch and MacKenzie men as they train for war. Jamie's power struggles with Dougal and Claire's personal battle with her memories of WWII weigh upon them, but new, helpful information comes to light when a young Englishman named William Grey pays a surprise visit to their camp.
  • Prestonpans - Trusting in Claire's knowledge of "history," Jaime leads the Jacobite army into a critical battle with British opposition near the town of Preston. Meanwhile, Claire attends to the dead and dying, a reminder of the truest costs of war.
  • Vengeance is Mine - Claire and the Highlanders are sent north after the Jacobite leaders decide to halt their march on London. A band of Redcoats makes trouble for the Scots, leading to a most unexpected reunion for Claire.
  • The Hail Mary - As Jamie puts all of his efforts into turning the Jacobite army away from the impending slaughter at Culloden Moor, Claire attempts to comfort the sick Alex Randall. She is stunned when Alex reveals an outrageous plan to save the mother of his child.
  • Dragonfly in Amber - Flashing forward to 1968, Claire revisits the past and reveals to her daughter, Brianna, the truth about her parentage. Back in the 18th century, the day of the Battle of Culloden has arrived, and Jamie must do everything he can to save the ones he loves.

Outlander: Season Two's exquisite production and costume design get the royal treatment on Blu-ray, thanks to a winning 1080p transfer that excels on every imaginable level. Picture quality is consistently crisp and film-like, revealing such details as the textures of the intricately-woven petticoats, gowns and suits, even in darker, candlelit scenes. Meanwhile, color saturation is as robust as it is varied, bringing to vibrant life such hues as the blue and gold tones of the French royal family, the vivid shade of Claire's iconic red dress, and the earthy palette of Scotland. As for the audio, these discs come equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix, which does an excellent job with the show's English and French dialogue and Scottish brogues, not to mention the click-clack of horses' hooves, the clanging of swords crossing and the sound of muskets firing.

Sony's five-disc Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • The Characters of Season 2 (13:43) - A look at season two's new characters; namely, Le Comte St. Germain (Stanley Weber), Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Andrew Gower), Louise de Rohan (Claire Sermonne), Mary Hawkins (Rosie Day), Alex Randall (Laurence Dobiesz), King Louis XV (Lionel Lingelser), Fergus (Romann Berrux) and Master Raymond (Dominique Pinon).
  • Designing History: The Costumes of Outlander (10:55) - Costume Designer Terry Dresbach talks about her work on the show.
  • Recreating 18th Century Paris (11:54) - Production Designer John Gary Steele, Set Decorator Gina Cromwell and Property Master John Casey talk about their work recreating 1744 Paris, from interior sets to exterior locations.
  • Gag Reel (5:24) - Goofs and flubs from the set.
  • Jamie & Claire: To Hell and Back (10:31) - A look at the relationship between the charaters of Jamie and Claire, where the show leaves off with them in season one, and the trials and tribulations they're put through in season two.
  • From Book to Screen: Discovering the Differences (10:44) - Producer Ronald D. Moore and author Diana Gabaldon's talk about the differences between the book, "Dragonfly in Amber," and season two of the show, from dialogue, to events, to narrative structure.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes with Introductions by Ronald D. Moore (92:11) - Twenty-three scenes from eleven episodes ("To His Majesty Over the Water," "God's Eternal Plan," "Give Me Your Hand," "A Friendly Warning," "Choose One For Yourself," "Charles Likes What He Likes," "Medicine Is Your Calling," "I'm Needed Here," "A Kind And Loving Mother," "Like Cheese For The Rats," "Practitioners Of The Dark Arts," "How Can We Ever Be The Same?," "Are We Foolish?," "Give Them Something To Fight For," "Spear Them With Your Dirk," "Hell Or Glory," "History Isn't To Be Trusted," "Chamber's Empty," "Dougal On The Battlefield," "We Will Win," "Shall We All Go And Find Some History?," "Seasons Are Just Mere Suggestions" and "Tell Her I Love Her").
  • Outlander Podcasts - Audio commentaries on all thirteen season two episodes ("Through A Glass, Darkly" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore, Michael O'Halloran & Elicia Bessette, "Not in Scotland Anymore" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Terry Dresbach, "Useful Occupations And Deceptions" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Anne Kenney, "La Dame Blanche" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Toni Graphia, "Untimely Resurrection" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Terry Dresbach, "Best Laid Schemes..." Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Matthew B. Roberts, "Faith" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Toni Graphia, "The Fox's Lair" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Anne Kenney, "Je Suis Prest" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Matthew B. Roberts, "Prestonpans" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Matthew B. Roberts, "Vengeance Is Mine" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore & Diana Gabaldon, "The Hail Mary" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore, and "Dragonfly In Amber" Podcast With Ronald D. Moore, Maril Davis & Toni Graphia).
  • Faith Extended Episode (1:14:35)
  • Dragonfly In Amber Alternate Fight Scene: I'm Sorry Uncle With Introduction By Ronald D. Moore (1:53)

Outlander: Season 2 is available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as of November 1st, 2016. Episode synopses above provided courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH and French subtitles. The total runtime is 14 Hrs. 8 Mins.

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