When Outlander premiered in the summer of 2014, its opening credits became an instant favorite among TV viewers, even prompting one Vulture editor to claim she wanted them played at her funeral (okay, that was me). The ethereal visuals, haunting score, and breathtaking singing left a powerful impression. “They’re constructed simply but artfully, I like to think,” co-producer and editor Michael O’Halloran told Vulture. “I had Terrence Malick in the back of my head while I was doing them.” Now, Outlander is back for season two with a slightly edited titles sequence to reflect the show’s new tone as it moves the drama from Scotland to France. But what do these new credits tell us about our beloved time-traveling couple, Claire and Jamie? Let’s stand beside the stone circle and see what the future has in store for us.
To our great relief, “The Skye Boat Song” remains the musical backdrop for the title sequence. Scored by composer Bear McCreary and sung by his talented wife, Raya Yarbrough, the lyrics stay true to season one’s adaptation of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson folk song, with one addition: a verse sung in French. “The tone of the show changes so radically,” said McCreary at a recent Television Academy event. “We don’t want to completely and arbitrarily reinvent the show, but we also have to change and acknowledge our new location, our new tone.” The delicate string music you hear comes from a Baroque instrument called a viola da gamba. McCreary hoped to evoke the music performed in the operas, the streets, and the courts during the time period represented on the show. “Our starting point was creating something authentic. When you’re in Versailles, you’re hearing music that was written by composers of that time time period,” he explained. “Ultimately, I took all that stuff and tried to make something that was true to the emotional journey. Because if it’s historically accurate that’s great, but if it doesn’t feel like Claire and Jamie, our heroes from season one in this new environment, then it doesn’t work.”
Medicine will also continue to play a large role in Claire’s life. “We’re trying to maintain that Claire’s a healer, that’s her primary occupation,” said O’Halloran. We see in the premiere how Claire’s advanced medical knowledge can get her into trouble in her new location, but shots of broken limbs and brass instruments in the credits suggest that Claire could still have a few things to learn. Perhaps a new medical practice or group of savvy companions are in store for our heroine.
And while the Frasers may be out of the rough terrain of the Scottish Highlands, they are not out of harm’s way. “It’s still dangerous, but a different kind of danger,” said O’Halloran of their new surroundings in Paris. Claire already made a new enemy — the devious Comte St. Germain — in the season two premiere. Could more adversaries be nearby? The shots of slithering snakes and whispering lips hint that the courts of France could be just as treacherous as the moors of Scotland.
Perhaps the strongest visual cue in the new credits comes at the very end. The sequence from last season ended on a shot of Jamie and Claire riding a horse into the Highland sunset, while the season-two titles end on a shot of the boat taking the couple to France. “The continuation of that journey was Ron’s big idea,” says O’Halloran, of showrunner Ron D. Moore’s vision. They may have traveled through time and space to be together, but our lovers have an entire season, and seven more books of material, to get through, reminding us that we’re only at the beginning of this adventure.