Why Outlander Dropped That Big News Earlier Than Expected

Photo: Courtesy of Starz.
Sunday night's episode of Outlander left us with some major questions: Who is really behind the print shop fire? What do Archibald and Margaret Campbell have to do with the plot? Will Young Ian ever get laid again? Oh, and WHO IS JAMIE'S OTHER WIFE?
Fellow book readers will no doubt already know the answer to that question, but out of respect, I won't give it away here. (If you're really curious, a quick Google should give you the answer you seek.) What I will say, though, is that Voyager, the third book in the Diana Gabaldon series on which this season is based on, doesn't give this juicy tidbit away until much later in the plot. In fact, we don't find out about the existence of Jamie's other wife, let alone her identity, until she actually shows up at Lallybroch, surprising Claire and readers alike.
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This always seemed like a strange choice to me, especially given the fact that everyone around Jamie would have known he was married. Once Claire showed up, wouldn't someone have mentioned that? Or at the very least, maybe suggested to Jamie that he lawyer up in anticipation of the shit storm about to engulf his many relationships?
This made sense to a certain extent in the book, where Claire is the the main narrator — we experience most events through her perspective, especially once she and Jamie are reunited.
But the show has done a great job thus far of fleshing out Jamie as a character independently from his relationship with Claire. Now that we've gotten to know Jamie over the 20 years they've been apart, it makes sense that we would also get to see other characters interacting with him about his accidental polygamy. Both Fergus and Ian bring up the potential issues of keeping this from Claire, and suggest that he contact Ned Gowan (the old lawyer we first met back in season 1) for advice. This makes for a far more developed character arc for Jamie, who is an active participant in the story rather than someone this is all happening to.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, producer Matthew B. Roberts explained that he and the writers grappled with the decision to plant off-book moments hinting at Jamie's inner turmoil, in an attempt to stay true to the character they had built up in the show.
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"Because we're watching it in a different medium, when you read about it Claire is taking you through it, it's easy to not delve into Jamie's inner thoughts," Roberts told THR. "But when you visibly see Jamie on the screen, you have to play that something is bothering him, something he's holding in. When you do that enough, you have to give the audience a little bread crumb to know what this is."
In fact, if you think back to episode 6, "A. Malcolm," there's a moment "when Fergus pulls Jamie aside and he immediately sends him to contact Ned Gowan, which is another switch from the book," Roberts said. That was an attempt by the writers' to tip off viewers to the fact that not everything about this long-anticipated reunion is 100% kosher.
Roberts adds that they even considered having Jamie tell Claire outright at the print shop, but decided it would be too much of a departure from the book. This is a nice middle ground that lets viewers in on a shocking revelation, allowing us to peak into Jamie's psyche for once. And in his defense, if the love of your life came strolling back into your life after 20 years, you might be a little reluctant to drop that kind of news on her immediately. On the flip side though, is there really ever a good time for the "sorry, forgot to mention I married someone else while you were away, talk"?
Outlander has already proved that it knows how to handle sensitive topics. It has mastered the art of the sex scene. But it's also not afraid to make changes from the book in the service of the story it's bringing to the screen. It's little details like these that elevate the show from just another book adaptation to a must-see series that stands on its own.
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As for the identity of the secret wife? You might want to tune in this Sunday — I get the feeling we're in for a treat.
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