Can ‘Outlander’ Survive Abandoning its Scottish Highland Setting?

Matthew Loffhagen
(Photo: Starz)

Outlander is heading out to sea.

While up to this point a show about kilts and cloudy Scottish scenery, the most recent episode of Outlander has seen the plot take a sharp left turn as it inexplicably embraces a pirate story arc.

As such, the enormous, muscular Jamie, as well as his time travelling true love Claire, are setting sail for the West Indies for the rest of the current season. There’ll be five episodes away from the Scottish heath, and apparently, at least three of these will be set completely on a ship, as the pair sail off in search of a young friend who’s been kidnapped by pirates.

This follows a similar story arc in the Outlander novels, but there are challenges to making such a radical shift in location for a visual, episodic storytelling medium.

Claire in Outlander
Source: Starz

The big problem is one of consistency – Outlander is known for its romantic portrayal of Scottish countryside, and while the story has periodically left this behind before, it’s never headed into such a different locale.

With three full episodes set on a ship, the danger here is that the show will suddenly start feeling claustrophobic and small. The scenery doesn’t change much on a boat, so these episodes could easily end up feeling very stale if not pulled off well.

Thankfully, when the story does arrive in the West Indies, there are some traditional elements of Outlander to get excited about. We’ll be seeing some big, extravagant balls and parties at the very least, which should be nice.

We’ll also get something entirely new with this detour into a foreign land. This upcoming chapter of the story will find room for some swashbuckling, which ought to be a lot of fun in its own right, even if it may not feel completely in line with what we’re used to from the show.

Jamie in Outlander
Source: Starz

Perhaps there’s a benefit to mixing things up at this point. The last thing anyone would want is for Outlander to start feeling repetitive, and transplanting familiar faces into a completely new setting should help keep things lively for the rest of a series, at a point when Claire and Jamie’s story seemed to be reaching a natural conclusion following the drama of Culloden and all that it entailed.

Ultimately, there’s nothing to do but cross our fingers and wait. With any luck, Outlander season three’s finale will be a big, bombastic pirate adventure – Scottish highlands or not, there are worse ways to wrap up the current storyline!

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