Outlander is back on television, and the season 3 premiere set fans up for a very different kind of season. Season 2 left off with the separation of Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) ahead of the Battle of Culloden — the pregnant Claire returned to her own time through the standing stones, and both she and Jamie assumed that he would be going to his death in battle.

Of course, fans know that this isn’t the case, and that eventually Claire will return to Scotland with her grown daughter, Brianna (Sophie Skelton), something that we’ve already seen in scenes from the ’60s. Now, in its third season, Outlander is going to be filling in the gaps between the moment of their separation, and the lovers’ eventual reunion in the past.

That means a very different kind of season for the series, as it essentially promises the displaced lovers will be the leads of their own separate stories — for now anyway. Read on to find out how Outlander season 3 will put a new spin on the show’s typical format.

A New Beginning

Caitriona Balfe Claire Randall Fraser Tobias Menzies Frank Randall Outlander 301 The Outlander Premiere Sets Up a Very Different Kind of Season

The season premiere takes place in both the ’40s and directly after the battle of Culloden, with two separate storylines told concurrently. Jamie’s story is one of being wounded in battle, and the fever that nearly takes him immediately afterwards. It also explains how he escaped near-certain death on the battlefield, when his name is recognized by his would-be executors.

Claire’s story, meanwhile, is the focus of the episode, as she and Frank move to Boston, and struggle to keep their marriage alive while Claire is pregnant with another man’s child. A lot of this is backstory, providing context for Brianna’s life, and how Claire functions back in her original time. More of it, however, is about the way women are treated in general, and how Claire’s life in 1940s Boston is no less constrained by her gender than her life 200 years before. Her marriage, as well, is strained and struggling, as she attempts to grieve for Jamie and still provide a home for Brianna to grow up in. It was an episode filled with tense moments, from Claire’s curse-filled fight with Frank to the moment that Jamie believed he was about to die — and while this tension is par for the course for Outlander fans, the separation of the two main characters isn’t.

Separate Storylines

Caitriona Balfe Claire Randall Fraser Outlander 301 The Outlander Premiere Sets Up a Very Different Kind of Season

Up until now, the vast majority of the show has been about Claire and Jamie’s life together, first as Claire struggled to find her feet after accidentally traveling to the distant past, and then as the two worked together to attempt to change history. It has been deeply satisfying to watch these two characters fall in love, and heartbreaking to see them fail to stop the massacre at Culloden moor.

Season 3, however, is going to be about Claire and Jamie’s lives apart. Claire remains in Boston until her daughter is grown, and Jamie — having dodged death — starts to piece his life together again. While both stories will continue to be told, Claire’s time in Boston is likely to remain the focus of the next few episodes — as it was in the premiere. This follows the way that the story is told in the books, and allows for Jamie’s choices to be more dramatically revealed when the two eventually meet up again.

When Will Claire And Jamie Meet?

Outlander Season 2 Finale Claire and Jamie The Outlander Premiere Sets Up a Very Different Kind of Season

It’s been no secret that this season of the series would split up the core pair for at least a few episodes. Since the first teaser was released, the focus has been on Claire in her own time, separated from Jamie. And while this isn’t going to end in the next episode or two, fans can be reassured that these star-crossed lovers will reunite before the end of season 3.

At the Television Critics Association Press Tour, showrunner Ron D. Moore revealed that the two won’t be meeting again until around the halfway mark of the series, suggesting that the new feel of the season premiere will continue for another five episodes (or thereabout). After that, Claire will return to the past, and seek out Jamie once again. What that means for the series remains to be seen, but it does present Outlander with some interesting storytelling challenges that will see whether or not Claire and Jaime can create the same kind of appealing narrative apart as they did together. No doubt fans will be watching to see what developments will effect their relationship in the meantime, with their child being at the forefront of such interest.

Some Things Remain The Same

Sam Heughan Jamie Fraser Outlander 301 The Outlander Premiere Sets Up a Very Different Kind of Season

Of course, this new feel for the show doesn’t mean that fans of the first two seasons will be disappointed. While Jamie and Claire are kept apart for half of the show’s third year, there will still be plenty of the elements that made the first two seasons so enjoyable.

The premiere already showed Claire giving the patriarchy the side-eye, and there’s little doubt that she’ll be just as indomitable back in her own time as she was in the past. She’ll also presumably be doing more than a little research into her experiences, giving the time travel fans a little more explanation of exactly how this happened in the first place. And while the traditional Scots attire will be saved for Jamie’s story in the Highlands, Claire’s costumes are still going to be absolutely stunning, as we can see from some preview shots of her in some amazing 60s outfits.

Fans of the books will already appreciate the way that the story changes and grows — moving locations, separating the main characters (and reuniting them), keeping the story fresh and exciting at every turn. The season 3 premiere shows that this is something the series intends to mimic as much as possible, and while it’s a big change for fans, it’s not a bad change at all.

Next: How Outlander Season 3 Keeps Claire And Jamie Separate

Outlander season 3 continues next Sunday with ‘Surrender’ @8pm on Starz.

Photos: Starz

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