Outlander: Why Frank returned and why it parallels Laoghaire's pain
Sunday’s episode of Outlander was chock full of surprises, starting with the absence of Jamie’s sister Jenny (played by Laura Donnelly) and including the unexpected appearance of Tobias Menzies as Frank Randall. As book readers know, Frank is long dead by the time Drums of Autumn, the fourth book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series on which season 4 is based, was released. But Frank does have a presence in the book: Roger finds letters that Frank wrote to Rev. Wakefield that reveal Frank knew about Claire’s time travel. Frank found historical records of a Jamie Fraser marrying a Claire Beauchamp. He believed Brianna, Claire and Jamie’s daughter that Frank raised in the 20th century, should know her true heritage.
In Sunday’s “Down the Rabbit Hole,” the producers decided it would be better to actually show the anguish in Frank’s face upon learning his wife’s fate in the 18th century.
“Any chance to work with Tobias is amazing,” executive producer Maril Davis tells EW exclusively. “This whole idea of Brianna feeling so excited to go meet Jamie…obviously, there are reasons why she has to go back. But it felt like she had to do mourn her parents, as well. She was raised by someone who’s not her birth father. This tear between the man who raised her and the man who is her father but couldn’t raise her. The guilt of that. Does she have room in her heart for both of them? Would Frank mind if she loved this other person who is her father? Is she being disrespectful to his memory? We loved the idea of her struggling with that. Obviously, the story took on a little weight because at the last minute, Laura Donnelly, who plays Jenny, could not be in this episode because of a prior commitment. We had to adjust the story and that’s why Laoghaire ends up having the bigger part.”
It also offered a provocative narrative thread for the episode. “What an incredible parallel there is between Frank and Laoghaire,” admits Davis. “Both Frank and Laoghaire loved Jamie and Claire. They lost these people, whether they had them or not. Those people came back into their lives and then left them again. Whether or not you like Frank and Laoghaire, they are really tortured souls. They loved people who never loved them back, not in the way that Jamie and Claire love each other. Those parallels were really apparent.”
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Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.