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There are a lot of things fans love about Starz's Outlander. There's the undying romance between Jamie and Claire, their world-traveling adventures and plenty of side characters who make us laugh, to boot. However, there's one thing I personally love about Outlander that people don't really talk about that often. I feel as if it's high time we start noticing and marveling over the fact that among TV programs, Outlander's opening credits stand out as the best on TV.
It's not just that Outlander uses Bear McCreary's "Skye Boat Song" featuring enchanting vocals by Raya Yarbrough, although the music fits the tone of the popular drama quite well. What I like most about the opening credits sequence is that it keeps the magical imagery of women dancing around the time travel stones that brought Claire to the past and her future, but the music itself changes, and every single season, a slew of additional imagery also changes to reflect what is actually happening on the show.
Sometimes TV credits are an extension of the show itself, intended to get you excited about what is to come. Prestige TV, and cable TV in general, is a lot better about using its opening credits to create an atmosphere, but Outlander takes that idea a step further, because its opening credits often act as a teaser for what is to come. For instance, during Season 3 Bear McCreary and co. finally dropped the bagpipes, and then during Episode 9, when the series moved to the Caribbean and specifically Jamaica, the percussion in the opening song also changed to reflect influences from that area.
Sure, the changes may be a whole lot subtler than when Weeds dropped "Little Boxes" as its theme song, but it's cool that the creative team and studio behind Outlander allow Bear McCreary so much freedom with that particular TV score. Besides, it's not just the score that changes frequently in Outlander's opening credits. Showrunner Ron Moore and co. also throw in footage from the season that helps the series to tease what is to come in a fun way.
For instance, if you watch the opening credits for Season 1 below, you should notice the heavy bagpipe influence in Bear McCreary's music, but also shots of Claire stitching up wounds, swordfights and even a shot of a car being driven in the forties, when Claire first disappears.
Pretty great, right? When the show was set in France for part of Season 2, there were French influences to the opening credits that were also intentional on Bear McCreary's part. However, if you skip ahead to the latter half of Season 3, you can hear those Caribbean influences I previously mentioned, and you can see them, too. Suddenly there are palm fronds, and there is sunshine glaring down. There are shots of Claire washing ashore, as well as lost and wandering through the jungle. It's all very compelling stuff.
There are a lot of shows that have memorable openings. Dexter's opening featured innocuous objects and activities being presented in ways that reminded us of murder and violence. Shows like The Simpsons, Game of Thrones (and sometimes The Simpsons spoofing Game of Thrones) have memorable opening credits, or at least cool opening credits that totally fit into the narrative of what the show is going for, such as FX's Atlanta, whose opening credits offer snapshots of what the big, brash city has to offer. Still, to me, right now it's Outlander that is on top of the credits game, and I can't wait to see what the Starz drama does in Season 4.
Those of you who have read Diana Gabaldon's novels should know that the show is not finished switching locations quite yet. There are a lot of changes to come in future seasons of the series, and we can't wait to see what Ron Moore, Bear McCreary and co. cook up next. Outlander will return to Starz (a network that has quietly been creating great opening credits for years) for Season 4 later in 2018. For now, you can see what the subscription cable network has coming up with our midseason schedule.