'Outlander' Engages in a Very Modern Debate in "The False Bride"

The Starz series presents a big bump in the road for a fan-favorite couple, and the actors involved defend their characters' stances.
Courtesy of Starz
Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin on 'Outlander'

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's installment of Outlander, "The False Bride."]

One of Outlander's heartthrobs lost a little bit of his luster during Sunday's episode. 

As Roger (Richard Rankin) moved to America and reunited with Brianna (Sophie Skelton) in 1970, fans of their slow-burn relationship thought they would get a romantic hour as the two road-tripped across North Carolina to attend a Scottish festival together. And "The False Bride" certainly could have ended on a much happier note — had Roger not given in to his dated relationship ideals and blown everything up in one horrible moment.

Late one night, as the couple drank and got closer, Bree decided to take things to the next level with Roger and initiated what she hoped to be her first time having sex. But Roger essentially freaked out, paused their heated encounter and proposed to her.

When Bree told Roger she wasn't ready for marriage so soon (and possibly would never be), he reacted — well, not great. He subscribed to the double standard that it was fine for him to sleep with other women before he met Bree, but he wanted to get married to Bree when she was a virgin. She slapped him and pointed out the unfairness of the situation, and when they sobered up the next day, she left him.

It was a heartbreaking end to what started as quite the optimistic and romantic episode for Roger and Bree, but perhaps the most disappointing aspect for fans was the tarnishing of what was previously a squeaky-clean image for Roger. It's a big bump in the road for the fan-favorite couple, but possibly also the wake-up call he needed to evolve his mindset and accept a more modern outlook on sexuality and relationships.

Rankin and Skelton spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about Roger's "hypocritical" double-standards for Bree (although Rankin made sure to defend his character's intentions as much as he could), what this means for the couple moving forward and more.

Roger's behavior was not ideal this week. When you both read the script for episode three, what did you think of how Roger completely mishandled everything with Bree?

Rankin: [Laughs] I'll let Sophie answer that one.

Skelton: That's the reaction that we hoped for from that scene. People will have their split opinions on it. Richard and I both were very protective of our characters, because to play each character, you have to delve into their minds and understand their opinions, and therefore those opinions often become your own. What's great about that scene is that both of them are right and wrong in equal measure. But I'm with you, totally with you on this. Roger is trying to come from a loving place…

Rankin: Trying to, yeah. Absolutely he's coming from a loving place.

Skelton: This is all coming right off the back of Brianna putting herself out there for Roger and him doing the same in terms of proposing. So they're both feeling pretty bruised in that moment. That's why that argument exacerbates and accelerates and escalates to the level that it does. Had they had this debate after dinner one night instead of out of the blue like this, it would have gone very differently. They're both realizing something about the other one that they didn't quite know.

Richard, let's hear from you. What did you think of how that argument turned out?

Rankin: They're both very valid in their opinions. They're both justified in how they approach that moment. For Roger, it got quite heated at the end, but it's coming from a place of vulnerability. After he proposed and it went so badly wrong, I think Roger lashed out from a place of being hurt. He was quite badly bruised by it. He was hurt because he put himself out there and bared his soul to Brianna. It's not easy, what Bree did, either. She's baring herself to Roger and put herself out there, as well. She's very vulnerable, she's half-naked on the floor. Roger's timing is not great, admittedly.

Agreed.

Rankin: That's maybe not the best time to try and propose to her, in my opinion. Probably not picture-perfect. But in saying that, it's a testament to how Roger feels about Brianna. It's a testament to the fact that he's committed to her, he loves her very much and wants to try to do this right. He wants to try to do this properly, and he's ready to take that step with Brianna and he wants everything to be in place. It's just maybe, in that moment, a little too traditional for Brianna. His approach is all wrong, but it is from a very pure, very loving, very committed place. He just wants everything to be right, proper and correct before they take what he believes is a very big next step in their relationship. Obviously it all goes horribly wrong, and they're both justified, but just at the opposite ends of the spectrum with each other in that scene. But that's also why [their relationship] works [despite this moment] because they're balanced in their points of view, and you could argue a case for each of them. But obviously you don't feel that way and you're already Team Brianna. I think you have to watch that scene again with an open mind.

Well, Roger believes in the double standard of sleeping with women he doesn't love but wants to marry a virgin, and that was so upsetting to see because he's such a reasonable, lovable guy otherwise. Why do you think a modern guy like him still subscribes to such dated ideologies?

Skelton: That's the big thing for Brianna in that scene. Roger's mindset is 'no sex before marriage,' and that she could respect. But in the moment, she just feels so — it all comes from a place of confusion for her. Roger is doing it from a place of love, in terms of his feelings for Brianna are different than the women before. He wants things to be a certain way, and that's unfair for Brianna. For her, it's, "Well, you have been with other people, so why now suddenly change your morals?" I understand from Roger's point of view, he does care about her, but in that moment, Bree put herself in a vulnerable position and she feels very hurt. She thinks Roger is being unfair and hypocritical. It's not as black and white as his morals or her opinion on his morals. It's just a bit of a mess in that scene. It's a very interesting topic and very current of that time, when the sexual revolution was coming into play and people were having sex before marriage. It's an injection of a modern topic into Outlander, which I'm excited to see stir up conversation and debate.

Rankin: But she should have just said yes in that moment. Then this wouldn't have happened. [Laughs] But seriously, the climax of the scene is essentially two people who are feeling very vulnerable, very caught by each other and lashing out at each other. They don't necessarily mean as much as the conviction within the scene suggests but it's just when people get that hot or put themselves out there, they lash out in that way. It's quite Roger and Brianna. It's one of the most interesting aspects of their relationship that I enjoy playing, the way that they are with each other and that never really ends.

Skelton: They're not very good at sitting and talking about how they feel and why they feel that way — they both just feel. And when they get hurt, they substitute it with anger. That's the main ingredient of that scene.

Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.