8:15am PT by Jolie Lash
'Outlander': What to Expect From Season 5 of the Starz Favorite
Time travel helped bring an extended Fraser family together across a two-century divide when the Starz historical fantasy series Outlander wrapped its fourth season more than a year ago. As their clan continues to build a community in the back woods of early 1770s North Carolina, political unrest looms large in the colonies, setting up grave danger and ushering in the emotional turmoil that drives the drama's upcoming fifth season (bowing Feb. 16).
"Last season, the question was: Where is home — what is home? … Is it people? Is it a place? Is it the building that you're in? This year, we know what home is — it's family. It is this community. What lengths will you go to in order to keep that whole, to protect it? That's the question we asked; that's the question [Diana Gabaldon's The Fiery Cross book] asks. So, we try to answer it throughout the season," executive producer Matthew B. Roberts told The Hollywood Reporter of what the characters are grappling with across season five's 12-episode run.
For family patriarch Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), that question takes root in the season four cliffhanger that saw the land-granted Scotsman receive orders from Governor Tryon (Tim Downie) to form a militia and hunt down and kill the leader of anti-corruption rebels the Regulators — Murtagh Fitzgibbons (Duncan Lacroix).
"Between Jamie and Murtagh, their love is so deep," Roberts said of Jamie and the man who — unbeknownst to the Redcoats — is his Highlander kin and godfather. "You can only imagine putting them on different sides of a cause, the dilemma that would cause; Jamie being trapped by an oath that he gave and Murtagh being trapped by an oath that he gave. And that was the dynamic that when we were breaking out this story [in the writers room] that we wanted to kind of dive into and see how that played out."
With corruption rife in the colonial justice system and outrageous British taxes, violent Regulator riots and clashes with the Redcoats increase. Just as Jamie urged his pregnant wife, Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe), to go through the standing stones at Craigh na Dun to the safety of 1948 in season one, season five will find Outlander's matriarch considering how the 1970s might safely shield their grown-up daughter, Brianna Randall (Sophie Skelton); Roger MacKenzie (Richard Rankin); and baby Jemmy from pre-Revolutionary War dangers in America. "There's that dilemma of wanting your family with you but knowing that they're better off in another place, and that's a dilemma that you just kind of put the character through," Roberts said of Claire.
As for Jamie, who didn't get to raise Brianna, "he doesn't want them to go," Roberts explained. "Jamie feels like he can protect anybody as long as they're around him. So he feels that it's safer to be around family — people that they can trust, which is a great argument. It's a great argument on both sides. … And Roger and Bree are both caught in the middle of that as well."
While the drama's central couple — who have fought through witch trials, jealous love rivals, war and the centuries to be together — may not always share the same opinion, they are long past those relationship-testing early days. Jamie and Claire's love remains unbreakable in season five. "I never have seen Jamie and Claire as the relationship getting tested in a way that it's going to break up. The bond was so, almost immediate. I always saw it as outside forces trying to yank the two apart, and that is kind of the essence of the show — it's this bond, this epic love that they have, and they are bonded together. And it's all these external forces — whether it be the crown, or new settlers, or the place they end up, or a hurricane, or Black Jack [Randall], or [Stephen] Bonnet, or Geillis [Duncan]. Whoever or whatever is thrown at them, that bond will succeed. It's the how it succeeds is our story," Roberts said.
The story of Brianna and Roger — who reunited in the season four finale after a tumultuous series of events that included time travel, crossing the Atlantic, Brianna's rape by smuggler Stephen Bonnet and Roger being sold to the Mohawk tribe — resumes with some happiness. The couple will follow their handfasting ceremony (a Scottish marriage ritual) with a wedding in the season premiere.
"I think so much time was spent in season four with some plot to try to kind of get everybody to understand where we are, the new world, what's going on, Tryon, Jamie — that some of the smaller moments were left out. And I think it was very important to show the love that Brianna and Roger have for each other — the devotion — and that Jamie and Claire have for them, and that they're creating a community, not just a home for themselves but a big Fraser's Ridge community. And this family comes together for this big gathering wedding," Roberts said.
Murtagh, who is now off-book (the character died at Culloden in Gabaldon's Outlander novels), has his own love story that began last season. The wanted outlaw's romantic relationship with Jamie's Aunt Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy), an established plantation owner, will face its challenges. "I would say there's some peaks and valleys in it," Roberts said. "It's really going to pull at some heartstrings throughout the season."
At some point in the weeks ahead — presumably while protecting his family — Jamie is forced to don the uniform of the British Redcoats, an unimaginable choice after the seasons-long trauma the Highlander suffered at their hands (in the Highlands, in battles and especially from sadist Capt. Black Jack Randall).
The twist was Heughan's idea. He explained that Jamie is "commanded" to wear the uniform. "It's more of a power play by Governor Tryon than anything," Heughan said during a panel at the Television Critics Association Winter Tour in January, in response to a question from THR. "Tryon is constantly testing Jamie Fraser to see if he will bow to his bidding, and this is just one of his power plays. But yeah, it just has a greater, deeper meaning for Jamie than maybe other people."
Outlander returns Sunday, Feb. 16 at 8 PM ET/PT on Starz.