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As the “Droughtlander” finally reaches its end, Outlander is throwing fans for a loop.
Starz just released the first official season four trailer for the time-traveling romance series, and while the footage is full of surprising and telling moments, none is more shocking than the final few seconds. As Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) battle the elements, brewing Revolutionary War tensions in the colonies and new threats in North Carolina in the 18th century, their grown daughter Bree (Sophie Skelton) faces an even greater issue in the 20th century. As Bree and Roger (Richard Rankin) search for proof that her parents successfully reunited in the past after Claire went back through the stones last season, they make a harrowing discovery that sends Bree through the stones and back through time herself.
But in a major twist from author Diana Gabaldon’s fourth Outlander book, Drums of Autumn, the Starz series is bringing back a fan favorite who died on the series long ago. In the final few seconds of the season four trailer, Bree’s surrogate father and Claire’s first love Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) can be heard giving Bree words of encouragement as she steps up to the stones, clad in 18th century clothing, clearly about to travel through time. As Menzies exited Outlander last season when Frank, the second of his two main characters, died, his return to the series is a huge departure from the source material.
The actor is not seen in the trailer, but his voice is clearly heard saying, “Sometimes life takes unexpected turns.” There’s no official word yet on if Frank will even be seen in a flashback memory or if Bree will just hear his voice as she reminisces at an extremely pivotal moment in her life, but this is the sign fans have been waiting for ever since Menzies’ final scene played last year. When Frank died on Outlander in season three, executive producer Ron Moore told The Hollywood Reporter that he hoped to bring Menzies back in some capacity in the future. “You never know,” he said. “Not this season, but there’s always other flashbacks or dream sequences or whatever. There’s nothing planned but we’re open to that possibility.”
Executive producer Maril Davis added, “You might see Frank come to our shores again. In the books, there’s often flashbacks of Claire’s relationship and there are moments of Frank and Brianna’s relationship that we didn’t get to see. We love Tobias and I know not everyone is team Frank, but he’s so much fun to play with. So, yes, we might see him again.”
Elsewhere in the new trailer, which starts out romantic and hopeful before taking quite a dark turn, Outlander introduces two significant characters who will play a major role in season four. As Jamie and Claire try to make a home for themselves in colonial America in the rough and dangerous North Carolina backcountry, they must negotiate a tenuous loyalty to the current British ruling class, despite Claire’s knowledge of the American Revolution to come. Along the way, they meet with a potential new ally in the new world, Jamie’s Aunt Jocasta (Orphan Black‘s Maria Doyle Kennedy). The youngest sister of his mother, she’s as strong-willed as any MacKenzie, which is sometimes good for Jamie and Claire.
Moore said the TV character will stay pretty true to the book version, and producers have made sure to keep that MacKenzie resemblance alive. “She sounds and looks like his mother,” Heughan told THR. “Jamie really is a family man so for him this is a huge moment, but she’s a MacKenzie and the MacKenzies are notoriously big players in politics so that definitely comes up. This season is about family and Jamie getting all the pieces in place before it gets thrown on his head.”
But perhaps the most telling moments in the season four trailer come whenever new character Stephen Bonnet (Downton Abbey‘s Ed Speleers) is onscreen, showing off both a charming and violent side in equal measure. The notorious pirate and smuggler is well-known by book readers to be Outlander’s most sinister villain — even outstripping Black Jack. In a fateful meeting that will come back to haunt the Fraser family forever, Bonnet plays a huge role in not only season four but the rest of the series as well. “Stephen Bonnet is a pure psychopath and a narcissist whose day to day is, ‘What’s going to pleasure me?'” executive producer Matt B. Roberts told THR. “He’s also a chameleon. He can act like anybody and fit into any situation, and that’s what makes him so different. You never know what you’re going to get with him.”
“Luck has played a big part in his life,” executive producer Toni Graphia added. “He’s always had luck on his shoulder that enables him to go through life with this ‘I’m invincible’ feeling. He’s a happy psychopath. It’s a totally different flavor because it’s with glee that he does the things he does. He doesn’t torment himself because he feels like he has luck on his side and he’s beyond any harm.”
Without revealing the major season four plot developments for those who haven’t read the books, Bonnet’s introduction to the series comes with an extremely sensitive storyline that you can read all about (with mild book spoilers) here.
Check out the full trailer below:
Outlander season four premieres Sunday, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. on Starz.
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