'Outlander' Season Finale: The Cast Talks Roger's Rescue Mission, Brianna's Baby & an Uncertain Future
Sophie Skelton is running so fast she’s nearly breathless. The actress—who plays Outlander’s smart, spirited Brianna Fraser, the daughter of time-traveling 20th-century surgeon Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and 18th-century Scot Jamie (Sam Heughan) — is in Scotland on a hot April day to shoot a heart-wrenching scene from the Season 4 finale.
In take after take, Bree, a onetime 1970s MIT student now in Colonial America, dashes across the lawn of the lush North Carolina plantation known as River Run. (Yes, Scotland has been doubling for the future Tar Heel State this season.) For months, she’s been sequestered there with her rich aunt Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy), waiting to give birth. Her parents and cousin Young Ian (John Bell), meanwhile, are trying to rescue her history professor husband, Roger (Richard Rankin), from the Mohawks — a risky operation that will reach an action-packed conclusion in this episode.
'This episode was a more complex look into his character,' explains the actor.
“Bree doesn’t know if Roger’s alive, if her parents are alive,” says Skelton, who’s dealing with a painful side effect of her mini-marathon: the blisters that come from ye olde footwear. “Giving birth without her mother there is something she’s very afraid of and sad about. Jocasta has become a mother figure, but Claire is the only person Brianna can talk to about her fears of having a baby, and everything else.”
Part of that “everything else” is Bree’s dread that her child isn’t Roger’s but instead the offspring of psycho criminal Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers), who raped her on her wedding night. This violent act is the source of the Fraser clan’s current woes. First, in a horrible case of mistaken identity, Jamie believed Roger to be the assailant and beat him to a pulp; Young Ian then sold the poor man to the Mohawks. This, when devoted Roger had followed Bree back in time (she went to warn her parents after seeing an obituary of their deaths in a 1700s fire) and married her in a handfasting ceremony. Their first night of passion reached Claire/Jamie sizzle levels before devolving into a quarrel. Bree went to cool off in a nearby tavern, which is where Bonnet attacked her, and Roger was on his way to find her when Jamie and Young Ian unfortunately intervened.
The real number will actually surprise you.
The danger doesn’t abate in the final two episodes of the season. When determined Claire, guilt-ridden Jamie and adventure-seeking Young Ian finally reach the Mohawk village in New York Colony, they find that getting the bruised and broken Roger back isn’t as simple as trading him for a few trinkets. “It’s very dangerous,” Heughan says. Violence arises after an unexpected twist related to someone from Claire’s past — and the encounter ultimately demands a great sacrifice from the Frasers.
Months in captivity witnessing horrors and suffering abuse has damaged Roger both in body and spirit. But on set, a cheerful Rankin, dressed in rags and smudged with dirt, confesses he’d be fine with even more bone-shattering stunts than the storyline has required. “Roger’s [been] dragged about, went over a few cliffs. I threw myself around a fair bit, but not as much as I would have if given the opportunity,” he says. But no matter how bad things get, “He just can’t tear himself away from the thought of reuniting with Brianna.”
Love for Bree motivates Jamie too. Having learned what he did to Roger, she unleashed her fury — and the new father-daughter bond was fractured. (Remember, Jamie has only just met his daughter, who grew up with Claire in the future — no one ever said time-jumping was free from complications!) “He’s on a quest to win back her trust and love,” says Heughan. “He promised Bree he’ll save Roger. He can’t come back empty-handed.” Jamie, who was raped by sadistic British Army captain “Black Jack” Randall in Season 1, “sees himself in her,” Heughan adds. “They’ve both been through a trauma.”
Now Bree has to make it through labor and then see whether she can love a child who reminds her of that harrowing night. And if her parents and husband do return home, will Roger — who doesn’t even know his wife is pregnant — willingly raise a baby who may not be his? “Claire holds out hope that he will,” Balfe says. “She’s seen how in love Roger is with her daughter. Claire knows he is a good man and a man of honor.”
Plus, Rankin details how the Outlander fandom has changed his life and our editors reflect back on the best and worst of 2018.
For Balfe, the finale caps a season she’s enjoyed for the chance to play a more mature and domestic Claire, and to delve into the strength of Claire and Jamie’s relationship beyond their sexual passion (although, thankfully, there’s been plenty of that!). “People tend to disregard the value of when people really get to know each other and spend time with each other,” Balfe says. Their partnership could save Roger — they just have to keep from being wrenched apart in the process, something that often happens to Claire and Jamie.
Even if the Fraser family finds peace and togetherness, the world around them stands on the brink of turmoil with the American Revolution about to begin. Jamie’s godfather Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) is a leader of the Regulators, the future revolutionaries, and his involvement puts the Frasers in the crosshairs. “They know this war is coming, bigger than anything. It is slowly thundering in the background,” Heughan says. Make that the foreground: Across the field from where Skelton is shooting, three horsemen in British army redcoats practice for a jaw-dropper of a scene. Sums up Heughan, “Dare I say, this finale is the strongest we’ve had.”
Outlander, Season 4 Finale, Sunday, 8/7c, Starz