'Outlander' Finale: John Bell Reflects on Young Ian's Trade & His Season 4 Journey
[Warning: The below contains spoilers for Season 4 finale of Outlander, titled "Man of Worth."]
The fourth season of Outlander was filled with multiple characters on personal journeys that tested their strengths — mental, physical, and emotional.
Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) started a new life in a new home in colonial North Carolina. Brianna (Sophie Skelton) time traveled, survived a brutal sexual assault, lost her love, and then found out she was pregnant. Roger (Richard Rankin) also passed through the stones and then literally trekked hundreds of miles with a broken heart (plus various other injuries). And in Sunday's season finale, we see another character have a full circle moment: Young Ian (John Bell).
'Outlander' Season Finale: The Cast Talks Roger's Rescue Mission, Brianna's Baby & an Uncertain Future
The Scotsman — along his wolf-dog Rollo — stole our hearts in the fourth season, as we saw him transform into a man of honor, integrity, and "worth," as Jamie says. In the January 27 finale, Young Ian proves his loyalty to his family with one of the most selfless acts imaginable: He offers himself up to the Mohawk in exchange for Roger's release.
He did owe Roger one after selling him to the Native people due to a terrible case of mistaken identity, but the fact is that Ian may never see his aunt and uncle again and it's just as heartbreaking.
Bell spoke to TV Insider about Ian's incredible sacrifice and how he thinks the character will fare living in New York with the Mohawk.
Do you think Roger will ever forgive Ian for selling him, even after this sacrifice?
John Bell: I don't even know if Roger in that moment is fully aware of what's going on because of the state he's in. I think Ian certainly makes his point — he feels incredibly guilty and that's why in part he makes the decision that he does. It's a way of paying him back, so I think Roger will eventually understand and forgive him.
What was it like filming that emotional goodbye scene?
What I loved most about it was I could really pull on what happened all the way back at the beginning of the season when Ian is dealing with PTSD and Jamie has that therapeutic conversation with him. The coined is flipped 13 episodes in; it's now Ian who is the one comforting Jamie telling him he's going to be OK and survive. These are two men in the 18th century who are not afraid to show their emotions.
What about that intense gauntlet scene?
I love stunt work so it was, for me, one of the most fun days to shoot. It's a choreographed dance you do that you work on a couple days beforehand then you come on set and you do it for real. I was having the time of my life parkouring around this First Nation Canadians. I was so proud and pleased with how it turned out. I think you can feel every punch.
Ian gives a smile at the end of the gauntlet. Has he found his new community?
Ian was fascinated by the Native American culture; I think it was calling to him in a way. When he made that decision and proved to himself he was worthy of joining the Mohawk tribe, he was the happiest he's ever been. Whether he will always remain that happy, time will tell, but I think Ian will never forget his Highlander side — he'll never lose that. Ian will always remember where he came from but is more than willing to learn something new from this choice.
Do you think Ian will escape, if given the chance?
I think Ian is a honorable person — that was instilled in him by Jamie — so when he made that offer, that trade, he knew exactly what he was doing. He knew the chances he would ever see Jamie and Claire again were slim. I don't think it's his priority at all to go against [his decision]. He's a man of his word and he's a man of worth.
Do you think Ian knows that Claire and Brianna are time travelers? How did you play it?
We talked about it a lot — me and Cat and Sam. So is Ian just not an active listener? I think he's beginning to understand more. If we will ever get a conversation between them, I don't know! I think Ian definitely knows that something is up but he just says that, 'Auntie's a fairy.'
This season there was a little one-sided romance between Lizzie and Ian. Do you wish that was played up more?
He was too busy looking at Brianna to notice Lizzie! I personally tried a lot to get a more flirtatious relationship between the two and was shot down quite a few times.
How did you react to the surprise romance between Murtagh and Aunt Jocasta?
Oh, I loved it. That was scandalous, I thought. When I first read it I was like, 'Woo-hoo, hot and steamy Jocasta! Get in there!' Yeah, that was probably more a shock than when I read that Ian was staying with the Mohawk because Murtagh doesn't survive in the books.