After enduring many months of Droughtlander, Outlander, and everyone's favorite century-defying couple, is back. A lot has happened in the show's previous three seasons, and this new chapter is no different. So Marie Claire recruited a diehard Outlander fan to keep up with all the Fraser drama this season. Buckle up, Sassenach.
Tonight, Season Four of Outlander kicked off with its usual mix of beautiful scenery, mayhem, death, and sex—in other words, everything we love about this show. The bad news is the kilts are gone. The good news is that Jamie and Claire Fraser are back, they’re together, and they’re still sizzling.
Since so much happened in this episode (all that mayhem, sex, and death!), here are the most important takeaways from the season premiere:
Jamie and Claire Are Still a Dream Couple
The electric chemistry Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan bring to their roles continues to ignite the screen this season. When they're forced to camp in the woods a night after a gruesome hanging, we get to see a shirtless Jamie (always a bonus) as Claire tenderly washes him, offering him comfort. When she worries that "all this could be ripped away at any moment" Jamie counters "don’t you see how small a thing death is between us? Nothing is lost, Sassenach, only changed." "I want to feel alive with you, right now," she says. And the smoldering passion that follows is a low level nuclear chain reaction.
They make marriage seem blissful–as long as you’re blessed with a husband as perfect as Jamie. When they are getting dressed to dine with the Governor of North Carolina, Claire worries that her dress is "too much mutton dressed as lamb." "Never," Jamie says. Right answer. 'You look nice' just wouldn’t do it.
He knows her so well. He surprises her with a gift–not jewelry, but a medicine box–and she is thrilled. He wishes he could deck her in laces and jewels. She replies that the ring he gave her when they married "is all I need." Ahhh….foreshadowing.
There's a Hot New Villain
And what a charming one he is. Stephen Bonnet is a sharp witted, smooth talking Irish pirate who escaped the gallows and the British with the reluctant help of Jamie and Claire. Played by Edward Speleers, who you may remember as a dashing footman at Downtown Abbey, he is very different from our last bad guy–Black Jack Randall who oozed menace and evil. With his smiling face, Bonnet may be more villainous because he is completely without conscience or a shred of morality. He appears to open his heart to Claire when she tends his wound. He notices her two wedding rings, flatters her by saying "two lucky men," and tells her he’s always been partial to rings. He promises Jamie and Claire that he won’t bother them again. "You have my word." The trouble is he’s overheard them talk of having jewels to sell. A few days later he and a group of pirates board their boat, steal the jewels from Jamie, slit the throat of their friend, and steal Claire’s wedding ring. Her despair at losing Jamie’s ring is one of Caitriona Balfe’s most wrenching performances.
Circles Are Still a Thing
Circles are a central theme of Outlander–from the stone circle that transports Claire to Jamie’s time, to the hangman’s noose that kills one of Jamie’s friends, to Claire’s ring. But they also include the extended family circle Jamie and Claire are building in the New World. There’s the French orphan Jamie adopted in Paris, now with them in North Carolina and married to Jamie’s step daughter. (If you haven't been following, that one's way too complicated to explain). Now they’re about to become parents themselves. There’s their biological daughter Brianna – living in Boston in 1971. A son that Jamie had after spending a night against his will with a spoiled, bitchy girl (again, too complicated). And there’s Young Ian, played by John Bell, who wins a wolf-like dog called Rollo in a dice game. In an emotional scene, Ian has a PTSD flashback to being kidnapped and sexually abused by Geillis Duncan, a time traveler like Claire. Sam Heughan gives a subtle, nuanced performance as Jamie comforts Ian, reveals his own trauma, and reassures him that all that matters is that he survived.
The Music Is on Point–and Pointed
From the opening credits where the familiar Outlander theme shifts from its original Scottish arrangement to the Blue Grass fiddle playing as the scene changes to the mountains of North Carolina, the music is one of the great pleasures of every Outlander season. This episode is titled "America the Beautiful" and the opening highlights the country’s majesty–including a bald eagle who swoops across the water and suddenly dives to catch a fish in its claws. It’s another foreshadowing. It's still a shock when the episode ends with Ray Charles’ version of "America the Beautiful" while Bonnet and his crew are robbing Jamie and Claire and murdering their friend. It’s a reminder of the promise of this new land, but also its dangers and its future of violence, war and injustice. The song is the only anachronistic thing in the episode and its message is like a punch in the gut. Powerful…but maybe a bit heavy-handed
A few more quibbles. Perhaps because this is the first episode of a new season, it has to do a lot of heavy lifting to set the scene. That means that while some scenes are allowed to breathe emotionally, others can be choppy and seem too short. The sets and the costumes are lovely, but don’t get me started on the wigs. They don’t even look like real hair. When Claire’s hair is down around her shoulders, she looks young and sexy. When it’s piled up in a knot, she seems like a school teacher, lecturing Jamie on what’s to come and seems much older than her husband. And when your leading man’s wig is so bad that he looks better with a hat on, you know you need to rethink the whole hair business before the next season.