I'm going to be really honest with you: I love Outlander and want to be writing this article even less than you want to read it. I hope you consider that and maybe put the pitchforks down long enough to hear what I have to say. Season 4 of Outlander was... underwhelming.
Yes, the novels spells out what's coming, but this is TV Guide and we're really only licensed to talk about what happens on the show. And what happened on the show, in the end, felt kind of pointless. The Frasers finally found Roger (Richard Rankin) in upstate New York, and after a failed attempt to kidnap him, ended up trading Young Ian (John Bell) to the Native Americans in return for Roger. While the separation was bittersweet, joining the tribe will allow Young Ian to have the life of adventure he's been dreaming of since he was a lad. Plus, it made him feel like a true hero in front of his uncle Jamie (Sam Heughan).
Once Roger was safe, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) had the unfortunate task of explaining to him that Bree (Sophie Skelton) had been raped by Stephen Bonnett (Edward Speleers) and was carrying his or Roger's child. The newborn meant that Bree couldn't travel back through the stones to their time period, so Roger had to decide if he was willing to stay in the past and raise a baby that potentially wasn't his. The next time Claire and Jamie are seen on-screen, it is during their return to River Run to inform Brianna that Roger chose to abandon her. However, the episode didn't end there, and the few extra scenes at the plantation hinted that we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. Low and behold, Roger came riding into the farm minutes later having had a change of heart, ready to wed Brianna for real and raise their child together. Who didn't see that coming?
Of course, a happy reunion is no way to end a season of Outlander; the final scene saw Red Coats arriving at River Run to deliver a letter to Jamie that informed him he'd been called upon to execute Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) for his conspiring against the crowd. Cut to black.
Wait, what? Really? Season 1 ended with Jamie and Claire vowing to try and change history. Season 2 ended with the Frasers separating themselves by 200 years. Season 3 ended with the star-crossed lovers shipwrecked on a new continent. Now Season 4 has ended with Jamie being dealt an ultimatum that barely feels like a choice because there is no universe or time period in which Jamie Fraser would ever execute a clansman, especially one who essentially raised him to be the man that he is. Is that going to make things really sticky with his landlord? Yes, totally, but those aren't season-ending stakes.
Of course, this choice signals the beginning of the Frasers involvement in the American Revolution (the season ended with the war about two years away), but it's too soft given the stakes Outlander has had in the past. It's too soft considering that we never saw Stephen Bonnett's body after the prison explosion in the penultimate episode (and we've seen villains allegedly killed in prisons on this show before). If he didn't die, then we can surely expect him to come calling for his child sometime in the future. For a moment, I thought he was arriving at River Run instead of Roger. You know, to really break some hearts.
So, while I am excited to see how the Frasers will deal with the oncoming revolution and Jamie's vow that he supports the British (and how that mysterious future fire will come into play), his conundrum with regards to Murtagh doesn't create the intrigue that previous finales so expertly delivered. It does not feel like a life-altering event the way the others did, and there were other, more interesting loose ends to tug on to make this feel more dramatic. Understanding that the show must stay loyal to the story laid out by Diana Gabaldon's novels, was this really the best note to end on?
For what it's worth, the season finale is not indicative of the entire season. Yes, I had some other issues throughout Season 4, but I was also gripping my seat during the entire second half of the season. I desperately wanted them to find Roger and to find out what would happen with Bree and the baby. I battled whether I wanted Roger to come back or see Bree live a contented life with John Grey (David Berry). I wanted to see Stephen Bonnett stabbed through the heart about 57 times. With all of that anticipation expertly built up over the last four episodes, it felt lackluster to end the season this way, because Jamie is never ever going to make the choice to execute Murtagh. So why should be spend the next droughtlander pretending he'd even consider it? We deserve something more angsty to yearn over for the next year or so.
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