Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe (Starz)
Outlander wrapped its fourth season on Sunday night and while it followed the key points in the journey laid out by Diana Gabaldon in Drums of Autumn, it was also a season filled with surprises, and twists and turns not in the novel, especially the cliffhanger at the end, as Jamie (Sam Heughan) is put in an untenable position.
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched the episode, you may not want to read further.
had the opportunity to speak with showrunner Matthew B. Roberts about why certain decisions were made, why some fans of the book were not happy, and what we can expect going forward in season five, which will be based on The Fiery Cross.
Here is what he had to say:
What was your goal for this season, and how successful do you feel you were?
The goal for the season was to show Jamie and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) essentially building their home, but actually answering the question: What is home? What’s the most important definition of that? Is it just the ground you live on, or is it the structure, or is it the people around you?
Over the course of the season, we discover that it’s not necessarily the ground you live on, but the most important thing is the people around you, and the lengths to which you go to keep that together. We asked that question in the beginning, and we do answer it by the end of the season.
Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe (Starz)
One really big moment for the season, obviously, is when Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Jamie meet for the first time. Did it come off as you hoped? Was the chemistry there between father and daughter?
You always worry about those big, what we would call tentpole moments, or iconic moments, from the source material. Book fans tend to laser focus on those moments, so, there is a little trepidation going into them, but Sam and Sophie had great chemistry on the day. We rehearsed and the chemistry was there. It was a really freezing day — you probably can tell from the footage, but even with that, they brought their A games and it really sparked on-screen for both of them. They both fed off each other, and there was a lot of great dynamics going on. From what I saw, from the fan reaction for that particular episode, everybody seemed to really enjoy it, so I thought it was quite successful, yes.
Is there one scene that ended up on the cutting room floor that you wish fans could see that might make it into the Blu-ray/ DVD release?
Wow! I get asked that a lot, and it’s really not necessarily what was filmed that ends up on the cutting room floor that I get disappointed about; it’s that there’s so much material in the book series that you just inevitably have to leave out, even at the script phase. My disappointment comes more from that rather than just something that we filmed that gets truncated, or shortened, or you have to leave out.
Normally we cut for time. We just don’t have enough time, so we have to make strategic choices. Book readers know the story, but people who’ve never read a single word have to know the story, and that’s always the biggest balance in creating these things.
I read these books a very long time ago, before I started on the show, so I have my favorite moments in the books that don’t make it in, and I know there’s a million fans that have their favorite moments that don’t make it. It’s just the nature of adaptation, so that’s just how it works, and so that’s where my disappointment really comes from.
Duncan Lacroix (Starz)
One of the big changes for season four that isn’t in the novel is the fact that Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) is alive. That’s a decision that was made back in season two, I believe, but can you talk about the why of it, and what you feel it contributed to this season?
One of the big devices in the books is they are told through Claire’s thoughts. There’s a lot of internal dialogue with Claire throughout the books, and that’s very hard to bring to screen as a constant voice-over. You don’t want to have that all the time. It actually gets old after a while. It’s a great device in the beginning, and it worked really well for us in season one, and a little bit in season two, but as you go, you want to see the characters and it’s hard for an actor to just sit there for 30 seconds and think on camera as you do a running voice-over.
So, one of the reasons we kept Murtagh alive was to give Claire, and also Jamie, someone to talk to, and the fans had grown to love him, and we loved him. Duncan is an amazing actor, so, after the first season, it became an, “All right, well, it’s a simple choice, let’s keep him alive.” We actually discussed it with Diana, and she gave her thumbs up on it.
Where the problems come from now is when Murtagh’s in a scene, it takes away from other story that could be told, and also, you have to create every moment of that, because he, as you pointed out, is dead in the books, so every moment going forward is an original story.
What we try to do is figure out where Murtagh can slip into the story. It’s like, instead of using that character, we’ll just take Murtagh down the line. We don’t want to do that forever, because there’s so much coming down the line from book five and six. There are a lot of big stories going forward, so we have to find a place for Murtagh all on his own.
Well, it looks like he’s going to provide Jamie with a big conundrum for season five, since the cliffhanger was the governor wanting Jamie to track him down and arrest him or kill him, so it looks like he has something very exciting coming up next season.
He does. I’m not going to go too much further, but he does, and it is a big dilemma for Jamie. You hit the nail right on the head there.