Outlander opted for an unexpected cliffhanger to close out its fourth season, setting up Jamie (Sam Heughan) for a major internal conflict come Season 5. In the episode’s final moments, Jamie receives an order from Governor Tryon to find and execute his beloved godfather, Murtagh, for his involvement with the rebellious Regulators.
It’s a jarring close to a season that metamorphic for the show. What began with Jamie and Claire’s dream to establish a quiet homestead in a remote section of North Carolina soon devolved into mayhem: Jamie’s unexpected reunion with Murtagh turned deadly when he realized his godfather’s political activities directly challenged Jamie’s relationship with Tryon. Then, Brianna’s arrival from the future brought news of Jamie and Claire’s impending deaths, as well as a very fresh, very painful trauma (and a missing fiancé), into the tumult of Jamie and Claire’s lives.
The Season 4 finale allowed a short moment of peace Outlander‘s core characters before swiftly shattering it with Tryon’s letter, setting up significant complications for the growing Fraser family in Season 5. Heughan sat down with BAZAAR.com for a quick recap of Season 4’s conflicts and resolutions, and what to expect as the specter of the American Revolution draws closer.
Harper’s BAZAAR: In Season 4, Jamie and Claire witness a lot of painful moments in American history that Claire is already very familiar with: slavery, the treatment of indigenous peoples, the impending Revolution. How do you play a character who’s learning the truth about these historical ramifications in real time?
Sam Heughan: It’s the thing that happened in the earlier seasons when he first met Claire. She proved to him with Culloden and all that history, but this is on an even bigger scale. He totally believes her—there’s not even a question. She’s been right so many times. They’ve tried to change history before and have they been successful? Not so much. They’re very aware this season [about] what’s coming. It’s on the horizon, the Revolutionary War is there. You can sort of feel it—the thunderclouds are there. It’s setting it up.
By the end of the season you see, no matter how hard they try, they get pulled into it. It’s really exciting for next season because it’s going to set up that whole world and the different political sides with Murtagh… It’s going to be tough. This is not the first time they’ve dealt with these things. And at first Jamie thinks he can play it. He can play with fate and play with history, maybe to his detriment.
HB: How do you think Jamie, this person who loves Scotland so much, personally deals with this transition to America, this new country and a wholly different environment?
SH: He’s the outlander now. [Jamie and Claire are] the outlanders and the Sassenachs. But what’s amazing is Jamie feels at home in America. He sees this land. He sees the similarities, but the bigger expanse of it. Even with the Native Americans, he sees in them a similarity [with the Highlanders] and who they are and their culture and the way that they operate. There becomes this sort of trust and respect between them. It’s a sense of home, a sense of belonging even though they’re immigrants.
HB: After four seasons working with Caitriona Balfe, are you two in a groove? How has your relationship evolved?
SH: It’s evolved but there’s always been a trust, a mutual understanding with us. We complement each other. We work different ways and we both have our failings and also our positivity, but it really helps each other grow. We’re hoping next season to have a lot more influence in the characters and the storyline, and be a part of that creatively. We are usually involved, and some seasons have been stronger than others, but we’re possibly talking with Starz and Sony right now. We’ll see… We’ve always wanted to be a part of it and to help influence the journey and the story and also to be the guardians of our characters and protect that.
HB: Can you talk about Jamie’s scenes with Brianna this season?
This season for me was a love story to Brianna. Jamie and Claire, they’re fine, everything’s good: That is the constant. But for Jamie, it’s this loss of not being part of Brianna’s life. He’s finding a way [to] try to influence it by molding this land into something and building a legacy for her. Somehow, he’d want her to live and thrive, so for her to appear [in the 18th century] is just, well, it’s mind blowing, isn’t it? How do you play that?