Previously on Outlander, “Eye of the Storm”
It’s been over a year since the Frasers spent any time occupying my brain, but this season is based on my favorite book in the story as of yet (Drums of Autumn, for the uninitiated). It’s a slow start to the season, but at least it’s something to wash the ridiculousness of season 3 out of our mouths.
Season 3 ended with yet another shipwreck—there were a lot of them, right? Or did it just feel that way?—and the Frasers landing whole and alive on the sandy beaches of Georgia, USA. The rest of the crew seems to have made it to land as well, including Marseli, Fergus, and young but not nearly as innocent Ian.
And here we are: season 4 opens four months after that crash landing, with the Fraser company still stranded on the colonies but planning on taking the next boat back out to the motherland. While they’ve been waiting for what must be the only ship to Scotland, their friend and crewmate Hayes has been sentenced to hang for a little misadventure involving a new ladyfriend, her husband, and a tumble down some stairs.
The hanging and subsequent midnight burial of Hayes serve one purpose for this story (other than killing off a slow 20 minutes): the introduction of Stephen Bonnet. A little roguish and a whole lot charming, Stephen Bonnet was on death row with Hayes and escaped in the hilarity that ensued from his hanging. Appealing to Jamie’s decent nature, he convinces the Frasers to secret him out to safety in their provision-laden wagon so that he can escape the Redcoats. It works with minimal bloodshed, because there is always bloodshed when Jamie is around, and Bonnet disappears into the night with a tip of his metaphorical hat.
There’s a fancy dinner party that requires the Frasers’ presence, mostly because they’ve got a ruby to unload if they’re going to buy tickets back to Scotland. There’s a whole cast of characters that are seemingly nameless but will without a doubt be seen again. Luckily, the only one of them that matters is Governor Tryon. Over cigars and brandy he makes the most interesting proposal to Jamie: what if Jamie settled in North Carolina and started his own compound up in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Claire thinks it might be a good idea but could also be dangerous—Claire’s great for advice that way—but Jamie is willing to risk the upcoming war to be a part of Brianna’s homeland.
The morning brings another surprise and one of the series’ great characters: Rollo the dog. Half dog, technically, and half wolf, won by Ian in a game of old-timey craps. And if Rollo looks familiar to you at all, it’s because he’s the same Alaskan Inuit breed as everyone’s favorite dire wolves.
Jamie isn’t as excited at being a dog uncle as he is at the prospect of becoming a grandpa; Marseli and Fergus are having a baby! Claire’s instructions in season 3 must have been confusing, because this used to be the last thing Marseli wanted. She and Fergus both look thrilled, though, and the best part is that she is now under pregnancy travel ban. That new baby is going to be a first-generation American.
On to Riverrun! Jamie’s aunt on his mother’s side, Jocosta, has a dead husband and sweet plantation down in Cape Fear, NC, and now that he and Claire are going to make a go of it in the wilds of the North Carolina mountains, they might as well swing by and say hi on their homesteading way. The journey seems to be going well, all things considered*, and Jamie even gives Claire a gift of a beautiful carved wood medicine box. But the good time is interrupted one night when pirates board the tiny skiff and goddamn if one of those pirates isn’t Stephen Bonnet! Jaime gets the crap kicked out of him by the pirates; Lesley, the last remaining crew member, straight up gets his throat slit: and Bonnet steals not only Claire’s wedding rings but also Jamie’s tiny bag of gemstones. It’s a weird action sequence, jarringly set to Ray Charles’ America the Beautiful, and while it probably wasn’t the soundtrack I would have chosen, the irony is clear. And I bet it’s still not the last time Jamie’s honor will get his ass kicked.
*It’s a tough road ahead for Season 4. Between slavery and the people of the First Nation, we have a whole lot of chances for racism in the next 12 episodes. Outlander takes such strides to be historically accurate (time travel notwithstanding). It’s going to be a major balancing act between telling Jamie and Claire’s story without glossing over the real atrocities of settling America but also without making it another white savior hour. Can it be done? I really hope so. But like I said: balancing act.