The Doughtlander may be over, but with its end comes a wave of high viewer expectations thanks to certain literary deviations that have raised major questions for the show’s characters heading into Season 5. So what better way to kick it all off than with some flashbacks and a wedding?
“Outlander’s” Season 5 opener, “The Fiery Cross”, managed to delve further into Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Murtagh’s (Duncan Lacroix) past while also exploring Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Roger’s (Richard Rankin) evolving relationship, making good on the show’s earlier promise to place the family drama front and center this season.
Following the Red Coats’ order that Jamie assemble an army to track and kill Murtagh, the episode opened with a flashback scene to just after Jamie’s mother had died. There, Murtagh re-pledged his oath to always protect his godson, setting up what would be decades of fatherly friendship and a lifetime of those two looking out for each other. It’s drama that couldn’t be dished out had the show in fact followed Diana Gabaldon’s narrative and killed the character off at the Battle of Culloden, and it gives the fan-favorite Murtagh something else to do as the head of the Regulator Rebellion.
As a result, Murtagh’s continued existence is the major driving force of conflict between the Red Coats and Jamie this season as the latter walks the line between his principles and trying to develop a home at Fraser Ridge. Whether Jamie truly intends to harm Murtagh when the time comes in order to protect the land and home he’s worked so hard to build is part of that drama, but perhaps less exposition from the Red Coats and a certain Gov. Tryon (Tim Downie) would better serve the suspense. There comes a point in the episode where, given the constant presence of the army and reminder that Jamie needs to fulfill a promise, you have to wonder why they don’t just hunt down the man themselves. He’s been pretty off-guard lately, what with romantic trysts in cabins and all, so he hasn’t exactly been out of reach.
Of course that accessibility changes now that Jamie has issued an official warning to his godfather and essentially balked at the idea of his loved ones playing with time travel to change the past any more than they already have. But given Jamie’s turmoil at the end of the episode it’s clear he’s heartbroken over releasing Murtagh from his family oath to deal with their respective futures separately, and it leaves an ominous feeling that when these two do see each other again it won’t be under happy circumstances.
Speaking of futures, the premiere spent a great deal of time pondering the one for Brianna and Roger. Kicking off the season with the wedding not only opened the door for a montage of “Outlander” prerequisite sex scenes, but it solidified the bond between Brianna and Roger, and made Roger’s acceptance of Jerimiah as his own official. Although, with Bonnet (Ed Speleers) sightings and Jacosta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) running interference, that resolve is bound to be tested in the coming weeks—especially since, at their core, Brianna and Roger are still a very new couple that has barely spent any real time together. Their challenges in the upcoming episodes will be very real.
More importantly, the wedding also allowed Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie to spend actual time with their daughter and be the family they always wanted. That led to some emotional moments to be sure (Brianna saying “je suis pret” to Jamie was almost too much), but it also opened the door for awkwardly comedic moments between Roger and Jamie (and, in one scene, a razor). One of the more interesting things to explore is how a scholar like Roger will acclimatize and fare in the past, when physical skills garnered more clout than brainpower. How will he provide for Brianna and what use will he be in Jamie’s army when the time comes? It’s the first time we really get to dig into what it’s like for a male of the future to travel back and cope with a slightly more toxic mindset, and it leads to all kinds of interesting story potential.
For now though, with Jamie calling upon his men to pledge their allegiance by that fiery cross and the Red Coats keeping a close watch on things, the episode ends with the sense that battle is approaching and the characters will be physically divided again in the very near future. In other words, cherish those sex montages while they last, because things are about to get real wild.
“Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.