Jamie and Claire are back on TV screens as Season 4 of the hit Starz show Outlander returned on Sunday. The show, which takes place in North America this season, featured some intensely dramatic scenes that tackle topics like sexual assault, betrayal, and PTSD. The season opener, titled “America the Beautiful,” has the couple, along with recently rescued Ian and a new gang of friends (and soon-to-be enemies), settling themselves in the burgeoning New World.
Prior to this year’s “droughtlander,” fans last saw Jamie (played by Sam Heughan) and Claire Fraser (played by Caitriona Balfe) as they washed up on the shores of North America. After witnessing fellow Ardsmuir prisoner Gavin Hayes (James Allenby-Kirk) hanged in a sobering reminder of what punishment looked like in early America, the pair buries Jamie’s friend in the cover of darkness.
While digging the hole, young Ian sees flashbacks of his harrowing experience with Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek) in Season 3, which involved sexual assault and some very dark magic. Jamie and Ian’s conversation about the event echoes those that many people are having in the wake of the Me Too movement today.
When asked by the Hollywood Reporter if these scenes were meant to be a statement about the current climate surrounding consent and assault, producer Toni Graphia said that the show speaks for itself. According to her, these questions have been going on for a long time, and Outlander hopes to contribute to the conversation.
“While we’re certainly aware and appreciate the climate of change that’s going on in today’s world, we don’t consciously plan or tailor anything to today’s world,” she said. “We recognize that we have a responsibility, but we really only endeavor to stay true to our characters and what they’ve been through. The drama speaks for itself in that the fact that these kinds of things were going on even 200 years ago. Rape and sexual trauma was rampant back then, and things happened to both women and men. This shines a light on it, and I think it does add to today’s conversation to show that this has been going on for forever.”
The show also saw the introduction of a character who fans of the books will instantly recognize. Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) hides in the Fraser’s wagon to escape the authorities, promising to leave the couple alone if they would help him flee. They do, but it won’t be the last they see of the odious villain in this episode.
The season opener also focuses on what Jamie and Claire will decide to do: return to Scotland or stay in America? They visit Jamie’s aunt Jocasta and get an offer that seems tempting on its face: pledge loyalty to King George and get a land grant, but promise not to take part in any revolutionary activities.
If the first episode of the season is any indication, Season 4 of Outlander promises to be as shocking and entertaining as the previous three.