Outlander Season 5 premiere has come and gone. Blogger Anne Gavin shares her thoughts about the many ways the episode brought us back to Scotland.
There were times through these 386 days of drought that I wondered if I would make it. It was excruciating to be withOutlander. Something about this break between seasons seemed harder than past ones. I was thankful then that working as a writer at Outlander Cast Podcast and Blog kept me engaged, not only with the fandom but also with an obsession that began in November of 2014 when I caught Outlander Season 1 on STARZ.
Scotland, oh Scotland. It drew me in. Outlander’s Scotland was my gateway drug that lead to this glorious addiction. The landscapes, the history, the clans, the swords, the kilts, the castles, the hills, the lochs — all captured my soul. It set off a series of personal events that has altered my life in an incredibly positive way. Outlander Season 1 and the back half of Outlander Season 2 were some of my favorite of the series. Those episodes are what Outlander means to me. But my struggle began mid-season 3 when the Frasers left Scotland and set sail for the Caribbean and eventually the American colonies. The dread I felt leading up to the beginning of Outlander Season 4 was palpable. I had invested so much time and energy into the series being Scotland-based that I wondered if moving the story to the colonies would change the way I felt overall about Outlander. After the Season 4 premiere aired, I worked hard to find some of what I loved about Outlander’s Scotland in the opening episode. I put on a brave face and found a few things that I wrote about in this blog post. But, always in the back of my head I was missing Scotland. Intellectually I knew the story had moved across the pond, but emotionally, I didn’t really like it.
Fast forward to Outlander Season 5 and je suis prest for more America and subsequent Fraser drama. I had made my peace with the story moving away from Scotland…sort of. However, nothing prepared me for the glorious references sprinkled throughout Episode 5.01. Outlander was back! Highlander Jamie Fraser was back! And for 66 minutes I was transported once again to Outlander’s Scotland. All those feelings of joy returned and I remembered what it felt like the first time I became immersed in the world of Outlander and Scotland.
Here are my Top Five Moments in Episode 5.01 that brought it all back to that warm and fuzzy place — it’s All the Scotland Things!
#1 Murtagh/Jamie Flashback
The moment the wailing strains of the bagpipe began to play, I sucked in my breath and then held it for just a moment. The stunning tracking shot of the hills and forest behind the lush green fields and the brief glimpse of Lallybroch brought back all the feels. It reminded me of several Outlander Season 1 episodes where the grandeur of the Highlands of Scotland was showcased: “Rent,” “Castle Leoch,” “Sassenach” — to name just a few episode titles where Scotland became as significant a character in the story as any of the actors and the characters they played. This opening scene was an important bookend to the tale that would follow in Episode 5.01. The scene and dialogue reminded me of the essential relationship that TV Outlander and the amazing Duncan Lacroix and Sam Heughan nourished through four seasons of the show. Family loyalty and the importance of promises and oaths to those we love were themes that ran all through Outlander Season 1 and much of seasons 2 and 3. Back then it gave those of us new to Scottish clan history a glimpse into this unique way of life and why fighting and dying together was the ultimate act of fealty. The looks exchanged between young Jamie and his godfather reminded me of why I fell in love with this relationship in Outlander Season 1. My heart did a familiar pitter-patter as I basked in the warm glow that is Outlander’s Scotland.
#2 The Wedding
There are few Outlander fans who don’t cite Episode 1.07 as one of their favorite if not THE favorite episode of all the series. The sexual tension that had been festering between Claire and the handsome Highlander Jamie Fraser finally came to its climax (so to speak!) in this episode! But, before that, an overwhelmed Claire made her vows tentatively surrounded by strangers and more than a bit impaired from self-medicating with whisky the night before. Claire had been thrust into a marriage of convenience that meant the difference between surviving in her new time or perishing and likely never finding her way home to her 20th century husband. She was dazed, confused and all kinds of conflicted that day. In Episode 5.01 we are gleefully transported to the 18th century to relive that romantic ceremony and Jamie in all his kilted finery. Back to Brianna and Roger making their very clear-headed vows to each other, Jamie and Claire turn their attention inward for a moment. Remembering their own vows, they both spontaneously say “as long as we both shall live” thereby reaffirming their love and commitment. That clarity for them after having been through so much since their own wedding day was also a call back for me.
As viewers we know the troubles, frequent separations and conflict that have kept these two always fighting for their love and their family. For me it was a lovely remembrance of the crux of the story — the love of these two people and the relationships and family that come along with them wherever they go. The faces of the wedding-goers at Fraser’s Ridge were not dissimilar to the crew gathered at the kirk in Outlander Season 1. Connected by heritage and shared dreams, the people of Fraser’s Ridge represent Jamie and Claire’s new clan. Indeed, when Jamie announced that the Frasers were gathered at the start of the ceremony, it reminded me that the community formed at Fraser’s Ridge was as close to the Mackenzies of Leoch as it could be at this point in the story. There is a shared identity amongst these settlers even if not all descended from the same family. The entirety of the wedding sequence tugged at my heart strings and brought all the Scotland feels roaring back.
#3 The Gathering
I was thankful that the show runner and writers decide to condense this rather lengthy segment of the book into a manageable hour of television. Gathering at the Ridge and not River Run made it feel more like a family affair, set amidst the magnificent Big House and all of Jamie’s new tenants and family. Just like at the gathering at Castle Leoch in Outlander Season 1, this gathering was a multi-day event filled with feasting, dancing and drink layered on top of the wedding celebration of Brianna and Roger. So many times I found myself thinking back to the festive days and nights at Castle Leoch when Mackenzies from across the Highlands of Scotland gathered to take their oath to another laird, Jamie’s Uncle Colum. There were humorous drunken escapades then lead by the comedy team of Rupert and Angus, some intrigue thanks to Uncle Dougal and a general feeling of family, of clan.
As Claire pointed out in Episode 5.01, the Ridge would serve as the foundation for the rest of their lives in this new country, just as Leoch was the epicenter of so much of the drama in Season 1. And, in 5.01’s gathering, while not the Mackenzies gathered, it was in fact a first gathering of a kinship of Scots in the new world. Displaced from their clans and homes across the sea, they celebrated with food and traditions passed down from their Scottish heritage, including Scottish fiddles, dancing and a feast Mrs. Fitz would be proud to serve. And, then there was the whisky, which seemed to be in abundance! Surveying the scene at the Ridge, it wasn’t hard to imagine Angus and Rupert eyeing the lassies while refilling their flasks. My heart swelled watching these beautiful scenes of celebration and of kinship. It felt so reminiscent of times spent with the Frasers and Mackenzies in Outlander Season 1. We were just missing a boar hunt! Unlike Jamie’s disparagement of Roger’s unique talent, however, the groom’s singing was just fine by me.
#4 The Laird and the Oath Taking
The kilt is back and so is the laird. As fans, we’ve been waiting for this for a very long time — since the Battle of Culloden to be exact! Jamie’s agency, natural leadership abilities, and charisma were in full effect as he donned that tattered, yet still powerful piece of tartan. It symbolizes both for Jamie and for the audience what it means to be a Scot. Lighting up the Celtic Cross — so much symbolism there as well — Jamie very deliberately created his own ceremony amongst the people of the Ridge while sensing and knowing the approach of war. This was so evocative of the oath-taking in the Great Hall at Leoch when Colum sought to secure the loyalty of his men in advance of the Jacobite Rising of 1745.
While not kin, the men of Fraser’s Ridge were called to follow Colonel Fraser and pledge their fealty. Jamie knew he would need their loyalty as he tried to secure the safety of his family while remaining true to his own oath to the English crown. Accompanying all of this, composer Bear McCreary repurposed a tune from Season 2, Moch Sa Mhadainn. I was delighted to hear this arrangement again as it was the backdrop for my #1 Musical Moment of Season 2 in this blog post I wrote in November of 2016. The tune was created from a poem in the Jacobite era and was meant to exude a sense of optimism that the arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie would lead to a victory over the English oppressors. Gaelic singer, Griogair Labhruidh reprised his haunting vocals in the episode 5.01 version of the song to great effect.
In Outlander Season 2 we hear the song in several episodes after Jamie and Claire return to Scotland from France intent on stopping the Rising. Back then it embodied the coming of war and the pride of the Jacobites for their Prince and their cause. In 5.01, it accompanied Jamie as he displayed symbols of the Scots and their proud history before his kin and tenants. And, not lost on the viewer were the faces of the Red Coats gathered that night who must have been thinking about the many stories they heard of the fierce fighting of the Jacobites. Highland Charge anyone? It was the perfect choice of music for this moment as Jamie reminded all of us of his heritage but also that of Outlander and the story conceived in the Scottish Highlands. Brilliant.
An intangible aspect of Episode 5.01 not necessarily tied to a scene or a plot point, was something I have really missed from Outlander. The relationships between the characters and how they interact with each other and with the plot was a standout in Outlander Season 1, but missing at times in some subsequent seasons. In Episode 5.01, I got that same Season 1 feeling with most of the major characters but also some of the minor as well. The small moments between Jamie and Claire and how they each related to Brianna as she was preparing for her wedding were some of the most poignant and emotional of the episode. Also, seeing how Jamie and Roger are struggling to trust each other for the sake of the love they both share for Brianna was beautiful to see. There was even a bit of humor. Tears mixed with laughter is a tried and true Outlander trope that I have missed. There was a lot of that in Episode 5.01 and I am grateful.
Roger and Brianna’s small moments also served to finally move these two along to a place where we can all really start to care about them and their future. Previous seasons did very little to help us with that to the detriment of the show overall. But, in the premiere we could see Roger’s sensitivity to Brianna’s trauma as well as his willingness to claim his family after taking his time to return to River Run. Jamie’s moments with Lord John, while brief, also bring us back to the heart of that relationship. There is an incredible trust between these two men, as they know each other’s secrets and have chosen to honor those secrets over time and much turmoil. I really loved seeing these two together again, however brief.
And, so while we often focus on Outlander’s plot and where the story will take our characters next, I felt like 5.01 gave us back what we had missed from earlier seasons — the connection of relationships. The final scene of the episode was the best example of this. It perfectly connected the opening scene — Murtagh’s oath to young Jamie — to the time when the godfather’s cause and Jamie’s dilemma would necessitate a separation. So many scenes from seasons 1 and 2 flashed before my eyes as Jamie released Murtagh from his oath. Despite the protestations of book readers, Murtagh’s emergence as a major character and survival past Culloden remains the single best book change of the series overall. It is Outlander at its best. I have become so invested in that relationship that this scene reduces me to a puddle each and every time I see it. I hope Episode 5.01 is the start of a season filled with more of these unique and complex relationships we loved from Season 1. If the premiere is any indication, it might just be.
Overall, I am thrilled with how this new season began. Outlander is back in fine form. It reminded me so much of what I came to love about this show and its characters. I would watch regardless, but do hope that Outlander Season 5 story arcs will continue to hit on the themes that drew us to Outlander in the first place. It’s where I want to be!
Thinking about the Outlander Season 5 premiere and writing this blog post, I was reminded of lyrics from a song called Hearts of Olden Glory, written and performed by well-known Scottish Celtic band, Runrig. It’s a fantastic song in its own right, but reminds me of how I feel when I think nostalgically about Outlander and its beginnings in Scotland. Let’s hope that we are on the right track here with Season 5 and that old magic is here to stay.
Down the glens where the headlands stand
I feel a healing through this land
A cross for a people like wind through your hands.
There must be a place under the sun
Where hearts of olden glory grow young.
— Hearts of Olden Glory – Runrig
Were there aspects of Episode 5.01 that reminded you of Outlander seasons past?
Anne Gavin is a senior writer at Outlander Cast and
obsessive frequent traveler to Scotland. Anne also writes a series of travel blogs called “The Scotland Diaries.” Her 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 travel series can be found at Outlander Cast by searching “Scotland Diaries.” Follow Anne on Instagram here or at Outlander Cast’s Instagram here, where many of Anne’s photos of Scotland are often featured.