Droughtlander has lasted a LONG time since airing just over a year ago on Starz with Outlander’s “Man of Worth” season 4, episode 13. In fact, this reviewer decided she probably needed to go back and watch all or some of season 4 to refresh herself on what happened! It’s worth noting for this first episode of season 5 that composer, Bear McCreary elected to go with an “A Capella” version of the show’s theme song and as usual, it was lovely.
The beginning of season 5 opens with The Fiery Cross. It is a joyous and for the moment, a calm time, as the Fraser family prepares for Brianna and Roger’s impending nuptials. Spoilers ahead!
Outlander refreshes viewers about the events of last season, primarily that Stephen Bonnet (Edward Speleers) raped Brianna (Sophie Skelton) (Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and Claire Fraser’s (Catrione Balfe) child) soon after she and Roger MacKenzie (Richard Rankin) had finally consummated their love. Due to the past relations, it is unclear who is Brianna’s child’s father. After convincing Jamie that he unconditionally loved Brianna and the baby, Jamie granted Roger permission to marry Brianna. We are reminded that Jamie’s godfather, beloved Murtagh Fitzgibbons, (Duncan Lacroix) leads a rebellious faction known as the Regulators. As a result of this, he is a target of the local English military and specifically Governor Tryon (Tim Downie). Tryon is the same person who granted Jamie the land (Fraser’s Ridge) that he possesses and where he has settled many Scottish immigrants.
The episode opens with a reminder of Jamie and Murtagh’s close relationship. Murtagh had sworn to always protect Jamie, both as a child and an adult. As usual, it’s entertaining to look at the opening titles and try to guess where the glimpses will lead.
As this show has left us constantly anxious, we spend a great deal of time worrying that something awful will befall the Fraser’s wedding. Roger tries to shave, but Jamie takes over and they discuss Roger’s general unpreparedness for any trade in the 1700s. Roger is determined to learn and Jamie hands over the lovely ring for Bree.
Claire finalizes the dress and both Bree and herself enjoy the closeness of the moment. Jamie has collected the old, new, borrowed, and blue. Jamie is sad about his all-too-short time with Bree while Claire and Jamie discuss Roger’s need for support and his love for Bree. When Jamie gifts Bree her items, he adds a silver sixpence from Murtagh, who they are both sad can’t attend. Bree also gets to wear her grandmother’s pearls. Bree makes Jamie’s day by stating “je suis prest,” the family motto.
The ceremony is lovely and the celebration afterwards is joyful and raucous. It’s nice to see old friends and Aunt Jocasta Cameron (Maria Doyle Kennedy) is also in attendance. An amusing discussion of “hair of tics” reminds us that the ceremony is NOT Catholic (it’s Protestant). Cleverly woven into the ceremony is a flashback to Jamie and Claire’s unwilling wedding, but made sweet by their recital of an essential and heartfelt vows.
Governor Tryon has unexpectedly attended the wedding. He let’s Jamie know that the feels Jamie has been holding back on the hunt for Murtagh (which, of course, he has).
As Bree and Roger share the wedding cake, it’s clear that Roger is so worried about what Jamie thinks of him. He also refers to returning to their own time. Jocasta asks for Roger to visit her at her pavilion when he has a chance. It’s lovely to see Fergus (Cesar Domboy), Marsali (Lauren Lyle), and Lord John Grey (David Berry) trying the tongue-twister drinking game.
Jamie and Lord John Gray have what is supposed to be a private discussion, where John lets Jamie know that apparently Stephen Bonnet isn’t dead. Most unfortunately, Bree overhears them. She tries to collect herself, mostly successful by holding her son tight.
While we see everyone having a good time in one way or another, we are treated to a demonstration of Richard Rankin’s excellent voice. Ulysses (Colin McFarlane) escorts Jocasta to a shed, where she meets with Murtagh. They have a very entertaining interlude until she eventually lets him know that she’s been asked to marry Duncan Innes. She hasn’t decided though, but Murtagh lets her know he won’t stand in her way.
The next morning, Roger comes to visit Jocasta. She basically slaps Roger by implying that he wouldn’t take care of his son unless he comes with money. This infuriates Roger, who tears into Jocasta (who actually LOVES this.)
Josiah Beardsley (Paul Gorman), the hunter, visits Claire with tonsillitis and Jamie wants him to stay and hunt. Lord Tryon then pulls Jamie aside and issues an edict that Murtagh and his men must be found and then hung. Tryon tells Jamie he chose him because he was a Scot and knew them – which silently enrages Jamie.
Roger comes back from his visit and swears his allegiance to his son in front of Bree. Jamie informs Claire that Tryon left a troop for the hunt and that Jamie must participate in the hunt or Tryon would take the land back. Heartbreakingly, he must leave in a week. Jamie really has no choice. He realizes he must keep his Scots loyal to him and not the governor. Claire and Jamie agree that Roger will be expected to serve, but isn’t ready.
Therefore, Jamie pulls out his impressive Scots kit. He gathers the settlement by lighting a fiery cross, reminding the settlement about the old laird loyalty tradition. Conducting the ancient ceremony in which every member declares their allegiance to him, Jamie assigns Roger as a Captain, in order to protect him. Roger shocks Jamie by reciting the oath from memory. (SCHOLAR …). Jamie states he won’t light the cross again unless they are called to battle. He sets up a cross on a hill.
Jamie goes to meet with Murtagh to let him know what is happening. Murtagh brings up that Jamie keeps discussing the upcoming war that will change the face of the land. Jamie really wants Murtagh to hold off. Murtagh sets up the rocks in a familiar pattern. He notes that because of all the people who came through the rocks, Jamie has everything he ever wanted. Murtagh wants and needs to do what he has to. Jamie releases Murtagh from the vow made so long ago when Jamie was just a lad, begs him to be hard to find and cries as Murtagh departs.
The episode was very enjoyable. Even though there were some tense moments, it was still a happy celebration. The episode’s events were really laying the groundwork for future storylines. The Fiery Cross helped to resolve some of the antagonism between Roger and Jamie, drawing them closer, when they needed to be. Visually stunning, the show picked the perfect location (ironically shot in Scotland, not North Carolina). Gorgeous and wild, it’s easy to accept that you are back in the 1700s.
Watch Outlander weekly on Starz (available on cable and through Amazon), Sunday evenings at 9pm E/P.