SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t yet watched the Season 5 premiere of “Outlander,” entitled “The Fiery Cross,” streaming now on the Starz app.
In the Season 5 premiere of “Outlander,” Brianna (Sophie Skelton) gets confirmation of something viewers have suspected since the Season 4 finale — that her rapist, Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers), managed to escape from jail before it blew up and is currently on the run. It causes Brianna to have a flashback to her rape, which is something that she was still dealing with even before she found out that Bonnet was alive.
“It’s one thing that I really wanted to make sure that we don’t lose sight of through the season,” Skelton tells Variety of Brianna’s struggle with post-traumatic stress after her attack. “Even sometimes when it’s not in the writing, I’ll make sure that we have flashes of Bree’s pain. In Season 4, Bree always put on a very good facade and the audience didn’t really know Brianna very well. It was only when we got those quiet moments with Bree on her own that we got to then see what she was feeling. In Season 5, now that the audience knows her a lot better, we know what she’s going through the whole time. So it’s easier to embed that in the performance, knowing that the audience is feeling Bree’s emotions.”
Skelton says Brianna’s pain will manifest itself in a way this season that “stops her sleeping [and] gives her trust issues.” She explains, “She’s jumpier.” And that pain is “still far more prominent than she’s letting on to either the audience or her family,” she adds.
“It definitely plays throughout the season, especially when she does find out some information that heightens it and sort of takes her recovery a fair few steps back.”
What Brianna turns to for comfort and distraction is concentrating on her young son, Jemmy. Skelton says that “Jemmy’s well-being takes precedence” over everything else, especially since Brianna “is actually pretty much a single mother, with Roger off fighting with Jamie.”
What weighs most heavily on Brianna’s mind is “protecting Jemmy” from Bonnet because there is a chance that Bonnet is Jemmy’s biological father and now may want to be involved in Jemmy’s life, especially after he gave Brianna the precious gem to use to take care of Jemmy. That gesture seemed like “something quite selfless and seemingly decent” at the time, says Skelton, but that was when both Brianna and Bonnet thought Bonnet’s death was imminent. Now that he is still out there, Bonnet showing Brianna kindness about Jemmy takes a rather ominous undertone.
“[The gem] laid a kind of seed in her that Bonnet might actually want something to do with Jemmy, he might want to come and find Jemmy,” says Skelton. “So for Bree, it’s the fear that he could be around. The fear is that Bonnet could be so close to the ridge at any moment [and that] just makes her even jumpier than she was before.”
Richard Rankin, who plays Brianna’s husband Roger and is the man who will raise Jemmy whether he’s the baby’s biological father or not, said that Bonnet being alive affects Roger’s state of mind as well. Roger feels like a “fish out of water,r” in the 1770s, Rankin says, but knowing that Bonnet is still a threat to his family spurs Roger to learn how to better protect them.
“The threat of Bonnet motivates Roger to be better, to be more equipped, and that’s something we see unfold as the season goes on,” he explains. “The fact that he’s looming in the shadows is enough, it really spurs Roger on to adapt to the time period.”
“Outlander” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.