Outlander: the big love story of season 5 might have nothing to do with Claire and Jamie

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Fans of the Outlander book series might be surprised at the development of a romance between Murtagh and Jocasta, Jamie’s godfather and aunt respectively. Could this be a sign that the big romance of the new episodes will be between this pair?  

Spoiler alert: this story contains discussion of episode one of season five of Outlander. If you haven’t seen the episode yet and don’t want to be spoiled, click away now! 

There are few things Outlander does better than a wedding. Remember Claire and Jamie’s nuptials in episode seven, season one? Romantic and tender and full of emotion, the episode is still one of the most talked-about hours of television from the series.

And so season five begins with another wedding, this time the one between Jamie and Claire’s daughter Brianna and her partner Roger. This wedding isn’t just a wedding, though. It’s a chance for the settlers at Fraser’s Ridge to come together in celebration, an opportunity for Roger to show his commitment to Brianna and their son Jem, and for Jamie and Claire to reflect on the meandering path of their lives that have led them to this moment. 

No wonder, then, that as Brianna and Roger uttered their wedding vows, we saw Jamie and Claire echo-whispering them back to each other, remembering that the last time they said those vows it was Jamie up there at the altar, cleanly-shaven and kilted, with Claire in her white gown by his side. 

Outlander season 5: Claire dresses Brianna on her wedding day.

Ah, memories. By very virtue of its time-travelling nature, Outlander deals well in such stock. What memories, for example, was Jocasta (Maria Doyle Kennedy) dwelling on, we wonder, as she listens to the festivities unfold? Jamie’s aunt, who lives a life of wealth on her estate in North Carolina, has been a largely inscrutable character in the series thus far. And so, when she absents herself from the wedding and goes to a cabin in the woods, it is not immediately clear what her purpose there is, exactly.

Until there he is: Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix), Jamie’s godfather. The pair were reunited late in season four, when it was revealed that Murtagh lived through the Battle of Culloden – which he does not live through in the Outlander books – and has been hiding out in the New World as a rebel. Murtagh, whose devotion to Jamie springs from his unrequited love for Jamie’s mother Ellen, and Jocasta have history, folks. Jocasta is Ellen’s sister and has loved Murtagh from afar for decades, knowing that he was always in love with another. 

In the final episode of season four the pair came together, uniting a couple that were never united in the books and setting the television show on a brand new path. Even as the finale of season four cemented their relationship in the bedroom, it conspired to separate them almost immediately afterwards. Last season ended with Murtagh once again on the run, forced into hiding because of his beliefs. 

Outlander season 5: Jamie and Murtagh say goodbye, but for how long?

If anyone was in doubt as to how greatly the relationship between Murtagh and Jocasta will figure in season five, this opening episode of the new series will serve as an answer. While Brianna and Roger celebrate their marriage surrounded by friends, family and countrymen, Jocasta and Murtagh share a deeply personal, private moment.

“What took you so long?” Murtagh asks Jocasta, when she arrives.

“I’m not in the habit of traipsing out to a shed to meet my acquaintances,” she responds.

Murtagh reaches for her hand and soon the pair are dancing in their cabin in the soft glow of the candlelight. Jocasta leans her cheek against his, eyes closed, safe in the embrace of a man she thought she might never see again.

“We always talked about getting them together because we felt that even though that’s not something from the books, it would be very organic,” the show’s executive producer Toni Graphia said. “He’s always been this kind of roguish character, but in our minds, we’ve always thought from the beginning it would be really cool if Jocasta had a little crush on him all along, but had to watch from the sidelines because he was in love with her sister.” 

Outlander season 5: Duncan Lacroix and Maria Doyle Kennedy at the premiere.

Theirs is not the kind of consuming, soulmate connection that Jamie and Claire have. But it is a big love story, an “oil and water” tale of two people with “huge respect for each other and [who] are drawn to each other,” added Graphia.

Speaking to Digital Spy, Kennedy confirmed that Jocasta’s love for Murtagh is deeply felt. “I think the sparks are there, certainly,” she said. “She’s devastated [when he has to leave]. He has to leave at the end and go into hiding at the end of season four. She knows what a rebel he is, he’s always in trouble… So she definitely feels hugely for him and this love they’ve ignited, and she fears for him.” 

By reuniting Jocasta and Murtagh in the first episode, Outlander reminds its fans just how much these characters have to lose this season. Book fans will remember that Jocasta ultimately ends up marrying Duncan Innes, in order to protect her estate, and she hints at this in bed with Murtagh in the moments after their reunion.

Will Jocasta be married to Duncan, or will her love with Murtagh find a way? Season five of Outlander is in new, unchartered territory here, sketching a romantic arc that never played out in the original book series. Given the perilous position that Murtagh finds himself in this season, hiding from the law with a bounty upon his head and Jamie, his beloved godson, charged with bringing him in, is there any chance at all for this couple?

Outlander season 5 epsiode 1.
Outlander season 5: will Murtagh and Jocasta replace Jamie and Claire as this season's big love story?

“In another lifetime, you and I might have had more time,” Murtagh tells Jocasta towards the end of episode one. “Perhaps, if I was a different man… But it’s because I ken what life is. You cannot change a man, you can only change his circumstance.”

The first episode of season five ends with a final, emotional farewell between Jamie and Murtagh. Jamie has been tasked with hunting down and killing his own godfather. Murtagh, despite the bounty on his head, remains steadfast in his convictions to continue in his acts of rebellion. The two are at an impasse, and Jamie bids his godfather a tearful goodbye, begging him to be “hard to find”.

It’s an emotional end to the first episode, and one that hints at the season to come. Murtagh lived through the Battle of Culloden for a reason, and his arc through the forthcoming episodes will prove it. Perhaps it will be this man’s relationships with the Fraser family – both with his godson and with the woman that he loves – that prove to be the biggest love story of the season.

Outlander season five airs on Sundays on Starz in the US and on Mondays on Amazon Prime in the UK. 

Images: Starz, Amazon Prime

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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