Outlander season five: when the new season is back and why it was delayed

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Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe’s time-travelling romance is back for another season, and it promises to be its most dramatic yet if the new official images are any indication. Mark your calendars, Outlander fans, because the fifth season is out 16 February and it sounds like it’ll be a corker. Here’s everything we know so far. 

A media outlet that shall remain nameless once described Outlander as Game of Thrones for “soccer moms”.

The less said about that very sexist statement the better, but it’s time that we gave Outlander its due. The Starz show (it streams on Amazon Prime in the UK), starring Sam Heughan as Scottish heartthrob Jamie and Caitriona Balfe as time-travelling nurse Claire, is a popular series, watched by millions of people around the world. If you like Game of Thrones, you’re probably going to like Outlander

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That’s because Outlander takes everything that is good about Game of Thrones – thrilling battle scenes, a whisper of magic, gorgeous vistas of rural Scotland – and layers feminism over the top of it like a warm tartan blanket and a dram of whisky. Outlander is a show told from a female character’s perspective, and the central relationship between Claire and Jamie is founded on the respect, love and devotion of a man to a woman and her, ahem, pleasure.

Here’s everything you need to know about the fifth season of the show, when it officially premieres, plus some information on how you can catch up if you’re yet to watch it. 

When is season 5 of Outlander airing on television? 

Fans call it the ‘Droughtlander’, or the long, agonising breaks between seasons of their beloved television show or books in their beloved series. Last month, Starz Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Hirsch revealed that the fifth season of Outlander won’t air on television until 2020 at the earliest.

“Everything we do is based on delivering,” Hirsch said at the Television Critics Tour in California. “Trying to have something on the air to serve that premium female audience. We have some shows coming before like Power that serve the general market. It’s more about scheduling around that digital experience.” 

According to the cast, the size of the upcoming fifth season could also have something to do with it. Balfe told Entertainment Tonight Canada: “It takes time to make a show that’s as big and expansive as ours is.”

Heughan added: “There’s a lot of factors you know, we’re on location a lot, we’re outdoors and there’s lot of moving parts, lots of horses, not so many Ferraris or Fords.”

Balfe agreed. “Good things come to those who wait,” she said.

Well, Outlander fans, we have some very good news, because the fifth season has now received its official premiere date. 

Starz has finally confirmed that the droughtlander will end on 16 February 2020, when the new season airs in the US.

New Outlander season five photos

Interest piqued just a little bit? Fantastic. Because the official artwork for the season has been released, along with a mini-trailer. 

The key art photo shows Jamie and Claire standing together, protecting their land and family, which is what this season is all about. 

The Starz account also shared a short clip, captioning it: “They’ve built a home, now it’s time to protect it. #Outlander Season 5 premieres February 16 only on @starz.”

Outlander season five opening scene

Last month, the opening scene of season five played exclusively on STARZ. It quickly made its way onto Twitter so that fans across the globe could watch the clip.

The clip shows Jamie as a wee lad in Scotland, following the death of his mother. His godfather, Murtagh, sits with Jamie and makes a pledge to always protect him. It then cuts to Jamie as an adult, as he helps Roger get ready for his wedding to Brianna. It’s a total fan-pleaser and a sign of good (and very emotional) things to come in the opening episode. 

Are there any images of Outlander season 5?

There are. Sony, the company that produces Outlander, have released two pictures from the fifth season. The first is a photograph of the Fraser family inside their kitchen. Don’t they all look gorgeous together? 

The second, and our particular favourite, is an image of Jamie and Claire reclining romantically in a field. Excuse us while we swoon. 

These stills are everything we want from this television show. They speak of history, drama and passion. They also speak of an afternoon rolling about in a field, which by this point is becoming a staple of every Outlander season. 

Fans shared their love of the images on social media. “Did I save the picture or did the picture save me?” one user asked. (The official Outlander account responded: “Both.”) 

When does filming finish on season 5 of Outlander

Funny you should ask… Because the answer is right now. Filming on the fifth season of the series wrapped on 21 November, and the cast and crew shared their excitement both for the forthcoming episodes (and their forthcoming well-earned holidays) on social media. 

In an exclusive interview with Stylist, Balfe revealed that cast and crew had been working on season five since April. 

“We have a long season and a long schedule and so we’ve been filming since April, so there was a real buzz and excitement [when we did the final table read] and I think everyone was like ‘Yay we’re so close to the end’, but it is sort of bittersweet as well,” Balfe said. 

She continued: “You start off seasons on such a high and everyone gets down to a little bit of a dip in the middle because you’re sort of like ‘oh God, we still have so long to go’, but it’s that thing when you come to the end and we’re really proud of this season and it’s very strong. Setting up the new world of America last year was a little bit difficult in some places for us and we’ve found our footing now this season again and the characters all feel very strong and the storyline feels very strong. It’s exciting!”

She also added that the big challenge for Claire and Jamie in season five was becoming grandparents. “[This] is something we hadn’t seen before, and that kind of thing of you’re not looking after each other, you’re looking after your extended family and what that means,” Balfe explained. 

“It’s been so lovely to watch this relationship deepen and evolve in ways that you can only do with time. I don’t think you can ever manufacture that in one season. As Sam [Heughan] and I have grown up together with this and as the writers and us have gone through this long journey together, we’ve got this deeper understanding of who they are and what their relationship is. I think Sam and I managed to make some real key moments this season just feel really authentic because we just get what Claire and Jamie would feel or do at this point. It feels really nice and very comfortable.” 

Outlander Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan
Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan.

Given the long film schedules, it’s no wonder that the cast of Outlander are so close. They are often seen supporting each other on social media (just check out Balfe and Heughan’s birthday messages for each other), and Balfe said that the cast and crew of the series share a special bond. 

“That’s been one of the great things about this show since day one,” she told Stylist. “We’ve had a lot of people come in and out but all the actors are bloody awesome and just great people and we all get along and hang out and it’s created a really lovely family atmosphere.” 

What will be the best episode of season 5 of Outlander

Fans currently waiting for the long Droughtlander to end in February will be excited to learn that filming on season five of the series is about to wrap up. In fact, cast and crew are currently in Scotland working on episode 11 of the next series, which comes with a very exciting writer.

Diana Gabaldon, author of the original Outlander series of books, penned the episode herself. Gabaldon has only written a few episodes for the television show, the last being one for season two way back in 2016. The author also reminded her Twitter followers that “ALL the episodes go through multiple rewrites, during which people other than the original author may add or change things.” 

Still, fans are understandably excited that the queen of all things Outlander is returning to the world of the television series. None more so than Outlander star Caitriona Balfe, who shared Gabaldon’s news on her own Twitter page. “And it is (no surprise) a brilliant Ep,” Balfe wrote. “Can’t wait to start shooting it this week.” 

When fans tweeted Balfe begging for more details, like the best line from the episode, she responded with a cheeky message. “It would be from page … and it is ….. (We’re sorry Caitriona is no longer with us … RIPBalfe),” she joked. 

We’ll just have to wait until season five premieres on 16 February 2020 to find out. 

Is there a trailer for season 5 of Outlander

There is. The first teaser for the show was shared during a panel for the new season featuring writer Diana Gabaldon and stars Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe at New York Comic Con in October.

The short clip showcased the drama that is coming to a head in season five, namely that the Frasers are hurtling headfirst towards a war in America – a war that Claire knows all too well won’t end on the side of the British in North Carolina. Now that their daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) has joined them in the past, Claire and Jamie are more devoted than ever to protecting their family. How far will they go to achieve that goal? 

You can watch the trailer below: 

What have the cast said about Outlander season 5? 

For any fans wondering if there’s going to be any romance amidst all this war in the new season, Balfe had all the answers. Speaking at New York Comic Con, the star said: “It’s wonderful to play a relationship that keeps growing and deepening. It’s something you really see evidence of this season.”

“It’s just that time and just that the love that they have for each other, it just keeps expanding. And you know, you don’t think that that’s possible from season one, but it really does. I mean, they’re there for each other no matter what. They support each other through really tough, tough times. It’s just their knowledge of each other and how intimately they know what’s going on inside each other. I think it’s really beautiful.”

Balfe continued:  “I think when we first met Claire in season one, she was just a very young woman who was not really living her life in the present. … She was not connected to who she really was. … It’s like anyone: When you live your life to the fullest and with passion — like the passion that you find with Jamie, like the passion that she finds in her career — then you become really just a whole and full version of yourself.”

This is true not only of Claire and Jamie’s relationship onscreen, but the friendship between co-stars Balfe and Heughan offscreen, too. Just days after Heughan shared a beautiful birthday message praising his onscreen wife, the colleagues joked around on the New York Comic Con stage to the delight of fans. 

Asked what words of wisdom he would give his character Jamie all the way back in season one, Heughan joked: “Don’t go near her… Your life is going to be a mess.” 

Balfe shot back: “You love it.” 

Heughan grinned at his co-star, before turning serious: “He knows that he would do anything for her, he would die for her.” We’re pretty sure some hearts in the New York Comic Con audience melted hearing that. Let’s hope that, with that dramatic season five cliffhanger, it won’t get to that point for Jamie, though. 

What do we know about season 5 of Outlander?

In a recent Facebook video with the stars of Outlander, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan revealed some of their favourite moments of filming the fifth series and hinted at the most stand-out scenes. 

When asked about which scene struck a chord with him, Heughan said: “Well, my favourite scene to film this season, I can’t tell you because It’s such a spoiler, but, someone comes back. Shall I give you that? Someone comes back.”

As well as an old face returning, the pair also let fans into a little secret about a new, furry, character to join the cast: Adso the cat. “We found that Adso doesn’t want to be in a scene, Adso just wants to lie by the fire. Which, is kind of pretty much what we want to do,” said Heughan.

Balfe agreed, saying: “He’s my spirit animal, I think.”

Excitingly, Caitriona Balfe also recently hinted at whether Brianna Fraser will be able to return to the future.

If you cast your mind back to the season four finale, you’ll remember that Brianna Fraser (played by Sophie Skelton) gave birth to Jemmy without her parents present, after she time-travelled to the past to warn Claire and Jamie Fraser about their fate. At this point, though, no-one yet know whether baby Jemmy has the ability to return to the 20th century.

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, Balfe addressed the family’s status in season 5, and hinted that they could be staying in the past because they’re “settled.” Intriuing…

“The season is really, really good,” she began. “Last season was really setting up the fact that the Frasers were in Fraser’s Ridge and that they were starting to settle.”

“This year is really about this family coming to terms with a lot of consequences of things that happened last season,” she continued. “But there’s a settled nature to it and I think it’s a really strong, strong season.”

Balfe added that Outlander fans are going to be “really happy” with the next outing, which has us keeping everything crossed that the family have a happy ending after overcoming their fair share of adversity in the last season. Given that Starz recently shared a photo of the family in North Carolina, complete with a slightly more grown-up Jemmy, it looks as though things might have turned out well.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest mysteries, as seasoned Outlander fans will know, was determining just who the eerie ghost was that appeared to haunt Claire Randall in the first episode of the first season. The mysterious visitor appeared as Claire brushed her hair in the window while on honeymoon with her husband Frank Randall in Inverness. The ghost, if you recall, disappeared when Frank approached him to ask him his business.

It wasn’t long before fans speculated that the kilt-wearing spectre was in fact Jamie Fraser, a theory which was finally confirmed by author Diana Gabaldon in the FAQ section of her website. “The ghost is Jamie - but as for how it fits into the story, All Will Be Explained - in the last book,” she revealed.

While we know the ghost’s identity, we’re still left guessing as to why he was there in the middle of the night. The good people of Reddit, though, theorised that Jamie was observing his future wife through a time loop.

“For myself, the explanation is quite simple. He told her he would love her forever, and that his ghost would find her in her own time,” Reddit user velvejabbress speculated.

“He basically told her he would come, and he did, because he doesn’t make promises he can’t keep. I know I’m going to be thinking about loops and alternate timelines now though!”

Other fans though think Jamie’s ghost is, in fact, his spirit travelling through his dreams.

“Jamie can’t travel through the stones bodily, true, but generally speaking a spirit or ghost is likely to have a little more leeway,” Reddit user amethyst_lover explained. “My theory is that when he dies, his spirit lurks around, waiting to see Claire before she comes through the stones.” 

What is the plot of season 5 of Outlander?

The fifth season of Outlander is based on the fifth book in Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling fantasy series of the same name. (Copies sold? 25 million. About the same as Game of Thrones.) 

Yes, it’s a lot to take in. But although this is a show ostensibly about time travel, the time travel is merely a device for the true heart of the series: love. This is a big, blowsy love story between two people, featuring some of the best feminist sex scenes ever to be put on screen. 

In season five, Claire and Jaime are struggling to establish a new life for themselves in America after escaping Scotland. Because she is originally from the another time, Claire knows that the America in which they find themselves is an America hurtling headfirst towards war, and she desperately wants to protect her husband Jamie from harm’s way. 

“Against this backdrop, which soon heralds the birth of the new American nation, Claire and Jamie are forced to ask themselves just how far they are willing to go to protect their home,” producers said, explaining the fifth season’s plot. “[They are] praying there will be no reason to light the fiery cross, an ancient Scottish call to arms.” 

How will Outlander season 5 differ from the books? 

The thing you need to know about Outlander is that, unlike Game of Thrones, Outlander has been doing a pretty fine job following author Gabaldon’s original book series. This is partly because, unlike Game of Thrones, there’s plenty of material to go off. Gabaldon has written eight books so far, and is working on a ninth right now. 

But, like Game of Thrones, the Outlander books are enormous, many-paged things, so inevitably some scenes, storylines and even whole characters are left on the cutting room floor. Looking at the fifth book in Gabaldon’s series, titled The Fiery Cross and released in 2001, is an interesting exercise but may end up bearing no relation to the television series. But let’s try it anyway.

So what are Claire and her somewhat implausibly emotionally intelligent husband up to in the fifth book? The book takes place between 1770 and 1772, with both Claire and Jamie staying put in that specific time period and keeping far, far away from any time-travelling stones. The book grapples with the forthcoming American Revolutionary War, but it also gives the Frasers a chance to relish their time together as husband and wife. By which we mean: many sex scenes. 

Caitriona Balfe in Outlander

Also, Stephen Bonnet is back. 

This awful Euron Greyjoy-esque villain keeps hanging around like the worst of all possible smells, and even though everyone thinks he died in an explosion in book four, the fifth novel reveals that he made it out by the skin of his teeth. (Though, book five does give a very satisfying resolution to the Bonnet problem, involving a gunshot wound in a place no man ever wants a gunshot wound.) 

Speaking at New York Comic Con, Gabaldon admitted that even she doesn’t know how the television series will end. There’s a chance that the show will have a different ending to the books, a la Game of Thrones. Either way, Gabaldon said that she had nothing but love for the television adaptation of her work. “They have done a fabulous job with this show and I am so grateful for them,” Gabaldon said at the New York Comic Con panel

Who is producing Outlander season 5? 

That would be both Heughan and Balfe themselves. Both stars have anchored the action of the series thus far, and now they’re adding producing credits to their CVs. 

“We would both relish more responsibility,” Balfe told Harper’s BAZAAR. “I definitely would love to direct down the line, and I think he would too. I would love to be on set when Sam Heughan’s bossing me around… It’s important to have a say. We’ve built these characters from day one, and I think we feel – especially when so many of our core writers are not on the show anymore and we’ve got new writers coming in – it’s [important] to retain that through-line throughout all the seasons.”

How old are Claire and Jamie in Outlander season 5?

When Claire and Jamie meet in the first season of Outlander, the year is 1743. Claire is 27 and Jamie is 23. The next three seasons see decades go past, as both Claire and Jamie move through the years and (in Claire’s case, returns to her present day life). By the time season five begins, the year is 1770, which means that Claire is 54 and Jamie is 50. 

In a Twitter q&a in November, Balfe revealed that working on Outlander and wearing Claire’s grey-hair wigs has helped her get over society’s fear of ageing. “No it’s good,” she wrote. “It helps counter balance all the crap pressure I feel from all the bombardment of pictures and ads about how we should all look like teenagers. We shouldn’t. Wrinkles equals time equals life… Trying to love them”.

Will there be more seasons of Outlander after season 5? 

There will be at least one more season of Outlander after season five. The series is confirmed to return for a sixth season with an air date still to be announced. 

Both of these series will reckon with the impact on Jamie and Claire of their existence out of time and out of place, Heughan told Harper’s BAZAAR. “They’ve tried to change history before and have they been successful? Not so much. They’re very aware this season [about] what’s coming. It’s on the horizon, the Revolutionary War is there.”

He continued: “You can sort of feel it – the thunderclouds are there, so it’s setting it up. By the end of the season you see, no matter how hard they try, they get pulled into it.”

When will Outlander season 5 be released?

Starz have finally confirmed the the fifth season of Outlander will officially premiere in the US on 16 February 16, 2020. 

No exact release date has been released yet for UK fans, but hopefully it’ll hit our television screens shortly after. 

We’ll keep you posted when we know more, sassenachs.

Season five of Outlander will air on Starz in the US and Amazon Prime in the UK. This story was originally published on 17 April 2019. 

Images: Starz, Sony, Getty


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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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