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Outlander season 5: everything we know about the new series

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe’s beloved time travelling romance is back for another season, and it promises to be its most dramatic yet.

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 an insanely 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 strong 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.

Interest piqued just a little bit? Fantastic. Here’s everything you need to know about the fifth season of the show, plus some information on how you can catch up if you’re yet to watch it. 

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.) 

The story revolves around Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a fiercely independent nurse in Fifties England who touches the stones of Craig na Dunh on holiday with her husband Frank (Tobias Menzies, soon to be Prince Philip in season three of The Crown) in Scotland and is transported through a portal to Jacobite Rebellion-era Scotland. While there, she meets and falls in love with Jamie (Sam Heughan), a good-hearted hunk in a kilt, and each ensuing series follows this quite literally star-crossed pair as their relationship battles against the space time continuum. 

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 Fifties, Claire knows that the America in which they find themselves is an America hurtling headfirst towards civil 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.) 

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, return to her present day life in the Fifties). By the time season five begins, the year is 1770, which means that Claire is 54 and Jamie is 50. 

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, airing in 2020.

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?

No exact release date has been released, but the previous two seasons have both aired in the latter half of the year. Season four premiered in November 2018 and finished filming in summer of that same year, so if season five follows a similar production schedule you can expect to see new Outlander as early as November 2019.

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.

Images: Starz

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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