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Outlander season five: in praise of Brianna, the series’ most underrated character

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Hollie Richardson
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Outlander season five: Brianna

Outlander season five arrives in February, with a focus on Brianna and Roger starting their new family, alongside Claire and Jamie. But why has Bri never got the credit she fully deserves for being one of the show’s strongest characters?     

Type “Brianna Outlander” into Google and these are two of the popular terms that come up:

I hate Brianna Outlander

Brianna Outlander annoying

But why? Brianna (Sophie Skelton) is the daughter of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe). Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies) is her adoptive father, but we’ll get into that in a minute. Smart, gutsy, feminist, beautiful and loyal to her family, you’d expect nothing less from a Randall/Fraser. She continuously goes on to prove these attributes, and many more, throughout the show. And this is despite the constant hurdles she is presented with, which have mainly been caused by the people she loves. So why doesn’t Brianna get the credit she deserves?

Let’s take a look at all the crap that Bri has had to deal with over the series, and all time times she has overcome the hardships.

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Brianna has some pretty heavy issues with her parents, but she handles them so well

Brianna adores Frank, who brings her up as his own daughter despite knowing that Jamie is the biological father. It is Frank who piques her on-going interest in history, watches her graduate from high school and spends long nights in deep conversation with her. Ah yes, Frank is a good and loyal man (well, for the most part). But Bri starts to realise tensions between Frank and her mother Claire as she grows older. “Someday I promise, you’ll understand,” he tells her in a season four flashback. Frank finds a new lover, decides to divorce Claire and makes plans to move back to England. When he tells Brianna this news, asking her to join him, she understandably doesn’t react well. The pair argue and Bri storms off, ignoring Frank when he tells her he loves her. “If I’d have stayed with you in the car that night, you’d still be here,” she cries to Frank’s gravestone in the next scene. “But I’m going to soldier on, like you said. You were my hero, daddy.”

No you’re crying. But that’s only the start of Brianna’s family complications.

Claire only tells Brianna the truth about Jamie during a trip to Scotland, when Bri finds a newspaper clipping about her mother’s disappearance. “It’s complicated,” Claire tells her daughter, in one of the biggest understatements of the century. Bri then storms off, earning her an unfair reputation on the internet as being a ”brat”. Now, let’s just take a moment to imagine digesting the news that your mum once time travelled back to 18th century Scotland and France with a red-topped hot Scot who turns out to be your real dad. I mean, just how would you react to that little revelation? Of course, Brianna later realises that Claire has been telling the truth when she sees her about to travel through time at Craigh na Dun. But rather than staying angry at any of the three grown adults who have lied to her all her life, Bri makes amends with Claire, encourages her to go back and be with Jamie, then eventually makes her own time-travelling journey to join them both as a family. 

Does that really sound like the behaviour of a “brat”?

Outlander: Brianna and Claire haven't had an easy relationship throughout the series.
Outlander: Brianna and Claire haven't had an easy relationship throughout the series.

Brianna has to deal with Roger, who is the worst

OK, so Roger clearly loves Brianna and he is integral in helping her and Claire find Jamie. And admittedly, his quiet and studious life is turned upside down when the pair first turn up on his doorstep. But he quickly goes on to make some truly appalling moves. When Brianna refuses Roger’s proposal, he quickly becomes very angry and basically slut-shames her for wanting to have sex before getting married. “You don’t want to marry me, but you’ll fuck me?!” he shouts. “If all I wanted was to have my way with you, I would’ve had you on your back a dozen times last summer.” He basically admits he wants to marry a virgin. It’s also worth noting that he has had sex with other women before this conversation. Of course, Bri has no time for this blatant sexism. She puts him in his place by calling out his behaviour, slapping him in the face and standing her ground. But the ultimate dick move happens when Roger learns that pregnant Brianna was raped by Stephen Bonnet. The news is enough to make Roger reconsider a future without Bri and her baby. It literally takes him weeks to decide if he wants to bring up the child of the woman he loves, because the rapist might be the father.

Sure, Roger endures some traumatic times in search of Bri, and he does start to redeem himself. Photos of season five show that Bri and Roger look happy and settled with baby Jemmy but, knowing Outlander, that won’t last for too long. We just hope he won’t revert to being a total sexist again. 

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Brianna’s rape storyline is so relevant today

Outlander is no stranger to sexual assault scenes. In fact, it could be argued that a lot of the stories are driven by rape (Jack Randall rapes Jamie and Fergus, while Claire constantly defends herself from rapists). But Brianna’s rape storyline was aired amid the #MeToo movement, when sexual assault against women finally started to be exposed in Hollywood.

After travelling through time to be with her real parents, Brianna spots Claire’s wedding ring on Stephen Bonnet’s table in the tavern she’s staying in before taking a boat to America. She tries to haggle with him to get the ring back, but he ends up raping her while his friends in the tavern’s surrounding rooms drink, laugh and ignore Bri’s screams. Brianna then finds out she is pregnant, realising the possibility that Stephen is the father. When she finally does meet her father, Jamie, he asks her if she’s lying about the rape just as a way to explain the pregnancy. Anyone would be devastated to be asked this by their father. And we’ve also already mentioned how Roger tells her he’s unsure of whether or not he can handle her rape. But after so much trauma, Bri makes an empowering move by going to visit Stephen in prison to tell him she is pregnant with a child who will never know his name.

Despite taking place in the 18th century, it’s a scenario that is, infuriatingly, still very relevant today. And she deserves credit for reminding viewers of that.

Watch the trailer for Outlander season five

Need one more reason to love Bri? Well, she studied engineering at Harvard during a time when it was almost frowned upon for a woman to study at university. Oh and can rock a 60s miniskirt just as well as an 18th century corset. We can’t wait to see what Bri does in season five, and we only need to wait one more month to find out what that is.

If you have been affected by the rape storyline and would like to find help, here are a few helplines and charities to contact:

Rape Crisis, 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30)

Victim Support, 0333 300 6389

Women’s Aid Federation, 0808 2000 247 (24 hours)

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Images: Starz

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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