Let’s be honest: Roger is one of Outlander’s most infuriating characters, thanks to his treatment of Brianna after her rape and pregnancy. Even the show’s stars have something to say about it, with Sophie Skelton calling it “uncool”.
“Sing me a song of a lass that is gone, say can that lass be I?” Anyone who has passionately sang these words with their hands in the air will most definitely be an Outlander fan. People across the UK and America are obsessed with the time travel series. If you’re one of them, we have some great news: the “droughtlander” is nearly over.
Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan) Fraser will return to our screens on 16 February 2020. Outlander season five will pick things up where we left at Fraser’s Ridge in the last episode. Claire and Jamie are continuing to build their home with their daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and her husband Roger (Richard Rankin). And we have two new cast members: Brianna’s newborn baby, Jemmy, and the new family cat (who is yet to be named).
However, as this is Outlander, the Frasers won’t be enjoying the quiet family life for too long. And they are trying to raise their family in the face of the impending American Revolutionary war, after all.
But we’re particularly interested in seeing the development of Roger’s character. Because, let’s face it, he’s been a bit of a dick in previous episodes. Even the show’s stars – Richard Rankin and Sophie Skelton – agree that his behaviour was “not cool”.
First, let’s take a look at the story of Roger, before looking at what Rankin and Skelton had to say about it all.
When we first meet Roger, he is the bookish boy constantly wearing a cardigan, with ambitions of making it big in academia. In fact, he is one of the youngest professors to teach at Oxford (good for you, Roger). His quiet and studious life is turned upside down when Claire and Brianna turn up on his doorstep while researching a group of Highlanders during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. As you casually do. He soon falls for Brianna and helps her to travel back in time to meet her father Jamie…
So, what makes Roger problematic?
He slut-shames Brianna for wanting to have sex with the man she loves
Well, for starters, we have to talk about The False Bride episode. Yup, you know the one.
In this memorable episode, Roger proposes to Brianna out of the blue, assuming that she’ll say yes. When she refuses his proposal, he quickly becomes very angry and basically slut-shames her for wanting to have sex before being married. “You don’t want to marry me, but you’ll f**k 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. Oh, and it’s worth noting that he has had sex with other women before this conversation. Nice one, Roger.
But Bri has no time for this blatant sexism (she is the daughter of feminist queen Claire Fraser, after all). Bri puts him in his place by calling out his terrible behaviour, slaps him in the face and stands her ground.
Yes, Roger grew up surrounded by the sexism prevalent throughout the 1940s and 1950s, but that is no excuse for shaming the woman he supposedly loves and respects with such cruel words. Honestly, that slap was for all of us.
He doesn’t tell Brianna that her parents are dead
After they make up, Roger then doesn’t tell Brianna that he knows her parents die in a house fire. He has seen the historical documents proving this happens in the 1700s at Fraser’s Ridge in North Carolina. By the time he finds the guts to tell her, she’s already headed off to Craigh Na Dun to travel back in time to go and live with her parents.
In Roger’s defence, he does leave his life (and tweed jackets) behind to go in search of Bri.
But, here’s the real clincher in the case for Roger being a prat: he tells Bri about her parents’ obituary after he has sex with her for the first time (after they get married). He also tells her that she’s immature and needs to listen to him now that she’s his wife.
YOU’VE OUTDONE YOURSELF WITH THIS ONE, ROGER.
And it doesn’t stop there, folks.
He considers deserting Brianna because she was raped
When Brianna storms off after the argument, she is horrifically raped by the despicable pirate Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers). Bri and Roger are then separated for pretty much the whole of season four (more on that later). When Claire and Jamie finally find Roger, they tell him that Bri is pregnant – and that she was raped. This news is enough to make Roger reconsider a future without Bri. It literally takes him weeks to decide if he wants to bring up Bri’s child, because the rapist might be the father. In the end, he decides that, yes, he can deal with Bri’s rape.
I mean, I can’t even… GO HOME, ROGER.
There is some relief in the struggles that Roger faces during his time travels. First, he endures the sea voyage from hell on-board the ship captained by the very man who rapes Bri. Once he arrives in America, Jamie beats him to a pulp after mistaking him for rapist Stephen. He is then captured by the Cherokee and kept as a prisoner. The fact that he continues his search for Bri does provide a few redeeming moments. But, ultimately, he’s still a total misogynist.
Even Jamie, a man brought up in 1700s Scotland, could teach him a thing or two about how to treat women.
Looking back on these previous series, Skelton, who plays Brianna, told Radio Times: “I read it and like, wow Roger, that’s really not cool. But I do also think she’s an understanding person and think she has given Roger the opportunity to not come back. She has told her parents, please tell him so that he can make an educated informed decision as to whether he wants to be with me or not.”
Rankin explained that, although Roger’s behaviour was questionable, he “did a lot of work on justifying the reasons for Roger’s hesitation on coming back to the ridge”.
He said: “It wasn’t really about deciding whether or not he loves Brianna, or deciding whether or not he’s gonna come back to Brianna, he always was, it was always gonna happen, but a lot has changed.”
He added: “There’s been so much separation, they aren’t gonna be the same people anymore. They aren’t the same people anymore. So I think that hesitation of Roger’s was probably misinterpreted in season four, but for me it was just him evaluating everything.”
Hmmm, we’re still not 100% convinced. We’ll have to wait for the show’s imminent return to find out how Roger redeems himself.