3 Big Moments from the Outlander Season 4 Premiere, “America the Beautiful”

O Beautiful, for Sassenach, for auburn waves of hair… The Droughtlander is over, and Outlander season 4 is here! We got to see the premiere, “America the Beautiful,” last month at New York Comic-Con and had to hold our tongues about the episode’s more brutal and shocking moments. But now that it’s aired, there is so much to talk about! Read on for the biggest moments and the most pressing questions, and share your own thoughts in the comments!

Goodbye Scotland, Hello America

Thanks to the “Brave the New World” ad campaign, it never seemed as if the Frasers would return to Scotland, at least not this season. But seeing as last year’s finale ended with them shipwrecked in Georgia with absolutely no clue as to their next step, it makes sense that we had to go through their entire thought process about staying. I had to laugh at Claire’s sudden fervency about making a life in America, seeing as she near broke poor Frank’s heart after they moved to Boston for his job and for Brianna, by refusing to ever fully accept these new circumstances as deserving of her happiness. Who would have thought she’d prefer the blank slate of the frontier?

But it’s not as easy as acquiring a hatchet and going to work on the woods of North Carolina: Just a few months in, and Jamie and Claire have already gotten themselves embroiled in local politics. He in particular takes an interesting meeting with Governor Tryon, who makes him the tempting offer of a land grant… so long as he swears fealty to the King of England. And, when a little conflict known as the American Revolution comes to a head in just a few years, he can’t unite with the colonists. Gonna be a little issue there. Claire’s warning that once again “we’ll be on the wrong side of history!” came off a bit dramatic, yet she’s not wrong. And while you would think it would be easy enough for them to side with the other immigrants, like themselves, who have decided to brave the New World… considering what a mess of things they made in France, I do not have high hopes for these two making it through another revolution unscathed.

Their brood of twentysomethings don’t have the same foreknowledge to grapple with, but they are just as glad to try out this new home. Particularly the young newlyweds…

Fergus and Marsali Are Having a Wee Bairn!

Was I the only one somewhat unsettled by this news? Perhaps it’s because I just finished binging season 3 a few weeks ago, but I can’t help but remember Marsali begging Claire for some wedding-night birth control so that she wouldn’t conceive immediately. The young woman seemed rather keen on enjoying married life before adding on motherhood, and of course Claire, a modern woman, would have been happy to help Marsali take her reproductive choices into her own hands. Yet in that episode (“Uncharted”), I remember the action going straight from Marsali’s request to a feverish Claire and Jamie hooking up thanks to Yi Tien Cho’s turtle soup. Makes me wonder if Claire blanked on actually providing Marsali with that intended contraceptive… or perhaps I’m overthinking it, and the point of that conversation was merely to have the two women bond. At any rate, the arrival of Claire’s quasi-grandchild will hopefully bring the two closer.

Brianna (or Lack Thereof)

I was somewhat surprised that the premiere didn’t give us any sort of glimpse into the future, considering how season 3 bookended many of its episodes with jumps back and forth in time. That said, the choice to remain firmly in 1767 America was likely to establish this as Jamie and Claire’s home, and to emphasize what a commitment they’re making. There will be plenty of time to see what Brianna has been up to since her mother left, including whatever new information or hopes are hinted at in the various season trailers.

Outlander season 4 premiere "America the Beautiful" open thread

Photo: Starz

Stephen Bonnet and That Ending

The season’s new villain telegraphed his shadiness very early, but it was couched in such charisma that even I found myself believing him when he said that he wouldn’t trouble the Frasers if they would simply help him find his way. Even after he creepily flirted with Claire, oddly fixated on her two wedding rings and two marriages, it seemed as if he would melt into the shadows of the forest and reemerge a greater threat once the Frasers were more established in North Carolina. Instead, he robs them on their river boat in the episode’s final moments, wearing the shark-like grin of a man delighting in their utter shock that he would turn on them so quickly.

Their buddy Lesley? Throat slit. Their gemstones, the one currency and bargaining power they had? Stolen. All while Ray Charles’ haunting rendition of “America the Beautiful” plays. Other reviews found it a heavyhanded musical cue, but for me it perfectly summed up the clash of naïve idealism with brutal reality. Watching Claire attempt to swallow her wedding rings to keep them away from Bonnet, as he digs his fingers into her mouth in a move that’s both sexual and coldly predatory, while the song played… Oof. And of course he makes off with Jamie’s ring—the one gift she said she would ever need from her husband, the priceless item that signifies their love and partnership—but leaves her with Frank’s.

Emotionally, the ending is awful, making the viewer feel nearly as debilitated as Claire and Jamie. But from a storytelling standpoint, it’s excellent and thought-provoking, raising what I imagine will be season-long questions about giving strangers the benefit of the doubt. Without that same benefit, Claire would have been killed a dozen times over. According to the law, Jamie is a reformed criminal. According to many a bloody dagger or machete, Claire is a killer. Of course they helped Bonnet when they first met him, disregarding misgivings in favor of helping save a life rather than take another one, or be responsible for another one being taken. In this case, it was a huge mistake, one they will be paying for at least for the first half of the season, their American dream already tainted by the realities of human nature.

Outlander season 4 premiere "America the Beautiful" open thread

Photo: Starz

Other Thoughts

  • Claire, no one needs you to mansplain slavery to a free black man.
  • Rollo looks to be a Very Good Boy, but also I fear for his safety this season.
  • The mentions of King George have me envisioning Jonathan Groff singing “You’ll Be Back,” and now I have Hamilton stuck in my head.
  • Cannot wait to meet Aunt Jocasta next week. Not that I have good feelings about her, but since the Orphan Black series finale, I’ve missed having Maria Doyle Kennedy on my television.

What were your favorite moments from “America the Beautiful”? Where do you think season 4 will take the Frasers, and us as viewers?

No book spoilers in the comments, please—I haven’t read them, so we’re looking at the series from the viewpoint and knowledge base of the TV series.

Natalie Zutter is so excited to watch Outlander in real time with the rest of you for the first time. Speculate on season 4 with her on Twitter!

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