Outlander’s Season 6 Finale Tells Too Much and Doesn’t Show Enough

After an overstuffed season premiere, the rest of Outlander season six seemed to be settling back into I would call classic Outlander hijinks: a baby in a basket on the river; Fergus helping Marsali through labor via orgasms; Malva Christie spying on Jamie and Claire having sex in the stables like a grade-A creeper. Plus we got a flashback that explained this season’s theme song change, and another time traveler ominously whistling an anachronistic song. Outlander, how could I have ever doubted ye?!

But then the season wrapped up (or attempted to) a considerable number of plot threads including illegitimate babies, murder, and polyamorous handfasting with “I Am Not Alone”… and we were back to the problems from “Echoes.” Namely, of characters rattling off plot details at one another instead of acting them out, so that every juicy development felt like it was being told thirdhand. If even Claire or Jamie weren’t experiencing what should have been thrillingly dramatic moments, then there was no hope for us viewers.

Spoilers for Outlander sixth season finale below.

I can’t begin to imagine the logistical nightmare of trying to shoot season six during the pandemic, especially when production already had to be pushed back. So I’m sure that the awkward bookending of this season, in which the premiere and the finale buckled under the weight of imparting too much information, was unavoidable. Certain scenes—like Lizzie’s feverish night with the Beardsley twins—may have simply been too much of a risk to shoot. Yet the series seems to have swung in the opposite direction, of putting so much emotional distance between the key moments from the source material and the actual on-screen adaptation that it fails the latter.

Like the season five finale, “I Am Not Alone” coalesces on one nightmarish ordeal for Claire—here, getting accused of murdering both Malva Christie and her unborn baby, who Claire tried to rescue via C-section in a time where such a medical maneuver does not yet exist and will instead get her branded as a witch. But unlike last year’s finale, in which Claire’s kidnapping and sexual assault by Lionel Brown’s men propelled the plot, the murder charge feels like one of several loose threads that gets left hanging by the end of the hour.

With that in mind, let’s review where everyone is by the end of this season…

 

Outlander season 6 finale television review I Am Not Alone

Credit: Starz

Doctor Fraser the Murderess

Claire’s dependence on the ether (which I’ve been told is not from the books) paid off in a great way! Midseason when the dysentery outbreak hit Fraser’s Ridge, Mistress Fraser experienced not the usual life-threatening stakes of seasons past, but a more reasonable yet still awfully stressful series of events: losing her beautiful hair to backward notions about treating fevers, then the compounded insult of her pretty young apprentice Malva trying to steal her highlander—and the whole Ridge believing this petty gossip! Of course Claire would self-medicate herself into oblivion to avoid dealing with the completely unnecessary but pervasive drama; and then the fact that she dreamt of stabbing Malva made her doubt whether she actually carried it out in an ether-induced haze.

Claire may be a stubborn heroine, and her future-knowledge about medicine and war alike occasionally grates, but neither she nor the series have ever entirely put her up on a pedestal. She knows how fallible she is, and the past twenty-odd years have shown her that she’s capable of surprising brutality in order to protect this love that should not exist. As she says to Jamie in her downward spiral about not belonging in the past (one of the best scenes of the season), every bad thing that has happened to them is tied to her supposed selfishness in wanting to be with Jamie above all else. She endured decades without him; if she did need to get rid of one messy girl, she could.

Outlander season 6 finale television review I Am Not Alone

Credit: Starz

Of course she didn’t, and that doubt was more hers than the audience’s. But someone certainly wanted to make it seem like she did… and then in comes Richard Brown’s Committee of Safety, closing the loop on the Frasers’ massacre of Lionel Brown and his men last year.

All season I’ve been waiting to see what compels Claire, in the new opening’s most rousing moment, to confidently stride out her door wielding a shotgun. The shootout at the big house was a great set piece for the finale, especially as I’ve spent all season waiting to see if the fire that brought Brianna to the past will ever come to pass (or if they’ve already changed the past). Even though the plot mechanics that shuffled everyone else off the Ridge were eyerollingly obvious, it had to be Jamie and Claire alone hunkered down in that house, literally defending their home and their right to carry on this time-crossed love affair.

 

Outlander season 6 finale television review I Am Not Alone

Credit: Starz

The Christies

Right when Malva was peaking as a character, we lost her. The love charm with finger bones? Metal. The conviction with which she accuses Jamie of taking advantage of her, then her canny entitlement to his household and protection? Brilliant. It was a shame to see her reduced to plot development, but she was such an over-the-top character from the start (her first interaction with Claire regarding phosphorus and the devil? whew) that it’s not surprising that she would be snuffed out.

Tom Christie riding along with Claire, especially when Brown’s men forcibly separate her from Jamie, is interesting. Despite their clashes, from her asking to test his stool (they were clearly sick with the same non-dysentery illness!) to his daughter’s as-yet-unsolved murder, he seems to have not let his discomfort and grief blind him to the fact that too much of this ordeal is built on spite rather than justice. I only hope next season’s murder trial delves into this tension between them instead of having Jamie immediately ride in to save the day.

What I really don’t get (and will white-out for book spoilers) is why the season didn’t end on any sort of hint as to Allan Christie being the father of Malva’s child. This is television gold, and all they would have needed to do was have the camera linger on him with some dramatic music playing. Sure, he gets upset at the funeral, especially when Claire picks up the infant’s coffin, but that comes off as brotherly grief, not the devastation of a father and the guilt of incest. Knowing as we do that Claire didn’t do it, to not hint at any other potential murderer is a missed opportunity.

 

Outlander season 6 finale television review I Am Not Alone

Credit: Starz

Lizzie/Josiah/Keziah

I really do think there must have been some sort of covid restriction that hamstrung this plotline, because initially it seems as if the Malva mystery were setting up the perfect payoff to reveal Lizzie’s relationship with the twins: Oh, they think Josiah and/or Keziah did it? They couldn’t have, because they were with me. All night. Yes, both of them. Instead, she winds up blurting out the whole story to Claire in one sitting, and while Caitríona Balfe is doing some great face acting (GIRL, I tried loving two men at once, it did NOT work out), it still took the wind out of the sails for one of the season’s biggest shockers. Lizzie, we didn’t know you had it in ye.

There’s a glimmer of that mischievousness in how Lizzie manipulates soon-to-be-minister Roger into handfasting her and one twin after Jamie has already forced her into marrying one for the sake of their unborn bairn. But there’s so much going on this season that Lizzie’s plotline is basically the neglected middle child, getting its brief airtime but then shuffled out of the way to make sure everyone gets their moment.

 

Fergus and Marsali

Listen, I would die for baby Henri-Christian, and Fergus’ face upon beholding his son for the first time almost did me in. His monologue to Claire about the Dwarf Master was his best scene all season, which makes it smart more that they wrote him, Marsali, and the kiddos off to move to New Bern. Him publishing The New Bern Onion (a play on “Union”) is one of those book details that felt shoehorned into the finale to try and set up—what next season? Maybe he’ll use it during the war, but for now we are just subjected to Brianna and Roger devoting a whole scene to reading from it. Speaking of…

 

Outlander season 6 finale television review I Am Not Alone

Credit: Starz

Brianna and Roger

This is another couple whose arc I think suffered from covid restrictions: So many of their scenes take place at their home, or in their inexplicable road trip in the finale. Earlier in the season they had interesting conflicts: Roger tempted to be the man of the house to the needy widow; Bree feeling like her engineering inventions were less appreciated than her second pregnancy; the lingering specter of Jemmy’s paternity. The first two plotlines got resolved so neatly as to avoid any engaging tension, and the third comes about in the most roundabout way via being on the road, Jemmy’s lice, cutting his hair, and discovering the nevus he inherited from his apparently biological father Roger. (Okay, the father/son matching haircuts was very sweet.)

What I thought this road trip was going to accomplish was forcing the conversation about whether or not they should return to the present. Brianna doesn’t seem comfortable in the past, missing too much of not only 1970s creature comforts, but also an era that can appreciate her as more than a womb. (I mean, not that it’d be that different, but at least she wouldn’t have to worry about being burned at the stake for teaching Jemmy about cars.) Instead, we were subjected to an extended metaphor about the erotic need for speed and the scenic route during their far-too-drawn-out sex scene.

 

The American Revolution

Truly I have lost track of how close we are to 1775. This season ironed out a few pre-Revolution issues—namely, Jamie’s knowledge of what Americans will do to the Native Americans and how it compels him to change sides—but it would seem that the writers decided this shortened season will be Ridge drama, with season seven returning to war.

 

Outlander season 6 finale television review I Am Not Alone

Credit: Starz

The Fire at Fraser’s Ridge

Might still happen? I had assumed it would be the fisherfolk, believing the Christies to be the victims of the Frasers’… witchiness? Polyamorous fornication? Futuristic inventions? Even after Malva’s murder gets solved, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Frasers got run out of their own home. Hell, it’s happened before.

 

What were your favorite parts of Outlander season six? Do you think the series can regain its old charm for season seven?

Natalie Zutter may finally start reading the books, if An Echo in the Bone will make season 7 more enjoyable. Talk Outlander with her here and on Twitter!

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