Although Outlander Season 5 Episode 8 ended on a hopeful note, things were quite dire throughout the hour.
Although Jocasta and Jamie said goodbye to Murtagh, that experience was overshadowed by the realization that Roger hadn't died as a result of his hanging as the entire family had to work together to get him onto the road to recovery.
It's a road that Roger found quite difficult to travel, and it was only once he opened himself to the suffering of another (to whom he owes his life), that Roger finally saw his way home.
We had a chance to chat with Sophie Skelton, who plays Brianna on Outlander, about everything from Bree's strength to Roger's difficulty finding his footing again after his trauma to the welcome return of Young Ian.
The episode took a fascinating approach with Roger's hanging by utilizing the equivalent of silent film. Did you all have any idea that it was going to go down like that whenever it was being filmed?
No, but the silent movie element was in the script. So we did know before we filmed it that there was going to be a silent movie element.
And obviously, it's exciting. It's something different. It gives a fresh way of filming, a fresh take on the show, and a good way to do it. And it's nice that it gives that flash forward to the 60s, which is very cool.
But the scenes have changed around in order a little bit. And also, in terms of having some of the dialogue on the screen and that scene where we bring Roger down from the tree, we filmed that in full.
So when we filmed it, it was a lot more dramatic in terms of performances and them trying to save him and me running over and everything. We didn't really know that bit was going to be particularly silent.
We knew that there would be flashes in Roger's head, but it's taken an interesting turn that they split that way because it almost takes the audience inside Roger's head a little bit more by the audience experiencing the silent movie element as opposed to just being Roger's flashbacks.
So yes, that scene did look quite different to how will we envisioned when we were filming it, but it's interesting. It's a cool little twist, and it just gives a fresh element to the series, which is fun.
And it takes something that's really traumatic and kind of difficult to watch. I'm sure it was impossible to film something like that too. It kind of peels back a little bit on how horrible it could have been to watch.
This is true. As we know, Outlander has very dramatic moments, and Diana [Gabaldon]'s books are amazing. They are filled a lot of trauma, and it definitely makes it easier for the viewer to watch.
In terms of performance, and I'm glad that we did film it in whole because we obviously have that drama and that emotion to play with.
It definitely does make it a little easier. There is a lot of trauma in the show, and I think, especially after a week hiatus of episodes, it may give the audience a little bit of trauma relief.
But for Brianna and the performance of it, I think she wants to believe Roger's not dead. I think she's thinking the worst, and she's petrified.
I played that Brianna is very stuck in place, and it's only when Claire sort of said, "Bree, come over. I need you to hold his head still while I put his trache in" -- because obviously, you wouldn't want his head to be moving around if someone's been hanged. And that's when Bree snaps into place and runs over to help.
So a lot of that, now, isn't in the cut. And I do think the silent movie element is cool, and as you say, it will give people a little bit of relief because I think people have been stewing for the past few weeks. I hope they'll be pleased with it.
Brianna has been through so much. How much do you think she's changed since arriving in the past and since having her own traumatic experience with Stephen Bonnett?
I think so much has happened to Brianna since she was 16. One thing I love about Outlander Season 4 is that you see all these happy scenes with Brianna and Frank. And we see this sort of carefree, quite sheltered young girl. And then obviously when Frank died, Bree really becomes a very insular person.
She has a very estranged relationship with her mother, and they're very distant. And I think that's been something that really hurt Bree all of her life. And I'm sure it's hurt Claire too; being the working mom can't be easy, and she feels that she's missed out on some of Brianna's upbringing.
So it's been really lovely to be able to play with Brianna coming to the past, to play not only show Bree growing up in herself and becoming a more secure in herself, in her life, but also in her relationship with her mother. We really see them becoming good friends now.
I think that's changed Brianna a lot. I think that's allowed her to open up a lot more, to trust a little bit more, and to feel safer in her family environment.
I think also getting to know Jamie, Bree now finally has this happy family that she never had before. I think that's one thing, even though she's been through this awful trauma in the past, that is one thing to hold onto.
And like you said, she has been through the trauma. Brianna's been through tough things in her life, losing a father at 16 and everything else. The trauma I think just layered on top of that in terms of Brianna becoming a very internally strong person.
But I think one thing that did happen with having her family around her through that trauma is that she started to let people help her a little bit more.
Before, when things have happened to Brianna, she has put on a very strong facade. Even initially, when the rape happened, she did. She didn't tell anyone. She was trying to protect them by not telling them what had happened.
But now, Bree's a lot better at communicating. She's a lot better at actually just saying, "You know what? I am really suffering internally here. I need some help."
And one of my favorite moments of the series is in Episode 8 when Brianna says to Roger something like, "I've been patient, but I'm still struggling too. I am still going through PTSD. I'm putting on this face for everyone. I'm trying to be brave. I'm trying to look after my family and put everyone before me, so please, pull yourself up too because I'm still going through something."
The are just cards, you know. Talk to me, Roger. It doesn't matter to me how you sound. I know this is hard. Your voice, it's your gift. But you're still you, you're still the man I married, and I want him back. Please. It's not even that you won't talk! You won't engage! I know how badly you were hurt and how scared you must have been. But I went through something awful, too; something dark and ugly and believe me, all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole and die. And sometimes, I still do. But I didn't, and I don't because I have a husband and a son who need me! I fought for us! And now, I need, I need you. Jemmy needs you. I have been patient. But I need to know. I need to know that you are not lost and gone forever. Are you coming back? Are you going to fight for us?Brianna
It's a really nice moment because Brianna has a very Jamie Fraser-esque way of being stoic in terms of holding any pain inside as opposed to letting people help and talking about it.
It's a really great moment for the audience to see like, "Oh wow. Yeah. Brianna is still going through something, but she's still having to live the day to day."
For a lot of the time now, she's a single mum, which I do think, again, made her grow up a lot. Having Jemmy, going through what she's been through.
Roger's away a lot. So she looks after Jemmy by herself. She's matured a lot. I think that she has become, I mustn't say stronger because I think she was always strong, but there's strength in letting people help you, too.
There's strength in allowing yourself to open up and letting the people who love you actually be there for you. She's definitely acquired that trait, which is really admirable.
And she's so strong. I don't look at it as necessarily holding things in, but almost exactly what she says during this episode was, I can't let myself fall apart. I have a husband. I have a child. I need to carry on.
And, and she's looking at Roger and wondering, "Why don't you carry on for us in the same way that I carried on for you?" And it's interesting because whenever she suffered at Bonnet's hands, Roger kind of took off.
And now when he's suffered at Tryon’s hands, he suffered physically, but he disappeared emotionally. What do you think about his coping skills? Is he going to change going forward? Because they still have some pretty hairy stuff coming up. How is this going to affect them?
Well, this is the thing. I find it very brave of Bree that she has this moment of really trying to snap Roger out of it. It's been months since he's been so disengaged. With Brianna, I always found it incredible that she went to see Bonnet in the jail in Outlander Season 4. Even before Jemmy was born, she was putting Jemmy's needs before herself.
And that moment, going to see Bonnet, must've been one of the hardest things imaginable. I don't think I would have the strength to do what Bree did in that moment.
But I think that she did it, and she forgave Bonnet, in a way, so that she could look at her son; she could look at Jemmy and love him and not see Bonnet in his eyes or in his face. She could just love Jemmy for Jemmy, no matter who his father was.
She's been putting her child before herself. Since even then, she's put her trauma aside to make sure that she will love and care for this baby. And I think one thing that petrified Bree more than not healing herself was not being able to care for and love this child.
So when Jemmy was born, that solidified her maternal instinct. And Roger wasn't there for the birth. Brianna, at 20 something years old, gave birth by herself.
And that's why Murtagh dying on Outlander Season 5 Episode 8 was such a hit for Bree because he was the one person that was there when she was at Jocasta's. He was the one familiar face.
For Brianna going forward with Roger is sort of that thing of, "I really did pull myself out of some things to be there for you and my family." And like you said, Brianna didn't have a choice not to be.
She has to be there for Jemmy, and she really did go through something absolutely horrific and unspeakable, and she ensured that she put the needs of everyone else around her before herself.
I don't know if it's a kind of maternal instinct thing as much as it's a society thing, which, especially in those days, like I said, Roger and Jamie will be off fighting, and the women are left at home. She doesn't have another choice. She had to bury her feelings and put Roger and Jemmy before herself.
It's just that that Roger's disengaging so much. Like we said, it's not that he can't speak. He's just not. When she hears him shout at Jemmy, it's like, "Well, you have the ability. Why aren't you even trying?"
And I liked the fact that Bree has been patient for so long because she does understand trauma, and she does understand the pain, and she's giving Roger the space to breathe.
But like you said, going forward, it's a tricky one because it's really painful for Bree not to make it about her because she knows Roger's suffering.
But it's really painful for her that he's not even trying because it's like, "Dude, I went through something, and you didn't even know if you wanted to be with me. And I'm really trying to help you here."
She's tried humor. She's tried tough love. She's tried being gentle. And she's just at the point where it's like, "I don't know. Only you can help yourself now." It would be really upsetting in a marriage to know that person isn't trying for you.
But, yes, hopefully, coming out of it, Roger will have some sort of realization going forward in their marriage that that changes things. And this season, they are stronger as a couple.
They communicate better and learn from their arguments better. So hopefully, going forward from Episode 8, that will be something that both of them will take on board and grow through each other.
And even though the episode was very dark, it highlighted Bree's motherhood, and I really could not believe how beautiful your singing voice is.
Oh, thank you.
Those moments were so uplifting during such a harrowing episode. Is it fun to have those lighter moments, especially when the tone is so dark?
Yes, definitely. Especially with Jemmy because those twins, Andrew and Matthew, are just amazing little boys, and it's so fun to work with them. And definitely for them, having the lighter moments really helped on set because that can be quite daunting.
On Outlander, even the lighting is quite dark; the tone is quite dark because, obviously, you're dealing with a lot of heavy material.
So those lighter moments really do allow it to breathe, and they remind the audience why they're watching it. They remind the audience why they love these characters. And especially with that little scene with Bree and Jemmy, it's such a simple thing, singing a lullaby to your child.
Those moments really ground the show. And they put it back into reality in those tiny little simplicities in life that just make people feel comforted and home and familiar. But yeah, with that scene, it's interesting because there was a whole bit before it.
Initially, the scene when we filmed was Brianna and Roger are on the porch, and Roger's chopping away at his wood, and Brianna's talking to him about the deed from Tryon.
She's saying, "What do you want to do?" And Roger's not really engaging with her. And then Bree says, "Okay. Well, if you won't talk to me, will you please, your son's been asking for you to sing to him. Will you please go sing to him?" And then Roger doesn't. So Bree ends up doing it.
I don't know from the producers why that's not in, but I actually thought that was sweet because it shows like, "Your son is asking for you, and you're still not engaging. You won't even go sing to him, and you won't try. You won't even play the guitar."
I quite liked that moment because it's Bree holding up all the things that Roger would do for Jemmy, like little lullabies and whatever. It's Bree really having to be the husband and the wife and the mother.
I really liked that moment. I'm not sure why that's not in there, but gives you some context about how that lullaby comes about, which I thought was quite sweet.
And that's why Bree is throwing those looks outside. It's sort of like, "I'm kind of having to shelter Jemmy from what's going on, too." Kids pick up on that kind of stuff, and the fact that his father's disengaging with him, he can definitely feel that. Bree felt that her whole life from her mother, not knowing it was because her mom missed Jamie.
But Jemmy doesn't understand what Roger's going through, and right now he's missing his father, and Bree has to hold herself up with what she's going through, hold Roger up with what he's going through and shelter Jemmy from it all. So I think she's just emotionally and mentally exhausted.
Thank you for that explanation of the scene because I was wondering whenever she was singing and looking at him, I could tell that she kind of had that attitude like, "Geez, it's me again." But he was almost angry that she was singing. I was like, "What's behind that?" Now I get it. That's very helpful.
Yes, I know. Like, "Why is he looking at her? What's going on?" Yeah.
And it was also so nice having John Bell back as Young Ian. And that, obviously, was very fortuitous for the story. Is he going to be sticking around? And what was it like working with him again?
I love John Bell. It was so fun having him on set again. And it's been such a hard thing not to talk about, especially because I'm absolutely in love with Nolo, whose real name is Dewey.
And it's really hard, sometimes, to talk about filming things when you can't say who's been around and have to wait half the season to get into it. But it was lovely to have him back.
I hadn't seen the bit where his reveal comes in, which I watched in the episode. That's quite cool where he shoots the hog. But it's such a big family on Outlander. And John Bell's kind of grown up on the show quite a bit. So it's always lovely to have him back because it's rare that we get all the Fraser family together.
So even the dinner scenes, even though there's, obviously, a dark cloud over that dinner scene because Young Ian is going through something that the family can't quite comprehend yet, it's always nice when we're all together, and there's always so much banter and laughter, and it is like a real family off-screen as well as on.
Yes, it was lovely to have him back; the family was just complete again.
And it's funny because whenever Roger first saw him, I thought for sure that he was going to say, or he was going to realize just with Young Ian's return that, "Oh my gosh, look what he gave us so that I could live. And now I've been squandering it." But none of that came through. Was any of that considered?
Yeah. Well, I mean, I know for me as Brianna it was. My instinct when I came out the house was just to go and hug Young Ian. Bree loves Young Ian. She's never had a cousin. She's never had a family this big before.
And to know that he is alive and well means so much to her as his cousin but also as Roger's wife because Brianna is aware how much Young Ian risked and gave up for Roger.
And I think one thing I struggled with in Season 4 is that I think people take things out on people they love passively. So in terms of Bree, I don't think she was really mad at young Ian and Jamie for what they did. She knew that what they did was a mistake.
Lizzy had told them Roger was the rapist, and they'd beaten them up and sold him to the Mohawk. I think Brianna is fully aware that it was an error.
But obviously, sometimes you hold things over the people you love just because you're angry at the situation, and you're worried. And Brianna was petrified that Roger wasn't alive when he was with the Mohawk. And I think it was just easier for her to be mad at Jamie and Ian instead of the situation in a way.
But she is so aware of what Ian gave up for Roger and the fact that Young Ian sold himself to save Roger, so Brianna's probably been beating herself up about it this whole time because she was so mad at her cousin but knew deep down that it wasn't his fault.
It was all just a horrible, horrible misunderstanding. And she never got to tell Young Ian that. As far as she knows, he could be dead or getting beaten up in a Mohawk camp. In that moment, when she sees him, all I wanted to do was run over and apologize and just be there for him and tell him how glad I am that he's alive.
In that moment, Brianna understands that this is between Roger and Young Ian.
I think you do kind of feel that tension when Roger and Young Ian look at each other and kind of like, "Oh gosh, how's this going to go down? Is Roger going to apologize? Is he going to engage with him, and even though he shows his gratitude, and will his voice come back?”
And for Brianna, all this stuff is going through her head. And when Roger hugs Young Ian, there's that kind of relief. Roger's actually engaging with somebody, which is a breakthrough.
But then, when Roger just leaves, I think there's almost a, for want of a better word, disappointment from Bree because, like you said, Young Ian really sacrificed a lot for Roger, and it's heartbreaking for Bree to see even that isn't bringing him out of the dark space that he's in.
So I think Brianna's hug with Young Ian is an apology for everything, as well as just relief that he's home, but also an apology for Roger in that moment of, "Roger is grateful. I'm sorry. He's just been hanged, and there's a lot going on that you're not understanding, but he is grateful for everything you did."
And Bree's just super glad that Young Ian is home and safe, and everything he did for Roger is incredible, and she can never really thank him enough for that. So sometimes fewer words are more. All of that was definitely going through my head as Brianna.
In terms of what Roger's thinking in that moment, I do think it's really hard to tell, and I guess that's the whole point of the episode in that he is just so disengaged, and nobody can really understand what his thought process is at the minute.
And since my time is up, just offer a yes or no answer on this. Do you think that they're strong enough now for when Bonnet inevitably returns?
And there you have it! What did you think of the harrowing Outlander installment? Be sure to watch Outlander online if you missed it, and share your thoughts below in the comments.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.