The Battle of Culloden is coming, as is Claire’s return to her present day and her separation from Jamie. But while we know all of these events are approaching, the season finale of OUTLANDER actually tells us how they come to pass. After spending so long in the past, it’s strange that we open the finale in 1968 with a TV program. And a man, who we soon realize is Roger Wakefield, returns to his guests for his father’s wake.
Returning to Scotland
Claire is older now, as is her daughter, Brianna (Bree). Both women introduce themselves to Roger and commiserate over the Reverend’s death. We also learn that Frank is now dead and Claire is a surgeon. And Roger tells Claire that Mrs. Graham passed on years before.
Claire’s monologue recalls Mrs. Graham’s warning not to chase ghosts, but her return to Scotland means that ghosts are now chasing her. Roger invites them to spend the night instead of heading back to London and he and Claire share a late night drink. She also learns that Roger was actually a MacKenzie, seemingly descended from the clan that Claire knew.
Then we’re back in the past, on April 16, 1746. Jamie is warning Prince Charles that they should flee before the British kill them all, but Charles will have none of it. The British army is marching towards them and the future is inevitable. But Claire has one last play….
Haunted by Ghosts
We keep going back and forth between 1746 and 1968 throughout the episode. In 1968, Roger takes Brianna on a tour of Scotland. As a History major herself, she can match his knowledge of the past. And she also has a lot of love for Frank, who she believes is her father. As Roger and Brianna tour the locations Claire visited in the past, Claire returns to Lallybroch. But now it’s abandoned, just another empty and decrepit manor in the countryside. Memories come and she’s distraught at losing Jamie.
Near a lake, Brianna asks Roger about an incident between her parents the last time they were there. His memories are spotty, so Brianna tells him about a lockbox that Frank kept. She secretly opened it and found a letter from the Reverend about a big incident between her parents. She hasn’t gone digging since, but Roger offers to dig up his father’s old journal for answers.
Claire heads to the town’s record house to find more information about Lallybroch. She also asks the woman there to trace Roger’s genealogy. The next day, we get a shock as Brianna heads to a nearby school with Roger and we learn that Geillis (going by Gillian) is alive! She’s speaking of the past and of a nationalist Scotland.
Back at the Wakefield house, Brianna and Roger find the Reverend’s journal about the Randall family. On Culloden Marsh in the present, Claire finds the Fraser clan’s commemorative stone. She talks as if she’s speaking to Jamie and tells him about Brianna and her life since she left him. She also finally bids him goodbye.
The Truth About Brianna’s Father
Roger and Brianna find the old newspaper articles about Claire’s disappearance and her reappearance three years later. Later, Brianna confronts Claire. She asks if Claire saw her real father here in Scotland, thinking that Claire had an affair with a man while away from Frank in the 1940s. Suddenly Claire can’t outrun her past and she’s forced to tell both Bree and Roger the truth about Brianna’s father and her fantastical tale.
Brianna thinks her mother is just spinning lies with her story, but Claire is insistent and tells Bree that Jamie was the love of her life. Later, Roger tries to tell Brianna that they should keep an open mind about Claire’s story.
Claire soon learns about Geillis and realizes this is the year she went through the stones, so Gillian is a younger version of the woman Claire met in the past. She visits Gillian’s house and meets her husband, Greg. He’s not happy about Gillian’s nationalist crusading and reveals that she left him. Soon after we see Gillian meeting up with Brianna in a pub, telling her she’s leaving tonight. Clearly her plans is to travel back in time and further Scotland’s nationalist cause. Claire reads through the journals she found at Gillian’s house, which reveal that Gillian had done her research about time travel. Knowing how Geillis’ story was going to end, she is determined to stop her.
Trying to Change the Past
Back at the Wakefield home, Brianna tells her mother she doesn’t want to hear more about her “time travel delusion”, but she wants to know more about her biological father. When Claire learns that Gillian is going through the stones that night, she wants to save her from dying in the past. But she reveals that Roger is the son of Geillis and Dougal MacKenzie. Roger wants to save his mother, but Claire doesn’t know what will happen to him if she interferes. Bree, meanwhile, is upset that Roger is feeding Claire’s delusions, but he secretly tells her this might make Claire confront her story.
A Desperate Plan
In Culloden House in 1746, Claire proposes that they kill Charles to stop the battle. She also reveals that Colum took his own life. The pair are considering it, but someone is spying on them: Dougal. And as he reveals himself, he calls them traitors. He cannot be reasoned with and he attacks them with his sword. Jamie fights back and kills Dougal with Claire’s help. The pair are horrified and in walks Rupert. Jamie asks him for two hours before he answers for what he’s done.
Jamie and Claire tell Murtagh and Fergus about Dougal. He also doctors a document to hand over Lallybroch to his newphew, Jamie, and sends Fergus away to deliver it and survive them.
As he continues to plan, Jamie tells Murtagh to get the Fraser clan heading back to Lallybroch before their deaths. He, on the other hand, is going to get Claire to safety before returning to Culloden to fight and die. And Murtagh says he will return as well to die with Jamie.
As the men start prepping for battle, Jamie tells Claire that she must leave. She doesn’t want to go but he tells her he knows she’s pregnant. And he wants her to live and save their child. She’s distraught as he tells her she must return to Frank.
The final 13 minutes of the OUTLANDER season finale tick away as Claire, Bree and Roger find Gillian at the stones. Since she believed she needed a human sacrifice to time travel, we learn that she has killed her husband and is burning his body at the stones. Gillian disappears as Claire screamed out for her and the women find Greg’s body as Roger goes for help.
In the past, Jamie returns Claire to the stones. She wants to know how she can go back, but he’s leaving the story to her. The pair share an emotional farewell as Claire begs him to accompany her through the stones. But he insists its not his place and his destiny lies on Culloden Moor. He does, however, insist he’ll find her one day and the pair share one last romp among the stones.
Then the sounds of war can be heard in the distance and Claire gives Jamie the dragonfly in amber that Hugh gave them as a wedding gift. He gives her a ring that belonged to his father (for the baby) and she promises to name the baby after his father, Brian.
He holds her hand as she presses her own hand to the stone.
Then, in 1968, Bree realizes that Claire was telling her the truth. But Claire insists no one died when she went through, so a human sacrifice wasn’t needed. As her daughter tells her she believes her, Claire promises that she will only tell her the truth going forward.
Roger returns to tell them he called the police anonymously. And at Bree’s insistence he tells Claire about a shocking discovery he made: the Reverend had done some research at Frank’s request and he learned that Jamie didn’t die at the battle.
In other words, Jamie is still alive in the past. Claire is shocked and then elated. As the sun rises on the stones, Claire declares that she must return to the past.
OUTLANDER has already been renewed for a third and fourth season by Starz. Season 3 will likely premiere in 2017.