As much as Outlander is fundamentally the love story of Jamie and Claire, the show is also quite well known for producing one of the most dastardly villains on television with Black Jack Randall. A rapist and murderer with a sadistic streak a mile wide, Randall was a terrifying presence on camera. The good news for Jamie and Claire is that Randall finally bit the dust at the Battle of Culloden, and they're free of him at last. The bad news is that landing in the American colonies at the end of the Season 3 finale put them in the path of a brand new villain who will reportedly be even worse than Black Jack Randall: the pirate Stephen Bonnet (played by Ed Speleers of Downton Abbey fame). Actor Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie, said this about the new bad guy:
Stephen Bonnet will be an Irish pirate and smuggler who crosses paths with Claire and Jamie in the new world. Book readers know that the printed page version of him is pretty dastardly, but there was no saying just how dark the show would go with the adaptation. Outlander has taken its fair share of liberties with the source material of Diana Gabaldon's book saga. Judging by Sam Heughan's comments when the Outlander team spoke with THR, Bonnet could be even worse than he was on the page. Black Jack Randall had my skin absolutely crawling by the time he was finally killed off; I hate to imagine what Bonnet will have to do to be even worse.
That said, the description of Bonnet as "charming" helps explain the casting of Ed Speleers in the role. Speleers doesn't exactly have the look that most of us probably imagine for a pirate, and his character on Downton Abbey wasn't exactly an epic villain like Bonnet evidently will be on Outlander. Ed Speelers can certainly deliver the charm; the fear factor is what remains to be seen.
Of course, Black Jack Randall could arguably be charming whenever he chose to put in the effort. Outlander executive producer Matt B. Roberts revealed a key way that Bonnet is different from Randall:
Black Jack Randall could always be counted upon to slip up and do something villainous, especially if Jamie was around. Stephen Bonnet sounds like he will be much more difficult for Jamie and Claire to anticipate and protect against in Season 4. As a pirate, Bonnet also won't have the same restraints as Randall did as a member of the British military. He may be able to just go ahead and do whatever he wants to do, and that should be very dangerous for any who get in his way. Since Jamie and Claire specialize in ending up in the way of very dangerous people, we can probably expect some very ugly scenes between the three.
Apparently, Stephen Bonnet will also have a somewhat lighter outlook on life. Toni Graphia, another Outlander executive producer, explained what motivates Bonnet as a bad guy:
How very like Claire and Jamie to escape certain death in Scotland over and over again, stage elaborate escapes, and survive adventures on the high seas only to happen to cross paths with a "happy psychopath!" Hopefully these two get to enjoy some down time before and/or after Stephen Bonnet enters their lives and inevitably screws everything up for them. We'll have to wait and see.
No premiere date for Outlander Season 4 has been announced at this point, but it will debut in 2018. For more of what has been confirmed about what's to come, check out our breakdown of what we know so far about Outlander Season 4. Our midseason TV premiere guide can point you toward what you can watch while we wait for more Outlander, and our rundown of TV renewals and cancellations can fill you in on the network shows that will and will not be back next season.