Spoilers ahead for the Season 4 premiere of Outlander on Starz.
With a new season of Outlander comes a new slew of threats to the Fraser family, and the fourth season kicked off with them trying to make their way in the American colonies. The introduction of new villain Stephen Bonnet means that they'll have more to fear in the new world than just the redcoats and the lead up to the American revolution. An Irish pirate, Bonnet went from being rescued by the Frasers to betraying and attacking them by the end of the episode.
Naturally, the question on many fans' minds after the premiere is likely how Bonnet will compare to Black Jack Randall, who arguably earned himself a place among the most despicable television villains of all time. CinemaBlend recently attended an Outlander press junket, and Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan weighed in on the differences between the two bad guys, saying this:
Caitriona Balfe: I think that Jack, you know, there was a perversion there. Obviously though, there was also that lineage with Frank and it was such a, I don't know, it was such a triangle or quadrangle between the four characters, but with Bonnet. I mean he's more manipulative. I mean, he's obviously does incredibly horrible things, but I don't know, I think he's much more of an opportunist where I think Jack was a sadist. I think that the, what drives Bonnet is kind of greed and those kinds of things, which is just very different kind.
Sam Heughan: Another version of a psychopath or sociopath.
When he was first introduced way back in the beginning of Season 1, Black Jack Randall wasted no time in proving to Claire (and viewers) that he was a very bad guy. He may have looked like Frank, but he was not to be trifled with. On top of all his violence, there was a certain deadness behind his eyes that was always unsettling. (Kudos to Tobias Menzies for the performance!) Stephen Bonnet got a very different introduction.
Bonnet first showed up as a prisoner only minutes away from the gallows, and it was a stroke of luck that he was able to escape before being hanged. Claire and Jamie ended up helping him sneak past the Brits, despite his admissions of piracy and theft as well as his intention to reunite with his pirate pals. When they parted ways, they said goodbye to a charming and likable man who just also happened to be a pirate.
When Bonnet turned up again, he proved that he's no better than Black Jack Randall. His villainy is simply packaged differently. Bonnet and his crew attacked the boat that was carrying the Frasers down the river to Jocasta Cameron's home. Jamie was beaten, one of his men was killed, and Claire was attacked, losing one of her wedding rings in the process.
The Frasers don't need the fear Bonnet in the same way they feared Randall, not least because Bonnet doesn't have the full weight of the British military behind him. Still, we do already know that Bonnet is going to do something truly awful to one of them, and it undoubtedly won't be easy to watch. Caitriona Balfe addressed the river attack scene, saying this about Ed Speleers as Stephen Bonnet:
Ed is incredible. I mean, he really, he's very intense on set and um, you know, those scenes that we did that, that fight scene onthe boat where he steals the ring and it was really horrific. And you know, we both really went there and, you know, I think it sets up his role for the rest of the season and the kinds of things he's going to do. I think audiences are going to know to be very wary of him whenever he shows up again.
Audiences will certainly know to be wary of Stephen Bonnet after he staged the attack on the Frasers, but that won't necessarily be true for others who might cross his path. As a pirate, presumably with a vessel, he has the potential to turn up just about anywhere that has a port or an accessible shore. Other characters could easily fall for his good looks and charm long enough for him to attack. The murder of Jamie's friend proves that Bonnet certainly isn't above killing to get what he wants.
We'll have to wait and see. In the months leading up to the premiere of Outlander Season 4, Stephen Bonnet was teased as a villain somehow worse than Black Jack Randall. For folks who hadn't read the books and didn't know what was in store with the new bad guy, it was likely difficult to imagine somebody worse than Randall. We've only gotten a taste of Bonnet so far, and he'll only get more despicable the more we see of him.
Jamie and Claire will face challenges even beyond Stephen Bonnet in Season 4. The southern settlements in Colonial America still allow slavery, and that's not something either half of the couple will be able to stomach. After all, Claire comes from the 1960s and was very supportive of Joe Abernathy when he broke barriers of race in the medical profession. As for Jamie, he's been a prisoner far too many times to approve of slavery.
Throw in the fact that the Frasers got an offer of land with some serious strings attached to the Brits, only years before the American Revolution, and they have some important decisions to make. Interestingly, the entire Season 4 premiere stuck with the Frasers in the 18th century. Brianna and Roger were off-screen for the entire hour.
Given the arc in store for Brianna and the plot likely happening for Roger, they probably will return to the action in the not-too-distant future. If Outlander is going to hit the key points of the lengthy Drums of Autumn novel, the characters can't stay off-screen for too long. To find out how the Frasers decide to handle their new circumstances (and avoid Bonnet as much as they can), tune in to Starz on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes of Outlander.