Why Outlander Season 5 Will Probably Be Very Different From The Book

Outlander season 4 brianna roger reunited sophie skelton richard rankin
(Image credit: Starz)

The fourth season of Outlander ended on a doozy of a cliffhanger made all the more suspenseful by the fact that it definitely didn't happen in any of Diana Gabaldon's books. The question following the finale was whether or not the fifth season would return more to the plot of the novels, which would mean less of a focus on Murtagh. Some big events from the fifth book, called The Fiery Cross, are likely to be adapted pretty closely, but what about the rest?

Well, Season 5 probably won't debut until fall at the earliest, but actor Richard Rankin (who plays Roger) weighed in on how the show will adapted the fifth book, saying this:

It’s all very early stages in terms of the adaptation. I know they’re compressing a lot of stuff but keeping the essence of it quite similar. Adaptations are always going to be tricky, especially with book five. There’s quite a lot of it in the first part. There’s too much to transfer over to television anyway; half the season would be gone with just the Gathering alone. But they are doing a great job with it.

Richard Rankin spoke out about the adaptation process quite recently, according to Syfy, which places it just a couple of months after production kicked off on the fifth season. Considering the fifth season will run for a grand total of 12 episodes, it makes sense that Rankin couldn't speak to what happens in the second part of the next batch of the episodes, even if he had been inclined to drop spoilers.

His comments suggest that Season 5 will cut a significant portion of the events of the first chunk of The Fiery Cross, which does make sense, even if it does mean missing out on some fun moments of characterization (and surprisingly steamy sequences). Spoilers ahead for The Fiery Cross. The Gathering of Scots in the American colonies involves some shenanigans in Jamie's attempts to get a couple of babies baptized by a Catholic priest and culminates in Brianna and Roger officially tying the knot.

I can imagine Outlander still baptizing the babies and marrying Bree and Roger, although both blessed events could happen off-screen. The handfasting ceremony was only good for a year, after all, and Jamie very much wanted Bree married.

That said, I could definitely see a time jump taking care of the baptisms and marriage, and Season 5 jumping into the action. It's probably safe to say that Jamie won't be hunting down and killing Murtagh -- especially since it wouldn't exactly take much of a hunt -- and the show could get going into the Scots of Fraser's Ridge marching to war. End book spoilers.

There were bound to be more and more changes from book to screen as the books grew longer and more complex, and Season 4 arguably would have been better split into two seasons to give the stories more breathing room. Will the pacing in Season 5 be better, especially if a bunch of the relatively superfluous early chapters are cut?

We'll have to wait and see. Outlander has already been renewed for a sixth season, so the producers have the option of combining some of the events of the fifth and sixth books for a more cohesive story. It worked for Game of Thrones back before that show ran out of source material; perhaps it could work for Outlander as well.

If Starz follows the pattern of the last couple seasons, then Season 5 of Outlander will probably premiere in the fall and wrap up in December or January, but we'll have to wait and see. For now, we can just cross our fingers for more new footage and figure out some other viewing options for the summer.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).