Outlander Season 5 Ending Explained

Outlander Season 5 Ending
Photo: Starz

Warning: This Outlander article contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 5 finale.

The Outlander Season 5 finale was… a very tough one to watch. Largely centered around the violence (including sexual violence) Claire survives at the hands of Lionel Brown and the other bandits, there is only so much broader-stroke storytelling to unpack about “Never My Love.”

That being said, there is a fair amount to unpack emotionally about this intense hour of television, including an explanation of Claire’s scenes of dissociation as well as some major answers about where Brianna and Roger ended up when they went through the stones. For those of you looking for some explanation around the Outlander Season 5 finale, read on…

Claire’s Abduction

Claire is abducted by Lionel Brown and a gang of bandits, who are seemingly acting apart from Lionel’s brother Richard and the other Brownsville residents. Lionel is angry that Claire has been publishing reproductive health information under the male pseudonym Dr. Rawlings in the local newsletters. In the previous episode, Lionel sees evidence to this effect in Claire’s home medical office when she is healing Lionel’s wife, who is a survivor of domestic abuse. When Lionel realizes what Claire is up to, he becomes angry, as he thinks that it is a man’s right to have sex with his wife whenever he wants, regardless of if the wife gives consent. He sees Claire as a threat to that “god given right,” and wants her punished for daring to give women the information and encouragement to help keep themselves healthy and safe.

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The “Stylized” Dissociation Sequence

The first half of the Outlander Season 5 finale utilized an unconventional storytelling structure, presumably an attempt to more articulately tell the story of Claire’s trauma and/or break up the intensity of such a violent and upsetting episode for the viewer (and for Claire herself). As Claire lies on the forest floor, beaten and traumatized and still very much a captor, she dissociates from her present situation. Instead, she imagines herself in the 1960s or 70s, but this time she is there with her 18th century family.

Jamie is there, as are Marsali and Fergus, Jocasta and Murtagh, and even Ian. All of the actors, save for Sam Heughan, are styled as if they are from the era (Lauren Lyle in particular looks very cool). They are gathering for Thanksgiving and everything should be happy and fine, but Claire the dream is obviously colored by the fear and pain Claire is desperately trying not to feel. A closet door is eerily ajar in a way that distracts Claire. She often imagines herself being held comfortingly by Jamie, wrapped up and protected in his arms. At one point in the period of dissociation, Claire sees two policemen come to the door. They tell her that Bree, Roger, and Jemmy have been in a fatal car accident on their way to Thanksgiving dinner.

This is all an attempt to represent the forced period of detachment from reality that people experiencing trauma often experience. It is our body’s way of trying to protect ourselves from a trauma we are either currently experiencing or have previously experienced. Outlander chose an incredibly creative way to represent this, merging the broader feeling of safety Claire feels in the 20th century with the feeling of safety and security she feels from having her loved ones around her.

Who is Wendigo Donner?

In the Season 5 finale, Claire meets Wendigo Donner, who is part of the group that abducts her. Upon hearing Claire use the WWII-era lang phrase “Jesus H Roosevelt Christ,” Donner reveals himself to be a time traveler from the 20th century.

Donner is one of the Montauk Five, a group of Native American activists who traveled back from 1968 America with the goal of stopping British colonization and saving their indigenous ancestors. Otter Tooth, who Donner knows as Robert Springer, was one of this group, though he traveled back further than the other men by almost 50 years. Otter Tooth became obsessed with convincing the Mohawk to avoid the white settlers altogether, which eventually led to his death.

Donner doesn’t pop up in the Outlander book series until A Breath of Snow and Ashes, which is where this Claire abduction plot is pulled from. However, in the book, Donner does not reveal himself to be a time traveler to Claire; rather, it is Brianna whom he later approaches with the information. Given that Donner is not among the men who are killed for what they have done to Claire, it is likely he will pop back up in Outlander Season 6.

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Marsali Kills Lionel Brown

In what might be the best scene of the entire episode, Marsali uses one of Claire’s syringes to inject a wounded Lionel with water hemlock, telling him that while Claire may have made an oath to do no harm, she has done no such thing. She kills him. When Jamie finds her later, next to the dead body, Marsali is worried that she will go to hell for what she has done, and Jamie comforts her. While I support Marsali’s actions here and it was a very cathartic scene to watch, I also wonder why Marsali was left alone with a man who almost killed her in the previous episode.

Roger and Brianna’s Time Travel Explained

Outlander pulled a bait-and-switch on us with Bree and Roger’s apparent time travel, making us believe for a whole week that the TV series had made a major change from the book plot and sent Roger, Bree, and Jemmy back to the future a full season/book early. Of course, those who have seen the Outlander Season 5 finale know this isn’t actually the case. While Bree, Roger, and Jemmy did disappear when they touched the stone in Episode 11 (we all saw that, right?), they reappeared right back where they started, in 18th century Colonial America.

From the brief conversation Bree and Roger have on the subject, it seems as if the stones spit the Mackenzies out where they started because, when Roger and Bree thought of “home,” it wasn’t the 20th century they imagined, but rather Fraser’s Ridge and all it represents. Or perhaps it was Jemmy’s inability to focus on the 20th century that kept the family from traveling there? Surely, we will get more theorizing on this from the characters themselves next season. You can read more about what happens in the book series in regards to Bree and Roger’s time travel here.

So why did the show do this? As far as I can tell, this was a plot gimmick meant to surprise the book readers who also watch the show, which I am a little miffed about as it didn’t actually add any narrative depth to the Season 5 story past superficial shock value. Although, it does give Claire one happy surprise in an episode that is mostly about her suffering.

The Revolutionary War is Coming to Outlander

The events in the Outlander Season 5 finale take place at the end of 1773, which means the official outbreak of the Revolutionary War isn’t that far away (April 1775). Claire and Jamie know this and allude to it while they are standing on the porch. War is coming to Outlander again, most likely in Season 6.

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What other questions do you have about the Outlander Season 5 finale? Let us know in the comments below.