This review contains Outlander finale spoilers.
Outlander Season 6’s final episode had a tall order in terms of fan expectations, as well as translating book events to the screen. Unfortunately, the question of both who killed Malva, as well as how Claire and Jamie are going to prove their innocence, was left unresolved. Book readers, in particular, will not be happy that the episode failed to answer these questions, because Malva is such an unpopular and controversial character in the book canon. The episode did lay the foundation for an expanded Season 7, but it came at the cost of pacing problems in the middle of the episode.
Episode 8 begins right where viewers left off, with Richard Browns’ Committee of Safety surrounding the big house. Jamie and Claire are by themselves, as many of the Ridge residents have fled for safety, or are unaccounted for. A fight ensues, and Claire ends up shooting a man who tries to sneakily grab her. Jamie and Claire have to rely on each other for strategy and supplies of weapons. The siege on the Ridge continues into the night. Hiram Crombie and the other fisherfolk show up, not to defend Jamie and Claire, but to convince them not to resist the arrest anymore. (Honestly, Crombie and the other badmouths should have been evicted from the Ridge for their disrespect, but that’s another discussion.) Jamie and Claire reluctantly agree to surrender to face a jury trial in Salisbury, only because Tom Christie promises to keep them safe. This isn’t exactly a guarantee that Brown isn’t motivated by settling scores for his brother’s death last season, but it prevents anyone else from getting hurt.
The journey to Claire’s trial is fraught with danger, as Brown’s men have told everyone in the surrounding areas that Claire is a murdering witch, that Jamie was the father of Malva’s child, and may have even had a hand in her death. The Committee is doing a great job of keeping everyone safe, except the Frasers, who now have thousands of haters ready to commit vigilante justice. When the travelers reach Salisbury, Brown finds out that the sheriff and other lawmakers have quit their posts because of the colonists’ protests. Brown decides to travel a further 200 miles to Wilmington for the trial. He doesn’t want Claire to have the advantage if the trial is held at Cross Creek, where Jocasta lives. Unfortunately, more time on the road is more time for the Committee of Safety and their allies to hurt Jamie and Claire.
These scenes perfectly capture Claire’s anguish, and Jamie’s instinct to protect Claire no matter what. At one rest stop, angry villagers throw rocks and stones while shouting Claire is a witch. Brown is forced to step in to hold back the mob. Unfortunately, Claire is injured after hitting a villager who tries to climb into the wagon.
Roger and Bree’s journey to the seminary is supposed to parallel Jamie and Claire’s trip, but there’s a discord in tone, and because the stakes are nowhere near equal. This discord does not mean the focus on their plot development was “unnecessary” or a “distraction” from Jamie and Claire. A Breath Of Snow And Ashes has several chapters on Roger becoming a minister, as well as Roger and Bree discussing how their knowledge of the Revolutionary War affects their family. The main conflict during Roger and Bree’s trip is Jemmy having lice, and hints and introspection about the truth of their future knowledge. Roger and Bree clearly left the Ridge before the Committee of Safety arrived to arrest Claire. They don’t encounter any of Browns’ men, thieves, or angry villagers in the woods. There’s no fire, or storm, or any other natural disaster situation. Although their journey finally resolves the question of Jemmy being Roger’s child, which was a leftover from Season 4, the imbalance of stakes results in pacing issues in the middle of the episode.
Back at the Ridge, Ian comes back from his hunting trip to find Lizzie crying that the mob has taken Claire and Jamie. Ian surprises Jamie at one of the campsites along the way, and tells him that he has reinforcements hiding in the bushes and nearby mountains if they want to escape. Jamie tells Ian to stand down because Brown has too many allies who’d want to claim reward money for capture. After this scene, the pacing of the episode improves, as viewers are well aware there has to be another fight or conflict scene ahead.
The following day, at another stop for water, the men force Jamie to step away from the wagon. This is a setup to separate Claire and Jamie, and the wagon then carries Claire alone towards Wilmington. Tom Christie decides (surprisingly) to travel with Claire the rest of the way. They arrive in Wilmington after a colonist riot against the British. The damage to the buildings and effigies make the Print Shop riot in Episode 5 look like a toddler tantrum in comparison. Tom says Jamie isn’t dead, but what Claire doesn’t know is that Jamie is still in danger. Browns’ men have tied him to a stake on the beach, and are planning to send Jamie on a ship to Scotland so that he never sees Claire again. Ian and the Cherokee warriors fire arrows from the clifftop, stopping the scheme in its tracks.
The episode ends with Jamie and Ian’s party riding along the beach, most likely to meet Claire at the prison. Ian’s eleventh-hour rescue was hinted at in the episode title. The Frasers still have family and allies to rely on. Many would have wondered if Ian and the other missing men from the Ridge would be able to help Jamie and Claire throughout the episode. Several times, there are mentions of Richard Brown doing his best to poison public sentiment against the Frasers, to set up the idea that no one was coming to help. While this cliffhanger fails to answer the unresolved questions behind Malva’s murder, it does set up a future conflict between the Cherokee and pro-independence colonists.
Claire is taunted in prison with a hanging for murder and witchcraft by an unknown man. He appears to be the same mysterious figure from the Episode 5 cliffhanger. Who is he, and what is his crime? Does he know anything about Malva’s case, or is he connected to another plotline? Could he pose a threat to Claire and Jamie if the sheriff decides to release him from prison?
If Outlander fans do not want to wait a year or two to find out, reading A Breath Of Snow And Ashes will reveal all.