The first four episodes of Outlander season 7 remind viewers why the fantasy series has been running for so long, and set up enticing drama for the rest of the season.
Seven seasons into a TV series, even the best ones, you begin to run the risk of things getting stale. When the wells of your themes, characters, and actors’ engagement begin to run dry, everything’s in danger.
Luckily for us, Outlander is adept at focusing on the things fans love so much about it: Sam and Claire’s timeless romance, family drama, and the past’s pull despite the brutality of it. By remembering the things that provide Scotland’s best fantasy series its solid backbone, it can pull surprising amounts of gravitas from beats that should feel overwrought and trite by now.
We got to see the first four episodes of Outlander season 7, and the opener starts right where season 6 left off. No spoilers here, but we can say the mission to rescue Claire before she’s wrongfully convicted of murder is on. Except, The American Revolution has arrived, and their family is caught in the crossfire.
Brianna and Roger having a second child in the 1700s brings up one of Outlander’s most baffling philosophies: the idea anyone would willingly stay in the past. But the series has had many seasons to find a justifiable answer to that question, and the answer was and still is love and family.
That’s not to say there aren’t complications, though. Like in previous seasons, characters are met with dilemmas they would not face so helplessly in a more modern world. This is of particular concern for Brianna, who has two lives to protect and has experienced firsthand the violence of the 1700s. This is something the beginning of the season sets up to be an ongoing point of conjecture for herself and Roger.
Claire, however, has more immediate fish to fry: she’s being accused of murder, of which we know she’s innocent. This is just the latest in a long line of events from Outlander where women are criminalized and or hurt for no real reason. For a female viewer, this might get grating at some point.
We’ve seen Claire be accused of witchcraft, we’ve seen too many female characters get raped to count, and women throughout the series are routinely brutalized for drama, and in fairness, authenticity. Again, why would anyone choose this era? Ah, right, Sam Heughan’s ocean-blue eyes.
Heughan and Caitriona Balfe’s lived-in chemistry has done wonders for the series over the years, and you feel the effects of that in how believable Jamie’s intense search for Claire is. He’s convincing as a man on a mission, and sensitive yet strong in ways that make his droves of devotees easy to relate to.
But it’s Balfe that takes the cake at this early juncture in season 7. Her poignancy, soft touch, and dramatic chops hold attention in a way that would surely make many an actor jealous. And as time goes on, Claire seems to wear the trauma she and her family have been through — emotionally, she comes across as weathered in a way that reads as realistic, which is refreshing. Like, yeah, ‘look at all this horrible stuff that keeps happening to us!’
Outlander is largely about goodbyes, and difficult choices to leave or stay with the people we love, and while that’s been evident in the text it could often feel too far removed from the front of characters’ brains. Seeing her fully engage with the loss that sits around every corner was moving, and a good reminder of why she’s led this story alongside her co-star for such a long time.
With around 60-minute running times and a slightly slow start to the season, minds may wander a bit during some of the more routine A-to-B scenes — the solid quality of the production design, costumes, and immersive sound can’t fully battle that at all times — but season seven rightfully leans into the family unit of Jamie, Claire, Roger, and Brianna, and always prioritizes what’s truly important.
Outlander knows what its fans want, and gives enough of it to tee up a satisfying penultimate season ahead of its final battle cry. Also, that new Sinead O’Conner-performed opening credits song? You’ll be singing it in the shower.
Outlander is available to stream on Lionsgate Plus in the UK. Prepare your kilt and get ready for season 7, which releases on June 16, with our guides to how many episodes of Outlander season 7 are there and how to watch Outlander season 7. Alternatively, see what else is out there with the best TV series of all time.