- Outlander -8 Storylines From The ‘Outlander’ Books That The TV Show Could Change
When the Outlander TV series let Murtagh survive the Battle of Culloden to become the leader of the Regulators in North Carolina — not to mention meet both of Jamie’s children, hunt down Stephen Bonnet, and have a romance with Jocasta — fans of the Outlander books had to come to terms with, if not independently fall in love with, those changes, and more. And listen, change can be good for book readers, but… it isn’t always easy.
“Adaptation is a journey for the reader,” Ginger Wiseman, co-host of The Outlander Podcast, tells The Dipp. “We have to open our minds (and hearts) and accept that some of the things we love from the stories may be changed or even omitted.”
After all, the show creators only have about 12–16 episodes per season to tell the sprawling stories featured in Diana Gabaldon’s published books and, to that end, in Season 5, the show dipped into some significant plots of the sixth book in order to better set up the major events of Season 6, according to showrunner Matthew B. Roberts.
So it stands to reason that the upcoming Season 6 and beyond will most likely edit book storylines (what will change? what will stay the same?) but — as a reader and a viewer —there are eight book storylines in particular that I have my eye on.
Below are the book plot lines that I foresee having to undergo the biggest changes in order to make the leap from page to screen. (Major book spoilers ahead.)
1. The Christies and Richard Brown’s Revenge
With the way Season 5 ended, Wiseman says the show “set themselves up well for having Richard Brown as the main villain in Season 6.” But, is it possible that the murder accusation against Claire won’t be portrayed on-screen as it was in the books?
In A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Malva Christie becomes pregnant and claims the child is Jamie’s… Claire later finds Malva murdered and unsuccessfully attempts to save the unborn child’s life… and all of Claire’s good deeds are punished when Richard accuses Claire of murdering Malva.
Still, even with Malva’s murder and Thomas Christie’s unrequited crush on Claire, some fans feel that the TV series could skip whole Christie family drama.
When I wrote about the Christies in 10 Storylines From The Outlander Books That Still Might Be Huge In The TV Series, the Malva storyline seemed one of the more controversial. A fan on Twitter wrote, “I’d be happy if they left out Malva” while another thinks the series should include the murder charge, without the introduction of the Christie family.
Nancy McGehee Fontenot of Outlander Homepage tells The Dipp that, “the Malva Christie storyline is a must.” According to her, “Malva is the catalyst to justify Brown’s revenge.”
Though the Christies arrived at Fraser’s Ridge in The Fiery Cross, they didn’t appear in Outlander Season 5. They could be introduced in Season 6 — Malva could take over as Claire’s surgery assistant (that was Malva’s role in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, anyway) — and if that happens, Malva, her father Tom, and her brother Allan will significantly shake up the Ridge.
But! If the series wants to exclude the Christies, it’s not unreasonable to think that Richard Brown could pin a different murder on Claire, or hurt her in some other way. So… while it seems certain that Brown will be the villain in Season 6, the inclusion of the Christies is not a done deal.
2. Lizzie and the Beardsley Twins
There were some new characters introduced to the Ridge in Season 5, notably indentured servants Josiah (Jo) and Keziah (Kezzie) Beardsley. On the show, the twin brothers were only 14 years old, and thus, couldn’t join Jamie’s militia. But, in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, they’re older… and they get a pretty wild love story.
Though Claire dabbled in polyandry when she was married to both Frank (RIP) and Jamie, the Beardsley twins take it to another level by marrying Brianna’s servant Lizzie Wemyss. It’s an unconventional setup that’s frowned upon by some people at Fraser’s Ridge. But because the twin brothers are identical and all, Lizzie and the brothers are somehow able to happily live their lives as a throuple in 18th-century America.
Hmm. Do we think this storyline will make it on screen?
Well, Lizzie was right by the Beardsley brothers’ side when they had their tonsils removed in Season 5, so the show could have been setting up their future romance. But Susie Brown, also of Outlander Homepage, wonders if the show might skip this part.
“They might change Lizzie’s storyline and [have her] pick one of the Beardsley twins to marry instead of them both,” she says. “It depends on whether [the show producers] think people will be offended by that particular storyline.”
Considering everything else Outlander fans have seen, perhaps the powers that be will have faith that fans can handle Lizzie and her husbands. (Outlander executive producer Maril Davis did just tease at PaleyFest that Lizzie actor Caitlin O’Ryan has a “great story” coming up, per Deadline.) But if not, expect a little less scandal from Lizzie and the Beardsleys in Season 6.
3. Fergus & Marsali’s Son Henri-Christian
It’s honestly hard to keep track of how many children Fergus and Marsali have, but Claire and Jamie’s adopted son and Jamie’s stepdaughter ended Season 5 expecting their fourth child. In A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Marsali gives birth to Henri-Christian, who is born with dwarfism. Due to the prejudices and close-minded superstitions of the time, Henri-Christian is harassed by the community at Fraser’s Ridge, which takes a particular toll on Fergus.
Henri-Christian faces health issues in his young life that impact the plot in An Echo in the Bone, but McGehee Fontenot theorizes that the show may not include this cherished character. “I suspect that we will not get to meet or mourn the precocious, and precious, Henri-Christian,” McGehee Fontenot says.
Super-fan McGehee Fontenot also thinks that other side characters have stronger connections to the plot than Henri-Christian and that screen time will need to be devoted to them, instead. For instance, she considers the Bugs, who were subtly introduced in Season 5, to be “more integral to keep the story moving.”
“I could be wrong about Henri-Christian, but I’m just considering how condensation is critical,” McGehee Fontenot adds.
4. Jamie’s Amputated Finger
Jamie loses a finger in An Echo in the Bone when his injured finger from Black Jack’s brutal attack on him back in Season 1 is damaged in battle during the Revolutionary War. Claire performs the amputation and McGehee Fontenot hopes this moment isn’t skipped on the show in a potential Season 7. She notes it was “a turning point, as though Claire was finally able to cut away that darkness of the past and point towards the future.”
Yet, characters on other TV series have been known not to go through with amputations that their page counterparts have. One notable example is Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead. As ComicBook.com reported, Rick actor Andrew Lincoln and The Walking Dead comic creator Robert Kirkman said that production decided it would be too expensive to portray, plus a bit of a logistical nightmare, for the lead actor to lose his hand like he did in the comics.
Could technical concerns mean that Outlander wouldn’t want Sam Heughan to be missing a finger from this point on in the series? Considering the show’s dedication to Jamie’s back scars and the fact that Fergus is missing a hand, maybe there’s no reason to think that the show would leave this part out.
5. Claire, Jamie, and Young Ian’s Return to Scotland
Claire, Jamie, and Young Ian haven’t been back in Scotland since Season 3, but the three of them return to Lallybroch from America in An Echo in the Bone, where they encounter Jenny and Ian again. Outlander still films in Scotland (even though Outlander Seasons 4 and 5 have been primarily set in the American colonies), but the expert fans I spoke to all thought we might not see the Frasers return to the Highlands on the TV show.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they got rid of some of the sea-going scenes in Book 7,” Wiseman says.
McGehee Fontenot echoes that sentiment, saying, “I don’t think they will have time for Jamie and Claire or Young Ian to return to Scotland.”
One major reason this part could be edited? The availability of the actors who portray Jenny and Ian — Laura Donnelly and Steven Cree. Donnelly wasn’t available in Season 4, which was why Jenny didn’t meet her niece Brianna as she does in Drums of Autumn. Donnelly insinuated to W Magazine in 2018 that her time with the show may be over. For his part, Ian dies shortly after Claire, Jamie, and his son arrive at Lallybroch, so if Cree wasn’t available, that sad news could be delivered via letter.
That said, it’s when Jamie and Jenny leave Scotland in Echo for the colonies that another major plot occurs, so if the TV show shifts this storyline, that could mean some adjustments to …
6. Why Claire Marries Lord John Grey
In Echo, Claire must marry Lord John Grey in order to protect herself from being arrested as a rebel spy after she believes Jamie had died at sea.
But… if Claire, Jamie, and Young Ian don’t return to Scotland, and if Jamie and Jenny don’t travel from Scotland to America separately, then Claire wouldn’t get false information that Jamie and Jenny died crossing the Atlantic… and she wouldn’t have reason to marry Lord John Grey.
Brown still thinks Claire will marry LJG, though, just under different circumstances.
“Claire marries Lord John after she thinks Jamie has died and because John’s influence and position will protect her. Jenny doesn’t necessarily have to be traveling with Jamie for this to happen,” Brown says.
“They could tweak things so that Jamie is traveling alone,” she adds, emphasizing that the role of Jenny should absolutely not be recast if Donnelly doesn’t return. “Laura Donnelly made that character totally her own and it would be too strange for anyone else to take it on.”
I mean, could you imagine anyone other than Donnelly telling off Caitriona Balfe’s Claire?
7. Claire and Lord John’s Sexual Encounter
No matter how the misunderstanding of Jamie’s death happens, Lord John and Claire’s marriage is a must — even if it breaks fans’ hearts. And the part that really gets to people is the fact that Lord John and Claire actually consummate the marriage.
If there’s a Season 7 (fingers crossed), Wiseman notes the show will almost definitely feature the LJG marriage plotline, since it’s their nuptials that save Claire from being arrested. Yet, when it comes to their sexual intimacy, Wiseman’s not entirely sure it’s needed for the plot.
“Sure, it caused Lord John to confess to Jamie. And caused Jamie to punch him in the eye, and give him to the Rebels, and provides a number of interesting encounters/situations as he tries to escape,” Wiseman says. “But long-term repercussions [to the overall story]? Honestly, we won’t know until future books.”
That doesn’t mean Wiseman wants this part left out. “I think it’s crazy interesting and shows a very human side to both [Claire and Lord John], who think the love of their lives has perished,” she says, adding that cleaning up that mess is half the fun of Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. “But,” she continues, “I think the [TV] writers are clever enough that they could figure out a way to make things work without the consummation.”
If they do leave it in, TV viewers are going to have to feel the pain all over again that Gabaldon caused in the books— something the author is rather deviously aware of.
As she previously told me in an interview, “When Claire marries Lord John at the end of Echo and what happens happens, I was entirely aware that it would cause a lot of people to become totally unhinged.”
8. William and Jamie’s Reunion
Because Lord John is in the mix in the later novels, so is his adopted son, and Jamie’s biological son, William “Willie” Ransom.
When Jamie returns to the colonies very much alive (and discovers his friend has married his wife), he encounters his grown-up son and tells William the truth about his paternity.
Though this is another must-have plot, McGehee Fontenot thinks the show may change how this revelation occurs.
“The William storyline does not depend entirely on the original scene of Jamie returning alive after being thought lost at sea,” she says. “There are enough close calls between father and son for them to have their moment of truth, and I suspect it might take place on the battlefield.”
While William learning the truth feels like a sure-thing, McGehee Fontenot has still prepared herself for this major plot to potentially be skipped. “I really don’t know how that can be left out, but stranger things have happened in Hollywood,” she says.
That mentality is surely the result of readers seeing so many screen adaptations, in general, disappoint, but considering how faithful the Starz team has been to Gabaldon’s books so far, future seasons of the TV series shouldn’t diverge that dramatically.
However, further toying with our emotions, Outlander showrunner Roberts said at PaleyFest that choosing what pieces of the book are included and placing them in a way readers don’t expect is part of the fun of making Outlander.
But, he guaranteed that the joy, suffering, and, of course, drama (with a capital D) that makes Outlander Outlander will always be intact.