[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Sunday’s episode of Outlander. Read at your own risk!]
Sunday’s episode of Outlander brought fans — and the Frasers — a show down we’ve been waiting for since the moment it was confirmed that Stephen Bonnet (Ep Speleers) had survived the Season 4 jail bombing. For several episodes now, the pirate who has tormented the Frasers for almost two full seasons has been planning not only to take baby Jemmy from Fraser’s Ridge but to collect the young boy’s inheritance at River Run as his own. It was only a matter of time before Jamie (Sam Heughan) would manage to track him down — but it was Bree (Sophie Skelton) who had the most unfinished business with the man who raped and assaulted her last season.
The initial plan was for Jamie and Roger (Richard Rankin) to pose as whiskey smugglers and jump Bonnet when he showed up to purchase the goods. However, the smuggler was one step ahead and instead followed Brianna and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) to the beach, where he kidnapped the former and tried to convince her to settle down and make a real family with him. It turned out the psychopath just wanted to be loved.
For days, Brianna had to nimbly placate the man responsible for the darkest moments of her life, while trying to plot some way to escape. She came close once, but when Bonnet realized she was leading him on, he switched back into evil mode and came close to having her sold to a wealthy colonist who would have done God knows what to her had the deal gone through. Fortunately, the rest of the Frasers showed up just in time to save Bree and apprehend Bonnet.
To ensure Bonnet didn’t escape the gallows once more, they called in a favor to Governor Tryon — who still felt guilty about hanging Roger — and the pirate was sentenced to death by drowning. As the water approached his chin, Bree showed up on the bank of the river with a shotgun and put Bonnet out of his misery before the water could take him, clearing the dark cloud Bonnet has been over her family once and for all.
TV Guide spoke to Skelton about the character-defining episode, why it was only right for Bree to be the one to take Bonnet’s life, and why it’s perfect that we’ll never know exactly why Brianna did it.
Were you more excited or nervous to tackle this episode and Brianna’s final face-off with Stephen Bonnet?
Sophie Skelton: Obviously, the storyline is tremendously difficult to do in terms of [being] taxing, emotionally, and the place that you have to go to headspace-wise — but I love working with Ed, so I was excited in that respect. I think it’s such a great [episode] and it’s such an interesting storyline. I was definitely a little a little nervous going into it because it’s such delicate material and you always want to make sure that you’re handling it well, and you’re doing justice to the people who have been through something like this. Interestingly, it is based on a true story — a woman who was captured by her rapist and she read to him to try and placate him and to buy herself time. I think it’s a great thing that [Brianna] is doing the same.
What did you wan to make sure happened in this episode for Bree’s sake?
Skelton: As an actress, I wanted to make sure that we have those moments where we really see how Bree is feeling. I wanted to make sure that it doesn’t come across that she’s a great actress. She’s trying to put on a very brave face for Bonnett. She’s trying to pretend like she’s strong in a situation, which I love when we get those final moments but Bree is turned towards the camera and you really see how she’s feeling. We really see that fear come through, and her body is starting to shake and cop out on her. She tried to cover that up. That’s one thing that I wanted to make sure that we showed… that she wasn’t fine in the situation. She wasn’t just trying to escape; she really was struggling. Every every second of trying to put on this brave face to him was really [difficult] for her.
There are stretches of time when Bonnet is holding her captive that you can see he has some humanity. How did it affect Bree, who has always had more sympathy for him than anyone else, to be confronted with that?
Skelton: There are these moments with Bonnet — when he talks about the fact he was an orphan, and the fact that he has these dreams about drowning, and the fact that he was betrayed by his friends — there are these tiny flickers of humanity where almost do feel sorry for this guy. Then you have to remember like, “Oh no, he did some terrible things.” Obviously he has been brought up in a way whereby he’s just felt abandoned and that has made him act in tremendously monstrous ways. Brianna is not heartless. She can see those flickers of humanity in him, and I’m sure that that intrigues her in a way, and I’m sure it also does make — for a millisecond — her feel sorry for him, and then she will snap it off.
Jamie and Roger have a few conversations about which one of them will kill Bonnet even though Bree should probably have a vote in that. Why did it feel right that Bree was the one to kill him instead of Jamie or Roger?
Skelton: It makes me a little bit angry… Especially with the conversations that Brianna and Jamie had in Season 4, I think it’s interesting that the men are talking about who gets to kill Bonnet, because there shouldn’t be a question about it. It’s Brianna’s decision what happens with this man. I know that he has really hurt the family, but I think in terms of helping her heal this is her moment to confront him and to do what she needs to do for her, her mental health, her child’s health, and her family.
Did she shoot Bonnet for mercy or to know he was dead?
Skelton: We’ll never know why she did it. I don’t even know if Brianna 100 percent knows why she did it. She could do it because she wants to make sure that’s Bonnet is really dead. He has a tendency to seep himself back into society and survive things… And if she sees [his death], then she can be sure and she can rest at home with her son and know that her son is safe, and her family is safe and she’s safe. Part of it, I think, could just be revenge. Maybe, purely, simply, she just wants to heal in that way to get her revenge. The third bit of it, which is more like the jail scene in Season 4, there is a tiny bit of mercy in there. It’s almost messy because she can see that he’s in pain, but also there’s this tiny last moment of saying, “You know what, I’m going to put you out of your misery because I want you to recognize good in the world. Even though you’ve done all these horrific things to me, I’m going to be the one to make this quick for you. And I’m going to show you one tiny, tiny, little speckle of humanity and goodness purity in this world and I saw the evil that you tried to bring into it.” So there are a few things going on.
Does killing Bonnet bring her the peace she’s hoping for, or is his death going to leave lingering trauma?
Skelton: I think it will definitely bring relief in terms of immediate safety, knowing that he’s not lurking around, that he’s not going to take Jemmy away that he can’t hurt her again, that he can’t hurt any of her family…. I think while she is physically safe, I think emotionally — you don’t just put a bullet in somebody’s head and then everything’s gone. The man goes away with the bullet, but the trauma doesn’t. I think it’s one thing that I definitely want to make sure we see a little bit of in Season 6 just to show that trauma isn’t something you can just just get rid of, and there will definitely be moments where Bree is still suffering.
What does moving forward look like for Bree and Roger now?
Skelton: They’ve been a very good team this season. I think they’ve grown together a lot more. There’s more depth in their arguments and battles together instead of just running away from each other. I think [the fights] actually brings them closer and makes them stronger and they build on it. Now that Bonnet is gone as well, that will just add to that… I mean, it’s Outlander, so there’s probably somebody else who wants to cause trouble. I’m sure the Frasers on aren’t completely out of trouble yet, but in terms of the family life, I think everything will feel a little bit more settled for a while.
Outlander continues Sundays at 8/7c.