Those new stories mean it’s out of the whiskey barrel and into the bottle for the Fraser family.
“The kitchen sink is what you can expect,” teases Roberts. “We load that kitchen sink up with everything. In comparison to other seasons, there’s more going on in season 7 than every one of our other seasons, not necessarily combined, but pretty close to it. We finally get to the Revolutionary War and how it affects all of our characters.”
Adds Balfe: “This season is so epic. It’s the season that’s closest to season 1 in terms of the scope and the span.”
That span will find the Claire and Jamie (Sam Heughan) far afield from the Ridge, as the Revolution draws them away from home. Season 7 also introduces a heap of new faces, including a grown-up version of Jamie’s son, William (Charles Vandervaart). Executive producer Maril Davis likens the tension between William, his adopted father Lord John Grey (David Berry), and Jamie to that of a love triangle.
We’ll also meet Quaker brother and sister, Rachel (Izzy Meikle-Small) and Denzell Hunter (Joey Phillips). “The Hunters are a lovely, different take,” teases Davis. “They don’t believe in violence and they’re coming into the Fraser family, where violence follows them wherever they go.”
With such violence comes a host of new dangers, including a twist on the show’s big bads. While previous seasons have featured one major villain (Black Jack Randall, Geillis Duncan, Stephen Bonnet, etc.), season 7 explodes the concept of who is friend or foe. “Season 7 is all about fractured villains,” Davis says. “A supersized season calls for supersized villains — or multi-pronged villains.”
The biggest villain of all, however, isn’t a person at all — it is the senselessness and chaos of war. Claire and Jamie are no strangers to that, but they now have an extended family to worry about. “They’re very accustomed to war,” says Roberts. “The very first scene we ever filmed of Outlander was Claire in World War II. In a weird way, they’re grizzled veterans of war, Jamie and Claire, but we have different characters joining. We have young Ian (John Bell), and William, who doesn’t know the difference between what he reads about war and reality. It’s how war affects their loved ones more than it affects them.”
Indeed, for both Claire and Jamie, the familiarity of war allows them to thrive. “Because it has been such a constant in her life, she knows how to function in that reality,” reflects Balfe. “It’s a skill and it’s a strength, but it’s also a wound. We’ve seen Claire in this position before. In the time of war, life becomes very immediate. She can see that a lot of these things are weighing very heavily on Jamie. As a wife, she’s trying to be there for him and be a support while also being scared for his life. But Claire is not just that. As a doctor, she’s right there, if not on the front lines, then very close to it.”
Season 6 saw a broken Claire, traumatized by a gang rape and relying on ether to cope with the demons in her own mind. Oddly enough, the Revolution is a fresh start for her. “She relishes that this is something that she’s very good at,” adds Balfe. “We see her in her groove in a weird way. It’s obviously a very precarious time, but it’s also where her skills are very useful.”
With that renewed sense of purpose comes a more empowered, more whole Claire. “Last season was a real tough one for Claire. We saw the breakdown of her psyche,” says Balfe. “Even though there’s a lot of danger, it’s healing. She has figured out how to come through the worst thing that she’s lived through, and it’s made her a stronger and more resilient person. She’s in a much better place than last season, even though many bad things still happen to her. Her self-destruction was almost necessary because her old mechanisms for coping no longer served her.
“What we see this season is that when things get tough and when things are hard for her, she has learned already that she has to approach it in a different way,” Balfe continues. “With her and Jamie’s relationship, she’s much more open and more willing to discuss things that are really hard for her. That helps with how she processes and how she heals from things.”
Both Balfe and the producers promise moments of levity amidst the bloodshed, particularly when Claire crosses paths with famous historical figures. “It’s an opportunity for the show to delve behind what the assumed narrative is,” teases Balfe.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Outlander without the looming prospect of time travel. Roberts and Davis tease that there will be multiple timelines this season, and regardless, Claire and Brianna (Sophie Skelton) must once again wrestle with their knowledge of the past and how they can affect change, if at all. “You can’t change destiny or the broad strokes of what’s happening,” says Balfe. “So you have to try and look out for yourself and your family and do the little things that you can with the knowledge that you have. Claire has learned that you can’t push against the wheels of time too much because they don’t budge.”
They might not be able to push against the wheels of time, but they can push Outlander to new heights, which is what season 7 aims to do. “We did go all out,” pledges Roberts. “It’s one of the most emotional seasons. There’s a lot of heartbreak and joy and disappointment. Everything you want in a drama, it’s all there.”
Okay, but what about Jamie in a kilt?
Outlander season 7 premieres Friday, June 16, on Starz.