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Outlander Stars Break Down the Season 6 Premiere, "Echoes"

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This article and the accompanying video contain spoilers. Check out our spoiler-free review of Outlander's Season 6 premiere, "Echoes" if you haven't had a chance to watch yet!

When last we saw Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire Fraser (Caitríona Balfe) in the season five finale of Outlander, the former Highland hero turned North Carolinian land holder and his time-traveling wife were struggling with the brutal aftermath of her assault by violent members of the Brown family.

Season 6 returns to 1773, with Claire’s physical wounds mostly healed but finding the mental trauma still a much bigger hurdle for this woman who was a field nurse in WWII and then trained to be a surgeon in the 1950s. With more violence looming with the encroaching American Revolution in the near distance and everyday life at their beloved Fraser’s Ridge not exactly a cakewalk, the new season promises to have plenty of external and internal battles to overcome for the family and their kin.

But for long-time fans of the series, there’s also a softness, especially between Jamie and Claire, that the show is embracing to temper the darkness this show has always embraced.

“I think it is really important,” actor/producer Sam Heughan tells IGN about the more domestic moments featured between the old marrieds. “It’s something that we probably started a couple of seasons ago, when we talked about seeing the more domestic side of them; just their everyday life, right? I think it's really nice to see these characters, just being Granny and Granddad or whatever it is,” he laughs. “Just enjoying each other's company, and [seeing] how do they lead their lives?”

But Hueghan admits that Jamie’s focus is going to be splintered this season with the demands of the Crown who want him fighting on their side, his new role as the Indian Agent working with the local Cherokee, and the arrival of his former Ardsmuir Prison nemesis, Tom Christie (Mark Lewis Jones). All of that ends up taking his full attention off Claire.

“Jamie is aware of what's happened to Claire, and I think he's giving her space,” Heughan says of Jamie’s initial approach to his wife’s healing. “Obviously, that does come to a head because she's hiding all these secrets. But I think those [quiet] moments, it's great to see the characters interacting, and it is each other that they always come back to. They are their comfort and their home.”

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In the season premiere, “Echoes,” one of those secrets Heughan speaks of is Claire using the ether she produces for her surgery on herself to secretly self medicate from her assault. It’s a huge departure from Diana Gabaldon’s book narrative, but one that actress Caitríona Balfe tells IGN she was more than happy to explore.

“Last season, we started these conversations about wanting to give her enough time to process and heal,” Balfe details about the original storyline. “I think that that's as important, if not more so important than seeing these events happen to people. How do we explore the trauma? And for Claire, it was really interesting to see her unravel in a way that we never have before.”

After seasons of weathering time travel repercussions, decades separation from Jamie, a failed marriage in the future and becoming a doctor, Claire has always had broad shoulders to just deal, so Balfe found it refreshing to see her falter in a human way.

But this is something that really tears her apart and she's not able to function in that way.

“That's one thing that I always felt with Claire, that she goes through these tough situations and she's just able to get up and get on,” the actress assesses. “It spoke to her ability to compartmentalize and I think that that's also why she's such a good doctor. I think a lot of people in that profession can do that. But this is something that really tears her apart and she's not able to function in that way. That coping mechanism no longer serves her. And so like many people who experience trauma, you lean on things that you never really needed before.”

As it turns out, Claire’s only daughter (and fellow time traveler) Brianna (Sophie Skelton) also was assaulted so she sees exactly what her mother is going through. In the episode, Bree confronts her mother softly about talking about how she’s doing and it’s a moment that actress Sophie Skelton says she’s happy the writers included.

“It was really important to show, just like we showed their individual responses to their assaults at the time in different ways, their PTSD differently. And also a way of handling it,” Skelton says. “It's really important not only to help the victims, but to also show people who are close to those people how to deal with it. There's not always a wrong or right way. And it's such a hard thing to navigate. It's like do you make someone talk about it, or just not? Do they then think I don't care if I don't ask?”

Skelton continues, “But they've handled it beautifully, the writers, through Bree having that moment where she's like, 'Look, mum. I want you to know I'm still thinking of you. I want you to know that you can talk to me. I know you're not fine, because I used to say that. But I can see you don't want to talk about it. I won't press it.' But like she said in season five, ‘You have my hand and my ear if you need it.’ It's such a beautifully simple way of saying, "In your own time, but please don't suffer alone." I think that's the best you can really do for someone.”

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Surprisingly, that earns Brianna and Roger MacKenzie (Richard Rankin) the most centered couple on the Ridge award this season, which is unexpected because of their own very dramatic history.

“For us, it's kind of a favorite season for Bree and Roger as a team because they are suddenly a unit and everything around them is sort of crumbling, but they're not fighting internally,” Skelton says of their season six dynamic. “They have really become the calm amongst the chaos on The Ridge, and almost the rock that everybody else is going to with their problems. They're now the problem solvers and the fixers. And now that they've decided this place is home, they're just so rooted in their own relationship together that it's just gotten them to a really, really great place.”

And that means former historian and scholar Roger is now interested in putting on a religious collar? As in the books, Roger inches closer to being a spiritual mentor for the Scottish immigrants still coming to America and the Ridge. But Rankin doesn’t see it as a stretch for his character.

Now he's just in a bit of, literal, soul searching. 

“I think he's always been, apologies for the cliche, finding himself,” Rankin says cheekily in his Scottish lilt. “He's always been searching for his purpose and what his role is. And it makes sense that they embraced Fraser's Ridge as home, this is where they belong. That's opened up a whole different perspective for Roger. Now he's just in a bit of, literal, soul searching.

Rankin says Roger’s new pursuit really comes from his adopted father, Reverend MacKenzie. “I think that's almost why he took a different direction into academics and into history in which he excelled,” Rankin muses. “I think he would have gone down that avenue a while back, had it been something that had been in him. It's interesting that he takes that path now.”

And with the duo’s newfound peace and contentment in the past, Rankin says Roger just wants to pass that along to others who are in need of help, spirituality, comfort and solace.

“He sees in him the ability to help people,” Rankin says of his character. “Roger's always been about that, hasn't he? Whenever someone has been in need, or there's been someone that he thinks he can help, he's always just getting on with it. Sometimes at his peril,” he smiles.

Speaking of that, in “Echoes,” it’s heart on his sleeve Roger who invited Tom Christie right into the Fraser home when no one else is around to receive him. Certainly, more Golden Retriever behavior than the protective wolf, Roger?

Rankin laughs,“That's kind of indicative of his character. He does that. He kind of throws himself in. Sometimes he doesn't know how to read a room, yeah. I think what happened there also was that Roger knows Jamie and he knows that Jamie is a man of his word and will honor this writing that Tom Christie brings him. I don't think he's really second guessed whether or not he should. But the way he does it is basically another example of Roger just throwing himself into a situation to help someone which could later come back to bite him in the ass and I suppose it kinda does.”

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