Outlander has rarely explored the potential negative consequences of Claire's meddling (and mating) with the past. That seems to be changing in Season 5. Knowing that her 20th-century medical knowledge will help people in the 18th century, Claire took the dangerous step of attempting to make medicine that shouldn't exist yet to ensure their survival. Now the preview for Episode 3, “Free Will,” seems to hint at the larger consequences of meddling with the natural flow of history.
Warning! Speculative spoilers ahead for Outlander Season 5.
Claire and Jamie attempted to thwart the Battle of Culloden in Season 2. However, they learned rather quickly that history has a way of realigning itself when it comes to major events. While Claire was convinced she could change the outcome, she’s rarely made as bold a decision as she did in the Season 5 episode “Between Two Fires.”
Upset that she couldn’t save a settler from something as basic as appendicitis, she decided to take matters into her own hands, by attempting to make penicillin 157 years before Alexander Fleming. Brianna didn’t think it was a good idea at first. She was concerned that her mother was essentially “playing God,” and wondered if it was any different from what Otter Tooth did when he came back in time to warn the Native Americans of their tragic fate in Season 4.
Claire argued that her coming back to the past and the events that brought the Fraser family to North Carolina were already affecting the future. That included Brianna’s time travel trip to warn her family of a potential fire. Still, growing penicillin is a huge and significant step in potentially altering the future. It’s possible Claire’s endeavor will somehow backfire on the Frasers.
What’s more, creating penicillin goes against the grain of time and, as Brianna suggests, could mess with the “cosmic balance” and break the rules of “space and time.” It's the type of thing that not only has major repercussions on history, but on science and the lives of those who may not have lived otherwise.
It’s possible we’ll be seeing the consequences of Claire’s actions as soon as the next episode. In the preview for Episode 3, “Free Will,” Claire and Jamie help a settler who desires freedom from his abusive master. Claire seems to find something potentially unnatural or scary when she ventures into a locked room. It’s possible it’s someone with an illness who has been locked away, or something else entirely. Whatever the case, it seems that whatever Claire finds is something out of a horror movie.
If Claire winds up healing this person with penicillin, her actions may shake things up even more. It's possible she could be saving someone who will bring nothing but death and destruction later on. After all, Claire has only healed people on a small scale before, but the ramifications of creating penicillin more than a century early could amplify any negative side effects. While it’s unclear how Claire's actions will factor into the season, her decision will likely come back to haunt her sooner than we thought.
Outlander Season 5 airs every Sunday on Starz.