With a few exceptions, Outlander has largely stuck to the book series by Diana Gabaldon. Of course, the biggest change occurred when the show’s writers decided to keep Jamie Fraser’s godfather, Murtagh Fitzgibbons, alive following the Battle of Culloden in Season 2. While the alteration didn’t seem like a big deal at the time — one character’s fate can’t have that much influence, right? — Season 5’s third episode, “Free Will” just diverged from the books in another major way. It's possible this will have lingering consequences for the remainder of the season.
Warning! Speculative spoilers ahead for Outlander Season 5.
In “Free Will," Jamie and Claire tackle a side excursion that involves Jamie’s tenant Josiah and his twin brother, Keziah. Both are indentured servants of the abusive Mr. Beardsley. Intent on buying the terms of indenture to free the boys, Jamie and Claire pay a visit to Beardsley’s home. However, they’re greeted by his wife, Fanny, and learn that Mr. Beardsley has suffered a stroke and is slowly dying.
Fanny, who’s been abused by her husband, unexpectedly gives birth to a baby girl while Jamie and Claire are there. After it’s revealed that the baby is half Black (and clearly not Mr. Beardsley’s), Fanny tells the couple a bit about her experiences, insisting that giving birth does not make someone a mother. In the middle of the night, Fanny flees, leaving behind her newborn daughter, the deed to the house, and the indentured papers for Josiah and Keziah.
However, this is a fairly major divergence from The Fiery Cross. In the book, Fanny leaves her home along with Jamie and Claire. The couple doesn’t learn of Fanny's backstory until later. She gives birth alone in the woods and leaves her daughter behind, instead of in the care of the Frasers.
With a newborn now in their care and their work with the militia delayed, there’s no telling what the consequences will be for the remainder of Season 5. It’s possible Claire will bring the baby back to Fraser’s Ridge, or she and Jamie will take another detour to town to figure out what to do with the child and how to ensure her safety. Perhaps the Frasers will bring the baby to Jamie’s aunt Jocasta or ask a settler for help in finding her a home.
Despite the major changes from The Fiery Cross, the alterations seem close enough to the book that most fans seem fine with it. In fact, some Outlander fans praised the show for tweaking the Fanny’s storyline for the better, while retaining many of the horror aspects of the subplot.
Either way, though, these altered events might have consequences for the remainder of the season, and it’s possible the divergence will even impact several storylines moving forward.
Outlander Season 5 airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz.