The season 4 finale of Outlander on Sunday featured a delightful Hollywood ending — Brianna running across the plantation to embrace her beloved husband, Richard, after a long and very painful separation.
It almost didn’t turn out that way.
In this exclusive interview, executive producer Toni Graphia admits that she and her fellow producers considered an alternative cliffhanger for the episode called “Man of Worth” that probably would have driven you bonkers.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The ending is quite upbeat, apart from Jamie receiving that letter about mustering up a militia of troops to fight the regulators. Did you always plan to have that scene with Brianna running to Richard as the final scene of the season?
TONI GRAPHIA: That’s an interesting question because actually, no. We didn’t always plan that. It was a middle compromise. [Laughs] In the first outline that I wrote, I tried to get in everything from Drums of Autumn. I even went into the gathering the way the book ends. It’s like, the gathering happens, Roger’s back, and they’re [he and Brianna] are struggling to connect after he’s been gone. I put everything from the end of the book and realized very quickly that it was way too much material. It just wouldn’t fit in the finale. We do that. We collect our favorite parts of the book and at the end, we’re always like, “Uh, there’s so much left to tell. How are we gonna tell it all?” I’m always saying, can the finale be an hour and a half? I know one year we had the hour-and-a-half finale. Sometimes we get to do that. But I realized I wasn’t going to be able to tell it all. So we let the pendulum swing the other way. We went, how about if Jamie and Claire come back, and we end it with Bree on the steps? She says, “Where’s Roger?” And then we just cut to black.
That actually made it in. There was a script. An early version where it was like, cut to black. Where’s Roger?
Oh my God.
People would then read the script and go, “You’re not gonna leave it there, are you?” Even [Outlander author] Diana Gabaldon went, “Well, people are gonna scream. But it’s pretty cool.” It was a great cliffhanger. But then we just thought, Droughtlander is already too long. We didn’t want people to go for months and months wondering about Roger and thinking, “God, is he really a jerk? Did he really not come back?” So the pendulum kind of swung back and we decided we had to bring him back. We needed another cliffhanger. So we chopped out the gathering and did Roger’s return. We got a happy ending for this couple. Thematically, it all came together with this particular version of the story. Jamie had to be a man of worth and keep his word to his daughter. He needed to find the man he beat up and sent away. Roger had to prove himself a man of worth and come back to Brianna. Ian proves himself a man of worth by trading himself for Roger, trying to right the mistake that was made. And even Murtagh is a man of worth. He’s there, taking care of Brianna. He’s there when her baby is born. The whole episode is about people proving themselves to the people they love. I think it was the right ending.
For more from Graphia about the finale, make sure to tune in to the final edition of Outlander Live! at 1 p.m. ET on EW Radio, Sirius XM 105. We’ll have more from Brianna, a.k.a. Sophie Skelton, too!