Outlander season 5 finale explained: Everything that happened in the last episode of season five - and what it means for season 6

Season 5’s finale came to and end with some of the show’s most controversial and upsetting scenes yet

The episode featured Claire's trauma-induced dream-like state, in which she imagines her family living in the 1960's. (Credit: Starz)

Viewers were left shocked and with many questions when Outlander season 5 came to a wrap earlier this month on 11 May.

The last episode, titled Never My Love, featured many twists and turns.

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However, as fans of Diana Gabaldon’s books know, the story is far from over. Here’s what happened in the final episode of the season, and what it means.

**Spoilers ahead**

What happened in season 5?

The season began somewhat happily, with the wedding of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire's (Caitriona Balfe) daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) to university professor Roger (Richard Rankin) at their home in Fraser's Ridge, North Carolina.

However, as fans know, life in the 1700s has been far from peaceful for the couple, and danger is never too far around the corner.

This season, viewers saw Brianna’s rapist from season four, Stephen Bonnet, played by Ed Speleers, make a return with a malicious plan to claim her son, Jemmy, as his own.

Jamie and Roger hatched a revenge plan to find and kill Bonnet for his crimes against their family, which ultimately led to his arrest and execution by drowning.

However, it was Brianna who got to serve the final blow of justice, shooting Bonnet dead as the water levels rose around him.

Meanwhile, Jamie was forced by Tryon to form a militia against a rebellion, led by his own godfather Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix).

The rebellion met a bloody end and we said goodbye to Murtagh for good, after some incredible acting by Sam Heughan as a grieving Jamie Fraser.

This season saw many beloved characters face near death experiences, from Roger’s hanging to Jamie’s gory snake bite.

And the build up to the season finale didn’t ease up on these nail-biting moments.

The penultimate episode saw Brianna and Roger attempt to travel back to the future with their infant son Jemmy.

However, after saying their emotional goodbyes and touching the stone circle - gemstones in hand - they found themselves thrown back into 18th century North Carolina, much to everyone's surprise.

But before the characters and viewers could rejoice at the happy reunion, Fraser’s Ridge is ambushed by Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) and other residents of Brownsville.

While Jamie, Fergus (César Domboy) and Ian (John Bell) are distracted by an explosion set by the perpetrators, a group of men knock Marsali (Lauren Lyle) unconscious and kidnap Claire.

What happened in the final episode of season 5?

In the very first scene in season finale, the viewer is confronted with a bloodied Claire, bound by ropes and tied to a tree.

Lionel Brown reveals to Claire that he has uncovered her pseudonym, Dr Rawlings, before blaming her for his wife's rejection of his advances.

In arguably the most upsetting scene seen in the Outlander series, after Lionel’s men tie and beat her, Claire is then gang-raped.

Jamie and his men soon find a terrified Claire tied to the tree, as her rapists camp in the woods beside her.

Upon John Quincy Myers (Kyle Rees) offering Claire the opportunity to enact revenge upon her rapists, Jamie informs him of Claire’s oath as a Doctor, to “do no harm”.

Jamie, Fergus and Ian kill the men, but choose to take Lionel, the ringleader, back home for questioning.

However - much to viewers’ delight - before they can do so, Marsali kills Lionel, using poison and Claire’s homemade syringe.

Sharing their delight, one user wrote on Twitter “Marsali I love you”.

The season finale ends with Jamie returning Lionel’s body to his brother, who vows to avenge Lionel - setting up season six to be just as dramatic as ever.

In season six we can expect growing tensions to come to a head in Fraser’s Ridge, and possibly more time travel for the characters, if the show continues to use the books to guide the narrative.

The next season, will have 12 episodes – the same number as season five, and one less than season four.

It is not expected to return until next spring at the earliest, following on from the pace of prior season releases and filming schedules.

In March, Sam Heughan revealed to a fan on Twitter that filming for the next season has now begun: "We have started... Ep 1!!! So excited. But you're going to love the rest of this season."

What was the response?

Fans soon took to Twitter to praise the show and the actors after the final episode was uploaded onto Amazon Prime on Monday (11 May).

One user wrote “[About] this #Outlander season. I wanted to say I completely loved all the different character interactions & that they had time to talk”, before asking the show for “more Fergus/Jaimie next season”.

While another user praised Sam Heughan’s performance, “Immense respect, and incredible performance. You know how to transport us in history, and the happiness and suffering of Claire and Jamie become ours.”

Yet, while some viewers enjoyed the show and expressed their anticipation for a sixth season, the finale certainly wasn't without its criticisms.

Lynette Rice at Entertainment Weekly criticised the show’s liberal and graphic depictions of sexual violence as an “oft-used trope”, and questioned “was another rape necessary?”

However, the controversial narrative does appear in Gabaldon’s novel, Breath of Snow and Ashes, and some dedicated fans of the novels believe the show was right to stay true to the books.

“Thank you for your work @Outlander_STARZ, for how you showed it in the most true and respectful way” one fan tweeted.