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The Fifth Season of 'Outlander' Debuts on Starz
February 16, 2020  | By David Hinckley

 opens its fifth season with all the stylish elegance and buoyant spirit of a rom-com.

Okay, a few clouds roll in before the first episode wraps. But for all the conflict and violence in Outlander, it's worth remembering that romance has always been its secret weapon.

Not totally by accident did the producers offer a sneak preview of the new season on Valentine's Day. The regular season begins Sunday in its regular timeslot, 8 p.m. ET on Starz.

The fourth season left multiple unresolved dramas and potential conflicts that viewers expect will be played out this season, and the opening episode suggests that's precisely what's going to be addressed.

Claire (Caitriona Balfe, top) and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan, top), the couple around whom novelist Diana Gabaldon built the Outlander stories on which the TV series is based, have settled in North Carolina a few years before the American Revolution.

Since what we now call America was then a British colony, the Frasers and their fellow settlers in this relative wilderness depend on the Brits for everything they have, including the land itself.

The British are harsh landlords and protectors, however, showing the qualities that a few years later would get them kicked all the way back across the pond.

A number of Jamie's neighbors, including his fellow Scottish emigrant and godfather Murtagh Fraser (Duncan Lacroix), have decided British taxes are so odious they must begin to rebel now.

This all transpired last season. So did the events by which Jamie, in order to keep his land, protect his family, and build his life in this rugged new world, had agreed to work with the British governor of the Carolinas.

Since the British governor's priority has now become the execution of the tax rebels, Jamie's situation could be described as awkward.

At the same time, toward the end of last season, Jamie's and Claire's daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) was reunited with her fiancé Roger Wakefield (Richard Rankin), who traveled for hundreds of miles and several hundred years to find her.

And then when he did, was beaten senseless and sold into slavery.

That misunderstanding was rectified, however, so Roger and Brianna get to share a moment as this new season opens. Now they only have to decide exactly what future they will share, since Roger seems to favor returning to the 20th century, maybe because he's less likely to be beaten senseless and enslaved there.

What's also interesting about Roger's and Bri's romance is how it further frames Jamie and Claire, once the wild youth of the story, as a well-settled middle-aged married couple. It's a good look for them, and it reflects how the story has evolved while remaining firmly on its foundations.

As regular viewers know, Outlander has a half dozen other subplots swirling around as well, and those too are acknowledged in the opening episode of the new season.

We get multiple hints that this season's conflicts, like those in past seasons, will often spell life or death. But at the same time we get almost pastoral scenes, unfolding at a satisfyingly deliberate pace, to remind us that for all the adrenalin of battle, in the end, nothing beats the thrill of romance.

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