There are few notable new characters entering Outlander season 4 quite like Stephen Bonnet –with that, there are also few anywhere near as loathsome. This is a character known for doing a series of terrible things, but in terms of the narrative he is valuable.
It’s obviously difficult to discuss Bonnet at this point without sharing at least some book spoilers, so know that before reading on.
Bonnet is played on Outlander by Downton Abbey alum Ed Speleers, a man we personally consider to be quite delightful. We’ve enjoyed much of his work in the past but this is far and away different than anything he’s ever done before. Bonnet is a pirate, a criminal, a rapist, and a despicable human. His role on the series is representative of a number of different things, whether it be the darkness of men within this era and also the power of a single decision.
The first thing that we do hope Outlander season 4 focuses on with this character is the power of just a single decision — namely, Jamie’s decision to help the character escape being hanged. This was, presumably, the focus of the sneak preview that Outlander aired earlier this year. Bonnet was able to appeal to some of Jamie’s kinder instincts; yet, because of this decision Bonnet is later able to steal Claire’s wedding band, get himself a ship, torment Roger, and then eventually rape Brianna. (At least this is true for the books; we can’t read the tea leaves for the show just yet.) There is a clear series of events that unfolds directly following this one decision.
It is obviously important to showcase some of Bonnet’s horrible acts and sinister ways over the course of season 4; yet, there has to also be depth to the man. There needs to be something about his charm and his spirit that makes Jamie want to help him in the first place. He’s someone who can present a certain visage before the darkness underneath starts to make itself known. This is why Speleers is the perfect man for the job; he can play both lightness and darkness and the show needs to emphasize that.
Ultimately, it’s not often that we say that a show needs to make a character as hated as possible, but it really needs to do so in this case as the season goes along. Bonnet should be despised on the level of Black Jack Randall, another sexual abuser and a man who manipulated others using his sense of power. The big difference between him and Bonnet, though, is that Black Jack’s reign of terror isn’t as direct a result of Jamie’s own actions.
Judging from some recent harbor-side set photos from Outlander season 4, it does feel as though we’re getting some prominent footage featuring this character filmed this very week. We’ll see how it all turns out later this year.
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