Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The hot time-travelers are back: Richard Rankin on Outlander’s return

Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin, Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe
Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin, Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe
Photo: Starz

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Sunday, February 16. All times are Eastern.

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Top pick

Outlander (Starz, 8 p.m., season five premiere): It may have dropped early, but as far as we’re concerned, the fifth season of Outlander still premieres tonight, in its time slot, because we are creatures of order and cannot abide with this whoops-here-you-go-four-days-early energy. Have we watched the premiere already? Yes. More than once? Some of us. But has it premiered? No, it has not, because it premieres tonight, as scheduled, goddamnit. This is chaos. You know who couldn’t survive with this much chaos? The Frasers of Frasers Ridge, that’s who. They’ve got homesteading to do, they can’t just suddenly start being on television four days early.

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Anyway, Outlander and its hot time-travelers are back tonight—keep an eye out for Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya’s recap. If that recap seems particularly festive, there’s a good reason: Brianna (Sophie Skelton) and Roger (Richard Rankin) are getting hitched.

The A.V. Club spoke with Rankin about the pressure to live up to that first great Outlander wedding, Roger’s relationship with his soon-to-be father-in-law, and what it’s like to have a Twitter account devoted to your eyebrows.

The A.V. Club: One of the more memorable scenes in the premiere focuses on Roger and Jamie’s relationship. How do you see that connection evolving?

Richard Rankin: Well, their relationship was different last season; it has evolved somewhat. Last season there was very much a case of mistaken identity, and then Roger was beaten up and sold to the Mohawk. Some could say that’s unforgivable, but I think Roger’s quite an understanding person. But I think there’s definitely probably a resentment still harbored there. They don’t see eye to eye, but I think that’s a really interesting place to start. It gives them a long way to go together. And even though they’re men of very different times, I think there’s still a mutual respect there, and I think they still trust one another in spite of their differences, which is a beautiful thing.

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AVC: One of the other things addressed in that scene is the idea that Roger is this incredibly educated, accomplished, impressive person—

RR: He’s super smart, he’s impressive. And handsome.

AVC: And certainly being a historian is useful, but he’s in the wrong country to put much of his knowledge to use. How does he cope, and how do you think you would fare if all of a sudden you found yourself in the 18th century?

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RR: I think I would fare much the same. The thing about Roger is he’s stripped of the skill set that makes him what he is in his own time, isn’t he? He obviously is a very well-educated, very intelligent academic of the ’60s and ’70s, and he doesn’t have that back in the 18th century. Even his area of expertise [as a historian] isn’t American or pre-revolutionary history. So he’s stripped down to the bare bones of himself, which is something that he struggles with through season five, and he has to learn to reshape himself quite quickly. And he does, because even without these things, he’s still a very passionate, very determined, honest man. And I think that says a lot about him and how quickly he does adapt to this time. He has a huge aptitude for it, clearly. Would I fare better than Roger? Probably, I’m really manly.

AVC: The season opens with a wedding. “The Wedding” is one of the most beloved episodes of the show so far. Did you feel any increased pressure knowing that this big wedding was following that iconic one?

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RR: Yeah, but our wedding is much better. So I went into that with that objective, thinking, “Yeah, I know how great the wedding was in season one, but that was ages ago, and you guys are old now.” So yeah, it was important that we were, and just did, better.

AVC: Were you aware that there is a Twitter account dedicated to your eyebrows?

RR: I would be surprised if there wasn’t, to be honest. I have great eyebrows.

In all honesty, I’m very flattered by all of the tribute Twitter accounts. They’re very amusing, and actually all very respectful as well. So I get on really well with them. I think it’s very flattering, and in good form, I think.

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Regular coverage

The Simpsons (Fox, 8 p.m.)
Doctor Who (BBC America, 8 p.m.)
Batwoman (The CW, 8 p.m.)
Duncanville (Fox, 8:30 p.m.): series premiere drop-in
Bob’s Burgers (Fox, 9 p.m.)
Supergirl (The CW, 9 p.m.)
Homeland (Showtime, 9 p.m.)
The Outsider (HBO, 9 p.m.)
Avenue 5 (HBO, 10 p.m.)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, 10:30 p.m.)

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Wild cards

A Very British Romance With Lucy Worsley (PBS, 8 p.m., finale): PBS devotees know the score: Lucy Worsley is the best. For those unacquainted with her very specific charms, she’s a costume-wearing historian who makes TV specials that allow her to educate the public and (sort of) travel in time, and now she’s turned her attention to courtly, and not-so-courtly, love.

Tonight, one of our great national treasures (that’s PBS) airs part two of this special from one of Britain’s national treasures (that’s Lucy), and it’s well worth your time. You can stream part one here.

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War Of The Worlds (Epix, 9 p.m., series premiere): “There’s never an inopportune moment to revisit The War Of The Worlds, the seminal H.G. Wells novel that’s been stoking fears of intergalactic interlopers since 1938, when it was turned into a radio play that created a minor panic among its listeners. But surely there’s something unique about this particular moment for it to give rise to not one, but two series imaginings of material that hasn’t had a high-profile adaptation since Tom Cruise dodged death rays in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that the dueling dramas—one from BBC, the other from StudioCanal and Fox—premiered overseas at nearly the exact same time. The more likely explanation is that the current geopolitical landscape has many writers thinking about what extreme circumstances could lead humanity to put aside its petty squabbles, and thrumming metal killing machines have a way of forcing perspective.”Read the rest of Joshua Alston’s pre-air review.

Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!

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