‘Outlander’ Spoiler: Why Book Fans Weren’t Expecting That Stephen Bonnet Twist

In the April 26 episode of Outlander, Brianna faces her worst fears when she’s confronted by Stephen Bonnet. Their story finally comes to a head this season, but it doesn’t happen the way book fans were expecting. Here’s how Bonnet’s fate in the series differs from the novels it’s based on. 

[Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers for Outlander, Season 5, Episode 10, as well as Diana Gabaldon’s books, A Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes.]

Ed Speleers
Ed Speleers | Michael Tran/Getty Images

Stephen Bonnet finds Brianna on ‘Outlander’

In the premiere episode of season 5, Brianna (Sophie Skelton) hears Lord John Grey (David Berry) telling her father Jamie (Sam Heughan) that Stephen Bonnet was spotted nearby. She was under the assumption that Bonnet died in the Wilmington prison fire the day she visited him and told him she was having his baby. But these sightings confirmed that Bonnet was alive.

So, ever since then, Brianna has been terrified and afraid that Bonnet would come to claim baby Jemmy as his own, and possibly even try to steal him away. Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is also worried about Bonnet, so she devises a plan to lure him into a whiskey smuggling deal where Jamie and Roger (Richard Rankin) could capture him. 

But, when the Fraser family travels to Wilmington to prepare for the covert meeting, Bonnet spots Claire and Brianna in town. He sends his men to buy the whiskey, and follows Brianna to the beach and kidnaps her.  

Brianna has the last word

Bonnet holds Brianna at his island estate, where he initially tries to convince her that he wants to be a better person and good father to Jemmy. To bide time, Brianna plays along and gets Bonnet to open up about his past. He tells her that he was an orphan who was tortured as a child and reveals some of his fear of drowning.

But when Brianna asks him to leave so she can bring Jemmy to him, he realizes that she’s pretending. He arranges a meeting with a creepy old friend and sells Brianna off to him as a sex slave. 

Luckily, the Frasers arrive before Brianna is taken away. They beat and capture Bonnet and bring him to Wilmington where he’s sentenced to die by drowning. However, before he drowns, Brianna shoots him in the head. Roger asks if this was an act of mercy or vengeance, but Brianna doesn’t answer.

How Bonnet’s fate on the show differs from the ‘Outlander’ books

Outlander is based on Diana Gabaldon’s series of books of the same name, but the show does occasionally steer away from the source material. So, for those who’ve read the books, it isn’t always easy to predict what will happen on the show. 

And when it comes to Stephen Bonnet, the series put a fast-forward on his story and killed him off early. In Gabaldon’s novel, The Fiery Cross, Bonnet finds Brianna in Wilmington with Jemmy and attempts to kidnap them both.  Brianna manages to shoot Bonnet in the groin, but he escapes and runs away.

The next novel in the series, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, brings Bonnet back into Brianna’s life. He kidnaps her from River Run and takes her onto his ship. Brianna tells him she’s pregnant so that he doesn’t rape her again. He asks Brianna to sleep in his bed next to him, so she can comfort him when he has nightmares about drowning. 

He eventually brings her to his island estate, where he sets up the deal to sell her. Brianna manages to get Bonnet’s prostitute to tell her family where she is. Then, just like on the series, the Frasers find Brianna and save the day, Bonnet is sentenced to death, and Brianna finally puts an end to his life by shooting him in the head.

‘Outlander’ fans weren’t expecting the twist 

For Outlander fans who’ve read the books, it was surprising to see Bonnet’s story end so quickly. However, many were pleased with the way the show handled his death and welcomed his shortened storyline. “I don’t mind that they wrapped up the Bonnet storyline rather than drag it out for another season,” one fan shared on Reddit.

“I can’t get over how much I liked this episode,” another Redditor wrote. “I’m really glad they condensed the Bonnet storyline and kept all the good (?) bits in, because it dragged on a bit in the books.”

“Not going to lie I’m kind of glad they killed Bonnet off now instead of dragging it out for two more seasons,” another Reddit fan added.  “I remember getting annoyed in the books when he popped back up and being like ugh just kill him already.”

But some fans were hoping to see Bonnet suffer a little more, similar to the way he does in the novel. “Any other book readers disappointed to see Bonnet gone so soon and to have died with both his bollocks rather than suffering a gunshot where the sun don’t shine in Wilmington?” a Reddit fan wrote. “I loved reading that part in the book and I understand needing to condense the incredibly long bloated beast that is The Fiery Cross [sic] but still…”