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Outlander Season 6 Release Date, Cast And Plot

Contains spoilers for Outlander up to and including the season 5 finale

With the end of season 5, Outlander fans have officially moved into the worst and most challenging season of the year: "Droughtlander."

The harrowing events of the Outlander season 5 finale saw Claire (Caitriona Balfe) kidnapped and brutalized by a mob of men, and the dramatic, fiery aftermath the Frasers rained down on her attackers. It was somewhat of a departure from Outlander finales of the past due to its singular character focus and the lack of a significant cliffhanger. Nevertheless, its events will undoubtedly have a ripple effect on where Claire, Jamie (Sam Heughan), and the rest of Fraser's Ridge go from here — particularly as the chaos and bloodshed of the Revolutionary War loom amid one of the the leading duo's darkest times.

If you're already struggling with the wait and are eager to find out what's ahead for Outlander's large cast of characters, rest assured that you'll get your fix and answers soon. Here's everything you need to know about Outlander season 6 — from what to expect to when you can expect it.

What's the release date for Outlander season 6?

Over the last five seasons, Outlander fans have had the unique assurance that their favorite show and characters were going to live to see another day. When it premiered in 2014, the multi-genre drama earned its first renewal almost instantaneously, as Starz announced a second season after only the series premiere had aired. Two months after the second season debuted in June 2016, Starz announced it was renewing the show for a third and fourth season. To fans' delight, the network repeated that double-season renewal, announcing in May 2018 that Outlander had earned a fifth and sixth season. Starz doled out 12-episode orders for each, with Outlander season 6 expected to air sometime in early 2021.

During a March 2020 Twitter Q&A with fans, star Sam Heughan stated that the Outlander writers room had begun work on the season 6 premiere. "We have started... Ep 1!!! So excited. But you're going to love the rest of this season," he tweeted. Then in April, Outlander leading lady Caitriona Balfe confirmed over Twitter that the cast hadn't begun filming but that the "writers are still at work." 

Unfortunately, in May, Heughan revealed the show was among the many TV productions that have had filming halted in 2020. He tweeted, "We were supposed to start this week. We have scheduled for Fall. Will just have to see."

Filming for Outlander season 5 began in April 2019, and the first of its 12 episodes premiered in February 2020. If filming on the sixth season was slated to start in May 2020, Starz might have been aiming to drop season 6 around February or March 2021. But with upwards of a half-year delay in production, fans of Outlander probably shouldn't expect to return to Fraser's ridge before summer 2021.

What's the plot of Outlander season 6?

The Starz show has stuck to the model of adapting Diana Gabaldon's Outlander book series in order, with each season mostly coinciding with its same-numbered novel. As such, the storylines of season 5 were primarily focused on adapting the fifth book, The Fiery Cross – with a couple of notable exceptions pulling in certain events (including the Outlander season 5 finale plot) from book six, A Breath of Snow and Ashes. Despite mixing a handful of arcs between two books for season 5, current Outlander showrunner Matthew B. Roberts confirmed that "right now, season six covers book six" (via Deadline).

Spanning 1773 to 1776, the next leg of the Frasers' journey in America is equally fraught — if not more so — than the previous. As fighting between the British and rebel-colonists puts the region ever closer to the events of the Revolutionary War, Fraser's Ridge is facing its own dark times. Jamie gets a new gig working for the crown (and with local American Indian tribes), while Claire handles getting sick as the rest of Fraser's Ridge manages marriages, new births, lies, (more) death, and that long-awaited fire. In an interview with Deadline, Roberts explained that "season six brings us closer to the Revolutionary War, and Jamie and Claire will encounter a new group of settlers in and around Fraser's Ridge."

A Breath of Snow and Ashes was also set to feature Claire's season 5 finale sexual assault, so what else is in store for Outlander's leading time-traveler? "For Claire, this is going to be an ongoing journey of recovery," star Caitriona Balfe told Elle. "She will probably try to plow on and get back to normality, but I don't think she's fully aware of just how difficult, subconsciously, and psychologically, that's going to be for her."

Who's in the cast of Outlander season 6?

Outlander season 5 saw quite a few cast changes, including several shocking departures and returns that offer hints at who fans can expect to see on season 6.

There's no question about Heughan and Balfe's return as Jamie and Claire, but a failed attempt at a trip to the future on season 5, episode 11 "Journeycake" ensured actors Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin, who play Brianna and Roger, will be back. Expect to see other members of Fraser's Ridge — including Fergus (César Domboy) and Marsali (Lauren Lyle), the formerly indentured twins Josiah and Keziah (both played by Paul Gorman), and Bree's handmaid Lizzie (Caitlin O'Ryann). Thanks to the events of the season 5 finale, we also now know that Claire's rapist Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) will not be returning; his brother, Richard (Chris Larkin), will most likely serve as a major adversary for Claire and Jamie going into season 6.

As for who among the Outlander cast won't be returning, Jamie's godfather and long-time confidant Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) will not be back following the events of a battle between the British and the Regulators. Lord John Grey won't be back either, as the actor who has portrayed him for several seasons, David Berry, took to his Instagram to confirm that Grey's swan song was "Journeycake." Outlander season 5 wasn't all death, though, as it saw the return of Jamie's nephew Ian Fraser Murray (John Bell), who had departed to live with the Mohawk on season 4.

A significant divergence from Gabaldon's books on season 5 may mean some new and rather dramatic additions to the ridge — the Christies — aren't happening. But if their casting is announced, as it might be based on Roberts' tease, expect the actors who portray them to play a significant role on what could be Outlander's most tumultuous season yet.