The highly-anticipated new season of Outlander begins with an unexpected time jump four months into the future, and Jamie (played by Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) have settled into their new lives in the American colonies.
But there’s heartbreak to come, as the couple are forced to witness their friend and former Scottish shipmate get hanged, and the horrific scenes put a dark cloud over the premiere almost straight away.
Despite the dramatic opening, the episode takes a rather anticlimactic turn through luke-warm exposition and viewers get the sense the writers are attempting to catch up on where the leads are at in their lives.
There’s goods news in Fergus (Cesar Domboy) and Marsali’s (Lauren Lyle) pregnancy announcement, and the expected revelation the Frasers are going to stay in America for good, but the drama seems a far cry from the thrilling beats of season three so far.
Young Ian’s (John Bell) rape trauma is finally revisited, as fans will remember the Amazon Prime series refused to give away exact details of the teenager’s suffering at the hands of twisted witch Geilis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek), but it somehow feels too little too late for viewers to care about the shelved plot.
The episode continues to lose ground through the introduction of eagerly-awaited new villain Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers), as while the character comes across both sinister and heartfelt in his interactions with surgeon and healer Claire, the scenes between them and Jamie aren’t as meaty as were hoped.
Luckily, all of that changes in an explosive final sequence which sees the twisted pirate reveal his true colours when he ambushes the married couple on their canal boat.
The red-headed Highlander had just gifted his wife with an intricate and opulent medicine kit before this, in which the duo share one of their most romantic moments as Jamie reveals his worries about not being able to provide for Claire.
The 20th Century mother-of-one’s response is she will never need “more than the ring on her finger”, and fans are briefly safe in the knowledge the couple remain stronger than ever.
This is completely ripped apart by the return of Stephen, who makes it very clear he is bad news and everything he said earlier was a complete and utter lie.
But the best part about the action sequence is creator Ronald D. Moore’s genius ploy to set the scene for the rest of the season – and he uses music to do it.
A darkly patriotic – almost comical – anthem sings out about how “America is wonderful”, just as Stephen’s minions murder another one of Jamie and Claire’s crew mates, and the evil ringleader then forces the latter to part with her beloved ring.
The metal item, which was made out of the key to the Fraser home in Lallybroch, will clearly fetch nothing on the market, but Stephen can see how much the jewellery means to a sobbing Claire.
What’s worse, is the healer patched up the newcomer after their initial encounter in the woods, so it becomes rapidly obvious loyalty means absolutely nothing to him.
The tense sequence ends with Jamie and Claire safe and alive, but with absolutely nothing to start their new life – as Stephen also takes the gemstone and coins they’d painstakingly worked to collect.
It almost feels like the writers took viewers on a lazy journey through the first instalment in the hope the final moments would be enough to carry them through.
But was it enough to whet the appetite for all the drama to come in the fourth season? Possibly not, but diehard fans will undoubtedly come back for more regardless.
Other standout moments include the introduction of Young Ian’s loveable pet dog Rollo – in which Claire hilariously declares: “That’s not a dog, that’s a b****y wolf!”
There’s also a passionate and heart-wrenching fireside love scene, which proves Jamie and Claire’s love for each other will never wane as long as they both walk together through time and space.
The premiere even hints at the arrival of Brianna Randall Fraser (Sophie Skelton), as Jamie shares his bittersweet wish to make North Carolina a better place in the hope it will be felt by his daughter 200 years into the future.
But how will the couple recover from the devastating loss they’ve suffered at the hands of Stephen Bonnet? It’s likely Jamie’s instinct will be to go after the vicious pirate, so another cat and mouse game is ahead.
But can the newcomer reach the despicable lengths of the notorious Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) on the time-travelling drama? No, he could be worse.