Young Ian returned on Outlander Season 5, Episode 8. Whether you liked the slight change to the story or not, there’s no doubt John Bell was excellent.
We’ve always seen hints of John Bell’s ability as an actor during his time on Outlander. He’s had to portray a mixture of emotions, but nothing quite like his performance on Outlander Season 5, Episode 8. This was the performance of his career so far.
Young Ian returned and it was immediately clear that he was a changed man. He notes that Mohawks won’t be after him, but doesn’t explain why. You can tell immediately that he didn’t leave the Mohawks by choice. The Mohawks had become his family; he had become part of this tribe in his heart. And now it was all gone.
Each scene with him brought more weight to his performance. He was out of place on Fraser’s Ridge, struggling to deal with the changes there and the man that he now was. Life with the Mohawks would have been a little simpler in nature when it would come to items around him. This grand house with a comfortable bed wouldn’t be something he’d be used to after two or so years.
But then there were flashes of darkness and sadness. He talked of bairns and clearly wasn’t happy with Marsali’s discussion of being pregnant. He only brightened up when the discussions moved to Lallybroch and Scotland; the talk of the past and of siblings. However, there was a line about Marsali having babies that stood out, giving us a hint of things that Young Ian has lost.
Bell’s performance throughout the episode was outstanding. He didn’t need to say many words to get a sense of his loss and his heartbreak. When he did speak, the words were loaded with meaning and emotion, telling us there’s much more to his story still to tell. It’s possible to feel the anger, the hurt, and the sadness.
Finally, there’s his anger when Roger prevents Young Ian from killing himself. That anger is understandable. Young Ian saw part of himself in Roger. He could tell what Roger was thinking of looking over the cliff. At least, he thought he could. He’s angry that Roger gets to be a hypocrite. There was pain behind the anger, pain that the anger was masking.
Young Ian is far from the young boy that we remember at the end of Outlander Season 4. He’s lost his smile and his carefree attitude. John Bell brought that in his performance beautifully, and I can’t wait to see where the show will continue going with this character. I’m glad that the show brought the return earlier and changed it slightly because it showed us Bell’s abilities.
Outlander Season 5 continues on Sundays on STASRZ.