Outlander Finale Recap: Jamie Fraser Raped In Most Controversial Scene Yet

31 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Outlander’ Finale: Ron Moore on Boundary-Pushing Rape Scenes, Season 2 Plans.

After weeks of steamy Highland romance, wrapped up its first season on May 30 –– and there’s no doubt that the finale was the most jaw-dropping episode yet. Jamie (Sam Heughan) promised himself to Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) in exchange for Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) life – but he very nearly lost himself in the process on Saturday’s season finale of Outlander.Mandi: I had a moment in the beginning minutes of this episode where I was so glad they rescued Jamie and I didn’t have to sit through anymore of the torture Randall was inflicting on him. As the author of the “Outlander” books and the woman who started this remarkable journey for millions of fans with several strokes of her keyboard, she had every right to make the following statement. After an already intense evening — “a dark night of the soul,” Menzies explained — of physical and mental torture, there was yet another layer to Black Jack’s sadism that had yet to be explored.It feels safe to say that never before has so graphic an act of sexual violence taken place between two men on television.

The tendency of TV is either to sensationalize, as with any of the “ripped from the headlines” dramas on network schedules, or to sanitize, like the treatment of more highbrow fare. Trouble is, it makes this recap – and all other thinkpieces about this unforgettable episode – redundant, because she says what so many of us have been thinking from the moment we heard the final strains of “The Skye Boat Song” over the closing credits: “You’ll be uplifted, emotionally filled and charged with the thrill of having seen a lot of people doing wonderful, difficult, thrilling, heart-rending, amazing stuff.” “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” is uplifting, which makes it all the more, to use Black Jack Randall‘s words, a masterpiece – because it’s also one of the most agonizing hours ever filmed for television. Randall got out of bed to fetch a knife, saying to a catatonic Jamie, “you owe me a debt.” He approached him … then stopped, distracted by the noises far above him. Though Black Jack was ostensibly killed at the top of the episode, when Claire (Caitrona Balfe) courageously rescued her Highlander husband from Wentworth Prison, the damage had been done.

To break down the many shocking developments in the season finale, Variety spoke to showrunner Ron Moore about tackling the challenging subject matter and adapting Diana Gabaldon’s most potent prose for the screen, as well as his plans for season two. Although Black Jack’s sexual desire of Jamie was noted in previous episodes, it was harrowing to see it play out, even if it was told in flashback as Jamie attempted his recovery in an abbey in the countryside. The topic is so difficult to broach that even one of television’s finest shows often finds itself embroiled in controversy on the matter. “Game of Thrones” is forever courting controversy with its depictions of sexual assault, the cause of which centers not necessarily on intent, but on the fact that “Game of Thrones” as it exists, with its sprawling cast of hundreds, can’t afford the time or energy required to give such blatant displays of intimate horror the gravity and consequence they deserve.

Jamie was left with disturbing emotional and physical scars that couldn’t be healed with Claire’s usual nursing methods—that is, until her heady concoction of lavender oil combined with a bit of role-playing psychology brought him back as the man she first fell in love with. Since Diana’s novel is told solely from Claire’s perspective, we don’t find out what happened to Jamie in Wentworth until after he’s been rescued in the book. Moore, the show runner and an executive producer, spoke about the difficulty of adapting this controversial scene from Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling series of historical novels.

The combination of adorable cows plus a jaunty Scottish jig would have been enough to illicit chuckles if it weren’t for Jamie, who the gang found naked and immobile on the floor after being raped by Randall. A surprise pregnancy announcement from Claire as the pair set sail for Paris capped off the final minutes of the time-travel show, but several burning questions remain. Did you have any temptation to keep Jamie and Black Jack off-screen for most of episode 115 to build that tension, or did you always plan for it to unfold the way it ultimately did? It was no easy road, though: there were several moments when Jamie attempted suicide or begged for death from others as he was unable to cope with the mental and emotional ramifications of what he went through.

As a bookend to our chat with Moore shortly before the mid-season premiere back in April, Speakeasy recently caught up with the “Outlander” series creator to discuss the two final harrowing episodes of the show’s debut run. And it worked! “You’re safe now,” Claire consoled Jamie as Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) carried him out. “I’m going to help you, I swear.” But for Jamie, the fight was just beginning, as Claire’s face blurred into Randall’s. Where in the last episode, the physical pain of nailing Jamie’s hand to the table turned my stomach, a layer of emotional manipulation was added in this episode, throwing Jamie into a dark, dark place. Claire struggled to set a visibly traumatized Jamie at ease as he recovered in a local monastery, but he refused to eat, suffered delusions (he thought Claire was Randall –– the horror), and decided life wasn’t worth living.

It refuses to let imagination fill in the blanks and forces viewers to bear witness to the torture, both physical and psychological, that is taking place. A violent flashback overtook Jamie, showing Randall taking care of him (after injuring him in the first place). “Dear god you are a magnificent creature,” whispered Randall reverently, bending to kiss him. “It’s like kissing a corpse,” Randall said. “I know you can do better.” Still Jamie resisted his lips, so Randall pressed: “My men can have Claire back here in an hour.” Jamie answered that he said he would not resist, but he never said anything about willingly participating in Randall’s dark fantasies. “Take your pleasure and be done with it,” he said. In the [finale] you see that it is more flashback and he’s remembering, but it allowed us to play those scenes in a different way because if he’s telling Claire the story and then you’re flashing back from his perspective, it’s also influenced by what he would tell her and what he would verbalize and what he wouldn’t. And thankfully, the series did end its season on a high note: after believing herself to be barren, Claire’s found herself pregnant with her first child. But as necessary as the show’s unflinching look at Jamie’s time in captivity might be, it’s nowhere near as vital as the time and care given to the aftermath of his ordeal.

It was really important that you neither shied away from [the explicit scenes], nor did you do it gratuitously, and that you found what each character wants, what each character was terrified of, what was happening psychologically between [Jack and Jamie], and what were the rhythm of those scenes, so all the scenes didn’t play the same. It also meant that when Claire’s creeping through the fortress there’s a tremendous amount of tension because we know what’s going on in that cell and you’re waiting for her to get in there, and it just felt like a really good dramatic construct.

The two awaken the morning after “Wentworth Prison” ended, and to our distress, the once-affable Jamie is now a living corpse with eyes that have gone completely dead. He feels as though he’s been made less of a man, less of a human being, and more than that, he’s unconvinced that it’s possible to be made whole again.

Well done to Moore and Behr for that creative decision: Having us witness Jamie’s escape and Jack being knocked senseless before we got into the harrowing flashbacks made the upcoming disturbing scenes the teensiest bit easier to handle. It’s not just that Jamie survived an extremely traumatic experience and needs time to heal, it’s that the way he behaves afterward is wholly representative of the experience of so many abuse survivors. Have faith wasn’t exactly the answer she was looking for, particularly as Jamie’s condition continued to deteriorate as he refused all food. “It’s not his wounds I’m worried about,” she told Murtagh. “It’s the not eating.” Murtagh, seeing how upset Claire was, called Jamie out for his behavior. At first Jamie resisted, but he eventually told the truth: he was broken down to the point of having non-resistant sex with Randall –– partially because Randall convinced a delusional Jamie that he was Claire. “I couldn’t help myself,” Jamie told his wife. “It felt so good not to be in pain.” After this revelation, Jamie decided he could no longer live, so Claire threatened to kill herself (Romeo and Juliet style). The cast was fearless in their performances and the director was committed – and, it was just one of those things where we really wanted to make this work.

But other than the knowledge that Jack is still alive, the episode came as close to a fairy-tale ending as it possibly could after putting its heroes through the kind of hellish emotional wringer you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. This horrifying reality finally snapped Jamie out of it, so he rid himself of the terrible experience the only way he knew how: cut off his branded skin, threw it in a fire and spat on it. Jamie ignored him, reaching for Murtagh’s blade “to put me out of this black misery.” Murtagh pulled it out of his grasp and left the room to report back to Claire. “Why does he want to die so badly?” she wondered, tears in her eyes. “He’s been tortured, raped,” answered Murtagh, adding that he hoped Jamie would recover, but that if he didn’t he would kill him long before he starved to death. But it was an important scene to her, so we were like, “Okay, let’s find a way to make it work within the context of what we were doing.” So we shot it and moved it around in editing a coupe of times. As brilliant as Caitriona Balfe’s work is, it’s the dynamic between her two male co-stars that finds the twisted humanity in the depths of the inhumane.

And then, once we got to shooting, we set up the production in such a way that the scenes would be shot chronologically, instead of doing them out of sequence, which is what you do typically in film and TV. Yes, Jamie is on a healing path now, with Claire by his side and the happy news of her pregnancy allowing him to smile for the first time in several episodes. Desperate, Claire took matters into her own hands, waking Jamie up with a slap in the middle of the night. “You only respond to strength,” she said, pummeling him. The book maintains Claire’s point of view throughout, so the things that happen between Jack and Jamie are related to her after the fact and Jamie has been rescued. Jamie finally opened up to Claire. “He made love to me Claire,” he said helplessly. “And I … ” he trailed off into another flashback. “These are Claire’s hands,” Randall said, caressing Jamie. “Think of Claire.

Everything I said about Caitriona Balfe’s, Sam Heughan’s and Menzies’s Emmy-worthy performances in the penultimate episode also rings true in the finale. I knew that, [but] I kept saying to myself and saying to the people on the show, “You have to remember, there’s a big chunk of the audience that has no idea where this story’s going and it’s going to come as quite a shock.” Because you just don’t anticipate that’s where you’re going to take your male lead actor. The ordeal serves not merely as something for the staid and true hero of “Outlander” to overcome, but as something he has to survive in order to begin again, changed. Randall forced Jamie to call out Claire’s name as he came and when he did, he sealed his horrific torture with a few words. “How could she ever forgive you?” he asked. Even the brief instance where Menzies goes full-frontal – atypical for TV, premium cable or not – seems organic, because he has triumphed in breaking Jamie.

Let’s keep it close and have the monastery in Scotland, so the events are much more immediate, and they still have to escape.” That lets us end on this big, beautiful shot of the ship, and you get to take a breath. There was this weight to everything that we were doing, so, you just created this space to really give the cast an opportunity to go as far as they possibly could, and to push themselves to push each other. This scene, where Claire finally breaks down the wall of shame Jamie has erected for himself, after he admits that he surrendered to the sadistic Redcoat, enabling Jack to make love to him (“I couldn’t help myself, Claire.

In “The Reckoning,” Claire was sexually assaulted not once, but twice, and the only thing she got for her trouble was a stern talking to from her husband, who suggested that she had put herself in harm’s way in an attempt to hurt him. Between Claire’s unwavering fight to reclaim her husband’s soul (“If you take away the one last thing that makes sense to me, then I will die, with you, right here and now”), and Jamie’s heartbreaking hesitation before allowing himself to reach out to his wife (much like Julie Delpy in this scene from “Before Sunset“), the love between these two was so real that I’m not entirely positive anymore that Balfe and Heughan are merely just really great acting partners. Where you’re saying, “What’s the point where I’m not watching anymore, where I have to look away, where it’s just too much?” And then you take it up to that line — because that’s the truth of this story. When Jenny is forced to recount her own violent run-in with Captain Randall, it’s at the behest of her brother, who previously accused her of naming her (presumed) bastard after him to punish him for not protecting her from Randall. However, what sets “Outlander” apart from so many other TV shows out there is the finale featured something rarer than multiple sexually explicit encounters between two men: The role of the woman as the hero.

Jamie’s shame, humiliation and despair (brilliantly portrayed) are heartbreaking to watch, but his depression also challenges his array of caretakers on how to best treat him. Throughout the season, given her circumstances as a person in an unfamiliar century, Claire was stuck in the damsel-in-distress role a little more often than most 21st-century viewers would prefer.

So you make all this preparation, and you’re still terrified that on the day the cows are going to freak out or are going to refuse to run, so you brace for this whole trauma…and the cows were troupers! [Laughs] The cows were perfect, they were outstanding cast members! Now, instead of Jamie in the window, pointing his (unloaded) pistol at Jack while Claire struggles helplessly, it’s Claire who must be the savior to her vulnerable, broken husband.

The recovery methods have that realistic and practical vantage point from the expected inward seeking of faith, to allowing and respecting Jamie’s need to retreat, to volunteering to end his misery, if the time comes for that necessity. Much has been written about the creative decision to have a female directorial perspective on episodes like “The Wedding” (directed by Foerster, who helmed the penultimate and the finale).

I think everyone will probably draw their own conclusions about what this is about, and I think many people will potentially read it differently, and I think that’s fascinating. Turns out resetting Jamie’s nine broken bones in his hand was the easy part, even after she remarks it’s nothing as bad as what she saw during WWII. It seems likely that the show could not spend two full episodes on the extended torture and repeated violation of Claire without bringing down hell and high water.

Jack had used such brutal psychological tactics to torture Jamie that the Scotsman began confusing Claire with the British captain (and vice versa during the flashbacks). We’ll have discussions ahead of time about dialogue and character and all that, and we would do some polishes and rewrites and worked with him a lot and Sam in the early days as well. While Claire’s decision to tie her hair in a low ponytail and dress in her singing trousers and a man’s shirt initially made sense for her utilitarian purposes, she had no idea she would be inadvertently triggering horrific hallucinations post-rescue: When Jamie looked at his wife, he only saw the evil grin of his captor, and therefore refused to look at Claire or let her touch him as he recuperated.

You try not to get too outside your head and start thinking about what you’re saying on a sociopolitical context or how this will be interpreted by other people. With that stubborn quality and determination, she ties a rope around her waist and climbs into the black well of depression and loss to pull out her husband.

Back at the abbey, the more Jamie spouts suicidal intentions (“You cannot save a man who doesn’t want saving”) and recoils from his wife, the more dire his situation becomes. Heading into its second season, “Outlander” has created a rich world full of complicated characters, and it doesn’t shy away from putting them into difficult and often unpleasant situations.

I think we set it up specifically so that we could move them emotionally through the story arc, so it’s one set and just a couple actors, so it wasn’t difficult to schedule it that way. It’s obviously a very graphic, visceral and disturbing story arc, but there’s also a lot that’s inferred rather than explicitly shown, which is a testament to the power of the performances, writing and direction.

And now it’s her turn to be the romantic one, pledging her undying devotion to the man for whom she gave up her entire 20th-century existence, because she feels more alive with Jamie in 1743 than she ever did with Frank in 1945: “You belong to no one else but me, and I belong to you. And when I watched it I was really happy that after this dark, harrowing journey, when you get onto that beach, it’s like, “Aaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!” You just feel better! [laughs] I loved that. I’d have to have that internalized, “OK, now I don’t want to watch this anymore” and “OK, that’s where we have to cut away” or “we’re not going to do that.” Then the reverse is also true.

It’s all been for you and me.” After Claire succeeds in pulling Jamie back from the precipice of suicide, there is one more thing left for them to do before they leave the abbey: Have Murtagh cut the “JR” brand out of Jamie’s skin and for Jamie to spit on the dead piece of flesh as it burns away in the fire. And, hey, look at those snazzy new 18th-century traveling clothes they’ve got on there – Jamie’s even ditched the kilt for breeches, stockings and shoes, and a three-cornered hat! There were times where you would see full-frontal on either guy, and go, “Well, at this moment it’s distracting me,” because, let’s be frank, you’re not used to seeing c–k on TV. But that challenge is nothing compared to what Claire throws at Jamie next, which is that she’s with child (three instances of throwing up in two episodes and a fainting spell?

It’s French aristocracy, it’s the court of Louis XV, it’s cobblestone streets filled with people — the costumes are completely different, [as are] the sets. It was weird – we thought this would be a major element of the whole sequence, but it ended up just being something distracting that we just kept going, “No, we can’t use that, because we’re not paying attention anymore.” Oh, it’s a real ship! Getting caught up in the corruption and poison that’s happening in Paris at that time, with history is pushing you toward this inevitable cataclysm — the destruction of the Highland culture.

I’m verra happy, Sassenach!” Jamie and Claire’s embrace, passionate kiss and big, sweeping shot of them on a grand, three-masted ship sailing off to France, is terribly clichéd, especially for a season finale. As we bid our heroes a tearful “Au revoir” until next season, the Fraser family motto seems rather fitting here: –In an episode that was so dark and morbid, Angus’s crude behavior with Claire at the end was a much-needed dose of comic relief. I knew, “OK, if we do this book and we do that and that’s really the end of Season 1, it’s really going to be something,” because that’s just not where you go. That evolution of always moving forward, too —not having that home base to go to; constantly adding on and letting go of characters that feel like part of the family—that’s a huge, huge challenge. Let him tell us about his obsession with Jamie, so that you’re in that character’s mind and you’re starting to lay the track for where this is ultimately going.

FOERSTER: I also think that events just were too close to what had just happened [to set the stage for a love scene], because the monastery was not in France and weeks away. He’s interesting to me, and then he escaped, and that’s unfinished business.” Part of it is sadism — part of it is taking pleasure in someone else’s pain. Instead of being in these dark, claustrophobic, fire-lit holes where terrible things happen, you’re outside in the blue sky and beautiful ocean—you’re getting on a ship and literally sailing away. The season ends on a hopeful note with Jamie and Claire escaping to France and Claire revealing her pregnancy, but where does their relationship stand now?

And considering the physical wear and tear that we put her through in season one, which was every scene every day in all kinds of conditions, day and night, rain and sleet and freezing, she was just always a trouper and always the one on the set who’s cracking jokes while other people are freezing. I loved the scene where she’s confessing to Father Anselm — the catharsis of being able to say everything to a complete outsider, and to just be able to finally let go of some of the stuff she’s been holding onto, probably things that she couldn’t even tell Jamie, to a certain extent. It was interesting, because that’s a scene that actually went in and out of the script and in and out of the cut several times, because I kept struggling with it in terms of “why is it in the show?” And I wasn’t sure that it was giving us that piece, because she had told Jamie that she was from the future, and it didn’t feel like confessing then changed her, it didn’t put her on a different path. It was difficult and taxing for the whole cast and crew to pull off something like this, but they were always up for it and in the end it’s a beautiful, amazing show.

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