Outlander Recap: Have Fun Storming The Castle!

17 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Outlander’ Writer on “Uncomfortable” Jamie vs. Black Jack Scenes: “Worst I’ve Ever Spent on a Set”.

After discovering Jamie (Sam Heughan) had been condemned to hang at Wentworth Prison on last week’s episode of Outlander, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) plotted to break him out.

There is one thing that I’ve had to tell myself over and over again from the moment I first saw “Wentworth Prison,” the penultimate episode of the first season of “Outlander.” Reminding myself of this fact, twisted as it might be, is the only way I can even begin to make sense of what we have just witnessed. (Word of warning, I will most likely also be repeating this mantra after the season finale in two weeks.) Jamie can’t be saved if he’s already dead, so the longer Jack keeps him alive – even if it’s to serve his own sick, depraved desires, the better chance Claire and Murtagh have of rescuing him.It’s an uncommon episode of television that halfway through leaves you realizing that the protagonist probably would have been better off had he been killed in the opening scene. “Wentworth Prison” was precisely that type of episode.Black Jack’s return may have stayed Jamie from the noose for a bit but brought on its own host of problems and horrifying moments between the pair during the darkest, bleakest hour and delivered some of the most horrifying visuals of Outlander the series has had so far.

Tonight’s “Wentworth Prison” and last week’s “The Search” have set the stage for a brutal end to season 1. (You’ll want to note that the finale airs May 30—not next week.) So without further ado, let’s revisit the bloody events of this penultimate episode. After being captured by the British and sentenced to hang alongside Taran McQuarrie (Douglas Henshall), Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) is granted a stay of execution … by an all-too-keen Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). When “Black Jack” came riding in and stopped Jamie’s execution, the look of horror on Sam’s face was perfect since viewers could see that Jamie knew this wasn’t a good thing. The hour opens on an already bleak scene as Jamie and MacQuarrie are in line to be hanged and the imagery we are already treated to is enough to indicate just the tone we’ll be getting throughout.

Jamie wasn’t brought any food in the book so I didn’t see why that was changed since it was clear that “Black Jack” wanted to starve him, at least in the book. Thanks to the sound effects, you hear the squeaking protest of the rope, the clang of the restraints and the snap of the necks — cue the visual of legs twitching. Finally able to take control of the man he’s long been fascinated by (and, frankly, attracted to), Black Jack promises Jamie a noble death in exchange for mental and physical control. Claire’s non-nonchalant face when talking to Sir Fletcher about Jamie was great and then when he left the room for a minute and she was allowed to show her true emotions at the situation, showed how affected she was by Jamie’s predicament. Jamie tries to hatch an escape plan, but McQuarrie isn’t game. “Aye, nothing like a wife to make a man feel disquieted in his own death,” McQuarrie answers, before his own name is called and he mounts the gallows.

When she left the prison and collapsed and threw up, this was a fabulous way to show just how much Claire was emotionally and physically hurting for Jamie. Just as our skin is really beginning to crawl watching Jack kiss, lick and fondle Jamie’s scarred back (“It’s a masterpiece,” he echoes from an earlier episode), we cut away as Jack asks, “Shall we begin?” Perhaps that’s why Starz is offering us a reprieve. When Jamie’s turn at the gallows arrives, he attempts to break his bonds, fighting to the end, only to be “saved” at the last minute by a late arriving Captain Randall, who dumps Jamie out of the frying pan and into the fire, freeing him from the gallows only to imprison him in a secret dungeon.

Now when Black Jack rides in to save Jamie’s neck, you have to wonder if jumping off the edge of the platform was a more palatable option than being rescued by a sadist. It’s interesting because the episode sets up for an even more intense finale, but it was, in and of itself, also incredibly violent and hard-to-watch. Jamie not giving up trying to pull the bolt from the wall that held his shackles showed his will not to give up. “Black Jack” burning Jamie’s complaint against him was just one twisted act to show his power over Jamie. Meanwhile, Claire’s determination gets her to return to Wentworth Prison under the guise that she is a distant relative of Jamie’s requests an update on whether he is still alive or not.

She told him that it was her Christian duty to pay a visit to the condemned Jamie. “I could tell you’re a Christian woman the moment you entered,” he answered. When Claire took the keys from the unconscious guard and Murtagh wanted to go with her to search for Jamie, this reiterated his need to protect her for Jamie. “Black Jack” asking Jamie if he thinks of him when he’s lying in bed with Claire was further proof of his sick sadistic mind. I know how this is probably going to look in print, but the fact is the five or six days we shot were without a doubt the most uncomfortable and worst I’ve ever spent on a set.

Though she didn’t get the answer she wanted, her resolve doesn’t lessen as she, Murtagh and the men that volunteered find a way inside, using her outlander status to her benefit among the Redcoats and men of Wentworth to get to the Warden’s chambers where she and Murtagh attempt to find keys and a map. Thus, while author Diana Gabaldon in no way sugarcoated what happened to Jamie in her book, those events had less of an impact in “Outlander” the novel than they did when portrayed first-hand onscreen (at least they did for me). In general, the line between serious depiction of criminal brutality and straight-up torture porn is a difficult one to determine, with the difference often lying entirely in intent. Moore and his crew took the visceral subject matter and presented it in such a way that’s vivid and disturbing – and more searing than any book description. Is the work making a larger point by detailing the horrors a victim is subjected to, or is it just exploiting the cheap thrills of particularly gruesome violence?

Her hope of escaping with her husband are chillingly dashed as the voice of Black Jack comes into the scene and at that point you just can’t help but feel a chill go down your spine. Same with hair and make-up and costume — I would check with them on occasion after a particularly harrowing scene and, I kid you not, there were tears. The trio’s tense scene in the dungeon is equal parts and tense and excruciatingly difficult to watch as Captain Randall manipulate Jamie into submission by using Claire as the bargaining chip and you proceed to watch the consequences of the choice Jamie makes.

Though at times it feels excessive, it’s also effective at transferring the innate discomfort of the moment to viewers, forcing them to bear witness to the abuse, the better to understand the full extent of its savagery. The level of infatuation that Jack has for Jamie goes beyond mere hatred – if that were the case, he would have let the Highlander hang without a second thought. Their tender kiss before “Black Jack” takes her away and Jamie telling Claire that he loved her were achingly poignant, sad and made me cry, knowing what Jamie must endure from “Black Jack” later.

Of course, Jamie refused, but Randall insisted that his refusal was only momentary as well. “I will have your surrender before you leave this world,” Randall said. But as Jack demonstrates over the course of the episode – and this is what the entire season has been building toward – he will not let Jamie go to his grave until he has had the satisfaction of breaking him, both physically and psychologically. While Jamie’s stuck there, Claire is being unceremoniously escorted out but not before she leaves Randall with one last piece of information…the date of his demise. Angus and Rupert learn that the warden insists on having his evening meal in private followed by a 25-minute Bible-reading session and quiet reflection. If the reason is just to demonstrate that evil exists in the world and that no one is immune to it, surely there are more effective and less exploitative ways to show it.

With Jamie it’s not just a case of a man wanting another man to die; he saves Jamie [because]— and Ron and I talked it over after the show was done and one of the things that came across to us was Black Jack’s sense of honor. Randall was still trying to convince Jamie to surrender, but the Scot was holding up admirably. “You’re the broken one,” he told Randall when he asked to see Jamie’s warped back yet again. “You’re the one that sees my face every night.” Jamie then staged a daring escape attempt and nearly made it, too, but Randall’s muscle eventually managed to subdue him. Brilliantly played by the actors, Tobias Menzies and Jamie and the idiot guard are the dancers in a macabre performance as they navigate the small space in their various roles. Chain up Jamie in the prison dungeon, then taunt him with the news that the Duke of Sandringham shot his mouth off in London about the Scotsman’s Petition of Complaint – which, instead of being presented at court, wound up back in Jack’s hands.

Thankfully, nods to Diana Gabaldon, the screenwriter and director (and whoever else should get the credit), this isn’t a scene to memorialize being a victim or to elevate the depravity of a monster. What makes the interactions all the more strange is the suspicion that, were Jamie a woman, there would be less luxuriating in extensive and detailed abuse and violation.

It was, “I can’t save you from British justice but I can give you the death you deserve, but in exchange you must allow me to break you physically and mentally.” Now that sounds crazy, but to Black Jack that makes a certain amount of sense. Her success as the Singing Sassenach last week has given her enough confidence to try sweet-talking the warden, Sir Fletcher Gordon (Frazer Hines – read here for some fun info on Hines’s “Dr.

Pop culture obsessive, Brianna spends her time between work and studying, watching all the television she can (and is eternally grateful for the DVR and Hulu Plus) and writing about it. It turns out the Wentworth bar flies aren’t the only ones with loose ale lips. (Yes, we’re looking at about you, Sandringham!) Randall sets the parchment on fire, effectively dashing any hopes Jamie has of becoming a truly free man. No dice on the letter, but Sir Fletcher does allow Claire, posing as a distant Fraser family friend, to take Jamie’s personal effects (“Je Suis Prest” tartan pin and Sawny, the wooden snake). To me, the line that was truest to Black Jack’s character was when he ripped open Jamie’s shirt and said with wonder, “How does it feel to be alive and wear so much dead flesh?”I give Sam so much credit because it was tough.

It was evident that when MacRonnach learned who Claire wanted to rescue that he wanted to help, but couldn’t risk putting his wife and children in danger. Armed with this new information, Claire – quickly recovered from the vomiting spell triggered by the grief over receiving her almost-dead husband’s possessions – and Murtagh break into the prison office and seize the keys.

The episode is a marvel in just how graphic television can get and still have the audience stay engaged with the material, a testament to the strength of the bond between viewer and character. This is never clearer than during Claire’s rescue attempt within the prison walls, an attempt that nearly succeeded but for the ill-timed return of Randall to Jamie’s prison cell. Claire is threatened, yet again, with violence, but nothing is as frightening or as torturous as watching her breakdown when she is forced to leave Jamie behind to whatever Randall has planned for him. It is a very, very different experience watching that heavy metal hammer come down on the Highlander’s hand, and witnessing Jamie yelp in pain – so loudly that, ironically, it helps Claire locate her husband’s cell that much faster.

The psychological abuse that the British captain hurls at the Scot is frightening, illustrated by Sam Heughan’s preternatural ability to widen his eyeballs as Jamie realizes that this goes way beyond 200 lashes. Though she begs for assistance in freeing Jamie, she is refused, as a pointed attack on the prison would be akin to treason, an unreasonable risk to ask of anyone, particularly a stranger. Then he gets to his aim: If only Jamie will admit that he’s afraid, Randall will give him a final gift: “a clean honorable death of his own choosing.” In short: Black Jack requires Jamie’s full surrender. I was surprised when I first read the book that Claire is unsuccessful because she’s so smart and so capable that that was part of the tragedy of episode 15. Now, I’m not saying Jamie’s mother was a gold-digger, but I will note that she apparently walked down the aisle wearing the jewelry of two men that she did not happen to be marrying that day.

Murtagh is one of my favorite characters, but he keeps his opinions to himself a lot unless he’s talking to Jamie, so to see him smile when you almost never do, it was really fun. As Randall comes near, Jamie attacks him, but to little avail as Goon Marley throws him against a wall and chokes him, nearly to death until Black Jack intercedes. But this doesn’t last long, due to Jamie’s resistance and Jack’s insistence that he “will not give in to coarse passion.” He has to have Jamie willingly, which makes it an ideal time for Claire to show up and give Jamie the only reason he could ever have to voluntarily become Jack Randall’s butt boy. Claire discovers her nearly unconscious husband during a brief instance that Jack is away from the cell, but her mission becomes a lost cause as soon as the Redcoat captain returns.

She, like her husband, fights Jack off admirably (speaking for the entire “Outlander” fan community by calling him a “f—ing sadistic piece of s–t!” 20th century represent, yo), but Jack overpowers her, choking her within an inch of her life until Jamie finally surrenders. All three principal actors: Heughan, Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies deserve Emmy nominations for this scene, because what unfolds between them next will stay with you forever. As a “brief test of [Jamie’s] sincerity,” to ensure that the Scotsman will not try to run when Claire is released, Jack nails his busted hand to a table in the cell, while Claire emotes a guttural wail that will make your chest hurt.

She’s then forced to watch Jack kiss her barely conscious husband (seriously, how the hell is Jamie still awake given the stratospheric level of pain he’s in? He is a broken man, who takes his last moment of happiness by looking at his beloved wife, smiling, and saying, for the first time, “I love you, mo nighean donn.” Jamie may have to submit to Jack’s sexual whims, but Claire is not leaving that prison without throwing a huge wet blanket on the captain’s excitement.

In a great shot of Balfe’s and Menzies’s faces in close-up, with the flame of a torch illuminating the background, Claire whispers the month, date and year that Jack will die. Upon convening with Murtagh, Rupert, Angus and Willie at a safe house, Claire is unfazed about her sinister experience at Wentworth and insists on another rescue mission. With a lack of able and available bodies, it’s a really good thing that the owner of the house, Sir Marcus MacRannoch, is yet another onetime Ellen MacKenzie admirer (was that shade Murtagh threw at Sir Marcus?). Because what he does have is a herd of 19 hairy Highland cows, and if Murtagh can use them to deprive his old rival of his livelihood and rescue his godson at the same time, then perhaps there is some good to come out of this atrocious day.

The episode ends with Murtagh offering a single shred of hope: “I know how we can save young Jamie.” Let’s pray it will be enough for them to succeed this time. My favorite moment had to be when Jack, from the other side of the room, reaches out to touch Jamie’s back, establishing his utter obsession with being able to trace his fingers along every scar. Who apparently was also in love with Jamie Fraser’s mom because when Claire offers him the Scotch pearls as payment to enlist his men in the fight for Jamie, he demurs.

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