Outlander’s Black Jack Randall Isn’t Alone, But Is He the Worst? 17 TV …

31 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Caitriona Balfe serves up an insider’s view of ‘Outlander’.

Moore’s show, which was largely spent introducing us to WWII nurse Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and the Highlander culture into which she accidentally time-traveled, this one began with the daring rescue of Claire from the clutches of British officer Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) by her adoring Highlander husband, Jamie (Sam Heughan). Caitriona Balfe plays Claire Fraser, a bold British World War II nurse who is thrown back in time, in Scotland, from her 1945 existence to a rough land about 200 years earlier. Now as the season concludes – the final episode airs here Sunday (Showcase, 10 p.m.) and in the United States on Saturday on Starz – the drama’s romantic conventions are being twisted into a startling reversal on the matters of sex, sadism, love and redemption. But no sooner were they safe than Claire was embroiled in a witchcraft trial, along with her friend Geillis (Lotte Verbeek), from which only one of them emerged alive.

From the start, Outlander the series and the source material in Diana Gabaldon’s books, has been a tinderbox of non-conformism packed into a seemingly customary package. And just when you thought Jamie and Claire were finally safe at his childhood estate, Lallybroch, he was snapped up by the redcoats again, where the penultimate episode saw Claire unsuccessfully attempting to rescue him from torture by Black Jack. Starz’s Outlander stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire, an English nurse from the 1940s who accidentally steps into the 18th century while on vacation in the Scottish Highlands with her husband, Frank. Meanwhile, viewers with an open mind are invited to share an unflinching dramatization of violence — sexual and otherwise — that nonetheless reflects care and artistry.

Meeting in a Hollywood hotel not long before returning to Scotland to shoot Season 2, Balfe (whose first name is pronounced Katrina and last name rhymes with Ralph) chats easily about her character’s trials, triumphs and corsetry. Still, Claire’s got a plan (involving cows, apparently) and, one assumes, her spouse will eventually escape Wentworth Prison — alive, if not unscathed. Cruelly, Starz gave us a six-month wait for the final eight episodes of the first season. (A second season has been ordered and will air in 2016.) The first half dragged a bit, but the second half kicked the story into gear and took us to some incredibly dark places.

Claire was raised by an uncle who was an atheist and an anthropologist, and she traveled the world, and she’s always been a timeless or placeless character. Moore, the sci-fi maestro celebrated for “Battlestar Galactica,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” He explains that in reading the “Outlander” canon when he began work on the series, he realized this scene, looming for him at season’s end, would pose a special challenge. “There was a lot of conversation in the writers room about how we were going to make the adaptation to film,” he says. “And once we had our scripts, I carved out extra time for the actors so they would be prepared for where we were gonna go. “I don’t like depictions of torture on camera,” he says. “To shoot this, I had to tell myself, ‘I’m going to be as frank, direct and truthful as I can, but there’s a point where I wouldn’t want to watch it. That’s probably why the books have such a rabid fan base, because you see this woman who can really do anything and is thrown into all of these crazy situations. Infusing a historical, time-traveling epic with a feminist sensibility — as adapted from Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling series — it has provided some of the year’s most surprising and daring viewing.

Due back for a second season, which will be set largely in France, not Scotland, the show looks likely to sign off for now with a reunited Claire and Jamie dealing with the psychological fallout from his torture — and hopefully stronger for it. She has this mettle where, no matter what kind of trauma befalls her, she gets right back up and meets the next day with the same kind of gumption and ferocity. While the feminist twist is blatant in Outlander – Claire is the teacher, sexually aggressive and sharp-tongued – there’s a hint of the depth of Gabaldon’s theme in the very marriage itself. Much of the story’s dynamism has been anchored in Jamie and Claire’s brutal battle of wits with English Redcoat Captain “Black Jack” Randall, played by Tobias Menzies, who also plays the loving husband, Frank, whom Claire has left behind in 1945.

We see Claire and Jamie’s angry side of passion as the two argue about Claire’s disobedience, which Jamie claims led to Claire’s capture. “You won’t listen to me,” spits Jamie . “Why mind me? She has such a capacity for living in the moment and feeling everything with every fiber of her body, and that demonstrates itself not only when she sees someone in pain, that feeling where she has that instinctual rush to heal and help, but it’s the same when she’s in the throes of passion. Because she put the other men in danger, says Jamie, Claire must be punished with a spanking because “a good hide makes you understand things in a more serious light.” Claire fights him back, but ultimately, she receives her punishment.

What matters, away from the propulsive storyline, is that the victim – Jamie relives his savage rape in his head – is male and the one who both ministers to him and is benumbed and hard-bitten, is female. Claire just happens to be at Geillis’s house when she’s arrested, thanks to a deceitful note from the jealous harlot Laoghaire, so a case is also built against Claire and it looks like they both will burn. We’re not dating. [Laughs.] When I walked in to test with him, it was one of those mornings — I was running late, there was so much traffic, it was a big test, this is not the moment to be late. We live in an odd time, a time of media frenzy and sizzling pop-culture anticipation about the relaunch of Wonder Woman, that empowered comic-book creation soon to be the heroine of a big-budget Hollywood movie. But so much about those assumptions of female empowerment being carried forward in a comic-book heroine emanates from an essentially dumbed-down popular culture, an escapism now reduced to the infantile.

Two of my best friends live in Scotland, and we talked about where I’ve been and where he’s from, and immediately we were nattering away with each other. This specific instance of a pop culture phenomenon is rare, has a female superhero for the ages and is a combustible, furious love story with the strangest sort of unsettling power.

In contrast, the focus of this Outlander episode (and presumably the next) is Jamie’s assault and viewers are given time to process feelings about it.

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