Blogger’s Note: The following entry is going to be controversial. Not all of you are going to agree with me and that’s okay with me. Please read with an open mind and know that all commentary and opinions are welcome here. I feel the way I feel – you feel the way you feel. I believe in finding common ground with people and standing there, so I know that if you are reading this blog, our common ground is our shared love of Outlander. That’s a good foundation for all kinds of conversation. I promise to honor your point of view, always. I support Outlander, in all of it’s stunning triumphs and stumblings, and I will always watch while it is on the air. Never doubt me!
Okay, so I tried – and failed – to watch all of this episode. Call me whatever name you want, characterize me in any way you choose. I couldn’t do it and didn’t want to do it once I got into the actual episode. For me, parts of To Ransom A Man’s Soul were disgusting, enraging and just too much.
I watched about 95% of the episode, straight up with a full screen and the volume on. I watched the other 5% using closed captioning and looked away in several places. It just ticked all of my red flag boxes and I had to tap out. In light of that, I will not be doing a review in my usual style. That would be unfair and disingenuous of me. There are many really good recaps and reviews out there who have it all covered.
What I can say about what I watched is this: Tobias Menzies as Black Jack Randall gave a performance that sickened and enraged me, as it was meant to. Caitriona Balfe was stunning in her portrayal of Claire as desperate and determined. But, it was Sam Heughan who was the standout in this episode. He was soul shattering as the wounded, broken and emotionally damaged Jamie. His performance was brave, deep and shook me to my core – and I didn’t even see all of it. I couldn’t have as I had to look away in places. It felt that real to me.
I was left emotionally drained and yet strangely hollow and unsatisfied. There are two main issues with this episode in particular that left me wanting more. Firstly, it was unbalanced and rushed unlike any previous episode of Outlander. Secondly, it was unnecessarily yet deliberately provocative – and I didn’t even see all of it.
Let me address the unbalanced and rushed feeling first. I realize there are only so many minutes in each episode and every second is precious. I also understand that the job of the show runners is to get high ratings, which translates to making money for the network. I am all for all of that. We all know that sex sells – and I guess violent sexual assault sets tongues wagging – which eventually leads to new subscriptions, higher ratings and revenue for Starz. Okay. Got it. My issue is this: we didn’t need *that much* screen time with Randall torturing and raping Jamie to get that Black Jack Randall is a very, very bad person. A choice was clearly made to spend a lot of time shocking the audience with Randall’s disgusting violence and as a result, the audience got to see less of the reclaiming and recovery of Jamie. It was the show runner’s choice to make and I accept that – I just don’t agree with it.
I have always said that the recovery of Jamie, after he is rescued from Wentworth prison, is one of the greatest redemption stories in all of literature. It was absolutely gutted and left a shell of what it should have been in order to accommodate the shock value of Randall abusing Jamie repeatedly. Yeah, yeah, I can hear people lecturing me about comparing the series to the book. I’m really not. This episode in particular felt like I was being bludgeoned over the head with Randall’s sickness. It needed to be shown, certainly. It is essential to the story, but I have to say, if I had never read Outlander, I would not be watching this show by this point. No way. I would have checked out in the middle of 1.15. I have stuck with it – and enjoyed it very much – because I knew what was coming. But, when it finally got here, I was left dissatisfied and wanting. It sounds ridiculous to say you are disappointed in a show that you loved – and I did love it – like unless it fits my specifications straight down the line, like it wasn’t quite good enough. Think that, dear reader, and you have me all wrong. It was good enough, it just wasn’t a balanced bit of storytelling.
The time spent on Jamie’s recovery and actual conversing with Claire in this last episode was practically laughable in comparison to the raping scenes, and I actually think we left Jamie and Claire on fairly weak ground. I feel no compulsion, strictly speaking of the series and leaving out the book, to watch further. Nothing really compels me, strictly speaking of the series, to really buy into the ‘soul mate’ thing that Jamie and Claire should have going on, and it’s definitely not the fault of the actors. They delivered the goods. It was not really the writers, who have faithfully adapted this book to screen in an invested, thoughtful way. It was more about timeline.
I am not sure who determines what actually makes it to the screen, but that is where the mark was missed in my opinion. The actual seconds onscreen spent showing, or in this case, NOT showing, Jamie and Claire’s efforts to regain their life together. It should have been portrayed as every bit as epic and dramatic as what happened in that Wentworth prison cell. Instead it was reduced to merely a conversation. Like something as traumatic as what happened to Jamie could ever be overcome within the span of a conversation. I daresay, the recovery of a rape victim is a much longer process than the actual event and to show it so easily dealt with and “gotten over” is a mischaracterization of what it takes to deal with any traumatic event – not just rape. Even just 5 minutes of the torture stuff cut and added to the after Wentworth scenes would have gone a long way. Perhaps we will get some of what I was looking for in Season 2. Where are they going to put it is the question. Timeline will be just as much of an issue with Season 2 as it has been in Season 1.
Add to that, in the last two minutes of the show where we learn that Jamie and Claire plan to try and change history, and oh yeah, by the way Claire is expecting a child. They thought she couldn’t have children but turns out she can. Jamie is thrilled. And thats it. All of that happens within mere seconds while the rape goes on and on and on. That is my point – the dark was given screen time and room to savor. The light, the hope and redemption were given lip service.
I’ve seen the comment that perhaps the episode should have been a 90 minute episode. Maybe, but the show runners are only given so many minutes by the network and could have found a way to better balance this episode within the given time frame. They have always satisfied and excelled at finding bold and creative solutions to plot and timing issues before.
I respect and believe that the show runners are doing what they believe is in the best interest of the show, but for this fan, they missed the mark. I didn’t want the bad stuff to not be there – and I don’t object to the content of a single frame that was aired, even though I chose not to watch it all. I just think that we needed less rape and more redemption. I am not the only fan out there and Outlander isn’t made just for me. I’m just sayin’…which is what this blog is for.
Secondly, let me address my assertion that 1.16 was overly provocative. Well, it was. It was ‘in your face’ disturbing and it didn’t need to be. I am a smart viewer. I get that Jonathon Wolverton Randall is a bad man. I get that he has a thing for Jamie and took full and complete advantage in a devastatingly evil way. It would have been much more tolerable if more of the recovery period of Jamie has made it to the screen. 1.16 was long and dark. Those 50-something minutes felt heavy, burdensome, horrific and never ending – as well performed and produced as they were. They were all visually stunning – but oh so draining. It was missing the light, the hope.
I was left thirsting for something that would make me believe that Jamie and Claire are soul mates – that they not only endured this horror that Randall visited on them, but that the experience afterward was well beyond merely surviving. It should have made us believe that Jamie and Claire were both pushed to the edge of the cliff only to find themselves bound together in a way neither of them ever could have imagined and not in the last 120 seconds of the episode. This part should have been the part of the story where we understand the two of them have a relationship that is extraordinary and almost magical. This is their foundation. The obstacle that binds them to one another. The reclaiming of Jamie’s soul by his wife Claire is what sets their bond apart from other relationships – such as the relationship between Frank and Claire.
So now, we move on to a new chapter in the story of Jamie and Claire. It hasn’t begun the way I thought it would – or even should – but that is okay. The story is far from over. In the big picture of things, Outlander has far exceeded any expectations I had – in almost all good ways. I am very much looking forward to the next part of the story and beyond – always with love for these characters in my heart, but with a mind of my own. It won’t do any good to point fingers or complain now. What’s done is done. My one hope for Season 2 is that this sort of rushed ending can be avoided in Season 2.
I will have much more to say about Season 1 as a whole, so stay tuned during Droughtlander for that, as well as a complete over haul of OutlanderMusings.com and some new things coming – including that give away. I failed to get some consents I was hoping to get, so I will have to regroup and do it at a later date.
We will have plenty of time to get it all done. Wishing you all love!
Property of Sony/Starz
Property of Sony/Starz