This week's round up for Episode 15 "Wentworth Prison." Not even bothering with that dumbass HitFix reviewer.
MOST IMPORTANTLY: This episode has been ONTD Sassenach Certified Praiseworthy by tusiaczek87
Wall Street Journal
I have to commend series creator Ronald D. Moore, director Anna Foerster and “Wentworth Prison” writer Ira Steven Behr for the direct, yet delicate way they handled the upsetting material. I have read the books, so I was at least somewhat prepared for what was going to happen. However, since the entire book is told from Claire’s point of view, anything that happens to Jamie when Claire isn’t present is told second-hand. 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). 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.
The New York Times: The Violence That Men Do
Jamie’s torture is curious. It would be one thing if it were merely physical violence, but the sexual element is an avenue not often explored in the realm of television. 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. While violence against women is a universal TV plot device it’s rarely as meticulously comprehensive as what we’re shown of Jamie’s experience. It’s nothing if not an interesting shift in the traditional narrative.
Outlander: “Wentworth Prison” Black Jack is back to horrify
OP: Really AV Club? You gave “The Search” an A.
Jamie’s pressure point is Claire, and he’s hers too. Outlander has tested the limits of their love over and over, and though Randall says every man can be broken, he fails to understand that the love between Jamie and Claire is a bond that certainly cannot be broken, a bond that gives them both the stubborn will to go to the end of the world for one another. Claire comes so close to saving Jamie in this episode simply because of her will, strength, and focus to get him out of Wentworth. But it isn’t enough. Randall looms large, and in the end, he gets exactly what he wants, using Claire’s release as leverage over Jamie, who he rapes and further brutalizes.
Caitriona Balfe shows off a whole new range here than she does in “The Search.” Her performance is fantastic from beginning to end. When Claire first meets with the warden Sir Fletcher, she’s cool and calm as she expertly lies to him in an effort to visit Jamie in his cell. The moment Sir Fletcher walks out, Claire breaks down, feeling the weight of finally knowing that yes, Jamie’s alive, but getting to him will be an immensely difficult task. Balfe doesn’t speak at all as she transitions from Claire’s feigned calmness, to her breakdown, and back to collecting herself again. It all happens in a matter of seconds, but it’s one of the episode’s most memorable moments.
io9 Observation Deck: On Outlander, Having Something To Live For Means Having Something To Lose
Jamie wouldn’t give in to Black Jack for himself, but for Claire, he does. He offers himself to Black Jack to save Claire. He gives his word that he won’t struggle, that Black Jack can do what he wishes. Black Jack finds this offer irresistible, and agrees to release Claire. But not before a brief test of Jamie’s promise...first, by nailing Jamie’s tenderized hand to the table, and then, forcing Jamie to kiss him. Claire looks on, weeping, until Jamie tells Black Jack to take her away. Having saved her life, Jamie now wants to spare her any further pain from witnessing whatever Black Jack wants to do with him. (Black Jack’s interpretation of sending her “safe away” is throwing her onto a pile of dead hanged men, but still, she is able to get away and find the Jamie Gang.)
There are many gut-wrenching moments in this episode, portrayed with beautiful tragedy by Sam Heughan, but the most heartbreaking moment occurs when Black Jack returns to the cell. Jamie is right where he left him - of course, he gave his word - and the first thing Black Jack does is finally get a look at Jamie’s back. His “masterpiece”. And Jamie’s face, staring, one tear rolling down his cheek, is utterly devastating.
io9 Recap: This is Outlander’s Darkest Hour
Vulture: Have Fun Storming the Castle!
The Outlander series’ biggest drawback is the way it seems to equate homosexuality with sadism in the character of bad guy extraordinaire Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall. That is a historically loaded suggestion. Until the 1980s, the DSM listed homosexuality a “mental disorder,” and sadism was often seen as the way closeted gay men — which was virtually all of them — acted out: As one famous psychoanalyst wrote, “Unconscious but aggressive homosexual tendencies and sadism are inseparable phenomena."
To find such retrograde thinking in an otherwise often progressive novel is disturbing. Though the series partly redeems itself later on by introducing a gay character with no sadistic tendencies at all as a hero, I wondered how the TV adaption would handle the more problematic details of the story. Would it gloss over Randall’s monstrosity? Or double down, and count on the fierce, controlled charisma of actor Tobias Menzies to carry the day?
Starz decides to do the latter and, to my mind, at least, the decision works. Menzies plays Randall as a villain for the ages, yet he doesn’t make the man into a flaming caricature; he imbues Randall with the same dignity as he does Randall’s descendant – and Claire’s long-suffering 20th-century husband — Frank. One believes in Randall as a terrifying, intelligent, complicated human being, and one fears him, and, even when he shares the screen with the captivating male beauty that is Sam Heughan, one cannot look away.
‘Outlander’s’ brutal and non-gratuitous violence is horrifyingly honest
So much of the violence that is shown on TV and cinema doesn’t touch on what those acts do to the victims. Over decades, viewers have become accustomed to scenes of battle and blood, and aren’t disturbed by it because the human, psychological toll has been removed. This isn’t the case with Outlander. We feel every moment because ultimately Outlander is a historical drama that gives us a rare, intimate view of the best and worst of humanity. Love, survival, and honor along with loss, terror, and desperation are interwoven and occur simultaneously in an intricate tale.
“Wentworth Prison” is a fascinating subversion in that it is Claire who must find a group willing to form a rescue party, and who must scheme and even fight, with great physicality, to rescue her loved one. Claire is the one who is mounting the offensive, while it is Jamie who is being tortured and sexually assaulted. That, of course, is exactly how this back half of the season started: with Claire bent over a table, breasts bared, as Jack was about to rape her before Jamie came to her rescue.
In Outlander, Black Jack Randall is the epitome and sum of all evil, but the only power Claire holds over him is her knowledge of the future, bestowing a “curse” upon him with the exactly date of his death. Hopefully it’s soon, not just for Claire and Jamie’s sake, but for ours. “Wentworth Prison” was an excruciating episode that is leading up to what looks to be a difficult finale. Though I trust in Murtagh’s cattle plans to save Jamie, what may happen to him before that may be extremely hard to bear.
IGN: Darker Than Dark
As distressing as "Wentworth Prison" was to watch, the episode featured absolutely incredible performances from Menzies and Heughan. I would have preferred more telling and less showing when it came to Black Jack's brutality (and it could have worked), but there is no doubt now about how much danger he presents to Jamie and Claire and their relationship. He is truly evil and a formidable obstacle for Jamie and Claire to overcome.
TV.com: Eyes Closed, Heart Open
So here was the crux of the episode: no amount of fear or abuse could get Jamie to capitulate to Randall. However, the moment Claire’s life was in danger, Jamie struck a deal: do what you want with me, just let her go. It’s Christmas in the springtime for arch-sadist Randall, and it’s also a powerful insight into Jamie’s character. His love was much, much stronger than his fear. Randall kissed Jamie in front of Claire and then hustled her out of there, but before he could throw her down the “Executed Prisoner Chute” onto a heap of corpses, Claire enacted her own form of psychological torture. She told him the date of his death, which was carefully hidden from the audience because that would be a major spoiler alert for Season 2, I presume.
This was shock with a social value. This was something almost unprecedented, a completely heroic, masculine narrative for a threat traditionally relegated to marginalized female characters. This was a character male and female survivors can identify with who was clearly blameless and strong and brave and without stigma, yet still trapped and coerced into "consenting" to his abuse. As grueling as this episode was (and I fear the next episode will get even more intense), hopefully through suffering by Jamie’s side, we all gained a visceral understanding that we must, at all costs, protect survivors from feeling diminished or stigmatized by sexual abuse.
Your recapper’s opinion? The extreme pain that is inflicted on Jamie in this final section at Wentworth Prison is unnecessary from a plot standpoint and a general human decency one. It’s interesting in that it further valorizes Jamie by making him suffer the kind of gendered assault Claire is continually spared, as if he’s her proxy, taking the era’s misogynist violence onto his body as an act of love for her. But I still find the storyline somewhat homophobic and overly grotesque, and it ruins the best part of the entire Outlander story, which is its sense of fun, even on the edge of danger and violence. This episode was not anything near fun, even if Tobias Menzies was one of the most compelling psychopaths ever. Fortunately, we have two weeks to get over our shock before we head back in time and see what has befallen poor Jamie.