NOTE: You may call me biased, but I will not be posting that HitFix bitch's review. If you want it, feel free to seek it out yourself. I may edit to add more :)
Tom & Lorenzo
We should have known that this show, which at times seems to exist solely to upend gender portrayals and tropes, was not going to let us off that easily. And even though it was all awful to watch, we couldn’t tear our eyes away; first because the scenes of horror were so well-directed and acted (we honestly don’t know how Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan managed it), but more importantly, because the show made us realize how important it was to depict these things. Too often – as in, almost always – the horror of rape is poorly depicted in our films and TV shows; either because it’s foolishly done in a titillating manner, or more frequently, the repercussions of the act are either glossed over or ignored completely. And by that we don’t mean necessarily the physical horror of watching someone exert their will over someone else’s body and the physical aftermath. It’s what rape does to its survivors after the act is over that’s the most important part. And in most fiction, that never really matters because when a female character gets raped, it’s almost always used as a tool to spur a male protagonist into action. In fiction, women get raped so that men can get angry and avenge them, thereby shifting all the focus off the survivor. Very rarely do we see rape depicted in such a way as to make the point that was made here: that rape is as much or more an act of psychological violence as it is an act of physical violence. Rape is a method of breaking another person’s will and self image – and we’ve never seen that idea depicted so thoroughly as it was in this hour.
IGN: Darkest of Dark
If you thought the last episode of Outlander was disturbing, the Season 1 finale probably made you reconsider your evaluation. Being a book reader and knowing what was ahead between Black Jack and Jamie didn't make any of it easier to watch. Jack's sadism was on full display, and it was a challenge to keep looking at the screen. The scenes presented in "To Ransom a Man's Soul" are easily some of the most distressing ones that have been on television. But they were also accompanied by an emotionally charged and hopeful recovery.
Balance was key to getting through this episode. Jumping back and forth on the timeline meant a break between the graphic torture and rape. That's not to say they shied away from showing everything because they didn't. The actual acts and the repercussions were fully depicted. But in between Jamie's memories, we see Claire fighting for him. We see her love for him and her determination to save him and cutting between Wentworth and the monastery was an effective way to temper the atrocities at the prison without downplaying them. The depth of what happened was never minimized.
New York Observer: The Breaking—and Fixing—of Jamie Fraser
So I’ll say this for “To Ransom a Man’s Soul,” the sixteenth and final episode of the show’s inaugural season: The brutality worked. To paraphrase Barry Goldwater, extremism in the pursuit of art is no vice, and creator and co-writer Ronald D. Moore’s decision not to flinch from Black Jack Randall’s protracted sexual assault on Jamie Fraser — including the part that traumatized Jamie the most, when he was able to mentally switch off the horror and let his body experience pleasure — was, I think, virtuous. Yes, the gender of both participants may have afforded him some leeway in the critical discourse that, say, Game of Thrones no longer enjoys (though it backfired with some critics who pointed out, quite rightly, that the show treated Claire’s near-constant stream of sexual assaults like they were seasonal allergies by comparison). But Moore, co-writer Ira Steven Behr, and director Anna Foster quickly broke through whatever buffer of comfort the lack of male-female power imbalance may have provided and forced us to wallow in the very human suffering of a very traumatized victim. For that to happen, the cruelty of an unblinking camera eye was required. Excess created success.
But the success is fleeting. Shit, it’s gone by the end of the episode, by which point Jamie has been drawn out of his suicidal post-assault depression by a furious pep talk from his wife. He manfully eschews sedation when his friends cut off the brand Randall induced him to sear into his skin, and when the “JR” initials are duly carved out, a heroic highland reel begins playing, just in case it wasn’t clear that Jamie has triumphed over trauma. So what seemed like a genuinely challenging choice to spend the season finale doing the most un-season-finale-like thing imaginable quickly winds up being something you could cut a fanvid to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” with, complete with a needle-scratch “I’m pregnant” moment from Claire to close it out. To give Jamie’s pain and shame the dignity they deserve would require not tying off their consequences in a neat little bow before the closing credits roll.
EW: How the Outlander finale handled its disturbing rape scene
The Outlander finale, “To Ransom a Man’s Soul,” was shot many months ago, but it played like a response to rape glut concerns. Bringing to screen the most provocative moment in Diana Gabaldon’sfirst Outlander novel, showrunner Ronald D. Moore and his collaborators presented a rigorously considered portrayal of sexual violence and dote on the psychic impact on the victim. It was also exceptionally disturbing, making for a most unpleasant if necessary hour of television. We watched “Black” Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), a monstrous rogue officer in the British army occupying 1700sScotland, ruthlessly pursue his goal of manipulating his longtime sexual obsession, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), into making love to him. Randall used various strategies to break Jamie’s resistance, to make him pliable. Tenderness. Seduction. Force. At one point, Randall coerced an increasingly disoriented Jamie into marking himself with his brand. With Jamie’s dehumanization near complete— he was now Randall’s possession, his property – Randall sealed the deal by exploiting Jamie’s coping mechanism for his ordeal: Fantasizing about his true love, Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a time traveler from 1940sEngland. Randall played the part, which succeeded in arousing Jamie, and then took advantage of it.
But the violence done to Jamie wasn’t the narrative focus of the episode. The story actually began with Jamie’s allies rescuing him from the Wentworth Prison dungeon where Jamie suffered this abuse. It then tracked Claire’s efforts to mend Jamie’s broken body, then mend his broken spirit by getting him to share with her what Randall had done to him. The scenes of Jamie’s ordeal were given to us as Jamie tried to resist recalling them or finally gaining the courage to disclose everything. In this way, “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” aimed to be more about Jamie dealing with the trauma of the violence than the trauma itself.
New York Times: Jamie Is Broken
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. Jamie comes out of Wentworth Prison a changed man, not broken, as he claims, but battered, bruised. 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. 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. He experiences flashbacks and shows several signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. As important as it is for viewers to bear witness to Jamie’s rape, it’s even more important that they witness how excruciating it is to reach a place where the healing process can even begin.
TV.com: Too Much. Not Enough
I affirm, once again, that representation of sexual violence between males is necessary and valuable. Yet I have to say if this had been a female character being tortured, I’d be screaming bloody murder about the gratuitousness of it all and the utter lack of any emotional justice for the audience after 45 minutes of intimately shot, grisly rape scenes. And I think a shade of that applies: WE GET IT, OUTLANDER! VERY BAD THINGS HAPPENED! BUT SEEING THE DETAILS OF SEXUAL ABUSE IN REAL TIME IS NOT WHAT WE SIGNED ON FOR! YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO SING US A SONG ABOUT A LASS THAT'S NOW GONE! INSTEAD YOU SANG US A SONG ABOUT INCREDIBLY GRAPHIC SEXUAL ASSAULT
This final episode of Outlander descended into the show’s darkest place yet, and so did Claire — when she found it necessary to probe Jamie’s trauma in order to retrieve her true love from the depths of depression and PTSD he found himself in. Her unorthodox methods may not be modern psychology, but it makes for interesting storytelling. As for the sadism we witness, it’s certainly worth debating where the line between depicting brutality and inflicting it on the viewer lies.
Salon— The “Outlander” torture chamber: A shockingly brutal rape transforms a hero into a victim, but at what cost?
Last night, “Outlander” aired the most upsetting scenes I’ve ever seen on television. A few films, here and there, have surpassed the horror of “To Ransom A Man’s Soul” — but it’s significant, I think, that the few I recall are all about genocide, such as “The Killing Fields” and the Canadian film “A Sunday In Kigali.” “To Ransom A Man’s Soul,” the first season finale, tells the same story as the books. Jamie (Sam Heughan) makes a devil’s bargain with the sadistic redcoat captain Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies): In exchange for his wife Claire’s safety and the dignity of a clean death, Jamie will allow Randall to have sex with him. But in the book “Outlander,” this story is narrated to the reader as it is told to Claire, who discovers the details of Jamie’s imprisonment in the weeks following, as he’s struggling to recover. In the show, the torture is conveyed to the viewer directly. Any scene, rendered from text to screen, becomes more tangible. This particular scene comes to life in spectacularly brutal fashion. Randall anally rapes Jamie, so much so that Jamie screams in pain. He pounds Jamie’s hand with a mallet, and then nails it to the table. He kisses Jamie, rapturously, and tends to his wounds, before raping him again. Jamie vomits (from the pain or emotional trauma, it’s not clear). Jamie is forced to orally service Randall. Randall brands Jamie with his seal, heated to red-hot in a brazier. And in what Jamie says, later in the episode, was the worst deprivation of all, Randall manages to arouse Jamie enough that the captive orgasms. The camera does not cut away from the torture; imaginative lighting does not screen the audience from the abuse. It is meant to be stunningly awful, and so it is.
Vulture: Scottish History X
Jamie’s dark night of the soul with Randall is a perfect and sickening inversion of his wedding night with Claire, in which he had sex for the first time. That night with Claire was, for Jamie, a bit like being born again; this night with Randall saps Jamie of his will to live. To put it as bluntly as possible, Claire made him a man; Randall makes Jamie his bitch. And Jamie, with his Highland notions of masculinity, cannot endure having been treated that way, having had his agency and dignity stripped from him. Even after being rescued, Jamie wants to die. Only through death does he figure he can regain himself.
Almost since their invention, moving pictures have been used to show young, beautiful women suffering at the hands of bad guys. Outlander flips the script. Although Claire, Jenny, and other women have been in plenty of danger over the course of the season, and we got quite used to seeing them stripped at least partly naked, the show’s most gruesome, in-your-face sexual violence is reserved for, of all people, our male hero. He is degraded, lusted after, treated like an object. He needs to be saved.
Outlander understands rape. And as a television series airing in 2015, it’s nearly peerless in that regard. Recently, Game Of Thrones used rape as a trope yet again. And the writers, again, proved they have no idea how to portray rape, especially in its aftermath. Rape narratives are not monolithic, nor are they ever simple, so they are very hard to effectively capture on television. And they should be.
In the season one finale of Outlander, we see, in flashback, how Captain Jack Randall repeatedly raped and brutalized Jamie before Claire, Murtagh, and the other men could break him out of Wentworth. “To Ransom A Man’s Soul” is hardly the first timeOutlander shows violent sexual assault, but it’s the most terrifying episode to date, and quite possibly the most difficult episode of television I’ve ever had to get through. But unlike rape scenes on Game Of Thrones, these graphic scenes between Jamie and Randall never come off as sensationalized horror. There’s a sense that the writers have given thought to how this experience ties into the character’s arc. The sadistic Black Jack Randall has been after Jamie all season. It isn’t violence simply for the sake of violence. It’s violence that’s intricately connected to the character, his arc, and even the narratives of other characters on a show.
Certainly, the graphic nature of the penultimate Outlander was shocking, especially when you look back at the first few episodes that were comparatively bloodless save for the occasional flogging or gunshot wound. But much has changed since Claire walked through the stones and ended up in 18th century Scotland, and by this point we are all well aware of the calculated evilness of Randall and his obsession with Jamie.
So if you were hoping for a finale filled with billowing fields of heather, romance and happy endings, now would be the time to change channels, as in their vigour to depict Randall as one of TV's most gruesome characters, the makers of Outlander have delivered the most disturbing hour of television drama you're ever likely to witness.
Wall Street Journal
Jamie’s rape by Jack will be impossible to forget – and nor should we. 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 womanas the hero. 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. 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. Murtagh, Angus and Rupert (along with Sir Marcus’s 19 hairy cows) may have led the rescue mission out of Wentworth Prison, but it’s Claire who ultimately saves Jamie’s body and his soul.
I’ve seen quite a few people outrageously twitter-screaming via shouty capitals that they refuse to watch Outlander anymore because something-something rape culture something-something. Look, my opinion is clear: Just because you shield your precious moral minds from it, doesn’t make it disappear. Do I think rape and violence are always necessary in entertainment? Nope. But in this case, I think it was done as tastefully and beautifully as it possibly could have.
Fiction may not be real, but the lessons we learn and the things we reveal about ourselves in the light of fiction is very real. Outlander has taught me unconditional, unforgiving love despite all the parts that are hard to watch. But I refuse to be that person with the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.
If it were just physical dominance Jack was looking for, the beatings he’s administered and the first rape of the evening would have done it. Of course that’s not enough. Because he insists that Jamie admit that he’s lost, that he’s Jack’s, and that he release any claim to Claire. Jamie brands himself with Jack’s seal. Jack provides relief from the pain — through lavender oil — to make Jamie submit further. When Jack touches Jamie saying “These are Claire’s hands,” it is impossible not to flinch and shudder.
It’s to this show’s credit that this isn’t sensationalized or romanticized in any way. It’s horrible, it’s presented as horrible, and Jamie does not get over it. It wasn’t something that I’d chose to watch again, and we can always argue whether or not rape needs to be a plot point, but Outlander did seem to try very hard to avoid the pitfalls that media often falls into when dealing with this issue.
Nerdist: A Dark Night of the Soul
Well, it’s the moment most Outlander book readers were waiting for and those of us TV-only fans were dreading as the worst case scenario: the rape of Jamie Fraser at the hand of Black Jack Randall. In a harrowingly hard-to-watch hour of television we were shown the full extent of terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad things that someone as manipulative and messed-up as Black Jack Randall could inflict upon another person. And that answer was: a lot. Like a lot a lot.
Before we do anything, though, we want to say this: for as hard to watch as these last two episodes were, we commend the cast, crew, and creators of this show for portraying something so rarely seen on television. It’s a hard and oftentimes controversial line to tow, but it’s also a necessary one in order to normalize the conversation on how and why humans utilize sexual violence in order to humiliate and destroy their intended targets. This happens, people do this. It’s terrible and gross and unfathomable to a lot of us, but that doesn’t make it less real and/or necessary to shed light on. Control is a huge part of why people rape, and that’s clearly a huge part of Black Jack Randall himself. And despite the smaller numbers, male rape happens. Up until this moment, we’ve only ever seen it on HBO’s Oz (at least as far as we can recall) — and it is important to show that it is just as painful, confusing, and hard to navigate for them as women. In fact in many ways, because of how little it is discussed in society, that may make for a harder hurdle both for the victim and those of us watching it on television to handle. And that goes doubly in a time like the 1740s, when heteronormative gender roles are not only enforced, but the law of the land.
TVLine: Prison Broken
I was gonna write, “The latter is harder to watch,” but that’s just not true. Both Jamie’s rape and its psychological aftereffects are horrifying, compelling, awful and expertly acted, and they provoke so many reactions/conversations, it’s a good thing we have the rest of the recap — and a summer in the Twitterverse — to hash it all out. So take a shot of whatever whiskey is handy, and let’s review “To Ransom a Man’s Soul.”
It is! And no sooner has a curious Randall opened a wooden door than MacRannoch’s entire herd of cattle trample him like someone just called out, “Who wants a burger?” I’m pretty sure that my nerves are just shot from the anticipation of what might’ve happened in the scene before, but the moment he goes down makes me giggle uncontrollably. “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “Interrupting cow.” “Interrupting cow wh–” “MOOOOOOOOOO, JACKASS.”
Outlander at least addressed the aftermath of the event, and concluded (such as it was) with Claire having to bring Jamie back from the abyss by assuring him that there is no shame, and that her love is unconditional. It’s an act that has fundamentally changed Jamie, and not something he can easily put behind him. It’s a huge moment in their relationship, too; Jamie now has to trust Claire completely after sharing that darkness with her.
Hypable: Darkness Most Bleak
After much struggle, Claire finally gets Jamie to realize that he truly is still the man she knows and loves. The attack, and what Randall got Jamie to do does not diminish him in her eyes. Jamie still struggles to believe it until Claire tells him that if he ends his life she will too because she can’t go on without him. She tells him, “There’s nothing to forgive…You did what was necessary to survive that’s all. You belong to no one else but me, and I belong to you. Nothing will ever change that. Randall had you body, I’ll be damned if he has your soul as well…You’re my husband James Fraser. Don’t you dare give up on me now. You swore to me, you promised to me, the protection of your body if need be. Randall had your body, I’ll be damned if he has your soul as well. You’re mine; we are meant to be together. It’s the only way I can wrap my mind around what’s happened these past few months…If you take away the one last thing that makes sense to me, then I will die with you right here now.”
Jamie finally finds within himself the strength and will to live. He enlists the aid of Murtagh, and has Jack Randall’s brand cut out of him. The Jamie we know is back.