The last time Outlander viewers spied Jamie Fraser, he was bloody, broken and likely hoping death would arrive swiftly, if for no other reason than to stop the tongue bath administered by his depraved nemesis, Black Jack Randall.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. The many indignities Fraser suffered throughout the series’ most recent episode included getting literally licked by his arch enemy — and life will get far, far worse for the strapping Scot before the season finale is over, star Sam Heughan says.
“Jamie’s very much affected by this,” the actor tells TVLine. “If you’ve read the books, you know that.”
If you don’t know what he means by “this,” you likely haven’t read Diana Gabaldon’s series of novels, which follow Jamie and his time-traveling wife Claire, yet you likely have a dreadful feeling about how Fraser’s extended prison-cell encounter with Randall ends. Suffice to say: Whatever you’re expecting, it’s probably worse.
“The most important thing, fundamentally, was to tell that part of the story as truthfully as we possibly could,” series creator/executive-producer Ronald D. Moore says. “This is tricky material, very harrowing material, but we wanted to play the truth of what really happened between these two… and to find that line where you’re neither being gratuitous, and you’re not shying away at the same time — where you’re showing what needs to be shown, and you’re not afraid of it, but you’re not reveling in it.”
He adds: “You have to find that tone, and it just took a lot of time.”
Heughan and co-star Tobias Menzies spent hours talking through the scenes with each other and director Anna Foerster, Moore says, as they prepped for a rough week or so of shooting.
“The set is usually a pretty light place to work, and this was not that tone. This was a very serious set,” the EP recalls. “It was physically dark. The prison cell was not a happy place to be.”
Menzies’ description of the working environment is a bit more picturesque. “You have [Randall’s] big servant dead in the corner. There’s blood on the floor. There’s bloody hammers,” he says. “It was a challenge within the story, but also a physical challenge. A lot of prosthetics” — like Jamie’s scarred back (the object of Black Jack’s aforementioned licking) and his mangled hand, which Randall nailed to a table in the previous episode — “and a lot of complicated elements to it.”
Though he’s proud of how the intricate scenes turned out, Heughan admits that Jamie’s roiling emotions were “kind of hard to switch off” at the end of a very long day of work.
“I needed to decompress after a couple of weeks. It was pretty tense,” he says, adding that some time outdoors — he climbed seven of Scotland’s lower-lying mountains in a day, a pastime referred to as Munro bagging — “was really a nice way to clear the mind.”
Before that, though? When Heughan could still feel Randall’s mindgames wreaking havoc with Jamie’s tortured soul?
“I got drunk,” Heughan says, chuckling.
Rape is dramatic. No wonder it's a tried-and-true device for TV drama.
It's certainly a staple of "Game of Thrones," the wildly popular HBO series whose disapproving viewers "fear that rape has become so pervasive in the drama that it is almost background noise: a routine and unshocking occurrence," as The New York Times said in a front-page story a year ago.
That uproar was renewed recently by a rape scene in the episode that aired May 17. But oddly for a series whose untamed storytelling savors graphic violence of all kinds, this particular rape (of a young virgin bride by her brutish husband on their wedding night) was contained in a brief scene staged completely off-camera.
If this depiction, downright demure for "Game of Thrones," was meant as an olive branch to outspoken detractors, the gesture didn't work. Reaction was swift and harsh, including that from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who tweeted that the scene was "gratuitous" and "disgusting," adding that she was "done" with the show.
Viewers who agree may likewise want to skip the season finale of Starz network's period drama "Outlander."
Meanwhile, viewers with an open mind are invited to share an unflinching dramatization of violence — sexual and otherwise — that nonetheless reflects care and artistry. And they may want to heed this spoiler alert and stop reading here until they see it. (The episode airs Saturday at 9 p.m. EDT.)
"Outlander," based on Diana Gabaldon's best-selling novels, focuses on Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a lovely British Army nurse who was mysteriously swept from her 1940s world back to the 18th century, where she fell in love with a dashing Scottish warrior, Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan). But their romance, not to mention their lives, are placed in constant jeopardy by Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall (Tobias Menzies), a maniacal British Redcoat officer who means to break the man he regards as his archrival.
"I just want this to be a pleasant experience for us both," he tells Jamie with chilling courtliness as the punishment that dominated last week's episode intensifies in the dungeon cell where he is holding Jamie captive.
"It's not the usual place you take your male lead characters," admits executive producer Ronald D. 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. And that's the point where I'm going to cut.' I don't want to lose my audience, and I don't want to lose ME — I couldn't lose my own investment in the story by going to a place I felt was exploitative, which I detest."
Television has dealt viewers many memorable instances of rape: Joan Holloway by her fiance on "Mad Men." Anna Bates by the valet of a visiting lord on "Downton Abbey." Dr. Jennifer Melfi, attacked and raped in a parking-garage stairwell in "The Sopranos."
Nor has male rape been absent from the TV screen. On HBO's prison drama "Oz," which aired from 1997-2003, such attacks were commonplace. And 30 years ago on the NBC hospital drama "St. Elsewhere," Dr. Jack Morrison was raped by a male inmate while performing community service in the penitentiary's clinic.
When depicted responsibly, rape is treated not only as a violent act but also as a storm of reactions by its victim (Jamie, filled with shame and guilt, tells Claire he did "too much and not enough" in response to his assailant) that collectively drive home why rape has no place in a civilized world.
Even so, despite his care, Moore is braced for some viewers to object to what they see on Saturday's "Outlander."
"I'm sure we'll take some flak," he says. "It was going to be controversial whenever it aired, and at this moment, 'Game' is getting play on that issue. So I'm sure we'll get swept up in the same conversation. But I hope people judge our show on its own merits."
Source 1 and Source 2