Outlander 1.16: “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” Review

A New Horizon Awaits

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

Rape is an act of violence that is to this day and age in the minds of some a difficult act to comprehend. The recent rape of Sansa Stark on Game of Thrones that sent the Internet into an uproar is an example of a scene that was seen by a section of viewers as having used rape as a trope, a plot device to move the plot forward. While I disagree largely with the degree of accusations leveled upon Thrones in the matters of sexual assault (it has undeniably made missteps in this case but it is not the bonafide demon as some have viewed it in this matter), it did bring forward a vital discussion about sexual assault. Part of the complication in understanding rape is understanding consent. Silence is not consent. A muted yes is not consent. Consent is wholeheartedly agreeing with enthusiasm towards a sexual act between individuals. If at any point the victim feels something besides pain and violation, that doesn’t validate it from being a rape. If two individuals are married and one of them doesn’t want to have sex but is coerced by the other, it is still rape. If at any point a partner says no but the sexual act still continues, it is rape. At the end of the previous episode, it was quite clear what fate awaited Jamie and I wasn’t sure whether they would show any of Randall’s acts but they went there repeatedly during the hour, coursing back to the present as Jamie struggled to regain his mental balance after his ordeal. It was a tough act for the episode to pull off but they did it, ending a largely successful season on a hopeful note as Claire and Jamie sail towards an uncertain future but one the two of them share more closely than ever before.

Some have criticized this episode for being gratuitous but the camera never made the horrors being inflicted upon truly titillating. Certain shots of Jamie at the onset could be framed as erotic, but the aforementioned horror crept up immediately so the audience wouldn’t lose sight of what was actually going on. Randall’s desire to own people gets a literal manifestation here, in the form of his initials being branded onto Jamie’s skin. It’s removed afterwards by Murtagh’s knife, but the psychological mark is far deeper. The most telling scene with Randall outside of the branding was when he was infatuated with Jamie’s connection to Claire, a connection so powerful that Jamie submitted himself for torture just to make sure that she was safe. Randall is simultaneously mesmerized by the connection, bemused by it, and certainly made furious because of it. He’s mesmerized because of the sheer power of it, bemused because he simply cannot bring himself to truly understand it, and furious because a part of him knows that he will never be able to approach anywhere near that level of intimacy with anyone, be it Jamie or otherwise. It’s a horrifying conclusion of extreme self-loathing, his psychopathic behavior displaying a sense of control over others that perhaps compensates for the lack of control he feels he has over his own existence.

Jamie may have been rescued, but for the longest time normalcy seemed utterly out of the question, even the tiniest shred of it. Whenever Claire approached Jamie or Randall came near him, their faces reversed. He couldn’t separate the two in his mind and that more than anything else gave him that sickening feeling driving him towards suicide. Claire has to enter the darkness so to speak to get into Jamie’s mind, a confident part of him that had been broken apart by Randall’s manipulation. He was ashamed every time he looked at Claire, wondering if she could ever forgive him, wondering if their relationship could sustain anything after his rape. Jamie wasn’t afraid of gay sex, which he clarifies in the episode Lallybroch, but he was afraid of the pain of torture Randall would bring, the submission he would have to endure, and now the toll it would take on his relationship with Claire. The moment that caused him to feel the most guilt was when he submitted with more ease to Randall because he simply wanted the pain to go away. Immediately as Randall finishes, the tears well up in his eyes and his body begins shaking once more. Not even for a second does Claire look at her husband with an accusatory eye or even a questioning one. Through the many days of healing and the fight that got Jamie to confess what has happened to him under great duress, Claire has had a singular focus of garnering Jamie out of this ordeal intact in some way or another. Randall may have taken his body but there was no way in hell that Claire would allow him to destroy Jamie’s soul.

Jamie was sure that Claire wouldn’t want him like this but Claire once again defies his expectations, reaffirming in no uncertain terms that she was with him every damned step of the way and that they were always meant to be a team, be it in Scotland or the shores of France that await them. The voyage on the Cristabel makes perfect sense considering that their escape would only compound the hunt for Jamie but a couple of nuggets thrown in on the ship’s deck make the wait for the new season all the more agonizing. Knowing something and experiencing something can often be two very different things and Claire garnered that understanding firsthand through her travels to Scotland. Suddenly the Jacobite Rebellion and the bloody fight for Scottish independence became all the more real, visceral. The potential sympathy for the Scottish cause that may have come from reading or listening to Frank suddenly became a real struggle with the fates of people Claire knows and cares about stuck in the balance. It remains to be seen if they can indeed grasp the opportunity to find the Bonnie Prince Charlie in France and alter history in a fairly momentous way. More importantly to our characters’ immediate lives is Claire’s revelation that she’s pregnant, something she for the longest time believed her body was incapable of. The two share smiles of shocked disbelief, laughing with relief at the joy that has arrived in their lives. As Outlander gracefully bows out with Claire and Jamie in each other’s arms amidst the sea, it leaves behind an opening chapter that is flawed but blessed with tremendous writing, direction, acting and some of the most sharp reversals of gender roles I have ever seen. There is a turbulent sea of darkness, but there is always a glimmer of hope.

Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+Opening the episode with the raising of the British flag is a neat stylistic choice with the horrid action of Jack Randall

+“You owe me a debt.”

+The irony of the shots between “Long Live King George” and the rousing Scottish bagpipes that follow as Jamie is rescued

+“The worst is over now, you’ll see.”

+Claire’s voiceover of the medicinal process was one of the show’s better ones

+“I wasn’t exactly praying.”

+Jamie and Murtagh’s conversation in Gaelic was a neat little moment

+“What is her secret? Tell me.”

+“Show me you’re mine.”

+“If you take away the one last thing that makes sense to me, I will die here, with you, right now.”

+“How can you have me like this?”; “I’ll have you any way I can.”

+“What can we do but play our part?”

+Anna Foerster is such an amazing director. Hats off to her, honestly.

+Murtagh is joining the voyage! Yeah!

+The instrumental version of the main theme at the end as the ship was sailing away was perfect, followed by the beautiful reworking of the “Skye Boat Song” by Raya Yarbrough over the end credits. The music is an absolute highlight of this series.

+Emmys all around, please; at least some nominations. #EmmysForOutlander

-The scenes between Claire and Brothern Anselm felt quite rushed and their effect was notably flattened

-The Christ imagery got a little heavy-handed

Brilliant

9/10

Title: To Ransom a Man’s Soul

Written By: Ira Steven Behr & Ronald D. Moore

Directed By: Anna Foerster

Image Courtesy: Outlander TV News

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