Outlander: Wentworth Prison

Let's start off with a bunch of neck-crunching hangings, shall we?

Black Jack Randall's obsession with Jamie Fraser has been the dramatic core of this entire first season, poking up through this beautiful and deeply passionate love story like so much rotten fruit. When Black Jack had him released from the gallows, Jamie looked as if he'd rather hang. Again, I thought about Jamie's role in this story as a traditional damsel in distress, the imprisoned heroine who is now facing a fate worse than death, subject to the villain's blackest desires. And we're talking pitch black here. It's not the man's nickname for nothing.

Throughout the episode, Black Jack kept staring at Jamie and smiling with genuine pleasure, talking about him as if he adored him. As he watched Jamie trying to wrench his leg chain out of the wall, Black Jack compared him to King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone. He said that he'd hoped Jamie had dreamed about him, had thought of him while making love to Claire.

But having Jamie totally under his power wasn't enough. As we saw awhile back when he tried and failed to rape Jamie's sister Jenny, it takes a lot to get Black Jack hard. Even what he did to Jamie's hand didn't do it, although he finally managed to make Jamie scream. (We all remember that Jamie refused to scream when Black Jack nearly whipped him to death.) No, Jamie must voluntarily surrender. He must be willing. And that is just ghastly.

The thing is, it's easy to understand why Black Jack is in love with him. Jamie is incredibly brave, unbelievably stubborn, spectacularly beautiful and totally unattainable. I just spent fourteen episodes falling in love with Jamie Fraser, and seeing him suffer as Black Jack smashed his hand with a mallet was practically unbearable. Throughout his ordeal, Jamie kept trying for expressionless, and failing. His eyes were wide, as if he saw Hell yawning before him.

Claire got the role of the valiant rescuer, and impressively, she risked her life and nearly succeeded. Just walking through that dank dungeon looking for Jamie took incredible courage and nerve, a powerful demonstration of her love. And yet, Claire's presence made it far worse for Jamie. What she does for him is huge. But what he does for her is unthinkable.

If Claire hadn't come to rescue him, Jamie could have kept his pride and continued to resist until he died. He stopped fighting for her sake, even allowing Black Jack to pound a nail through his broken hand. (Crucifixion symbolism, check.) On their wedding night, Jamie promised Claire the protection of his body, and he kept that promise.



Black Jack then forced Jamie to kiss him voluntarily in front of Claire, saying, "We will remember this moment for the rest of our lives." Again, the thing that makes this episode so horrifying is that Black Jack is seeing it through some sort of perverted lens, like it's some great love affair he's having with Jamie and he has finally vanquished Claire as his romantic rival. As Black Jack took Claire away and left him alone, Jamie looked at the nail in his hand, a little echo of that moment at the pillory with the nailed ear. Unlike that boy, Jamie is not going to get away. The worst is yet to come, and he knows it. Like I said, practically unbearable.

What happens to Jamie in this episode is so massive that it's difficult to talk about anything else, but I wanted to mention a few more things.

There was a particularly lovely little moment early on after calm and composed Claire finished bamboozling Sir Fletcher the warden. She walked out of the prison holding Jamie's personal effects and very little hope and collapsed, sobbing. Murtagh gently rubbed her back as she threw up, and then he picked her up and carried her away. These two have become close, and I love it.

Claire's courage when Black Jack caught her was amazing. She tried to get his attention away from Jamie by talking about Black Jack watching while Marley raped her. She even threw herself at Black Jack and knocked him down, giving Jamie the opportunity to kill Marley. Not enough, but it should have been.



Angus and Rupert are so often revolting and obnoxious, but the two of them cleverly got the skinny on Sir Fletcher by dicing with two Wentworth jailers. And now Murtagh has an escape plan that involves cows.

Cows?

Bits:

— The redcoats were literally signing death warrants. I was sorry to see MacQuarrie go, and especially that he suffered. No instant neck crunch for him. It's a shame he didn't finish yelling for the rebellion and a Stuart king.

— Black Jack burned the written complaint that could have saved Jamie. So much for the Duke's help.

— Jamie used Black Jack's infatuation with his flogging handiwork to try to get free. It almost worked, too. "How does it feel to be alive yet wear so much dead flesh?" Shudder.

— Marley watched Black Jack interacting with Jamie with a perenially puzzled look on his face.

— Black Jack is not exactly a man of his word. He assured Jamie that Claire was safe, right after he dropped her through a hole on top of a pile of dead bodies. Including, sadly, MacQuarrie's.

— There were several shots of Jamie's feet in chains. In the end, Black Jack took them off. Jamie is imprisoned by his own word now.

— In a scene that echoed Murtagh and the bracelets, Claire tried to bribe MacRannoch with her wedding pearls. Turned out he was the one who gave the pearls to Ellen MacKenzie. If she was indeed as beautiful as her son and had a similar personality, Ellen must have been a force of nature.

— The incredible location where this episode was filmed was Linlithgow Palace.

— Gold acting stars for Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies and Caitriona Balfe. They pulled off one devastating physical and emotional scene after another and made us believe it.

Quotes:

MacQuarrie: "Is it the rope you're afraid of?"
Jamie: "No. What grieves me is to think my wife will never forgive me for foolishly getting myself hung."
MacQuarrie: "Aye. Nothing like a wife to make a man feel disquieted at his own death."

Black Jack: "You could have a Roman death. You could fall on your sword, like Brutus. Or maybe a Greek demise; Socrates took hemlock. No. Perhaps you do not want to see my face at the end. I understand. I can simply slit your throat from behind. It's messy, but… the choice is yours."
Jamie: "How will I ever choose?"
The expression on Sam Heughan's face and his reading of this line made me laugh out loud.

Jamie: "I won't surrender. To you or any man."
Black Jack: "I have to admit there is a part of me that would be crestfallen if you did."

Black Jack: (to Claire) "You truly have a gift for showing up at the most unexpected times."
Claire: "You beast!"
Black Jack: "You can do better than that."
Claire: "You fucking sadistic piece of shit!"

Black Jack: "You're a fit match for your husband and I cannot give you a better compliment than that."

Claire: "Witch I am. And I curse you. I curse you with knowledge, Jack Randall. I give you the hour of your death."
And she did. I bet it freaked him out. Of course, we didn't hear what it was.

This is a difficult episode to watch, and I don't think I can rate it. I have some things to say about why the author of the book chose to do something like this to her hero, but I'm going to save it for my review of the season finale,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

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