This was a very powerful episode, one that’s inspired numerous think pieces for weeks now. Probably one of the most important hours of TV I’ve seen in years. Not many shows would handle rape, especially male rape, in such an in your face way. Your strapping, handsome hero is being victimized and this is what it looks like. You won’t like it, but you’ll feel it.
And very successful in showing that rape is about violence and power, not sex. Even the full frontal of Tobias Menzies/Black Jack illustrated the power play. The contrast of Jamie lying defeated while BJR strolls around with confidence. Forcing a reaction from Jamie’s body. Making him think of Claire so the abuser gets the ultimate surrender from the abused – enjoying his own degradation.
I can’t say enough about Sam Heughan in this episode. The delirium in the dungeon. The deadness in his voice and eyes. Stroking the brand. Flinching at the slightest of touches. Somehow shrinking that big body away when Willie comes near. Such an amazing and nuanced performance, showing the shame and defeat.
But, I really, really wish that the season finale had done one thing better – spent a little more time actually ransoming this man’s soul than on what took it prisoner in the first place. There was a delicate balance that Outlander needed to maintain, but didn’t always do so. Fortunately, real life rape victims don’t have to fit their recovery into a 60-minute time slot. While I know that Jamie will deal with the trauma of his rape and torture for years to come, somehow this episode made his recovery feel too convenient.
I hate being one of those “that’s not how it was in the book” people, but in this case, when Claire puts Jamie in that hallucinogenic state and forces him to relive those moments in that cell with Black Jack were far more effective than just a quick word about wanting to die with him and a flick of Murtagh’s knife. It helps that Claire proclaims her love for him, no matter what. How many assault victims never feel worthy of that after such trauma? The intent was no doubt to leave the viewer hopeful after everything we just witnessed, but it also comes close to trivializing what can seem insurmountable to survivors of sexual assault.
It’s just not that easy.
Alas, season 1 has come to a close, with a happy-ish ending. Our heroes are sailing off to France with a baby on board and a vague hope that they can stop what’s coming.
I loved this adaptation as a whole, and I can’t wait to see what Ron Moore, the writers, and actors do with Dragonfly in Amber.