Synopsis of 1×15: Claire and the Highlanders work on a plan to rescue Jamie; a visit from Black Jack causes Jamie to realize a fate exists that is worse than his death sentence.
To say this was a dark episode of Outlander would be an understatement. And yet, for what I knew would happen eventually, I have to applaud them for managing to do this in the best way possible.
But let’s start from the top. After “The Search”, we are thrown back into Outlander but this time we close in on Jamie and Taran about to be hung in the gallows by some redcoats. It never ceases to make me cringe how easily a hanging can go wrong, and as we see Taran hang there from the end of the rope being painfully dragged to his death, it seems like the future can’t really get grimmer for young Jamie.
But it’s before he’s got the noose around his neck that Black Jack Randall rides into Wentworth and calls off the execution. You know nothing good can come of Jack’s interference, but at least Jamie is safe from the noose.
Meanwhile, Claire desperately searches for a way to break Jamie out of the prison, and uses whatever is at her disposal to do it. Claire’s dedication to Jamie has been proven twenty times over, after the previous episode’s tireless search, being so close seems to have not only hardened her heart but also strengthened her spirit. Of course, it is no easy task, breaking out Jamie, and the very plan they implement nearly gets them caught.
Randall, having finally had Jamie at his disposal, seems to be caught between punishing Jamie through torture and fighting his own sadistic arousal at the sight of the act. Both Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan play off one another brilliantly in the episode, and are able to not only convince me as a viewer of the situation, but also draw an electricity that keeps the scene going.
After shattering Jamie’s hand with a mallet and beating him up, Claire finds him in this state, and is barely able to get him to stand before being caught by Randall. A fight ensues, but it’s clear that Randall has the upperhand, having the jailer on his side and Claire having no one but a beaten Jamie. Although Claire and Jamie manages to kill the jailer, it’s obvious they aren’t getting away.
The potential of Claire being tortured as well is enough to fully break Jamie, who gives in to Randall and agrees to give himself over to him without a fight if he leaves Claire unharmed. A theme the episode hinges on is not only the relationship between Randall and Jamie but also the inherent power struggle between the two. Randall repeatedly refers to breaking Jamie, and Jamie fights back telling him that Randall is the broken one. It seems to be an insult that Randall, at least partially, takes to heart.
He acknowledges that some people find his sadistic tendencies and homosexual attraction to be monstrous, and at one point, even reels himself in from temptation. Although there is nothing to forgive when it comes to the black-hearted Jack Randall, the episode paints a nuanced villain, and one that is haunted not only by his own desires but also his own failures. When Claire is taken away from Jamie, she curses Randall after he asks about the witch trials, and tells him the exact details of his death.
It’s a delightfully haunting scene, and gives a little bit of victory for Claire after such a crushing defeat. Seeing Claire sobbing at Jamie’s feet while his hand is nailed to the table, telling her to go, is quite possibly the most heartbreaking scene we’ve seen on television all week.
For book readers, Jamie’s rape should come as no surprise. However, the surprising thing is, that even as a show watcher, part of me knew that the episode was leading up to this. From the torture, to the way that Randall eyes Jamie, to Claire’s arrival at the prison. Jamie has said that he feels guilty over the fact that he did not comply to Randall before, and instead stood his ground and inadvertently caused his father’s heart attack.
With that kind of guilt riding on him, no matter if it was his fault or not, it is not outlandish for us to see him comply to Randall after seeing Claire in his clutches. The scene, however difficult, was done as tastefully as possible given the material (ehm… Game of Thrones, take some lessons). And while it seems impossible to see Jamie out of this situation, Murtagh conjures up a plan in the eleventh hour that seems to be able to free Jamie without more men or more firepower.
Don’t forget to tune in this Saturday for the season finale of Outlander to see Jamie’s escape and the climactic end to the freshman season of STARZ’s Outlander.