Outlander returned for the second half of its first season this past weekend. I was both highly anticipating and dreading it. Why? Because it was going to have that scene.
As a fan of the book series, I knew the spanking scene was coming, and I had hoped that the show would skip over it, since I didn’t really like it in the book and felt like there was no point including it in the show. However, they went with it, and my first reaction was dismay by how comically it was handled. I understand the need to downplay the severity of the act; yet by doing that, it almost felt like it was no big deal. As I watched the rest of the episode, the spanking scene stayed with me and couldn’t leave.
I asked a couple of writers from The Young Folks’ staff for their thoughts as fans of Outlander. You can read them below.
Melissa Berne said:
So, I really didn’t like that Jaime wanted to spank Claire, when she clearly was not into it. They tried to make it seem funny, I feel, but I kept thinking “Oh hell no.”
However, I did appreciate that she hit him back and later on threatened him mid-coitus. Nice touch, Claire. It was a powerful scene because she was against it from the beginning and then set him straight about how to treat her.
Dana Cuadrado said:
“The Reckoning” had a very controversial scene from the eyes of someone in the 21st century. I love this book, subsequently this show, because despite how brutal or unpleasant certain scenes may be, they were never afraid to go there and be as historically accurate as possible. The scene between Claire and Jamie was very difficult to watch, but was necessary to demonstrate how difficult their marriage will be because of the fact that she is not from the same time as him. Jamie and Claire’s relationship in the book is constantly clashing. They fight mainly because they don’t understand each other. The differences in how they act and speak were pointed out several times in this episode, more so than any other. I think that scene between them is meant to really bring it the viewers’ attentions that their marriage is not going to be an easy one because of the differences in their values and ideals.
Claire is an outspoken independent woman of the 20th Century. Jamie is a strong and kind man, who was taught obedience through pain (a scene that was quite difficult to watch in the first half of the season). I can understand why some people would really be put off by the scene of domestic violence, but it is something that occurred in a time when women had zero rights in society and their marriage. I think it was worth touching upon in the show, especially knowing the mindset of Jamie after having been beaten for his wrongdoings for his whole life.
As fans of the show, our first impulse is to justify the actions in the scene. Yes, this is how women were treated back then. And yes, Claire got back at Jamie for his foolishness. Both are fair points that you can’t dismiss, seeing as the show is trying to be as faithful to history as much as it can. On the other hand, no one can deny the sense of wrongness of Jamie punishing Claire. Knowing his character, it came out of left field. Jamie never was the kind of man to follow the crowd; he did his own thing and has often been punished for it. So why does he now decide to follow this one societal norm? Jamie is clever enough to convince his fellow clansmen to forgive Claire without giving her a beating. I mean, you saw him temporarily mend Colum and Dougal’s relationship. If he can convince those two stubborn men, why couldn’t he talk his way out of beating Claire? My questions are just as aimed at the book as they are to the show.
After watching the episode twice more, I caught a few things that I hadn’t before:
- I love when Jamie and Claire argue. It’s passionate and riveting. I like that Claire never really apologizes for not listening to Jamie and getting caught by the British. It isn’t until Jamie breaks down that she says she’s sorry. She’s apologizing for making Jamie feel hurt and scared, not because she was caught and almost raped.
- That was a nice kick to the face, Claire.
- Jamie isn’t so stubborn that he refuses to learn from his mistakes. After the spanking scene and Claire’s silent treatment, Jamie knows he wronged her. His pledge to never hurt her again is epically swoon-worthy. This is why we love Jamie because he tries his best to rectify his wrongs and be a better person. He empowers Claire in a time where women are made small. We learn that he’s a much more modern man than we initially thought.
I still believe we didn’t need that spanking scene in order to learn about those few things above. Nevertheless, the show did a good job structuring important character/relationship development around it. Now it’s funny to see that Claire and Jamie are more connected (literally) than ever. I’m excited to watch how the rest of the season unfolds for this beautiful couple.
Outlander is rated TV-MA and airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.