Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of Outlander. To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
This week’s new Outlander episode isn’t an easy one. In fact, it’s the show’s most brutal and moving episode yet. If you’ve read the books, you know what’s coming, and if you haven’t, prepare yourself for Black Jack’s return because to say it’s disturbing is an understatement. (If violence, torture, abuse, and rape are triggers for you, I don’t suggest watching this episode or reading the rest of this review.)
I’ve seen some debates recently between avid TV watchers about how entertainment’s main objective is to make you happy, escape to a new world and forget about the bad in your own life. In a way, that’s true. I love escaping into a good story with engaging characters and losing myself for an hour or two at a time. It makes me happy. However, I don’t require it to always make me happy. Sometimes, I want it to make me sad, to frighten me, to move me, to make me think, discover, and see something—whether good or bad—in a new light. Television is an art in the form of visual storytelling, and if we want to be honest about our world, society, history, and most importantly ourselves, we shouldn’t always want completely “happy” stories that don’t challenge us one way or another.
That’s not to say I actually enjoy watching Black Jack torture Jamie Fraser, by smashing his hand repeatedly with a hammer and then nailing it to a table. It had me curled up in fright and then seething with anger as I watched Claire cling to him crying, realizing that they are both totally helpless against the evil Red Coat captain in this situation. The opening scene is unflinching as we see Scottish prisoners get hanged one after another. The scene where Claire is dumped in a nest of those dead, hanged men bodies is just as visceral.
Nothing compares to Black Jack’s sadistic pleasure of torturing and breaking Jamie though. Thankfully, this episode doesn’t show us all of Black Jack’s plans for Jamie, but the teasing alone is enough to make hairs rise and goosebumps appear. It’s dreadfully sad when a single tear falls down Jamie’s face as Black Jack taunts him. Seeing Jamie, who was always big, strong, good, and oh-so-hopeful, accept that this is how his life will end is hard thing to swallow. For the first time all season, I cried. This buildup of awful scenes moved me in a way it hadn’t before. We spent the whole season getting to know these characters to eventually get to this moment that even Black Jack says will be one we won’t ever forget.
Again, this episode isn’t easy to digest at all, but you do have to understand that story doesn’t end here. We see that as Claire, Murtagh, and Dougal’s men work together outside the prison walls to help Jamie escape. Even after her encounter with Black Jack, Claire isn’t giving up, and neither are the men because Murtagh has a plan. It’s with that huge spark of hope after a tough episode that left me breathless but mostly intrigued. Now, we’re going to be heading into a new direction with these characters, as they deal with the fallout of this situation. Is it safe to assume that Jamie survives? I sure hope so because I want to see Outlander tackle the psychological and physical after-effects of such abuse with a character like Jamie. (And I also want to see Black Jack die.)
Outlander is rated TV-MA and airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz. The season finale will air on May 30th.