& Graphic Images
I must say that with all the hub-bub surrounding the “Wentworth Prison” episode — which turned into two episodes, the second of which was mostly flashbacks and the Finale — from Starz’s Outlander, based on the bestselling novels by Diana Gabaldon, I was expecting more from both the “Wentworth Prison” episode and from the Finale. A whole lot more. I have to say, I was incredibly disappointed. With all of it.
The Starz Warning
For the first time since the series began, Starz put a Warning before the show began, stating that it contained scenes of “graphic violence, prolonged torture, rape” etc. I was shocked. Just last week, BJR broke Jamie’s hand with an iron mallet, hitting it repeatedly, and there was no such warning. Then he nailed Jamie’s hand to the table: no warning.
Last season, there was an extended flogging episode where Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) was literally slipping in Jamie’s (Sam Heughan) blood, and there was no “graphic violence” or “extended torture” warning.
Claire was raped by a deserting Redcoat, whom she killed mid-coitus, and there was no “rape” warning. From the comments made repeatedly by writers, actors, and executive producer of the show, Ron Moore — that they were going into some really dark places — I thought the “Wentworth Prison” and “To Ransom A Man’s Soul” episodes were going to be horrific, especially since they were on cable, which has more freedom than network television and even movies (who often take out violence to get an R rather than an X rating).
The episodes weren’t horrific.
And I’m not even sure what the “prolonged torture” warning was about.
In last week’s episode, “Wentworth Prison,” BJR grabbed Jamie’s wife Claire (Caitriona Balfe) with the clear intention of raping her, right in front of her husband. Jamie then valiantly offered up himself, which is what BJR has wanted all along, in place of her freedom. Despite its being patently obvious that BJR was going to release Claire unharmed (unbelievable in itself) in return for “buggering” Jamie — which Claire had to have known since Jamie told her earlier this season that BJR had given Jamie a choice between being buggered and being flogged — Claire constantly asked, in last night’s episode, after they’d rescued Jamie, “What did he do to you, Jamie?”
She asked it so many times that I began to wonder if she’d been knocked on the head by one of the stampeding cattle and forgotten everything Jamie had ever told her as well as what had happened among the three of them when they had all been together in the cell.
“What did he do to you, Jamie? What did he do?”
You mean, besides breaking his hand and fingers with an iron mallet?
You mean, besides nailing his hand to a table in an equally gruesome scene, at which Claire was present?
All the men who helped Claire rescue her husband seemed to know exactly what had happened to Jamie without his telling them. All the viewers knew simply from the opening scene of Jamie’s flashback with him in the cell, on the cot, naked, with BJR lying naked beside him. The expression on Jamie’s face told us he’d been raped, most viciously, probably repeatedly.
It didn’t work dramatically.
It simply made her seem like an idjit.
For some inexplicably bizarre reason, Claire spent an inordinate amount in the Finale “confessing” to a monk (can they even hear confession?) about her coming through the stones, leaving Frank behind, being tried as a witch, blah blah blah.
What on earth was the dramatic purpose of that?
The viewers knew all that already, and the monk — as far as I know — will never be in the story again. Unlike her husband Jamie, who needed to know that information.
She’d just rescued her husband from BJR and Wentworth prison. She set his hand so he wouldn’t be crippled for life. She was trying to help him heal: emotionally, physically, and psychologically.
The Finale was called “To Ransom a Man’s Soul,” not “To Cleanse a Woman’s Soul.” She hadn’t done anything to confess, and her “confession” neither ransomed nor saved Jamie’s soul.
It was a total waste of show time.
Even if it was one of the scenes in the book, it should have been cut from the show.
Yeah, I know this show is happening in 1740’s Scotland. I know the clan members speak Scots Gaelic. (And I know the photo above is not when they were speaking Gaelic in the Finale, but some photos are just not available.) But what was with all the untranslated and un-subtitled Gaelic between Jamie and his godfather Murtagh? I had no idea what was going on, though both men seemed upset.
Which of the two writers of the Finale thought that scene was going to work?
General Claire Patton
Now, picture this: Claire, some of Jamie’s clan members, and a whole herd of stampeding cattle have just rescued Jamie from the horrors of Wentworth Prison and BJR, and because he doesn’t want to eat and expresses a wish to die, Claire goes all General Patton on him.
Slapping, screaming, kicking, hitting Jamie.
That’s about the time I wanted to put Claire in Wentworth Prison.
What happened to the nurse who’d been in war herself? Where was the competent, caring nurse who helped boys dying from wounds as bad as or far worse than anything Jamie had suffered at the hands of BJR — wounds that caused amputation, blindness, and death from the more advanced weapons of WWII?
Where was that woman?
She had turned into General George Patton.
And I don’t mean the guy who beat the Nazis in some significant battles and helped the Allies win the War.
I mean the self-absorbed, immature, egotistical man who cruelly slapped, humiliated, and viciously berated soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — then called Shell-Shock — because they didn’t “look injured” but were still in the hospital tent instead of back on the battlefield.
That General Patton.
Yes, that’s what Claire did to Jamie in the Finale after she rescued him because he wouldn’t tell her, in minute detail, what BJR had done to him.
I wanted to knock her upside the head.
If there was any “prolonged torture” in the Finale, it was Claire’s insensitive treatment of Jamie.
Many of the clansmen, especially those who went with Claire to help rescue Jamie from BJR, have grown to respect Claire as a healer, and some may have even grown fond of her personally. Their good-byes on the beach, before Jamie and Claire set sail for France, perhaps never to meet them again, should have been touching and poignant. Instead, somebody threw in a scene where Angus (Stephen Walters), whom Claire had given permission to kiss her farewell, grabbed her breasts with both hands.
If the actor playing Angus did it improv, then what a disappointment that the director didn’t berate him for its inappropriate nature in the Finale, and a further disappointment that the scene wasn’t deleted in the editing room.
And if it wasn’t improv on the actor’s part, then it was yet another instance of the show’s writers needing to learn when humor is effective and when it is most definitely not.
The Boat Scene
After all the horrible things that have happened to Jamie, after the brutality he’s suffered at the hands of BJR and the insensitive cruelty of his wife afterward, the two flee to France at the end of the Finale. Incredibly, Jamie seems all healed, especially emotionally and psychologically.
Claire reveals that she’s pregnant, though she’d told him in a previous episode that she thought she couldn’t ever have children, and asks him if he’s happy. He is. The wind is blowing their long tresses, they’re holding each other, and they look just like the cover of some cheap, mass-market paperback romance.
Out of tone with the entire series, but especially with the last two episodes.
BJR is and always has been obsessed with Jamie, and not just because he’s a Scottish rebel, or because he’s wanted for murder. BJR is obsessed with Jamie sexually, emotionally, and psychologically. BJR wants to possess Jamie physically, and he wants Jamie’s love.
Unfortunately, BJR knows he’ll never get what he wants, so he tortured, raped, humiliated, and shamed Jamie instead.
Despite author Gabaldon’s repeated insistence about the heterosexual orientation of BJR, despite her contacting reviewers telling them they’d misinterpreted BJR and that their statements about his being a homosexual were incorrect, and perhaps suggesting that said reviewers re-write their reviews of episode 12, which at least one of them actually did, stating therein that Gabaldon had contacted him to “correct” his review; and despite Gabaldon’s rather dismissive responses to readers’ questions and statements on her Facebook Profile when they say that they had always thought BJR did, indeed, love Jamie and wanted him physically as a lover from the moment they read the books, Black Jack Randall seems to know an inordinate amount about homosexual intimacies and male-on-male sexual behavior.
He wants Jamie to tell him he loves him. He attempts to French-kiss Jamie. He tries to perform fellatio on Jamie. He uses his hands in an effort to excite Jamie. Black Jack even unties his long, curly hair and lets it drape across Jamie’s body, just like a woman might do, attempting to arouse him. When all that fails, he brutally rapes him, ordering Jamie, over and over, to “scream.”
But the scene where BJR “breaks” Jamie — according to Jamie — is when BJR “makes love” to him. Instructing an already tortured, broken, raped, and disoriented Jamie to think of his wife Claire, whom he loves, BJR touches him sexually on the nipples and genitals. Black Jack then undresses, gets behind Jamie, and rapes him again, though not as brutally this time, while still stroking Jamie’s genitals.
Jamie has an involuntary orgasm.
That makes him think that BJR has broken him, body and soul.
That is what completely and utterly shames Jamie.
Of course, Jamie could have had no knowledge of the prostate gland, nor could he have known that stroking it — with fingers, inserted objects, or male genitalia — sometimes causes involuntary ejaculation.
Not pleasure. Not climax. Not love.
But Jamie doesn’t know any of that.
BJR does, which demonstrates that he has plenty of experience in homosexual encounters with other males, be they voluntary or forced on the other man’s part. In any event, BJR knows exactly what to do to other men’s bodies to cause sexual arousal and ejaculation.
And let’s please be clear that I am not in any way associating sexual orientation with sadism. Black Jack is a vicious sadist. He’s also a rapist. And, no matter what author Diana Gabaldon claims she intended him to be, Black Jack Randall is a homosexual. It’s not the rape of Jamie that verifies that BJR is a homosexual: it’s BJR’s kissing of Jamie’s wounds, BJR’s wanting to be told that Jamie loves him, it’s BJR’s wanting to perform fellatio on Jamie (if BJR had forced Jamie to perform fellatio on BJR, that would not necessarily be homosexuality, but it would be humiliation), it’s BJR’s sleeping naked with Jamie afterward — as if they were consensual lovers. All those things indicate that BJR is, indeed, a homosexual. One that also happens to be a sadist.
Black Jack might have pretensions or aspirations toward bi-sexuality, but we were never shown his actually raping a woman: Claire got rescued every time she was in his clutches, and Jamie’s sister Jenny claimed that BJR couldn’t attain an erection even with his own manual stimulation when he wanted to rape her.
In short, Black Jack Randall is a homosexual who also happens to be a vicious sadist. Black Jack is also obsessed with Jamie, if not actually in love with him, and Jamie’s continual “rejection” of BJR results in his desire to punish and humiliate Jamie through sadistic acts.
It’s the physical act of ejaculation during one of the subsequent rapes that causes Jamie’s shame. That’s why he wants to die. He thinks that because his body ejaculated due to the pressure of BJR’s member against Jamie’s prostate, it meant he enjoyed being with BJR. Jamie might have thought it meant he didn’t hate Black Jack. He might have even thought the ejaculation meant he loved BJR, which would have horrified Jamie.
Of course, the involuntary ejaculation didn’t mean those things at all. Jamie was still being raped. It was still non-consensual. But it made Jamie feel broken, it shamed him, it made him want to die.
I guess poor Jamie didn’t realize that being hanged also causes the body to involuntarily ejaculate — which is one of the reasons hangings were so popular, and why it’s considered more “shameful” for military prisoners to be hanged than to be executed by a firing squad, for example. If Jamie had known that hanged men’s bodies also involuntarily ejaculate, he might have realized that it wasn’t pleasure he was feeling when it happened to him as Black Jack was raping him.
But poor Jamie didn’t know that.
In fact, during the hangings in the episode before “Wentworth Prison,” the condemned men — Jamie among them — discussed the fact that hanged men soil themselves, but they meant only the involuntary evacuation of the bowels; the writers were careful not to include the fact that men’s bodies also involuntarily ejaculate during hangings. At the time, I wondered why the prisoners didn’t talk about the ejaculation since even women and children knew about it in those days. Now, however, I think the writers intentionally left that information out in the hanging scene discussion because it was going to be the involuntary ejaculation during the rape that was going to “break” Jamie’s spirit.
It’s the one thing that the writers of the Finale did get right: Jamie’s psychic pain and unbearable shame over his body’s involuntary ejaculation during the rape. Jamie’s misinterpretation of that ejaculation as good feelings toward BJR, or as sexual excitement, or even as love for Black Jack, when Jamie knows perfectly well that he does not love BJR, is what causes Jamie’s unbearable shame.
That’s what Jamie meant when he told Claire that BJR had broken him.
Because he felt completely and utterly broken.
That’s how rape victims feel.
I gotta tellya, those cows were great. The way they just stampeded into the prison, without any weapons or protection of any kind. The way they knocked down those doors and those Redcoats to rescue Jamie without ever once slowing down to think of their own safety. The way none of those cows deserted or ran away in panic. Those cows were great. So brave. So self-sacrificing. So honorable. So… Cow-y. They were wonderful. I applauded them.
I looked for their names in the credits so I could list them in this post; alas, they were apparently just stunt cows, without any lines, and without any screen credits.
The show needed more cows.
It’s gotta have more Cowbell.
p.s. Hugs and kisses and thanks to regular commenter, Jo, for the much improved title, and for permission to use it.