The acting, amazing storytelling and some foreshadowing, those great light moments in between the horror
Not exactly a 'negative' but the gore was so realistic it was hard to watch at times
Their coats are red to hide all the blood they’ve shed in this weeks theme of Outlander.
This week’s Outlander was a rather intense one! Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe) found herself siding with her clan Mackenzie hosts while being invited in for questioning by the British soldiers. As luck would have it, Claire runs into an old enemy (and her husband’s ancestor), Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), and is faced with quite a number of more difficult questions than she had bargained for. We learn the whole story of how Jamie (Sam Heughan) got those gruesome scars on his back, much to our and Claire’s disgust. Claire isn’t quite able to convince the villainous Jack Randall of her fabricated story nor her oblivion of the Mackenzies raising money for the Jacobite cause. She is threatened to being subject of further, more violent questioning by Randall the following day, but Dougal and co. decide it would be better to make Claire an official Scot. The episode ends with Claire’s engagement to her virgin(!) patient, Jamie. Let’s talk about these Redcoats and Jack Randall’s penchant for a bloody good show.
British accents aren’t all the same
Claire is in the company of English soldiers as she’s used to and comfortable with, but these are different circumstances than the Second World War. As we once would have suspected Claire to side with the English, she confirms that she is willingly in the company of these Scots. Since Claire’s shifting allegiance to the rebels in the previous episode, we get a better glimpse of how Claire truly feels about her Scottish hosts now. Hearing her not only stand up for their seemingly unintelligible accents (according to the pompous Lord Thomas) but for her to also declare that they deserve freedom from the English and rights to their own land was borderline treasonous and very dangerous for her to say in such company. It’s also no wonder the UK has yet to pick up Outlander on their television channels until after the Scottish Independence vote has ended.
“I am a guest of the clan Mackenzie.” ~ Claire
Not only is Claire standing up for the Scots and very clearly siding with them, we see Dougal return as a protector of Claire. Dougal’s quips and jabs are the English are not only extremely entertaining, but a good demonstration of the tensions that existed (and may still exist) between the Scottish and the English. English occupation of the Scottish lands are a sore subject for the Scots and exactly what we saw Dougal trying to raise money to combat last week. Though Dougal’s protection is laden with sexual innuendo (something about grinding corn), he doesn’t fail to defend her honour and rescue her at the most apt time (when Jack Randall has instructed his terrified lackey to kick her continuously).
‘Bloody’ and ‘masterpiece’ are two words that should not go together
Things go so smoothly (too smoothly) arranging Claire’s trip to Inverness accompanied by Lt. Foster that we were just waiting for Jack Randall to appear and for something to go wrong. Of course, the moment he comes storming in, everything goes downhill at an eery, unpredictable pace. Just when we think we’d hit the worst moment, Jack Randall makes it worse. Once he draws Claire’s likeness during her fabricated story of her affair with a soldier in Scotland and calls it “Beautiful Lies,” we know things are about to get really bad. His feigning interest and belief in her story throughout the episode and suddenly turning the tables on her is like a constant smack in the face. Just when we think there is hope for him, of perhaps redemption, he becomes an even darker, more twisted character.
The writer, Ira Steven Behr’s, choice to tell the story of Jamie’s flogging at Fort William from Jack Randall’s point of view was incredibly brave. Up until this point in the series, we have seen Jack Randall torture Jamie and threaten rape upon Jamie’s sister, Jenny, which apparently had not been enough to convince the audience of his sadistic ways. Additionally, in this episode, we see him begin with apologizing for attempting to rape Claire, perhaps giving the audience hope that he’s not as bad as we’ve seen him. Maybe seeing Claire and Jamie’s perspectives of Randall have skewed our interpretation of Jack Randall, because Frank had talked so highly of his memory. But, then Jack Randall recounts the day he doled out 100 lashes on Jamie’s already-raw back from 100 lashes the previous week. Hearing this story from Jack’s point of view, we hear his way of thinking, his purposeful and relentless torture upon Jamie and his absolute lack of remorse. In fact, seeing Jack Randall state how beautiful this most cringeworthy scene was to him, told us exactly what kind of person Jack Randall is. What we saw was blood gushing and bits of flesh hanging off Jamie’s destroyed back (if we weren’t already covering our eyes at this point), but what Jack Randall sees is “a beautiful masterpiece.” To hear this story from Jack’s point of view (rather than Dougal telling Claire in book), it is a true testament to just how awful Jack Randall is as a person, because he enjoyed every single horrifying flashback that we have seen of these characters’ pasts.
“I think all they could see was the horror. I…I could see the beauty. I saw the truth. That boy and I, we were creating a masterpiece, an exquisite, bloody masterpiece. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” ~ Jonathan ‘Black Jack’ Randall
Tobias Menzies’ performance as Jack Randall was above and beyond chilling. Not only were we shown a haunting parallel between Jack and Frank getting shaved with the same straight razor, but his subtle shifts from vaguely cordial to absolutely monstrous were incredible. Menzies makes us wince as he demonstrates the proper use of a straight razor, putting the audience on edge only halfway into the piece. But, when Claire mentions that ‘poor Highlander boy,’ we see Randall’s entire body change and response, indicating his connection and feelings towards the aforementioned Jamie. His stoic face through his telling of the flogging was horrifying to see mirrored with the immense struggle we saw in the actual flashbacks of the flogging. His recount of how exhausting 100 lashes is on his arm muscles and how the whip felt in his hand were perfect additions to his view of the story as something viscerally beautiful to him. His eyes were nearly lit up as we saw the story unfold in his head and his description of Jamie’s back as a canvas upon which he was painting a masterpiece with him was a gruesome analogy of how Randall views the human flesh as something upon which he was to distort to his own liking.
When your husband has an evil twin ancestor, it might be time to find a new husband
Small parts of this episode mirrored moments from the premiere episode, purposefully skewing our reactions to fit the new time period that Claire has been living in. The opening scene of the first episode, in which Claire is tying an artery and gets covered in blood, is paralleled at an inn in the Highlands, where a British soldier must have his arm amputated with a saw. The small changes of time, place, and circumstance don’t stop Claire from reacting as she naturally does as a healer, but her treatment as a nurse or authority on medicine is vastly depreciated in the 18th century versus the 20th. When she returns to the upstairs to see Jack Randall, a man with the same face as her husband, getting shaved by the same straight razor as her husband, she is brought back to a time she used that very utensil on her husband, and how loving and gentle he was towards her. To be snapped out of that memory and into the vision of what looks like the same man holding the razor to a young English soldier with such threat, she is reminded of the horror of her situation and that this man is not her husband, nor should she trust him. The director, Brian Kelly’s, decision to cut between those similar scenes in Claire’s mind, helped us get into how she must think when she sees Jack Randall and thinks Frank. We also slowly see Claire’s view of Frank change slightly as she starts to associate this face with much darker visions. To also have the man with her husband’s face punch her in the gut and kick her while she’s gasping for air on the ground, only furthers the distortion of Frank’s memory in her mind. How can two men be so different and how can she combat her natural feeling of warmth and trust she used to feel towards that face when she sees it in the 18th century, but still maintain her positive remembrance of her husband? The way the director shows us these differences that Claire is experiencing through mimicked shots and scenes is an incredibly artful way of bringing the audience into Claire’s mind and more in tune with how she is feeling in those moments.
“I can only legally refuse to hand you back to Randall, if I change you from an English woman to a Scot.” ~ Dougal
If anyone had looked at next week’s episode title, they’d know a wedding was coming, and this was an extremely uncomfortable, but effective way of explaining why. Dougal continues to uphold how characteristically superstitious Scots are by having Claire drink from a truth pool, only to be sure she can be trusted to marry his nephew. As funny as it is that she thinks she has to marry Dougal, her conversation with Jamie that ensues is far more amusing. After such a long trip of hearing all the Highlanders talk of bedding women and making crude jokes, Jamie oh-so-casually drops the bomb that he’s a virgin. It’s still rather odd for her to think marrying Jamie is such a horrible thing, but his willingness to go along with all of this for her protection (and since he has no other prospects) is adorable. After spending the day being tortured and horrified by her husband’s look-a-like ancestor, you’d think she’d be more than willing to make a change in the husband department. Of all the Highlanders she could have been forced to marry, she kind of lucked out by getting engaged to Jamie.
As difficult as that episode was to watch (visually and emotionally), it was incredible. The character study and progression of not only Jack Randall but Claire, Jamie, and Dougal as we continued through this journey were critical in the continuation of the story. Tobias Menzies wasn’t the only performance worth raving about, though he was the centerpiece of the episode, his support from Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan were vital in telling us just how dark and twisted the character Jack Randall was. The writing was remarkable from Ira Steven Behr, who took a few pages in the source material and made it into this entire riveting episode. The makeup department really sold the gory show of Jamie’s back in their engineering of the prosthetic piece and oozing blood that went into really terrifying the audience. This was director Brian Kelly’s fourth episode in a row for this series and most definitely his best as he wove the characters’ stories together to garner performances so powerful and mirror character memories to make the story all the more impactful. The Outlander team really pulled together in effort to make this the best episode yet. In a massive turn of events at the conclusion of the episode, we are now faced with a most exciting occasion of the wedding between leads Jamie and Claire, but can that event top this week’s amazing episode?! Let’s hope the team of creatives on this series continue to awe and wow us as they did this week!
Questions, Comments, Concerns…
- Tom Brittney as Lieutenant Jeremy Foster appeared on our screen as one of those Red Coat we don’t mind at all. Those British lips. Am I wrong?
- Weeping at the sight of Jamie’s torn flesh from the whipping.
- How has the English army not kicked Randall out for being a sadistic psychopath?
- How hungover do we think Claire will be for her wedding day?
- Would we be apprehensive about marrying Jamie?
- I did not see that punch in the gut coming AT ALL. Bloody harm for Randall it was pronounced on twitter. So it shall be. Right?
- The moment you realize Claire is in love with her husbands face and you scream at the tv. Nooooo!
- Also Jack Randall draws????? Well, Hitler painted so…
- That knife Dougal had looked like it could gut a horse. How could you even dare Sir?!
- JAMIE IS A VIRGIN and we all ask HOW?!
Outlander 1×06 “The Garrison Commander” Review