Well that was a hell of a thing. Outlander’s first season ended with, to quote a friend, “50 minutes of torture, and 5 minutes of happiness” (more or less). There are many things to unpack about “To Ransom a Man’s Soul,” but let’s start with the choice to revisit further what happened between Black Jack Randall and Jamie.
The season’s penultimate episode was largely constructed around Jamie’s imprisonment and torture at the hands of Black Jack, but “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” took us back and fleshed out, literally, what most viewers could have just imagined. It was enough to see Jamie lying like a corpse next to Randall, his eyes dead from the trauma he had experienced. But Randall then denying him his request to be killed quickly was the final crushing blow to his spirit. Surely he had thought that so long as Claire was safe, he only had to make it to the end and he would be rewarded with a clean death.
But Randall had done several things to torture Jamie beyond the physical, like “bringing Claire” into the proceedings, and then using that to shame Jamie over what had transpired between him and Randall. He also made Jamie brand himself with Randall’s initials as a final, dehumanizing blow.
What made all of this even darker and more difficult to bear was that it went beyond a forced sexual assault. As Jamie says to Claire, it wasn’t just that Randall raped him, which he did. He also made love to him. That is what tormented Jamie the most, because it was a scene of drugged, twisted, confused emotions and more sexual torment. The finale’s depiction of rape in its many forms was incredibly brutal, and surely would not have been shown with that same amount of prolonged brutality had it been a man and a woman.
To Outlander’s credit, though, it did not just end things with the crime itself. A good portion of “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” was dedicated to giving Jamie’s trauma its due. The level of emotional devastation wrecked upon him left him at first catatonic, then violent and delirious, and ultimately suicidal. Elsewhere on the dial, Game of Thrones has been criticized a lot of for its depiction of rape, and it’s largely because it’s an act used as a plot point, not as an emotional watershed. Further, the show doesn’t have the margins to dedicate the necessary time to the character’s handling the abuse.
Outlander at least addressed the aftermath of the event, and concluded (such as it was) with Claire having to bring Jamie back from the abyss by assuring him that there is no shame, and that her love is unconditional. It’s an act that has fundamentally changed Jamie, and not something he can easily put behind him. It’s a huge moment in their relationship, too; Jamie now has to trust Claire completely after sharing that darkness with her.
But, out of all of that has come something wonderful (which I predicted!): a bairn. The final scenes of “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” also essentially set up Season 2, with Jamie and Claire (and Murtagh) heading to France to ensure their safety. That change of locale and of their family unit is going to mark massive changes for the series, and as a non-book reader, I truly have no idea what to expect from this reset. Claire also throws in that maybe they can change history while they’re at it. Why not? Like she said, they can do anything so long as they are together.
Outlander’s inaugural season has been an often great, but largely uneven one. The cinematography has been superb, the costuming divine, and the chemistry between Claire and Jamie off the charts. But the split season, with so much moving around and swapping around of locales and even narrative direction, it also made it feel disjointed. A lot of ground was covered, and some great episodes came from it. But I’m not convinced the show ever truly nailed down its tone. There were many elements to adore, and many to lament. The only thing that was certain was Jamie and Claire’s love. That seems to be enough for them, and for many viewers, it’s enough for us. It’s helped gloss over a lot of Outlander‘s other issues, and will carry us through to a very changed Season 2. Au revoir!
Episode Rating: Sam Heughan was fantastic, but like last time, I feel very odd rating an episode like this given the subject matter.
Season 1 Rating: ★★★ Good
Musings and Miscellanea:
— The torture was really too much for me to even be able to watch.
— On an entirely opposite note, I liked seeing Claire in pants.
— Not having read the books, to decision to go to France just seems really sudden and random. I know Jamie has family there, but it all happened so fast! Like, “oh yeah, head to France and figure that out with a baby in tow.”
— This episode taught me that cattle will apparently plow through doors. I don’t think Randall is dead, but I hope he is. I’ve had enough of him for a lifetime.
— I like how Murtagh just really easily got down to the business of cutting off Jamie’s brand, and also, how he siddled up in the background in Claire and Jamie’s final scene!
— Though I appreciate how the Highlanders provide some much-needed comic relief, I would actually like to see a little more from their characters beyond that.
— “You may kiss me au revoir” – Claire.
— Jamie: “How can you have me like this?” Claire: “I will have you any way I can. Always.”