Outlander “Wentworth Prison” Review (Season 1, Episode 15)

Outlander Wentworth Prison Episode 15 (7)

“Whatever happens, we’ll handle it. No matter the cost.”

Claire spoke these words to Jamie two episodes ago in “The Watch,” and I jotted them down due to their foreboding nature. At the time, Claire was referring to the unexpected arrival of the Watch at Lallybroch. Considering the events that occurred in “Wentworth Prison” and those that will also play out next time, her words take on an even more tragic tone.

The success of “Wentworth Prison” as a story falls into how each specific viewer regards the violence depicted. I’m guessing it follows the books. As I’ve stated before, I have not read them (yet) but do know some broad strokes of the story. One of the things I understood was that Jamie would suffer immeasurably at the hands of Black Jack. That little bit of vague knowledge still did not prepare me for what actually transpired onscreen.** I’m sure there will be many people who think the acts depicted where gratuitous, excessive, etc. I’m not one of them. Did what I see make me sick to my stomach? Yes. But in no way did it feel like some cheap horror film or even many of the events Game of Thrones has shown (more on that similarity later). Black Jack is a perverted sadist. There have always been people like him, and there will continue to be people like him. And there will be people like Jamie, Claire, Jenny, and countless others who suffer at the hands of those like him. As a storyteller, the job then becomes “how should this be told?”

** A similar experience would be when I saw No Country for Old Men in Cannes. All I read was that Josh Brolin finds drug money in the desert and bad stuff happens. Boy, was that putting it mild.

First off, I am glad we haven’t been given too much background on Captain Jonathan Randall. Other than his remarks to Claire in “The Garrison Commander” our knowledge of his past his slim. And to be honest, it should stay that way. This isn’t his story. It’s Claire and Jamie’s. A huge gripe of mine is when writers give loads of background information on their villains to humanize them. Many times it’s just not necessary. As Alfred says, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” And that’s all the reader or audience should know. I didn’t need 3 horrible prequels to understand Darth Vader. He had a complete arc in Episodes 4-6. I’d also rather be in the dark on the Joker’s past. It adds to his sense of chaos. For Randall, his actions over the course of the events in Outlander paint a vivid enough picture.

That being said, would I want to see an episode like this season after season involving Black Jack? No. That would get old quickly and could possibly become gratuitous. I highly doubt Black Jack will be dead at the end of this run. If he’s alive at the end of Season 2 though, I will take pause. Tobias Menzies has done brilliant work, but Randall should not be the “end all be all” for Claire and Jamie. I want to see that relationship tested by others- though part of me wonders if anything could be worse than what Jamie is suffering now.

This brings me to Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. I cannot praise them enough for their performances. I was hard on Balfe last week, but that’s because I knew she was capable of more. And she rose to the challenge here: the two standouts for me being her holding it all in while speaking with Sir Fletcher and then grabbing onto Jamie as he had the nail hammered into his hand- all just raw emotion and despair. Out of the three actors, Heughan had the hardest work to tackle, losing his power as the episode wore on. As Black Jack said, a man can always be broken. It’s just finding the right weakness. And for Jamie, like many of us, it isn’t physical harm to ourselves that defeats us as much as it is harm being done to a loved one. Heughan let it all show on his face and in his eyes: the triumph of saying it’s him that haunts Black Jack’s dreams, to the love of being reunited with Claire, and finally to the numb resolution of what is going to be done to him.

Murtagh’s plan with the cattle will obviously work. Jamie will escape Wentworth Prison alive. I’m just hoping I emotionally make it through the finale as well.

More Thoughts As I Realize We Only Have ONE Episode Left #SOS

– I don’t begrudge Claire for trying to save her husband (I would have done the same), yet dying by the noose would have been a much better way to go. I’m also surprised Jamie didn’t ask for more in knowing Claire was truly safe from Black Jack. Not that he’s in a huge position to bargain, but I would have wanted to see Murtagh personally escort her out of Wentworth.

– Too On the Nose: Black Jack riding in at the last moment to save Jamie from hanging. That’s a plot device I’m not a fan of. I would have preferred a courier interrupting the event with a letter from Randall (who then appeared a few hours later).

– One Perfect Shot: Murtagh carrying Claire away from the prison.

– Glad to see Taran MacQuarrie again, however briefly. His hanging was not pretty though.

– Angus and Rupert are smarter than you think. Yes they are.

– Did Jamie’s mom get around a lot in the books? This is now the second episode in a row where a former flame of hers is mentioned. Is she the Helen of Troy in the Outlander world?

– Baby Alert: I think Claire vomiting was more than just being mentally sick at Jamie’s situation.

– Regarding Game of Thrones: Black Jack’s extracurricular activities run in the same vein to those of Ramsay Snow’s. Where GoT went wrong was having a whole season (Season 3) of Ramsay torturing a certain character. That became gratuitous and unnecessary. In this case, the show should have followed the books and had that character sit out a season.

– This business with the cattle reminds me of the exchange from Blazing Saddles:
(Bart, disguised as a Klansman, describes his qualifications as a villain)
Bart: Stampeding cattle.
Hedley Lamarr: That’s not much of a crime.
Bart: Through the Vatican?
Hedley Lamarr: [smiling] Kinkyyy. Sign here.

EDIT: I was not a fan of what transpired on Game of Thrones this past Sunday- and honestly, I have the same issue with the event in the books. I’ll discuss more about why in my finale review for Outlander based upon how Jamie’s situation is handled. What I mentioned above is true though: I don’t need to watch multiple seasons of Black Jack doing what he has done so far. I want to see Jamie and Claire persevere and use what transpired to move forward in their relationship, as well as life, while meeting different obstacles.