Episode 116 – To Ransom a Man’s Soul

Trigger Warning: If you haven’t already watched the season finale, be aware that there is graphic rape depicted in the episode. I will not be describing any of those scenes in detail, but I will be discussing them because what happens permanently affects all of the characters involved. So, fair warning.

I realized after posting my last blog that I neglected to discuss the ramifications of Jamie’s hand. Since the repair happens in this episode, I’ll save my discussion for that point.

This is a nice title card, set in the Abbey with implements that are important to the episode. It is simpler and quieter than the previous title card, set over implements of torture. But I would suggest that this episode is more emotionally grueling to endure.

Jumping to morning exercises at the prison is a little odd. It strikes me as strange to have quite that many soldiers quartered there. It made sense at Fort William – it was a fort that also held prisoners. But this is a prison. Even assuming every guard is a soldier, that’s a lot of soldiers.

It is a crime that Sam Heughan wasn’t nominated for more acting awards this season. I mean, Tobias Menzies is obviously amazing and horrifying in this entire season, but Sam has shown incredible range and deftness in his performance. God, when he whimpers and begs Black Jack to kill him, it tears at my heart.

The bit with the cows was a little much. I mean, in the books, they find a mangled body and just assume it was BJR. He was never really there – that was Marley. Here, we actually see him get trampled. Or the door, anyway. Maybe you can argue that just his arm was broken, and maybe some ribs. But now that I’ve watched the episode again, I didn’t see where anyone actually thinks he’s dead. Honestly, why wouldn’t Murtagh just slit his throat? Murtagh has to know what happened to Jamie, after what Claire told them, and if he knew BJR was just lying there unconscious, he would have killed him. As he is going to do next season to Sandringham. Murtagh is bad ass, and he has no compunction against slaughtering those who have hurt the people he loves.

Speaking of Murtagh, the look on his face when he carries his laird out of the prison is so absolutely perfect. He is the perfect vassal, and he loves Jamie so much. Rupert’s reaction to their delay in the wagon makes me laugh.

I’m trying not to be upset about the move from France to Scotland, but I understand why they had to make logistical changes. I miss MacRannoch here.

The flashbacks to the prison make my stomach hurt, so I’ll focus less on what happens and more on what it means for the story. I can’t figure out why BJR would break Jamie’s left hand. In the books, they break the right because it is assumed to be the dominant hand. BookJamie is left-handed, but the damage is still substantial because he’s been taught to write and use a sword with his right hand. Obviously Sam is right-handed, so why go for the left hand?

Even if you’re thinking logistically, it’s not like he does much in this episode after they leave the Abbey. And you can say that it’s mostly healed by the time they get to Paris. So what’s the thinking behind going after the left hand? It just doesn’t make any sense to me, and won’t have many, if any, future repercussions. In the books, Jamie’s stiff fingers cause him lots of problems, some of which affect the plot (especially when Claire has to amputate!). I realize it isn’t a huge thing, and I’m not worried if they cut it out, but why bother to do it in the first place if you’re not going to see it through?

OK, enough nitpicking. Moving on.

I think what makes Black Jack Randall so horrifying is that he is not mustache-twirling evil. He’s perverted and absolutely sure of himself, and at turns gentle and brutal. I have difficulty assigning “degrees” of rape, because every assault, no matter what happens, is degrading and awful, but there is something particularly nasty about what BJR does. His manipulations are so intense, his understanding of how to break Jamie so complete, that it has a powerful impact that senseless, impersonal violence can never have. It reminds me that most sexual violence is perpetrated by people we know. Everyone is afraid of the stranger in the dark, but it’s usually someone you love, trust, or are at least familiar with.

Father Anselm does not live up to my expectations. He is kind, and understanding enough, but in the book he was…unique. His drive to know, to understand things, to discover, is what drew Claire to him. He was a man out of time, in many ways, and that is what led her to eventually confide in him. I miss the perpetual adoration, too, and the way Claire learned stillness and her place in the universe. I understand that stillness doesn’t have as much place in a TV show, but I do wish Anselm were a little more…foreign. Not in the sense of nationality, but in the sense that he doesn’t quite belong with the other monks. In the book, he isn’t even a member of the same order. He’s visiting because he’s doing research. He’s an outsider, like Claire, not a part of the daily workings of the monastery. Plus, having him as the head of the monastery means we don’t have Jamie’s uncle Alex. I thought that having Abbot Alex there added some pressure on Jamie. He doesn’t want to appear weak in front of his father’s kin.

This absolution of Claire’s sins comes too quickly from Anselm. It doesn’t feel earned. She rushes to confess and he rushes to absolve. It doesn’t work for me at all.

I understand why the Gaelic isn’t subtitled when we’re in Claire’s PoV, but it really should have been for Murtagh and Jamie. I mean, the emotion of the scene comes through no matter what, but we’re in Jamie’s PoV here. He understands what’s being said, so we should, too.

People were remarking on the scar on Jamie’s chest in the provocative images for season two – that isn’t a weird mole or some kind of bad Photoshop job. It’s from this next scene with BJR, where he forces Jamie to brand himself. The mixing of Claire and BJR sets up the summoning that happens later (although I dearly miss the scene where Geillis tries to drug and interrogate Claire…man, do I wish they’d filmed that).

I love Claire with the guys. They have all come to love and respect her, and it is so lovely to see her with them, after the rough start they had at Castle Leoch and on the road in “Rent.” When Rupert says “the offer stands” and Angus adds, “Aye, the MacKenzies will always stand with ye,” I want to give them both a big hug.

Poor Willie, trying to help a man who doesn’t want to be helped. But it is such a big step for Willie to help the man that stood up for him many times, and to refuse him when he wants to die.

I love Murtagh. He is the best. Father figure, best friend, right-hand man, advisor, steady rock, and doer of all the things that need to be done.

It physically hurts to watch Claire trying to drag Jamie back to the light. It is obvious that Jamie would have been able to withstand pain and torture. But Randall is evil, and he sought to break Jamie, not just have him. He knew that Jamie could withstand massive amounts of agony, since he would not break while being flogged. He knew he would have to use seduction, and gentleness, a mockery of love, to truly break this strong, amazing man. That Jamie was also delirious with pain and mixing up Claire and Randall makes it so much worse.

Total side note. The makeup people are amazing. Jamie still has a scar on his shoulder from the gunshot wound when he first met Claire.

The summoning in the books makes more sense to me than what we get in the show. In the book, Claire gets him to fight back against Randall, to do what he could not in Wentworth. In the show, she does it by telling him she would die without him. It feels very abrupt and, again, not earned. I wish they’d had more time in the episode for this scene.

Either way, book or show, there’s a long road to go before Jamie can manage to forgive Randall (and the series is very good about dealing with the long-term effects of rape), but I get the feeling at the end of this scene that all Jamie has decided to do is to fight, rather than give up and die. And that’s not nothing, but it isn’t quite as satisfying as what happens in the book, or the true reconciliation in the hot springs.

I LOVE RUPERT. He is so gallant. 🙂 I’m sad that it will be at least half of season two, if not more, before we see these three knuckleheads again.

Jamie doesn’t look very seasick…despite assurances to the contrary by Murtagh. I wanted to see him break away from Claire and run to the rail once they set out to sea. Because I will be pissed if we don’t get Jamie with acupuncture needles sticking all over him in season three (or maybe four, if they split the book over two seasons – which I think they should).

I think it’s the news about the baby that truly brings Jamie back to the light. Claire is worth fighting for, but the child is worth living for. If that makes sense.

Up next – I plan to do at least one, maybe two blog posts between now and April 9th. One will track Jamie and Claire’s relationship, from his ghost watching her in the window in 1945, to the final shot of them standing on the ship to France.

The other, if I have time, will be looking a little more in-depth on the overall changes made this season and where those changes might lead in future seasons.

At some point, I also want to take a look at the supporting cast of characters and do some analysis of book versus show. BJR and Murtagh will be the first, and then I’ll work my way though Geillis, the MacKenzie lads, Frank, and Laoghaire. I’ve already got a post on the MacKenzie brothers.

But that is all for season one episodes, finally! I promise to keep up with the blog this season, and post my reactions before the next episode airs. I’m looking forward to seeing what the show has in store for us in Paris!

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