Air Date: Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 9PM ET/PT on Starz
“Do I make you uncomfortable? Do I haunt your dreams since Fort William?” – Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall
I’m sure you’ve all seen the warnings for this episode, how you should be wary that watching it will be tough. Well, those warnings were correct. The opening shot of “Wentworth Prison” doesn’t skimp away from the theme surrounding this episode. I can still see the rusty, blood dried tools used to torture the poor men found guilty of trumped up charges. Reading what happens in Wentworth is one thing; seeing those words brought to life is something else entirely. “Wentworth Prison” is by far one of the most disturbingly beautiful episodes of any television series on the airwaves today. The acting, direction, and dialogue set the tone for a poignant moment in time. It may also make you wonder just how much one man can take before breaking. Pain is quantifiable—one can have too much while another can inflict an amount deemed not enough. Although I didn’t weep during “Wentworth Prison,” I came pretty damn close to shedding a tear or two. This is an Emmy® worthy episode. Not only that, the actors involved deserve accolades on top of accolades for delving into a situation unbecoming of most men. You want to be moved by a series? Outlander says look no further.
Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is one of my favorite heroines. She puts up a good fight until she can no longer hold herself upright. I applaud her strength and courage because she could have easily folded at any time and simply given up. How tough must it be for her to imagine what horrors await her husband knowing she can do little to nothing about it. “You are no coward, I’ll give you that.” In spite of Captain Randall’s (Tobias Menzies) crude compliment, Claire’s reluctance to falter when obstacles are thrown in her way is only one of the things that prove her love, loyalty, and devotion to Jamie (Sam Heughan). But, and yes, there is a but, she puts herself in harm’s way far too often for my liking. Claire goes the TSTL (too stupid to live) route a few times and makes things worse for herself and Jamie. I cringe thinking about how close she comes to death, and how she seals Jamie’s fate. She weakens Jamie because he’d do anything to protect her. It goes back to his statement about her missing out on childbirth, how he’d want to take her pain to keep her from it. The devotion of these two makes me hope. Romance is not dead, at least not in novels or on my TV screen.
Now onto the tough stuff … the gruesomeness of “Wentworth Prison.” I can’t say I watched the prison scenes with my full attention. I had to turn away a few times because of how realistic and horrible the act of torture is portrayed. Funny to think I’ve watched other shows and movies where torture is featured without blinking an eye. But the astounding acting makes it all real. Menzies’ embodiment of “Black Jack” Randall is beyond impressive. I’m certain he’ll forever be known as the character by fans of Outlander. It’s a case of doing a job so well, an actor is seen as that great or horrific depiction no matter what roles they go on to play in the future. I’ll be the first to admit again, I had some issues with the casting for some of the characters. I take back my thoughts on Menzies portraying Randall—especially after this episode—because of the bang-up job he does. He makes Randall come alive from page to screen with aplomb. There’s something about the man you can’t quite put your finger on and it all has to do with his charismatic cruelty. “You know that every man can be broken; there’s truly nothing to be ashamed of.” His delivery is always spot on. He doesn’t yell, overexert himself, or go beyond what is needed in the moment. Menzies touches on a part of Randall most actors would probably shy away from. Randall is supposed to be cruel, sadistic, and perverted. So Menzies becomes that and more. I’ve never hated a character more than “Black Jack” Randall and Menzies reminds me why with every smirk, word uttered, and tilt of his head.
Taran MacQuarrie (Douglas Henshall) goes to his death with a lot of bravery. This scene in particular bothers me because of how realistic it is—to have a bunch of men standing around waiting for their time to dangle at the end of a rope, knowing what fate lies ahead of them. I can’t imagine it.
What happened to the wolf scene? We hear them howling as Claire makes her way through the woods but she doesn’t cross any. I was so looking forward to that, as I’m sure my fellow novel readers were as well.
The condition of the prison is frightening. The coughing and moaning men you don’t see give way to unimaginable thoughts.
Heughan and Balfe together on screen are the epitome of a director’s wet dream. The two make you feel their characters’ emotions. They cry, you cry. They hurt, you imagine the source of the pain. It’s almost too much to see them in the prison scene knowing they’ll be torn apart. Accolades to both of them for making a tough to watch scene poignant and full of love. Seriously, if these actors don’t win awards for their amazing portrayals, there is something wrong.
MacQuarrie: “Is it the rope you’re afraid of?”
Jamie: “No. What grieves me is to think my wife will never forgive me for foolishly getting myself hung.”
Randall tries to get under Jamie’s skin: “Tell me, when you lie upon your wife and her hands trace the scars on your back, do you ever think of me?”
The shot of Randall’s hand trailing along the superimposed image of Jamie’s shirt-covered back makes Randall’s statement more profound. It hits harder with the imagery of Randall’s fascination with the scars marring Jamie’s back.
Claire: “You beast.”
Randall: “You can do better than that.”
Claire: “You fucking sadistic piece of shit!”
Yup, I’d say that was much better. Too bad he probably doesn’t understand what she’s calling him.
Randall to Claire and Jamie: “I haven’t even begun.”
You don’t want to know what comes next either.
Well, I wanted more Jamie and I got him. Not exactly the way I wanted to see him but I’m not being choosy. Ahead lies more grief and strife for the Fraser duo. I’m along for the ride and looking forward to what comes next. Drop me a line in the comments section or tweet me @ellemoe to discuss “Wentworth Prison.” The season one finale of Outlander airs in two weeks on May 30 at 9PM ET/PT, only on Starz. For more on the show, visit the official site.
Follow Outlander on Twitter, using #Outlander and don’t forget the cast Sam Heughan – @SamHeughan, Caitriona Balfe – @caitrionambalfe, Tobias Menzies – @TobiasMenzies, Laura Donnelly – @donnellylaura1.
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Photo credit © 2015 Starz Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
© 2015, Elle. All rights reserved.
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