16 Days of Outlander - Day #15 Wentworth Prison
I think this is the toughest episode of the season for me personally. As bad as things get in To Ransom a Man’s Soul, I have a really, really difficult time with orthopedic injuries (breaking bones are just not my thing) - plus, the narrative structure here is linear while the other includes flashbacks which allow for a bit more distancing from the material at hand (it’s a small difference but for me, it helps). So lets see what I can come up with for favorites in this dark and horrible but wonderfully put together and acted episode…
Favorite Minor Character, Favorite Line: Taran MacQuarrie and “Put in a good word for me.” If we hadn’t spent the time getting to know Taran MacQuarrie back in The Watch, this entire opening sequence with the prisoners’ executions wouldn’t carry the same weight (which it has to, because it’s actually a rather long sequence). I’m still not completely sure how MacQuarrie - whom we last saw in the back of that British wagon having been captured - managed to end up at the very same prison as Jamie - who had escaped and wandered around the countryside for some unspecified amount of time before being recaptured - and beyond being at the same prison, having their executions settled for the same day. At the same time, that plot hole is inconsequential because if gives Jamie a somewhat familiar face and kindred-ish soul at the “end.” MacQuarrie’s resignation and yet vocal defiance, even as he mounts the scaffold steps shows just how much he truly has in common with Jamie. His quip about his only regret being that he would be hanged before Jamie so that he won’t have the benefit of Jamie’s putting in a good word with him with Saint Peter is the epitome of gallows humor (yes, that was intentional) and it’s something that I, at least, appreciated.
Favorite Scene, Favorite Location: the tavern. It is one of the only truly lighthearted moments of the episode and it’s desperately needed. I couldn’t think of any other location in the episode I could call a favorite because as well dressed as the Wentworth sets are - and Sir Fletcher’s room is quite interesting - I couldn’t pick any place that was part of the prison. It’s not a scene we get to see play out in the book itself, but the events are heavily hinted at and anything with Rupert and Angus is great in an episode as dark as this one is.
Favorite “That’s not in the book” Part: Black Jack’s “offer” of a better death to Jamie. While Jamie is waiting in line with Taran MacQuarrie, he makes a suggestion to try and fight the Red Coats. It’s obvious, even to Jamie, that they won’t be able to break free; all they can manage is being shot, MacQuarrie says they’d be shot like dogs but Jamie disagrees - “not like dogs; like men.” Even when his name is called, Jamie can’t help putting up a bit of a fight. I think this is at least in part because he knows he is innocent of the crime he’s been convicted of and fighting is his way of showing his insistence on his innocence. Later in the cell, Black Jack offers Jamie a more noble death than hanging which he describes as “ignoble.” It’s only an echo of the conversation that Jamie had earlier with MacQuarrie, but it is perhaps the first thing in his interactions with Randall in that cell that truly gets under Jamie’s skin - that Randall understood that bit about Jamie that resists that kind of death so vehemently. I think Randall knows Jamie isn’t afraid of death the way most men are, that its more a meaningless death he fears - and being executed for something he hadn’t done certainly fits the bill.
Favorite Jamie and Claire Moment, Favorite Book-to-Screen Adaptaion: Jamie and Claire say goodbye. This is the only part of the episode I can watch repeatedly because it is so heartbreakingly good. The subtle smile and calm that descend on him as he tells her, “I love you, mo nighean donn” and the way she cradles his head… the way she begs to say goodbye only to declare that “I can’t leave you”… It’s all just completely rip-your-heart-out-of-your-chest level heartbreaking.
Favorite Performance: Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe as Jamie and Claire Fraser. As with The Wedding, this is an episode where I can’t really select one of their performances over the other because - even though they’re not on screen together for as much of the episode as in The Wedding - so much of their performances are almost interlocking and the few minutes they are on screen together are the strongest of the episode. Balfe in Sir Fletcher’s office as Claire only just barely holds herself together, losing the struggle for control as she’s given Jamie’s personal effects; the dead/numb expression Heughan adopts as Black Jack drags Claire out, promising to return shortly (and that tear when Black Jack touches his back).
Favorite Music Moment: Claire curses Black Jack. It’s not a very prominent track but I just love the music in this sequence - and it’s my favorite as far as the shots of Claire whispering the date of his death to him. It’s the first and possibly the only time I think we see Black Jack genuinely taken aback in a frightened/unsettled/scared way. He was surprised to see Jamie appear in the window at Fort William and the gun not firing was shocking, but I don’t think we see him so visibly affected by anything the way Claire’s words affect him. *Was anyone else a little bothered by the fact that they don’t have that death date audible? I really just don’t understand why they kept that from the audience.
Favorite Costume: Ellen MacKenzie’s pearls. Yup, I’m going with another accessory for a costume but Ellen MacKenzie’s numerous suitors really gave her some pretty impressive jewelry. The only other time we saw the pearls was on Jamie and Claire’s wedding night when he told her about how precious they - and she - were to him. If their rescue attempts truly were to fail, the pearls would be one of the few things Claire had left of Jamie (except for Faith in this timeline) but she’s willing to give up everything for a chance to save Jamie, especially having come so close already.