Things took a dark turn in “Wentworth Prison,” even for Outlander. The shadow of Black Jack Randall has loomed over this entire season, and just when we thought he couldn’t get any worse (or hurt Jamie and Claire anymore than he has already), we got “Wentworth Prison.” It was essentially an hour of gruesome torture on every conceivable level, the likes of which not even Game of Thrones can truly boast (not yet, anyway).
The hour started off with dark portends, as Taran McQuarrie was brought back briefly only to be hung in a gruesome lineup of enemies of the crown. His mood was staid, telling Jamie he knew ultimately this is how he would die, which is one reason he never left anyone behind. But Jamie, ever defiant, attempts to fight and evade his captors. Even though he was unlikely to win, he hoped he might be killed quickly before the noose. The only thing worse than being hung, though, is to be “saved” by Captain Jack Randall.
The rest of “Wentworth Prison” focused on Claire’s brave and clever — but foiled — plans to rescue Jamie, and Jamie’s dealings with Black Jack in the dungeon. All of Black Jack’s former torture of the two was brought back up in these exchanges, from the references to Jamie’s scars to Jack considering letting his “dog” Marley rape Claire. Ultimately, though, his desire is for Jamie, and it’s a game he plays without being rushed. He coddles Jamie and then beats him, he shoves Jamie’s hand again his penis, and then walks away. He “tests” Jamie’s sincerity about letting Black Jack rape him by nailing his broken hand to a table while Claire holds him and cries. And as he said, he’s only getting started.
Tobias Menzies is completely terrifying as Jack. His character is a man whose secret sexuality has been so deeply repressed within him that he has allowed it to turn into a twisted and dark thing. He lashes out with terrifyingly controlled rage, and yet, also acts as if all of this is part of an elaborate plan. Perhaps it is. He tells Jamie that any man can be broken, and proceeds to prove it. Jamie attacks him, and Marley nearly kills him in return, but then Jack kicks Marley in the face to get him off of Jamie so he doesn’t kill him. It’s not just torture, but manipulation as well.
When Claire enters the scene in her attempt to save Jamie, Jack was basically given a gift. By threatening to harm Claire, he knew Jamie would acquiesce to him, and offer up himself instead. Jamie does just that, despite Claire’s protestations, and Jack does keep his word by letting her go. But Black Jack doesn’t return to Jamie to assault him quickly — he draws it out by licking his scars and slowly undressing him. This is a fantasy he has obviously wanted for so long he’s not going to rush a single thing. It makes the entire scene all the more horrifying and traumatic, and Jamie’s countenance at the end of the episode is that of a man preparing to be completely broken by this act, which is worse than he could have imagined.
“Wentworth Prison” is a fascinating subversion in that it is Claire who must find a group willing to form a rescue party, and who must scheme and even fight, with great physicality, to rescue her loved one. Claire is the one who is mounting the offensive, while it is Jamie who is being tortured and sexually assaulted. That, of course, is exactly how this back half of the season started: with Claire bent over a table, breasts bared, as Jack was about to rape her before Jamie came to her rescue.
In Outlander, Black Jack Randall is the epitome and sum of all evil, but the only power Claire holds over him is her knowledge of the future, bestowing a “curse” upon him with the exactly date of his death. Hopefully it’s soon, not just for Claire and Jamie’s sake, but for ours. “Wentworth Prison” was an excruciating episode that is leading up to what looks to be a difficult finale. Though I trust in Murtagh’s cattle plans to save Jamie, what may happen to him before that may be extremely hard to bear.
Episode Rating: T for torture, H for horror. I can’t pair stars with an episode like this.
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I did like Jack referencing Brutus, since Tobias Menzies played him on the HBO series Rome.
— “Nothing like a wife to make a man feel disquieted at his own death” – McQuarrie.
— That hammer made me nervous throughout the entire episode, and it’s no wonder! It was really used for terrible things.
— Claire had several powerful moments in this episode, from her vomiting after talking to Sir Fletcher, to her holding on to Jamie while Jack assaulted him.
— Claire: “You beast.” Jack: “You can do better than that.” Claire: “You fucking sadistic piece of shit!”