Outlander Season 1 Episode 16 Review: To Ransom a Man's Soul

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Thank God that's over.

While Jamie was saved pretty early on in Outlander Season 1 Episode 16, he was traumatized enough to spend most of the hour revisiting the treatment he received at the hands of Black Jack Randall and it was not a pleasant experience.

It's not even possible to call the villain "Black Jack" Randall during this review, because the name is too cutsie to mark the serious nature of the material. And make no mistake, it wasn't a joke. I'm not quite sure it was suitable for television, let alone necessary to drive the story forward.

Waiting - Outlander Season 1 Episode 16

Outlander is, of course, based upon a series of books. The thing is, I just reread some of the scenes from the book and what we saw tonight? Not directly from the book. What we saw was harder, darker, dirtier and meaner than what was in the book. The light was gone.

What light? The light that Jamie found when Claire rescued him, because there as a lot more of it shining through in the book than we witnessed and that's because what he experienced with Randall was different, as well. Randall broke down in tears, whispering he loved him over and over in Jamie's ear after they "made love." For some reason, the choice here, graphically on television, was to go darker.

Merely flipping through the pages and revisiting in short order, the contrast is great. It's making me wonder why so dark? No, nothing about rape or torture is light, but the difference between words and video is that one requires more imagination, allowing the reader to interpret. Diana Gabaldon describes her scenes without overdoing them. It takes a little bit of the edge off.

It would have worked just was well, if not better, to watch Sam Heughen as Jamie in great despair describing his torment and what he suffered at the hands of Randall to Claire, as he did in the book. Their interactions drive the series and emotionally would have been welcome after so much time apart. It would have also likely taken less time, something that is of the essence in a 16 episode season that spans three quarters of a year. 

Outlander should be entertaining. There were parts of this hour where I felt as though the grimace on my face was giving me wrinkles. "If you keep making that face, it's going to stay that way," was going through my mind. It was too vividly portrayed, and I wonder, if the rape was of a woman, would they have dared to go to such lengths to portray it as such? Considering Claire's near rape earlier in the season and the way it was received, I'd say the answer is no.

Spending so much time in the darkness and forgetting all of the beauty that was present in the books (at almost a thousand pages, there were a lot of bright and lovely moments between this couple; it wasn't all doom and gloom that brought them together), makes for a lot of missed opportunities to broaden the scope of the storytelling. 

It's funny, because when you compare Game of Thrones, a series some think is perhaps painted with strokes too broad, covering too many characters in any one episode, and you look at the final two episodes of Outlander Season 1, you get a little bit of an appreciation of merging the two formats to meet in the middle of the road.

Story wise, Jamie pulled through and found his will to live again. He didn't want to, but he was doing it well before Claire told him she was pregnant. It seems strange she would think fighting to change the future would be a good option given her condition, but hey, that's Claire for you.

My favorite moment of the hour was when Claire met with the monk (or brother?) and confessed everything to him. There was very little beauty to the finale, but this fit the bill.

Monk: How marvelous, extraordinary. A miracle, perhaps.
Claire: A miracle? Somehow I don't think canon law is constructed with my situation in mind.
Monk: True, but our Lord sees the truth in all things, and so he knows your truth as well. Whatever your sins may be, have faith it will be forgiven.

I thought it was interesting that Randall was channeling Norman Bates as they both made it to our Mesmerizing Mad Men slideshow (shown at the bottom of this review), when the only way he was truly satisfied with Jamie's performance was when Randall let his hair down and embodied Claire. Otherwise? Seeing him trampled under a prison door was fitting.

It's still surprising to me that we haven't seen Claire make the connection between Randall and Frank as this has played out or that we haven't checked in with Frank in the 40s. My thoughts on this are that the creative decision at the beginning of the season was to make him a larger part of the story, so to drop him from the narrative later feels a little bit strange.

Claire mentioned Frank in passing during her confession, but that's not really enough under the circumstances. This man with her husband's face is still so present in her life. Realistically, she should be thinking of him quite frequently. That's how life works. Triggers present and you react. Why doesn't Claire react normally? Her connection to the man torturing her and her husband should haunt her.

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact this is not a normal world. Claire's experiences are completely abnormal. She's doing the best she can. She has found a second, amazing connection with a man in her life. That's doing a lot to wash her free of guilt and to move her forward. She even has a child on the way, something she previously thought impossible.

Claire and Jamie will be getting a fresh start for Outlander Season 2. No doubt rape will still play a large part in the narrative as it's a well-used romance novel trope. Let's just hope we're not dedicating multiple episodes to the intricacies of each.

Until these final hours, I was satisfied with the differences between the books and the adaptation to the small screen, but upon further reflection, the changes are starting to make me feel badly for those who haven't read them. They're missing out on the terrific romance between Jamie and Claire, their ability to banter and taunt as lovers do, that has been brushed aside for the more edgy scenes that have almost become all encompassing.

I'd like to see a more well rounded look at the couple and their love when the series returns. Those who haven't read the books deserve to know the whole story, not just the struggle the two endure to remain in each others arms, but why they want to be there in the first place.

I'm sure you all have a lot to say. What did you think of "To Ransom a Man's Soul," and were you satisfied with this as a season finale? Hit the comments and chat about it!

To Ransom a Man's Soul Review

Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 (63 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Outlander Season 1 Episode 16 Quotes

Don't play the worm with me. Jamie, I just want this to be a pleasant experience for us both.


Claire: Jamie, talk to me. What did Randall do to you?
Jamie: Too much. And not enough.