This final episode of Outlander descended into the show’s darkest place yet, and so did Claire — when she found it necessary to probe Jamie’s trauma in order to retrieve her true love from the depths of depression and PTSD he found himself in. Her unorthodox methods may not be modern psychology, but it makes for interesting storytelling. As for the sadism we witness, it’s certainly worth debating where the line between depicting brutality and inflicting it on the viewer lies.
We begin in Wentworth Prison again, with a blank-eyed Jamie lying next to Jack Randall. The worst has been done, clearly. Then, as Randall leaves, a distant sound rubles, and it’s not just the British drums and fifes. No, it’s a herd of cattle stampeding through the hallways of the prison, trampling Randal, confusing the garrison, and allowing just enough time to rescue Jamie and make a swift exit.
Nice going, Murtagh and the lads.
But a rescued body is not a rescued soul, as we are about to hear repeated for the next hour. Indeed, Jamie’s eyes remain dark and he can’t look at Claire without seeing Randall and lashing out in horror. Even as Claire sets and mends her husband’s mangled hand in the monastery where they take Jamie to recover, he remains unable to eat and essentially unwilling to live, and he shrinks from her touch. We partly understand why this is, in flashbacks that show Randall raping Jamie and trying to get some sort of reaction from him that his victim won’t give. In his debasement and delirium, Jamie cries out for Claire — and Randall is desperate to know what power Claire has over Jamie, and claim that power for himself.
Back in the present, Claire grows teary and frustrated and Jamie’s companions are at a loss, particularly poor Willie, whom Jamie asks for help committing suicide with his dagger. A nighttime confession of her time-traveling marital hijinx to a kindly monk doesn’t give Claire what she needs, as both she and Murtagh feel that Jamie has been through something worse than just rape and torture, but they can’t quite figure out what. Murtagh says if Jamie can’t recover himself, he would support an honorable suicide rather than a slow death from self-starvation.
Finally Claire decides to go into hell with Jamie in order to bring him back. She revives him with the lavender smelling salts that Randall used, and forces him to lash out at her physically until he tells her the truth: “He made love to me,” says Jamie. Essentially, Randall turned himself into a perverse version of Claire and forced Jamie to surrender and feel pleasure in his violation. “He broke me,” says Jamie. “We both knew it.” (Note: Two weeks later, I still find aspects of this plot objectionable, but I’m fascinated by the way Jamie takes all the violence that Claire escapes onto his body and soul).
Now, Jamie wants Claire’s healing touch but this makes him feel ashamed at the same time, and it’s a second form of torture. Randall warned him of this, saying Claire would never forgive him — which I will note makes no sense. I mean, how does he know Jamie will see Claire again? Isn’t he supposed to hang from the gallows after this?
After Claire tells him “it’s okay,”assuring him that he did what he had to do, Jamie allows her to embrace him, and hugs her back. Serious as the episode was, I found it hard not to think about Don Draper and Leonard in this moment of hugging-based breakthrough.
Finally, the two prepare to sail to France, which leads me to note a plot hole: couldn’t they have just sailed to France at first and avoided this whole problem to begin with?
A final dose of humor breaks up the brutality of the episode as Claire says goodbye to her band of outlaw highland ruffian helpers and they kiss and hug her in various amusing way. Fashion note: I love the Lothlorien-style cloak Claire is wearing.
On board the ship to France, Claire tells Jamie she’s not queasy because she’s on a boat. No, instead she’s pregnant, against all odds, and she wants to change the future and prevent the Scots from rebelling and failing miserably, thus spawning the extremely dull plot that caused me to put the second Outlander book down in boredom about 300 pages in (sorry, fans!).
Yet at news of Claire’s pregnancy, Jamie admits something he feared he’d never feel again: he’s happy. Their dual shocks of curly hair ruffle in the breeze of the channel as the ship picks up anchor.