As a finale, “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” is lacking in the usual giant action setpieces. But it more than makes up for that in the amount of emotional disasters heaped on everyone.
The vast majority of “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” is about what happened when Jamie was left alone with Jack Randall and how Jamie has reacted to it. In the last episode, we saw Jamie physically tortured. In the finale, Jamie isn’t just raped by Randall, Randall wants nothing less than to break Jamie’s spirit entirely, complete with Jamie admitting that he’s won.
The episode begins with Black Jack leaving Jamie, only to be trampled by the herd of cattle the Scots are using as a diversion as they save Jamie. Jack gets trampled by the cows, in something so richly deserved and serves as a nice memory to hold on to as the rest of the episode unfolds.
When they delirious Jamie is brought to Claire, he lashes out against her, seeing Jack in her place. At first, we might think that’s just a sort of feverish reaction. But, as everything unfolds, it turns out it’s more than that.
We knew from the last episode that the deal was Jamie’s body in exchange for Claire’s safety. And the show does not shy away from showing Jamie’s rape by Jack. In a way that is so deeply horrible to watch that Outlander completely refutes any attempt to label it as a guilty pleasure.
The physical rape isn’t even the worst thing to happen, though. Jack is fascinated by the connection Jamie has to Claire. He couldn’t break Jamie before, but now he sees Claire as Jamie’s weakness. From the beginning of the encounter, when he warns Jamie that his men can recapture her at any time, to the end, when he makes Jamie pretend that he is Claire.
If it were just physical dominance Jack was looking for, the beatings he’s administered and the first rape of the evening would have done it. Of course that’s not enough. Because he insists that Jamie admit that he’s lost, that he’s Jack’s, and that he release any claim to Claire. Jamie brands himself with Jack’s seal. Jack provides relief from the pain — through lavender oil — to make Jamie submit further. When Jack touches Jamie saying “These are Claire’s hands,” it is impossible not to flinch and shudder.
It’s to this show’s credit that this isn’t sensationalized or romanticized in any way. It’s horrible, it’s presented as horrible, and Jamie does not get over it. It wasn’t something that I’d chose to watch again, and we can always argue whether or not rape needs to be a plot point, but Outlander did seem to try very hard to avoid the pitfalls that media often falls into when dealing with this issue.
Jamie spends the time he’s being healed flinching away from Claire and confrontational with everyone else. He is suicidal — which the show only spells out in English more than halfway through the episode, nice return to unsubtitled Gaelic for this show, and a good time for it — and Claire forces a brutal unburdening of Jamie using the lavender oil as a trigger.
Jamie makes clear that its the betrayal of Claire by letting Jack use her memory and using pain relief to make him grateful for the last rape that is the bitterest pill. That, after all, Jack did manage to make him submit.
Jamie’s not better after all this, but he is healing. He has Jack’s brand cut from him and burned. And he knows he has Claire’s support no matter what.
Claire and Jamie are fleeing to France where, hopefully, they’ll be safe. And Claire decides that, to hell with paradoxes and time travel, if she’s here it’s for a reason. She becomes a full convert to Geillis’ idea that they can change things. For Claire, that means using her future knowledge to prevent the Jacobites and Scotland from being crushed the way her history books tell it. So she and Jamie have a cause to pursue next season in France. And a baby, since Claire is pregnant.
In some ways, the joking goodbyes Claire exchanges with the members of the Clan MacKenzie she’s grown close to seem jarring compared to all the heavy emotion we’d been dealing with just seconds before. But I actually appreciated reminder that not everything in the world of this show is as bleak as all that.
Outlander has outperformed expectations in every way since it premiered last year. It seems fitting that it ended like this, with a focus on Jamie, Claire, and Randall — the three pillars of the season. As much as Geillis and Dougal and Colum and everyone else were important and wonderful, it really has always been about those three. Well see if that persists into next season, with the Frasers presumably out of Jack’s reach and Claire pregnant.
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