TV Show Review

TV Review: OUTLANDER: Season 1, Episode 16: To Ransom a Man’s Soul [Starz]

Starz’s Outlander To Ransom a Man’s Soul TV Show Review. Outlander: Season 1, Episode 16: To Ransom a Man’s Soul featured “the final surrender” that Captain Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall (Tobias Menzies) wanted from Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and was something that the viewer could never have expected. Black Jack wanted to conquer Jamie in totality, physically and mentally. Never before, except in the previous episode, did he express such a desire. When he rode up and saved Jaime from hanging in Wentworth Prison, Black Jack seemed relieved that he’d gotten there in time. The meaning behind his relief was that he had not missed the opportunity to achieve the surrender.

How the writers structured To Ransom a Man’s Soul was brilliant: aftermath first, then through linear and non-linear methods, they dolled out what happened in the cell between Black Jack and Jamie.

Randall using Claire Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) against Jamie while he was delirious with pain and fever was brilliant and devilish in its effectiveness. After watching Zero Dark Thirty, other CIA-based motion pictures, and TV programs, Randall did what masterful Operation Officers do with their prisoners: he developed a bond and trust with his captive and then exploited it for his own ends.

The viewer may have seen many graphic sex scenes previously, especially on Starz via Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Black Sails, but Outlander took it to a whole new, uncomfortable level. Scene creators strove to make everything seem real during To Ransom a Man’s Soul‘s rape scenes and they achieved that to sweaty, stomach-churning effect. In the space of two episodes, Black Jack ascended (or descended, depending on your point-of-view) from villain to plague in the lives of Claire and Jamie. Black Jack transformed from bad guy to arch-nemesis through his nefarious actions. Of Claire and Jamie, I never expected Jamie to be the one that got rapped (Black Jack seemed adamant about raping Claire). Perhaps it would have been a cliché if Claire had been. It was certainly unexpected that Jamie was violated.

Seeing Jamie go through what countless women have portrayed on-screen after they had been sexually assaulted was surreal. It’s rare that this particular type of rape and its afterbirth are portrayed on-screen and in such brutal fashion. What made it harder was that Jamie was so physically powerful yet was rendered so powerless. It put into perspective ‘perceived power’ versus ‘actual power’ in the world in which Jamie Fraser inhabited.

During Wentworth Prison and going into this episode, I thought Jamie would talk himself out of the rape or like with Claire, someone would intervene at the last moment. Outlander proved itself to be no fairy tale story with To Ransom a Man’s Soul and did not steer away from hard material when it would advance the narrative in a dramatic way. The rape and everything surrounding it made To Ransom a Man’s Soul the most pivotal and memorable episode of the season. The images found within this episode will be hard to forget and even more difficult not to ponder.

What is also ponderous is Black Jack’s continuous, unconscious survivals. How many times do the writers of Outlander plan on resolving a scene with Black Jack being knocked unconscious? That plot device is beginning to wear thin. They can only manipulate scenes to keep him alive so many times. The worst thing the writers of Outlander can do is to fall in love with Black Jack. The writers of Heroes did that with Sylar and that show dropped in quality continuously as situations and relationships were manipulated, manufactured, and warped to keep Sylar a part of the show. I hope that does not happen with Black Jack.

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About the author

Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created and Trending

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