outlander 112 – lallybroch – thoughts

sine missione – Lat. – without mercy– When gladiators fought to the death, they fought sine missione.

“I’m gonna hit you, right where it hurts” – Bring It, Trapt

outlander-lallybroch-title-card

I’m way out of step with the show review-wise, getting such a late start didn’t do me any favors, but I felt the need skip a few episodes because I really wanted to say some things about this episode….

NOTE: There will be spoilers from the show and up through the end of “Outlander,” so read no further if you don’t want to be spoiled and haven’t read the novel. Also, I will talk very bluntly about the sexual violence in the show, so if that stuff bothers you, you might want to give this a pass…

HQ Screencaps thanks to Outlander Online.

We Americans are an odd bunch.  I have no clue what the rest of the world really thinks about us.  Maybe they think we’re crazy.  Some days I am of the same opinion.

The way we deal with sex and violence as a culture is mystifying. We produce some of the most violent forms of media and entertainment in the world and a few actually get a lot of money when we export them, others not so much.  I mean, it’s one of the most violent sports, but is there really a market for American Football outside of our borders? Probably not, but some of the violence Americans produce is highly marketable.  Look how wildly popular some of our more violent films are overseas.

The film with the highest body count is from an American production company. (That page counts actual on-screen deaths, ignoring the multitude of films that portray the deaths of millions or billions because a planet gets destroyed. So, the Star Trek reboot had Vulcan destroyed and the recent Superman film showed Krypton’s destruction, but those didn’t make the list since you don’t see the tens of millions die as individuals…) Anyway, “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” had more than 800 on-screen deaths.

Granted, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was produced in part with New Zealander Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films and was co-written by his wife, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens, two other Kiwis.  “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” made more than a billion dollars worldwide and was released by New Line Cinema, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, an American film studio.  It is probably to the point to mention that the only non-American produced film in the top ten of the deadliest films is a South Korean film about the Korean war, “Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War.” American violence is very profitable.

Yet, for all of that blood and gore raining boatloads of cash into American hands, graphic sex is somehow taboo and completely unacceptable to a lot of Americans.  It seems inexplicable.

Maybe it’s a relic from the religious hardliners that helped colonize what is now the Continental United States. So, getting religious freedom was a good thing, but a bunch of sexually repressed and morally uptight Puritans left their mark on American cultural morality.  It’s one we’ve not really gotten over, apparently.  The Puritanical shame in sex affects us on every level, from the way we educate our children to how we decide who gets elected. It affects everything, and not usually for the good.

Politics and education aside, it seems that any depiction of graphic sex was something that was shameful.  Or at least, that’s what some folks would have everyone believe. I guess, if you look at the recent brouhaha over this episode, they really mean only some sex.

In relation to what’s happened in the series up until now, it’s mystifying that folks get so upset by Tobias Menzies showing his junk.  I mean, think back to the first episode.  Almost from the first minutes of the show, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Frank (Tobias Menzies) do the dirty.  Frank seems less lusty than Claire because she initiates the sex more than once in that first episode. Frank even goes down on Claire, at her insistence.  Maybe some think that’s disturbing, but I find the sex on the show remarkably refreshing mostly because the characters don’t really seem to have too many hang ups about it.  That really doesn’t happen on TV, so the sex is different in this series.

Maybe it’s the vaunted ‘female gaze’ critics like to talk about that makes it different. I think it’s less that than the sex is more honest, less pandering to the male gaze, if you want to call it that.  Women are equal participants in the sex in the show, rather than some fetish object for the man in the scene to conquer.

As egalitarian the sex is in the show there is a ton of violence in the show that has a strong sexual component to it. Look at what happens to Claire in the first episode.  She has an active and very healthy sex life with Frank in 1945. Yet, she goes back to 1743 and gets sexually assaulted within minutes of her arrival and (no doubt because of her relative state of undress) accused of being a whore.  I guess slut-shaming has been around a long time.

To make things worse, shortly after that, Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) threatens to put Claire ‘to the test’ to see if she’s prostitute, whether she wants him to or not. Again, a man threatens rape, but Rupert’s comment is almost half-joking.  (Yeah, joking about rape isn’t anything new either I guess.) Yet, that plan is dismissed by Dougal (Graham McTavish) as not being viable because he doesn’t ‘hold for it,’ but then throws in the caveat that they didn’t have time for it anyway.

Dougal came close to raping Claire a few episodes later when he was drunk.  So, maybe when whisky strips the veneer of civilization from a guy, even a man who doesn’t like rape will threaten sexual violence when a vulnerable female comes along he finds attractive.

It must be a huge danger, since later Jamie (Sam Heughan) chooses to sleep on the floor outside of Claire’s room to protect her from unwanted attention of drunken men who don’t like Sassenachs. That episode ends with Dougal wanting to ‘grind her corn,’ despite what she wanted, again implied rape, but said in a light-hearted tone.

Yeah, so sexual violence is pretty common in the world that Claire finds herself in.

In episode 7 Claire gets married to Jamie and almost 40 minutes of sex follows.  In the next two episodes after that she gets sexually assaulted twice, first by English army deserters and then by Captain Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies). An episode or two after that, she’s gets stripped, her bodice and shift ripped possibly beyond repair, at the hands of men so she could be beaten with a switch by angry men who want to burn her as a witch.

Some horrible things of a sexual nature have happened to Claire up until this part of the season.  Yet I do not remember people putting up too much of a fuss about it.  Well, maybe it happened and I didn’t see it. I became more active in the fandom during the long Droughtlander between October and April.

Still, when the show came back the sexual violence, at least for one episode, became a source of titillation.

The ‘beating’ that Claire got from Jamie in ‘The Reckoning’ was understandable and completely justified, from his point of view.  Diane Gabaldon explains it very well in the book, and it was equally well-handled in the show.

His disciplining her drew some complaints online. I won’t argue that isn’t deserved, it certainly makes sense from a 21st Century perspective that folks would object to that. Knowing the context and the fact that no real ill-intent was meant by Jamie, he was just trying to teach Claire a lesson the way he understood to be the best.  Today it isn’t right for a man to do that, but in that time and place it was accepted, if not expected.  It was because of this that Jamie was under pressure by the members of the MacKenzie clan to show Claire that she had a lesson to learn.  Murtagh himself told Jamie he had to ‘make her understand.’  So, he did.  Claire didn’t enjoy it, even though the make-up sex and her getting her point across that wasn’t ever going to happen again did a great deal to make amends for them both.

Yet, it was not a very feminist moment for Claire, she is an adult and her husband treated her like a misbehaving child. It was all in keeping with the way women were treated then.  Women weren’t people; they were more like objects that were owned, first by their fathers, then their husbands, and for a widow, then her sons. Women couldn’t vote, couldn’t own property, and had little they could do to change their own destinies. Highborn women couldn’t even hold a job, in a traditional sense, although they had their roles to fill. They were completely dependent on the men to provide for them.  Women simply were not considered full members of society. It’s something us modern day folks really can’t comprehend.   It was a very different world  because all the men treated women then like Jamie did Claire: like a child who needs a man to tell her what to do and to use discipline when she’s done something wrong.

Even understanding that, I think Claire’s spanking was more acceptable than what happened in this episode between Jenny (Laura Donnelly) and Black Jack (Tobias Menzies), which is perplexing to me.  Nothing worse happened to Jenny than what had happened to Claire up until this point in the series. Or, at least not really, Jenny was frightened of a man far bigger than her, forcibly restrained, got hit, hard, had her dress ripped and breasts exposed.  The added threat of getting raped was just the pinnacle of all of the very horrible things Jack wanted to do to Jenny.   So, nothing here was worse than happened to Claire in ‘Sassenach,’ ‘The Garrison Commander,’ and ‘Both Sides Now’/’The Reckoning.’

What was different was that Tobias Menzies made a choice to go where few men have gone in television: the full monty.  It wasn’t scripted and there was no ‘stunt cock,’ as it were. It was all Tobias. I’m not sure why this is something that is so rare in TV. Even shows on other premium outlets don’t show the male equipment much… ‘Game of Thrones’ is probably the most glaring example.

They have a TON of naked women, even showing women naked below the waist (most notably in Little Finger’s brothel in Westeros), but have they shown men have the same level of exposure?

No, they haven’t. Maybe a few glimpses here and there… That is a bit surprising to me, when I thought about it, since most of those actors are Europeans without the purported sexual hang-ups us more Puritanical Yanks have. So, why the restraint?

Is it an American expectation?  Is the shock that a brief glimpse of ‘little’ Tobias caused an indicator that maybe all those other shows were right?  Maybe they are, perhaps ‘Outlander’ in playing the scene that honestly has gone a bit too far for some folks.

I applaud Tobias for doing what he thought the scene needed, even if it wasn’t scripted. I agree with his stated reasoning, that the audience needed to see what Jenny saw: a very limp penis, showing, rather than just telling, that Black Jack was incapable of doing anything more than slapping her around a bit and making her laugh. Showing, rather than telling, is a very cinematic choice.

TV doesn’t always do that very well, but this show doesn’t usually have that problem.  Yeah, it was an unexpected choice perhaps, I was a bit surprised and I’m hardly a prude.  Yet, consider just how illuminating this was for both characters.  Maybe it was a ‘brave’ of Tobias to do that, but only insofar as it shows how dedicated an actor he is.

I think actors, truly gifted ones, are willing to completely give themselves over what the part requires, no matter how revealing that is or how vulnerable it might make them.  This was about more than just showing Tobias’ penis.  His choice showed how determined Tobias was to honestly embrace that vulnerability of Jack’s, to show the proof that his sexual sadism means Jack has a complete lack of sexual arousal unless his intended rape target is in pain and terrified.

Diana Gabaldon explained it in the book perhaps a little better than it was shown in this episode.  When Jenny explained what happened in between her and Jack in the book, she said Jack was clearly angered by her laughter and that is why he asked her to turn over, so he couldn’t see her face.  That’s when she decided to laugh harder, which made him even less capable of following through with her rape and the scene ended with her beaten and unconscious.

Here, I’m not sure why, but that decision-making process for both characters maybe wasn’t quite as clear, I had to watch the scene a few times to see that.  Maybe that’s why a lot of people seemed to misconstrue his insistence on Jenny being face down as Jack being gay (so he wanted to rape her like he would have a man). Diana set that straight on her Facebook, but essentially she said Jack is just an equal opportunity abuser. He attacked Claire and Jenny because they were alone and vulnerable.  He saw an opening to satisfy his sexual sadism and took it.

The same could be said of what Jack did in the episode with Jamie. If it had been another man who was facing a second flogging, Jack probably would have made the same offer: to forgo the second flogging if the man would willingly submit to Jack.  That is likely why Jack sentenced Jamie to the second flogging in the first place. He wanted a chance to coerce Jamie into sex.

Maybe that was what happened with others Jack had abused as the garrison commander.  As the head jailor and commander, he would have plenty of men to force into having sex, as Diana Gabaldon pointed out in her Facebook post.

In the book that is something that comes up more prominently since (the rape of another prisoner at Fort William) was the reason Jack killed the sergeant major that Jamie was accused of murdering.  The sargeant was going to expose Jack’s rape of a young man, Alex MacGregor, since Alex was so wrecked by what Jack did he committed suicide.  Maybe that will come up later, but it does help setup the pattern: vulnerable attractive person + Jack getting that person alone = rape.

So many people got so completely ‘squicked out‘ about Tobias showing his junk it seemed they missed what I found far more disturbing. This was more disturbing than whatever Jack had said to Jamie’s dad, Brian Fraser (Andrew Whipp), to make him fear for his son’s fate at the hands of Jack Randall; it was when Jack started to run his fingers along Jenny’s lips after taking her into the bedroom.

Fingers stained red with Jamie’s blood.

The red of the blood and his uniform stood out an amazing amount, looming large in her memory. The horror of it…

Jack knew he had Jamie’s blood on his fingers and he still caressed her lips, almost lovingly, gently coaxing her to open her mouth… It was some sort of sick and twisted version of what her husband might do. It was a very gentle caress to start with, but the menace was there, which was reinforced when he pressed his finger into her mouth, staining  her lips just ever so slightly with Jamie’s blood, tinted red like Jack’s red waistcoat.

She was so disturbed by this action, and probably the taste of the blood, she gagged. I mean, it seemed that she was almost ready to lose her lunch right there.

This moment also wasn’t scripted, but it showed a remarkably dedicated pair of actors doing what they do best.  That was so intense.  It makes me shudder just thinking about it…  Chillingly, the scenes with Black Jack in this episode are probably a frightening taste of what Jack will likely put Jamie through toward the end of the season.

I adored how those scenes were shot.  Director of Photography Martin Fuhrer departed from how the flashbacks were previously handled.  The flashbacks before had desaturated colors and were slightly overexposed, which gave the flashback scenes a very grainy, washed out look. It made them seem more like the faded photos in a family album.

outlander-lallybroch-Jacks-red-fingers

But the flashbacks in this episode for Black Jack’s visit to Lallybroch, both Jenny’s and Jamie’s, were different. For those Fuhrer had the colors even more desaturated, so much so it was almost in black and white, and the scene was also slightly overexposed, but he added back into it the deep red of British army uniforms.  The color popped out in front of everything else. It made Jack and the English soldiers seem that much more menacing, that scarlet color was so much more intense than everything else in the frame.  It was an amazing decision. It was a simple thing, elegant even, but the red being emphasized like that added so much to the menace…

I had once said that ‘Spartacus: Blood and Sand’ was Sine Missone, no mercy shown TV, and it was. I thought no one else really did it like that anymore. While not quite as visceral as that show, “Outlander” series creator Ron Moore has demonstrated just how well he understands the concept.

In the course of the show he’s shown he’s capable of making bold choices and, going how this episode went, he is supportive of his actors, writers, and crew also doing the same.  I think only one other current show, Steven DeKnight’s “DareDevil” on Netflix, shows the same sort of telling-the-best-story-you-can-no-matter-what storytelling that Ron does here.

Ron Moore once said that he will bring this season to its inevitable conclusion with the same honest and upfront approach to the end of the book as he has for everything else.  From how they treated the events in this episode, with everyone playing out the scenes so ‘honestly,’ this will likely mean there will be a lot of male nudity coming up. This, added to what will probably be a disturbing level of male-on-male sexual violence.

For people having problems with the brief sight of Tobias Menzies rubbing his junk in this episode I think it will be extremely hard to watch. Although, I suppose that will depend on just how much of Sam Heughan and Tobias Menzies we end up seeing. That’s a shame if folks decide not to watch.  It will be their loss.

It’s not that I’m perving on thought of seeing more skin and possibly seeing more male genitalia. It’s the fact that the Wentworth and Abbey scenes will probably give everyone in the show a chance to show what they’re really capable of as actors…

I anticipate parts of it will be very difficult to watch, I had problems with Claire reducing Jamie’s shoulder dislocation and the flogging scenes, so this probably won’t be easy for me. This is especially so since Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe and Tobias Menzies have done such a good job at breathing life into their characters.  I cannot read the books now without imagining the actors playing out their parts…  They’ve become familiar, almost like old friends, so watching Jack inflict pain and real suffering on Claire and Jamie will be very, very hard to do.

I don’t think I’ll need it, but I’m going to have a cushion ready just in case. Hopefully I will bear up and keep my eyes open because I want to see what they will do. No matter what the results are, it will likely be some excellent TV.

Bring it, Ron!

I’m ready…. I think.

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2 thoughts on “outlander 112 – lallybroch – thoughts

  1. Sorry, but the historian in me couldn’t let this pass. Just a little historical clarification here. The Pilgrims were not the first colony in the U.S. – this is a misconception that is fairly popular. The first colony, technically was the “Lost Colony” that landed in NC that was started by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1587. No one knows what happened to them, but they were the first. Even so, the first permanent settlement, where no one disappeared, was still not the Pilgrim colony in Plymouth – it was Jamestown in Virginia. Settled for commerce I might add and because all those second sons of second sons of the aristocracy needed some place to have a chance at some wealth – and also a place to start a penal colony for Great Britain. That was 1607 (and about 20 years after Lost Colony). Wasn’t until 1620 that the Pilgrims landed. I hate Massachusetts getting credit that is not due. 🙂

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    • Oh, I appreciate you pointing that out. I’m from Virginia, I know about Jamestown.

      What I meant to say there was that they were among the first permanent settlers from Europe. So, I edited that bit.

      Thank you.

      Like

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