Article originally published as OUTLANDER Review Season 1 Episode 16 To Ransom a Man's Soul on Seat42F.
OUTLANDER wonders how much it costs “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” in its first season finale, airing tonight at 9 p.m. ET on Starz and already available on StarzPlay and On Demand. (If you have not watched the finale yet, go watch it before continuing on in this article).
“To Ransom a Man’s Soul” begins with Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix), Rupert (Grant O’Rourke), and Angus (Stephen Walters) rescuing Jamie (Sam Heughan) from prison. They are in time to save his body from execution, but not in time to save his psyche, as the man they find lying naked in the dungeon is broken in mind as well as body. With Claire (Caitriona Balfe), they rush him to a monk’s retreat, where the true depth of his shame slowly reveals itself.
This week’s hour is easier to watch than last week’s. While what Black Jack (Tobias Menzies) is seen doing to Jamie in the finale is rough and scenes of rape are never fun, at least there isn’t the blood and gore of last week’s outing. Instead, most of the torture this time around is psychological, with Black Jack determined to break Jamie and “make love” to him. Black Jack sadly succeeds at his wicked mission.
None blame Jamie for what happens to him save Jamie himself. Everyone else understands that Jamie was in a very bad position, worried about Claire, delusional and beaten. No one tries to make him feel bad or want anything more than to protect him, not one of the men questioning his manhood. This is a rare glimpse of the depth of affection these clansmen have, both MacKenzies and Frasers, and how understanding they can be in the right circumstances, as caring as they are stubborn.
Claire, the one Jamie is most afraid of disappointing, is the most compassionate. When Jamie refuses to open up and asks Willie (Finn Den Hertog) for a knife so that Jamie might kill himself, Claire goes to him and forces him to relive sensation until he spills the full story. And when he does, Claire remains unwaveringly there for him. A weaker woman would shy away in horror, or let her jealousy override the sweetness this man needs to get through what he’s been though. Claire succumbs to neither, being his rock.
That’s why their marriage must last. Claire still carries guilt about having two husbands, as we see when she spills her entire tale to Father Anselm (Ian Hanmore, Game of Thrones, The Fades). But her love for Jamie is true, as evidenced by the way she stands by her man, even fleeing the country with him for France at the close of “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” when it’s clear that no place in Scotland will be safe. Plus, they now have a wee one on the way, raising the stakes for them both.
Will Black Jack pursue the couple? He has a twisted devotion to Jamie, but “To Ransom a Man’s Soul” doesn’t give us much of him after the sex, so we don’t know if his urges have been satisfied or if he’ll always be obsessed with trying to get Jamie away from Claire. He remains one of the most demented characters on television screens, and I can’t help but admire how believable Menzies plays him, even as I’m focusing more on the pain Heughan makes us feel for Jamie.
OUTLANDER also brings up a very interesting idea in the mythology in the season finale. Claire and Jamie decide to try to change history and save the Highlanders from being wiped out. In any time travel story, leaving the timeline alone tends to be a primary concern. OUTLANDER takes the opposite tack, and it’s hard to blame Claire for her decision, given how fond she’s become of the Scots and how deserving they are of her protection. It’s unknown if she can alter the course of events, or if that might split off an alternate timeline. But for a show so far not heavy in studying the mystery at its heart, I’m deeply intrigued that these characters are going to make such a bold move.
OUTLANDER has, at times, made its viewers very uncomfortable, but it’s a good story with as high a degree of authenticity one can expect from a time traveling adventure. The music, the production, the performances, and the writing are all of top-notch quality, and I’m glad this final hour of the freshman run balances horror with a happy ending and hope. The show knows how to make us squirm and how to go dark, but it also doesn’t make the fans suffer needlessly. Let’s hope these trends continue in season two.
OUTLANDER has been renewed and will return to Starz later this year.