Outlander Goes Too Far.

I just finished watching Outlander. It was the episode entitled Faith.


Can I first commend Caitriona Balfe for wonderful acting, especially at the end with her stillborn daughter? It was so good and real and unusual because grief is rarely portrayed with such subtlety. Sam Heughan was AWOL for most of the episode but when Jamie joined his wife at the end it was heartbreaking. Kudos to all involved.

Now, what I didn’t like. I didn’t like them showing Randall’s attack on Fergus. I’ve read all the reviews and interviews with the writers and justification. I understand the arguments, I just don’t agree with them.  I am a reader. I have a very good imagination. I did not have to be shown what happened in that room. One of the reasons given is that if the audience wasn’t shown then we couldn’t understand why Jamie broke his promise to Claire. Nonsense. You could have shown Randall entering the room, finding Fergus saying “You weren’t what I ordered, but you’ll do.” Then as the door close on a shot of Fergus’s terrified face.

Pick it up from Jamie’s point of view, hearing the screams, the door bursts open and we are treated to (another) shot of Randall’s bare buttocks thrusting and Fergus’s pants on the ground.  Jamie’s face, a fist, a child’s screams and whimpers and the challenge to a duel. The look on Jamie’s face would have been answer enough. Also, he wouldn’t have left the room without Fergus. He would have swept him up in his arms, cradled him and promised him it would be alright. It would have been much stronger to have him challenge Randall to a duel over the head of an innocent child.

(The writer says they talked to the child actor and his mother about the scene. I can’t decide if that makes it better or worse.)

I also worry about some kind of line being crossed. If I were a producer or writer would I now think there are no lines and I can show anything, including the abuse of a child?

Outlander is a mixed bag for me. It does some things so well- the intimate scenes, the grieving, the aftermath of trauma, the sets and costumes. But then it fails in direction and is IMHO disturbingly gratuitous in graphically violent scenes like this. Wentworth Prison was the same for me…shots held a beat too long, camera angles that could have informed and not exploited.

I feel the same about the novels–some passages and plot lines are lyrical and sing. Others are clunky and gratuitous. I’m a fan, but not a fanatic.

By the way, I’m expecting to be flamed for this post. That’s okay. We can agree to disagree.

Much has been made of the feminine gaze in Outlander, both the novels and the series. I don’t understand the fuss–scroll through my kindle and the vast majority of my books have a feminine gaze from The Handmaid’s Tale to my own novels. I often think the people raising this point are men.  But if this latest episode was an example of the feminine gaze, I’m one woman who looked away.


4 thoughts on “Outlander Goes Too Far.

  1. Book Mafia says:

    I dont remember fergus being terrified in the books..I feel like I remember it being less of a big deal. I don’t watch the show..but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was pushed to the limit. Wentworth must have been interesting…


  2. Emme Cross says:

    In the books, Fergus was a child prostitute and was willing to go with Randall. Jamie caught the pair in the middle or something and I seem to remember Randall branded the boy. Wentworth was interesting. Brilliant acting but again, pushed past the limit. Critics are hushed with “well, it’s in the book.” There are ways of showing without actually showing. The acting was brilliant, the direction and editing ham fisted.


  3. Andrea Crawford says:

    I just finished the first season and while I enjoyed it, I was really sort of shocked and disturbed at some of the graphic scenes there that I felt could have been left to the imagination. Clearly someone on the directorial side has a taste for severe gore and grossness!!!


    1. Emme Cross says:

      Yeah. I keep thinking that with a little subtlety and perhaps better craft it would be sooo much more effective. There were moments in Wentworth it felt like the movie Saw. Funny, it wasn’t the sex part that bothered me, it was the extra shots of the nails being pounded into Jamie’s hand. I got the Christ imagery…enough.


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