Outlander – Season 2 Episode 11
“Vengeance is Mine”
Outlander continues with the Jacobite campaign against the English as the second season finale approaches. Apologies for my review being so late but I’ve been flat out with attending the Edinburgh International Film Festival and haven’t had the time.
The previous episode gave us a really stylish and interesting action sequence showcasing the start of the conflict and this episode begins with some time having passed since the Jacobites started fighting. According to Claire’s narration they have got as far as Manchester so things are going fairly well but there’s a complication when the expected support doesn’t make itself available.
Prince Charles shows himself to be a fairly clueless leader when he decides to send Jamie to Inverness instead of Lallybroch. The fact that this happens off screen feels off as it’s an important moment that creates tension between Jamie and Charles but we never quite get to see it. It was always interesting to see James and Charles interact back when they were both in France so this feels like a missed opportunity.
It definitely feels like one of those plot based decisions rather than character based decisions as well which is never the way to go and far less sophisticated than I’ve come to expect from this show. It does allow for a brilliant horse chase sequence that is both tense and thrilling. Everything from the way it was shot to the way the danger builds is masterfully done. Outlander doesn’t deliver action often but when it does it truly is a joy to behold.
The episode never lets up after this point with lots of tense and character driven scenes throughout. Claire’s plan to pretend to be a hostage and use herself as a bargaining chip for the English soldiers is really well handled. Jamie offers to hand himself over as there is a large price on his head but Dougal shoots that down and angrily tells him to stop trying to be a hero. This makes sense as Jamie is more valuable being part of the uprising than he would be sacrificing himself for it. It doesn’t quite make sense that Dougal would be the one to remind him of that considering how resistant he has been to Jamie’s leadership but the sentiment is very much appreciated. Claire’s outburst about the people being as much her responsibility in her role as Lady Broch Tuarach.
Despite the time period the show is set in Claire has always insisted on being treated as an equal and Jamie has mostly accepted this. She may not be involved in the strategy as the other men would never accept her since most of them don’t know about her future knowledge that could prove useful but Claire and Jamie have always been a team and that is never going to change. They have constantly supported each other in bearing their various burdens. Jamie praying for her as she slept in this episode reinforces that in a really powerful way and it feeds into Claire’s decision.
Claire is able to confidently hand herself over because she trusts Jamie completely. As far as she’s concerned there is no risk involved as she knows that Jamie will find and protect her. The way this show continues to build this connection between them continues to really impress and will make it all the more tragic when they are inevitably torn apart as we have seen.
Claire is taken to the Duke of Sandringham which certainly isn’t an ideal situation for her considering he knows who she really is and could easily derail her hostage cover story. This is something that en enjoys dangling over her through their various interactions throughout the episode and any scene between them is dripping with tension. We know as well as Claire does that the Duke is going to drop the bomb at some point but it is unknown when he will do it and the sadistic game he insists on playing with her never stops being compelling to watch.
With the Duke comes the return of Mary, his God daughter which complicates the situation further. It is revealed that the Duke arranged for the rape in Paris after his servant has the same mark on his hand that Claire saw that night. The Duke’s casual reveal that he was responsible with a sense of pride in his voice was deeply unsettling despite the over the top theatricality that most of his scenes had. The Duke often feels out of place for that reason and this definitely comes across here but they way he revealed that he was responsible was excellently handled.
The problem I had with this reveal was that Mary seemed like she was almost unnecessary in this reveal. She is there but the reactions are more geared towards Claire when Mary was the most deeply affected by it. I would have liked more insight into how Mary feels about knowing the truth rather than having her sit in the background.
I really enjoyed the rescue sequence as a lot of great things happened. Murtagh’s murder of the Duke was brutal and visceral but not in an unnecessarily gratuitous way. It makes sense on a character level as it allowed Murtagh to repay the debt he felt that he owed Mary and Claire when he failed to protect them before. The brutality of the beheading shows how much this had been eating away at him and how satisfying it was for him to finally get closure on that.
Mary picking up a knife and stabbing her rapist with it was nicely unexpected. Mary has been established as a timid character who is never quick to act so having her take such definitive action works as a surprise as well as notable character development. It’s clear that the rape changed her and having her take her revenge in such a shockingly violent way is a logical extension of that.
War seems to be changing everyone and Outlander is focusing on what it is doing to the people rather than the mechanics of the conflict itself. After Angus’ death last week Rupert is still cut up about it and takes any opportunity to honour his fallen friend by talking about him. Rupert is a relatively minor character but having him developed in such a way adds so much depth in a short time. Rupert is fighting for Angus as much as he is fighting for the freedom of his people and the perspective of the common soldier in the conflict is somewhat inspiring.
This also accomplishes the important job of reminding us that every death matters in this War. If most of the deaths are anonymous then the whole thing ceases to mean anything for the viewer. Rupert is a great example of that as he reminds us that there are people fighting this War and it is taking a toll on them.
Unfortunately the depth doesn’t extend too the enemy. The Redcoats feel like anonymous henchmen outside of people like the Duke of Sandringham. I do accept that Outlander only has to put forward the Scottish perspective but I would also like to see more personality from the opponent so that they don’t simply feel like cannon fodder for the characters to cut down. I imagine much of this will be rectified once Randall makes his inevitable return but for now the depth does feel one sided.
A great episode with an excellent chase sequence and many impressive character moments. The conclusion of the story of Mary’s rape is well handled and the revenge she takes is satisfying. As is the revenge that Murtagh takes for failing to protect them before. There are some issues such as the Duke of Sandringham being overall too cartoonish and some character beats that feel necessary yet aren’t explore but in general the season is building the Conflict nicely and not forgetting how important the characters are in all that.
- sweet revenge from Mary and Murtagh
- an effective and casually sadistic reveal
- the thrilling chase sequence
- the cartoonish way the Duke of Sandringham acts
- a lack of depth from the other side of the conflict