On the D/L – Outlander
Season 1 Episode 6 – “The Garrison Commander”
Picking up right where the previous episode left off, Claire shows her loyalty to Dougal and the rest of Clan MacKenzie by telling the English Redcoats that she’s a guest of the clan. This causes Dougal and Claire to be invited to meet the commanding officer. From here it seems to be somewhat bleak but in an interesting twist the man they encounter is rude but essentially harmless, or so we’re led to believe.
The episode is very clever in showing Claire becoming comfortable in the company of the English soldiers as they speak candidly and the atmosphere is a friendly one. Since Claire is the audience proxy in this show, her feelings of comfort extend to us the audience and a sense of shared relief was felt by me when it seemed that she would be taken to Inverness free of incident. It all seems to be working out really well until Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) interrupts.
Much of the screen time in The Garrison Commander focuses on Claire and Jack sitting at a table talking alone which might sound less than interesting for some but is handled wonderfully here. Menzies plays Jack to absolute perfection in this episode and Caitriona Balfe bounces off him really well filling their interactions with such amazing subtext. It’s easy to tell that Claire feels uneasy to be talking to a man who so closely resembles her husband yet couldn’t be more different from him. The scene with the razor and the comparison of the shaving highlights the differences she sees in the two physically similar man with the tone in the flashback being soft and loving contrasting against the darkness and disgust she feels in her present situation.
Jack’s intelligence is front and center here as he identifies Claire’s lies and attempts to get to the root of them through an intense and uncomfortable interrogation. He is able to break down her walls of strength and make her feel afraid due to his imposing presence. He clearly is aware that she’s being less than truthful but can’t pin down what it is as well as knowing where her sympathies lie, getting her to admit as much in front of the soldiers. Jack manipulates her beautifully and it’s interesting to see the usually strong Claire act so vulnerably. It’s possible that the resemblance to her husband is upsetting her judgment somewhat making her seem weaker to him but either way, Jack has the upper hand throughout the conversation. It really is superbly written stuff. Ira Steven Behr proves himself to be a master of dialogue and characterisation with these superbly written exchanges.
Jack’s character is wonderfully fleshed out in this episode as well. I really liked his description of how he felt whipping Jamie which was punctuated nicely by the flashback. The delight on his face as he whipped Jamie was truly terrifying as well as the determination he showed by not letting slipping on Jamie’s blood deter him from continuing. The scene was absolutely gruesome to watch and it was absolutely supposed to be, this episode was all about showing how terrible a man Black Jack Randall is and it absolutely succeeded. As a show, Outlander is proving itself to be a master of suspense and consistently uses the characters very well to help build that.
The best episode so far with a well written story, great character moments and fantastic performances. Tobias Menzies absolutely owned the episode with his nuanced and dark portrayal of Black Jack Randall making him an excellent foil for Caitriona Balfe’s Claire. There is some gruesome imagery included in this episode but the context given justifies the presence of this brutality.