Lately I’ve been thinking about onscreen violence versus book violence. I’ve read two books lately with way more torture in them than I could stand, and as I said in my Water Knife review, you can’t close your eyes and ears when you’re reading.
And then came the second to last episode of Outlander (the finale airs this weekend). You know how I love Outlander. But I’ve been dreading the end of the season, and if you’re up to date on the show (SPOILERS ahead if you’re not) now you know why. I know people who loved the book but couldn’t keep reading the series after the way this ends. I can understand that. I’ve always wished Gabaldon didn’t take it as far as she did.
If you haven’t read the rest of the books, here’s the good news: Gabaldon doesn’t do this to us again, at least not in the twisted way she does here, in having Jamie not only captive to Randall but forced to submit to Randall physically and psychologically to save his wife.
There are people who find the book homophobic, and that’s understandable too. Randall’s a sadist, which is different of course, but it’s not always clear that Gabaldon gets that difference. She’ll create a positive gay character later in the books, if you’re wondering, and I suspect that was done deliberately to address this criticism. Or maybe it’s just to create dramatic tension with Jamie (but that’s a topic for another time).
Getting back to the episode — if you’d told me that the TV version of this story could be more horrifying than the book, I wouldn’t have believed you. The book is sick and disturbing. So much that my gut’s been wrenching all season long at the thought of young Jamie having to undergo what he does. But after watching the “Wentworth Prison” episode… it really was worse. Days later, I still feel sick. The combination of the hand crushing, then the hand nailing, then the kissing and the back licking, and worst of all, having to look at the expression on Jamie’s face as it’s happening.
Two thirds into the episode, my husband suggested fast-forwarding, and I should have taken him up on it, since at that point I was a screaming blob on the couch with my hands over my eyes. Still, even knowing how it goes, I said no, I had to keep watching. As if I was being brave for poor Jamie’s sake.
Was the episode true to the book? Yes, very. But remember, the show toned down the wife-beating episode quite a bit, so I wouldn’t have minded if this got toned down a bit too. At least they could have kept the worst of it off-camera. The problem with on-screen violence is that images and sounds are harder to get out of your head than words.
The final episode airs this weekend, and I’m thinking about skipping it. I’ve seen a few reviews that say this is rape and torture done responsibly. It’s true to the book, and it doesn’t make rape easy or minimize the consequences. Jamie will be deeply scarred, psychologically, and it will affect how he relates to Claire.
Knowing the rest of the books, this is the worst of it — once we’re past this episode, there’s a great second season ahead. That is, unless Moore does a Game of Thrones and decides the more violent the better. I don’t think he will, but is that really the way producers (or fans) are pushing things?
But that’s a topic for another time.
If you’re watching, what did you think of the “Wentworth Prison” episode? Will you be watching this weekend?