‘Outlander’ Recap/Review: Episode 115, “Wentworth Prison”

Official Episode 115 Jamie Sam MacQuarrie Douglas

[This is not a spoiler-free review/recap of the episode. If you have not seen the episode yet, read it at your own spoiler risk.]
Episode 115,“Wentworth Prison,” Written by Ira Stephen Behr, Directed by Anna Foerster

I am doing this review/recap a little bit differently due to the violent and sensitive content that is shown in “Wentworth Prison.”  I do not think a detailed recap of what happens in the episode is very good for me or those who read it.  The episode is out there for the audience to watch it as they want, and if they want to skip it entirely, the book is always there to read.

Going into the episode, I was already aware that the situation between Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) would not end at the conclusion of the 55 minutes.  The synopsis for Episode 116 makes it pretty clear that Jamie will still be in Wentworth Prison for at least part of the finale.

The episode is not all hearts and roses and the show itself is not playing around with expectations or stepping around the material.  If you could not handle the whipping scene in “The Garrison Commander,” then go ahead and just skip this one or at least have your finger on the fast forward button.

The title card scene with the hanging ring of torture devices makes it pretty clear what is going to happen eventually.  If you made it past that, then the opening scene greets you with multiple hangings.  A group of prisoners wait for their name to be called, among them is Jamie and MacQuarrie (Douglas Henshall).  Unfortunately, MacQuarrie meets his end and it is not quick.  As the letter of execution with James Fraser is turned, emotions run high.  If you are a reader, you know he is not going to die, but as a non-reader, you may question the fate of of one of our main characters.  Alas, the dread placed on this episode continues as Jack Randall rides into the courtyard and stops Jamie’s execution.  I appreciated how this arrival was shot.  You can see a moment of Jamie questioning whether to just step off the boards and meet death rather than let Randall lay claim to him.

It is after this that we see the dungeon where the rest of Jamie’s scenes will take place.  He is chained to the wall in a dark, stone lined cell.  Jamie tries to free himself by pulling on the chain, but it is no use.  He will continue to try throughout the episode as he has some fight in him and a wife to return to.

Claire (Caitriona Balfe) has arrived at the prison and manages to get an audience with Sir Fletcher Gordon (Frazer Hines), the warden of the prison. Being an Englishwoman in Scotland has paid off again.  Claire does not reveal who she is in relation to Jamie, just that she is an acquaintance of the family.  She is refused a visit or a letter to Jamie.  Sir Fletcher is not totally without redemption, as he takes pity on her and gives her Jamie’s belongings to return to the family.  Claire is a strong woman; she keeps it together until she leaves the prison.  Murtagh (Duncan Lacroix) is there to rescue her from being weak in the knees and being physically sick over the situation.  It is in that moment, that you see how much Murtagh cares for Claire.  It was enough to make me get teary eyed.

Back at the local pub, Claire is resenting the fun that Angus (Stephen Walters) and Rupert (Grant O’Rourke) are having at a game of cards.  Willie (Finn den Hertog) keeps Murtagh and Claire company.  Angus and Rupert were not entirely useless.  They managed to find out when Sir Fletcher would be away from his office.

Randall’s interrogation of Jamie begins.  Randall has brought along some muscle in the form of a daft, large man named Marley (Richard Ashton).  The petition of complaint against Randall that both Jamie and Claire signed has come to bite Jamie on the ass (no pun intended).  That motivates Randall even more, if that is possible.  Darn that untrustworthy, mouthy Duke of Sandringham.

Claire and Murtagh manage to get back into the prison and into Sir Fletcher’s empty office.  When they are left alone and start searching, they don’t find much.  A set of keys is all they get for their troubles, and that comes at a price when they have to knock out a guard who has caught them in the act.  This sets off Claire’s excursion into the prison to find Jamie.  Apparently, walking around to several holding cells yelling for Jamie does not travel far enough for a soldier to hear.

The entire first part of the Randal’s time with Jamie is a mind game.  Randall wants Jamie to admit his fear of him and surrender to him, and in return, Randall will let Jamie choose his own manner of death.  He evens mentions the death of Brutus, which is a nice nod to Menzies’ role as Brutus in the TV series, Rome. Jamie does not surrender. Jamie takes his only chance to take out Randall when Randall tries to see Jamie’s back, his masterpiece.  Jamie does not succeed and he pays a huge price for it.

Claire eventually finds Jamie, as Randall and Marley have left the door unlocked and open.  She is found by Randall and what follows I will not describe.  It is one of the most painful sequences to watch, complete emotional wreckage as all three actors give their all to the scene.  It will triumph against the fight between Jamie and Claire in Episode 109.  This is the scene of the series thus far.  It is not easy to watch, but the all the actors gave themselves over to their characters for that 20 minute encounter, and it was not easy to watch.

Official Episode 115 Sam Jamie Claire Caitriona Tobias BJR

Claire’s life is spared in return for Jamie giving up the fight against Randall.  After getting a taste of what Randall is like rather than just hearing about it or seeing the after effects, Claire is tossed from the prison.  But not before Claire gives Randall a particular curse.  If you want to know exactly what she says, pick up a copy of Outlander.  In a nice compromise for book readers, you hear wolves howling in the background as Claire makes her way through the forest.  Angus finds her and brings her to the home of Sir Marcus MacRannoch (Brian McCardie), a friend of the MacKenzie and Fraser clans.  It is only at seeing his lessened herd of cows that Murtagh comes up with an idea to save Jamie.

“Wentworth Prison” is not as bad as I made it up in my mind to be.  I think we all built it up in our heads to be the worst thing ever.  The two violent scenes, save the hangings, are hard to watch, but I did not find it as disturbing as Randall’s whipping of Jamie in “The Garrison Commander.”  In that whipping scene, we come to know Randall as the sadistic man he is.  Randall explaining it all with a reverence for his work coupled with the blood pouring from Jamie’s back, it takes it all step further.

Not enough can be said about Tobias Menzies and Sam Heughan’s performances in this episode.  They excelled at giving each other as much emotion and rawness as possible.  It is like a dance, perfectly choreographed down to the expressions on their faces in moments of silence.  This is not a scene that any of the readers of Diana Gabaldon’s books were looking forward to seeing come to life (maybe save Diana herself), but we had an odd curiosity about how it was going to be portrayed.  Did we expect showrunner Ronald D. Moore to not go there?  This entire show so far as not shied away from any taboo subject.

Considering that Randall’s time with Jamie is not over at the episode’s end, the finale is not something to look forward to, especially if you shied away from this violence.  Yes, there is solace in the ending of the Season One, non-readers, I can promise you that, but getting there will be tough and another hour of emotions that many viewers may not have in them.

As a reader, I am trying to figure out how they are managing to fit the remaining chapters into a final, one hour episode.   Outlander readers are certainly invested in seeing Diana Gabaldon’s world come to life, and I just hope the whole lot of them is not disappointed with the finale.

Outlander‘s Season One finale will air on May 30, 2015 on Starz.

See more photos from this episode by clicking here.

  • sigrid28

    Watching the “Outlander” television series, it’s as if I started out reading Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” and ended up reading his “War and Peace.” I started out watching Shakespeare’s late romance “The Winter’s Tale,” in which the wife of a jealous husband, whom he thought he killed, returns to him after twenty years; and ended up watching the tragedy of “Othello” with his hands around Desdemona’s throat. I thought I was watching “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman” and ended up with “The Alamo.”

    Though the television series begins with the story of Claire’s fate at the hands of men, eventually the television series focuses almost exclusively on the concerns of these men: their search for identity in a tribal universe; their fascination with each other, from both heterosexual and homosexual points of view; their vanity with regard to honor and humiliation; their obsessive anxiety about weakness and strength; and most of all, their inability to resist the impulse to hurt each other to a degree that seems to have no limits. This is how, in the course of sixteen episodes, Diana Gabaldon’s novel becomes a mere stepping stone.

    Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. This ancient subject matter, the masculine
    psyche and its demons, comes with an impeccable pedigree in myth and literature. The epic tradition, the original source of these stories, precedes the genres of tragedy, romance, and comedy.

    In an evolutionary sense, natural selection works the same way. Procreation may begin with the female gaze but is soon taken over by the part of the mating ritual in
    which males fight for dominance and sometimes to the death.

    In her novels, Diana Gabaldon has never shied away from this hard fact of life, that the female gaze is often inconsequential. I think it accounts for her fascination with
    weapons and warfare, with the details of imprisonment and with methods of
    execution. Her male characters often have to break the law in order to act honorably, or when facing abject humiliation they act incredibly brave. For men, it is always a test, as Gabaldon says somewhere in her eight volumes in the “Outlander”

    So this is where Season 1 is going to end, with one of these tests. Episode 15 and
    probably a large part of Episode 16 will be devoted to a prolonged examination
    of the limits of pain and humiliation. It is not just Jamie’s treatment at the hands of Black Jack Randall that will engage the audience, but it is also the entire edifice of the prison, with its hell holes and dungeons, its gibbet and incompetent executioners, its pious warden and it soldiers who act like mere functionaries, like the Nazis who claimed they were just following orders.

    The condition of the cell in Episode 15, with only a bucket for urination and defecation, really a cage of metal and stone, reminded me of other scenes of rendition in contemporary settings, such as that at the beginning of “Zero Dark Thirty” and within another recent film, “The Seige.” Actually, we see this kind of torture on television and in the movies all the time.

    So with their astonishing performances Tobias Menzies as Black Jack Randall and Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser stand in a cinematic continuum of such scenes meant to demonstrate the human capacity for endurance in the face of brutality, with an emphasis on showing just how depraved a human being can become.

    I will bet you a cookie that Claire’s heroic efforts to bring Jamie back to life after she gets him out of Wentworth Prison will take up very little of Episode 16, and so will seem—and be—anticlimactic. The pairing that will dominate the “Outlander” television series from this point on will be Jamie Fraser and Black Jack Randall, and their stand-ins from the historical point of view, the Highlanders and the English. There is a lot of this sort of thing on TV now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an appetite for more.

  • Lori

    Right from the beginning, this was the most intense episode yet…as expected. The writer, Ira Stephen Behr, also wrote my other favorite episode, “The Garrison Commander.” Clearly, he knows a thing or two about keeping viewers on edge. And he likes dialogue, even though Jamie had very little of that. Instead Sam’s eyes and face did much of his acting and perfectly so. Everything was seen there; fear, regret, pain, anger, loss…all of it was on the surface. I don’t know where Sam had to go mentally to bring it, but bring it he did. Tobias’s performance as Black Jack gives dastardly a bad name and he does it brilliantly. The character is completely devoid of humanity though his obsession with Jamie seems to give him brief encounters with some softer emotion that only pushes him further into his darkness.

    Claire’s determination to free her husband with the continued aide of the highlanders is admirable. All hope seems lost when she is expelled from the prison, but she makes one last plea to a stranger who turns out to be a man that could have been her father-in-law had things gone another way. This opens the door for renewed hope and a new plan. Cait’s portrayal of the tearful farewell to Jamie was gut-wrenching.

    The opening scene almost did me in. First, there’s this colorful, postcard-worthy shot of the exterior of Wentworth that then moves directly to the hanging scene. This was an added (non-book) scene and it was truly sickening. This is intensified when we are later shown what is done with the dead bodies at Wentworth prison.

    Knowing that we have likely only seen a fraction of what Black Jack has up his sleeve will make watching 116 difficult. Knowing that viewers have been promised a “satisfying ending” will keep me from being too spooked.

    There remains so much of this story to be told and I do not know how it can be packed into an hour. No matter how it ends, it will be sad to see this season conclude knowing it will be a long wait for the next.

    Lastly, I’ve been thinking a lot about casting, not upcoming, but the first season. It has been said that timing is everything. Many readers waited a long time to see this series happen. Could it be more expertly cast? I don’t believe so. Every one of these actors became their characters in full dimension. The writers, producers, directors, costumers, set designers and all really worked at this like it was a labor of love. The results are their reward and ours as well.

    • DrBlueFrogPhD

      I agree wholeheartedly with your interpretation of this episode!

  • aussiesuzie

    Just so well done,well 1 episode I’ll not watch again,but so well written by Behr to the point,it was the episode that was nearly as the book,except for the hanging,all else was spot on,but at least we saw visually all cruelty of occupation,it was dark,intense & spot on!
    I have to rave about the performances of Tobias & Sam if they won’t get recognition for this it would be a huge shame!Well looking forward to ep.16!Brilliant series,its just so magical at last seeing these books coming to life & all the wonderful scenery of Scotland! Congratulations to ALL cast & crew,they are bringing us much enjoyment!

  • DrBlueFrogPhD

    The cast and crew totally earned their paychecks on this episode. Hell, if Emmy’s and Golden Globes aren’t raining from the heavens for them by this time next year, I’m calling shenanigans!

  • Outlandishly_hooked

    People have already said so much. I will keep it simple. Episode was very well done but hard to watch. I missed the wolf and was disappointed there was no rescue in the episode. Still looking forward to the hinds!

    • sigrid28

      Maybe the only wolf we will get in the “Outlander” television series is that stuffed thing hanging on the wall in the inn where Claire and Frank stay on their second honeymoon in Episode 1. I thought it was foreshadowing the attack on Claire outside Wentworth Prison when I first noticed it, but I was wrong, I guess.

  • Outlandishly_hooked

    Since seasons were changed from winter to warmer weather, I think wolf was left out as Claire doesn’t have her heavy cloak to protect her. I was looking forward to that struggle. And, McRannoch’s “gift”.

  • von

    I urge all those who have followed this series so far not to back away from this finale because of the very traumatic scenes to come. All the episodes so far, have been building to this point in the story and it is a pivotal moment for Claire and Jamie’s relationship and therefore important to their story.
    Being squeamish about this type of material myself; I shall still pay respect to the brilliant actors and the production team by making myself watch. It may be as with episode 15 with the help of some strong Whiskey and a good supply of hankies but watch I certainly will.
    It seems such a shame that many viewers chose not to watch Wentworth ( viewing figures were down considerably) I think it was due to too much media hype and foreboding. But these actors have given Oscar style performances and the production company have been very brave in allowing ground breaking T.V firsts like these scenes to be shown; So I feel strongly about encouraging fans of both the series and the books to stay strong and watch please.
    On a brighter note we have been promised that the format will follow the book accurately and will end on a beautiful note and will keep us wanting more.

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