Saturday, September 13, 2014

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Claire Learns the Brutal Truth of How Vicious Captain Black Jack Can Be in 'The Garrison Commander'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 1.06 "The Garrison Commander"

Claire is thrown for a loop when her surprise meeting with a British general is interrupted by the dangerous Captain Jack Randall, who suspects she is harboring secrets.

Claire is returned to her people in "The Garrison Commander." For the entire series so far, she has been identified as an Englishwoman and an outlander to the Scottish highlands. And now, she has been reunited with the army that she previously spent years fighting alongside centuries ahead in time. The British general and his lieutenants initially see her with "sympathy and respect instead of hostility and suspicion." And yet, underneath that familial and congenial exterior is a darkness that is even more dangerous to Claire's survival in this foreign time.

When she looks at Captain Black Jack's face, Claire sees her husband and what she's fighting so desperately to get back to. Darkness has consumed his whole being. And yet, this episode is an astonishing achievement for Tobias Menzies. He has this epic monologue throughout the episode's midpoint as he vividly retells the story of giving the flogging to Jamie. It is brutal and yet eloquently spoken. He gives the words escaping Jack's mouth a real weight to them so that we understand how these actions effected him as well. He actually enjoyed it. He was making art on Jamie's back. That should have been the tipping point of understanding this man is not right in the head and can't be trusted. And yet, Menzies also showcases the character's vulnerabilities in a way that both Claire and the audience can get swept up into this speech despite how brutal it is to one of the series central heroes. She trusts him for a second and truly believes that he can become who he speaks of because of this grand moment of introspection. But Captain Black Jack will always be the prime villain. He will knock Claire down and her circumstances will feel even more hopeless than ever before. There is no hope for him to be redeemed. He will not let this woman go without uncovering all the secrets she holds so dear. But it's still an impeccable performance by Menzies that he infuses so much humanity into such a villainous character.

Claire's only hope of escaping this place is Dougal. He has never trusted her either. He fully believes her to be an English spy. And yet, they are very much in similar predicaments. The English are trying to invade Scottish land and get the various clans to obey English law while Claire too is being beaten down for not abiding by their rules. It's a very powerful metaphor that is sure to be a major shift in the core dynamic of the series. Claire has been the outlander to the Scots. They have treated her like a prisoner. And yet, they have been genuine with her. The English soldiers are all of a singular mindset and if anyone goes against it then they would be traitors to their country. The Scots are here to save her. They are the people she can befriend. They are the ones who will best be able to help her on her journey.

However, now, she has made an enemy in Captain Black Jack - who won't be satisfied until he knows everything about her. Dougal may be able to get her away for the time being but she is expected to return to answer even more of his questions. Dougal also knows that she is hiding something from him. He is ready to kill her should he be forced to. But for the first time, he believes her when she claims not to be an English spy. It's not exactly the best way to resolve that suspicion. She drinks from a river which is believed to have magical powers that punishes those who lie and then he believes her. But now, he is willing to help her escape from any kind of torture the English have planned for her. In order to do that though, she'll need to become a Scottish woman - by marrying Jamie. That surely will make the complex love triangle of the show even more complicated. And yet, I can't wait to see more because "The Garrison Commander" is Outlander at its best.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Garrison Commander" was written by Ira Steven Behr and directed by Brian Kelly.
  • I also just really love the concluding twist reveal that Jamie is a virgin. It's a great way to flip the standard notion of this kind of union. Outlander continues to be a great show for empowering women.
  • Everything was going so well for Claire initially too. Black Jack just had to barge into the room to ruin it all.
  • General Thomas was willing to help Claire but he was majorly disrespectful to Dougal. The character was designed that way - even though I did get a mild chuckle out of the Englishmen not being able to understand Dougal's accent.
  • The physical look of Jamie's back while getting flogged is one of the most vivid and graphic scenes of the series to date.
  • Claire has gotten better at lying with each passing episode. But she still can't convincingly change the minds of anyone she comes in contact with.