[This is a review of Outlander season 1, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]
It takes a special kind of skill to craft a memorable character, especially a villain, and Outlander may have just created one of the best new characters on television this year in their latest episode, 'The Garrison Commander'.
The brilliance of this week's outing can be found in its simplicity. This was probably one of the least expensive hours that Moore and his crew had to shoot, since most of it took place in a locked room with Captain Black Jack Randall and Claire. In an episode with so many memorable scenes, it's difficult to know where to begin.
Perhaps the best place to start is the moment Jack walks into the room where Claire and the other officers are enjoying their Claret and tender venison. From the very moment Claire and Jack lock eyes, it's quickly apparent that this day will not end well for our heroine. The captain is the best kind of villain, one who embodies the classic evil nature we might call cliched, while still harnessing several layers of ambiguity where one might find some "good traits" as Claire mistakenly did.
The versatile Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones) gives an Emmy-worthy performance, as he explains to Claire why he punished Jamie the way he did. He claims that he "created a masterpiece' that day, by tearing into Jamie's flesh until the bone was visible. It was a punishing thing to witness as a viewer, but director Brian Kelly shot the horrific scene with tact. Nothing felt overdone or embellished for pure shock-value.
Unless you've read the book, it's safe to assume that many of you (this reviewer included) actually felt some kind of compassion for Black Jack after he told his story. Okay, so maybe compassion is too strong a word, but perhaps a better understanding of what made him into the man we see before us.
Claire claims that he's a product of war, or a side-effect of witnessing too much violence across the Scottish highlands. And Menzies superbly displays every kind of emotion one can emote on Randall's face throughout the episode. Who is the troubled Captain, really? Is he merely a product of some kind of post-traumatic stress, or is he the purest definition of villainy one can find in any good fiction story?
In many ways, 'The Garrison Commander' painfully mirrors some of the news that's been circulating around the sports world recently. If you follow American football at all, then it's hard not to flinch when Jack viciously punches Claire in the stomach, only to have his other officer kick her while she's down. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander exists in a harsh and unforgiving landscape, but when that fantasy world starts reflecting our own, the worlds begin to merge. What did you think of the interrogation scene between Claire and Jack?
Now that we've discussed all of the brutal moments from this outstanding hour of television, let's talk about marriage. It finally looks like Claire and Jamie are getting hitched in a scheme to make Claire an official Scotswoman. In an episode mired in brutality, it was nice to go out on a positive note. Surely, Claire will have reservations about being with another man, but that's where all the drama lies. How do you think their relationship will develop over the coming weeks?
There are only two more episodes until we say goodbye to Outlander until 2015 when the second half of season 1 resumes. If you've been on the fence about this series since the start, did this week's episode pull you in? Keep watching to see what happens next.
Outlander continues with 'The Wedding' next Saturday @9pm on Starz.