Five Thoughts on Outlander‘s “Wentworth Prison”

By | September 11th, 2021
Posted in Television | % Comments

Come sail over the sea to Skye with us this summer, as we take a trip through the stones to the first season of the television adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series.  First published in 1991 with Outlander, Gabaldon’s multi-genre novels features the time traveling love story of Claire (Caitriona Balfe), a 1940s woman who finds herself out of time and place in Scotland in the era of the Jacobite rebellion. The U.S. pay TV network Starz debuted the Outlander TV series in 2014, with the show concluding its fifth season last year. In celebration of the ninth novel out this autumn and the sixth season of the TV series debuting in early 2022, we’re spending our 2021 summer vacation at Castle Leoch.

The plan is underway to rescue Jamie from Wentworth Prison, but events show he will be carrying the scars of his time there for quite some time.

It should also be noted that Outlander is very much an 18+ series, with graphic violence and sexuality throughout. Spoilers within for both the tv show and the novel series.

This episode contains a content warning for several scenes of torture and execution by hanging.

1. The Business of Death

If one hoped Claire and Dougal’s men would make it to Wentworth in time to save Jamie well . . . you’re just a bit mistaken.  It’s hanging day, and Jamie and McQuarrie are on line to meet their fate.  While McQuarrie is a chatterbox to the very end, proclaiming fealty for Scotland and gratitude that there’s no one to mourn him once he’s gone.  Jamie, meanwhile, is more solemn, a bit frightened, and more angry at himself for getting into this mess without a chance to say goodbye to Claire. One can imagine he’s saying a few Our Fathers in his head to steady his spirit.  The contrast between the two makes you wonder just what The Watch would have become with Jamie and that moral compass of his on board and without this situation. Could he have lent an air of legitimacy, that could have perhaps turned the tide of history?

It’s also important to note the contrast in the English and Scottish with death. Remember how we saw Jenny taking time to bless and pray over the dead she and Claire found, and compare that to the business-like attitude of the English, who barely take time to wipe the gallows clean before bringing in the next convict. Yes, these are criminals, but still worthy of some dignity in their final hours.

As for Jamie, he gets a stay of execution.  Randall’s here to put a stop to things.  As you can guess (or figured out from the “previously on” scenes) this last minute rescue is going to come with a price.

2. Prison Visitors

Claire’s first plan of entry is to just ask nicely, not tipping her hand that she’s Jamie’s spouse but that of a “good Christian woman” looking to help give the family some peace.  Mention she’s the prisoner’s wife at Fort William and she’ll be in the dungeon right alongside him, no doubt – – even though she is English.  The warden deems it “too dangerous” (has he perhaps seen through the facade?) and sends Claire off with a box of belongings.  Time for Plan B.  And with Murtagh, he borrows from Mary Poppins, finding the “element of fun” in the job, making the job a game.  Warm up folks over a game or two of dice (and a bit of whiskey) and loose lips might provide opportunity.

Murtagh’s drunken intelligence works.  The warden is a man who appreciates a fine long meal and a fine long Bible study, opening the door in more ways than one for a prison break.

3. The Alternative

Prison is but a temporary home for Jamie, as Randall details during one of his visits.  He escaped Fort William one time, but he won’t escape again. And he never truly escaped the prison of Randall’s mind, for he could not get the ginger Scotsman out of his head.  In what could be his own twisted way of expressing mercy, he offers Jamie a death of his own choosing – – hanging is too barbaric for a man like him. The cost? Jamie’s surrender. Surrender to what? Randall’s look and previous dialogue give a bit of a hint of exactly what Jamie must surrender to him under these terms. It makes death look a walk in the park by comparison.

Continued below

Jamie’s not buying what Randall’s selling, and that puts Jamie in a worse position of torture, with his hand bloodied, beaten, and broken by Randall.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  His screams, though, lead Claire to her husband.  But the reunion isn’t for long: Randall’s back.

4. Witchy Woman

Claire’s accusations of witchcraft come back to haunt her and to her advantage.  Randall’s heard of what took place in Cranesmuir, and admittedly appears intrigued, in an amused sort of way.  That amusement fades to terror as Claire, with her advance knowledge of the future, gives Randall the day and date of his death.  He keeps his promise to Jamie that she was away and safe . . . leaving out the part that he pushed her down a trap door with only dead bodies to break her fall. One does wonder just what Randall will now do with this information, if anything at all.

It’s back to square one for the rescue, and Murtagh’s got a Plan C that involves . . . cows?

5. “Shall We Begin?”

What we’ve seen between Randall and Jamie will only scratch the surface as to what he has in store for his prisoner.  Before Claire’s been tossed out of Wentworth, Randall has thrown Claire around like a rag doll, groped Jamie, and nailed Jamie’s already broken hand to a table.  But this is only the tip of the iceberg for Randall’s plans.  As he cuts off Jamie’s shirt and admires the scars of his handiwork from years ago, caressing them in an almost loving and erotic manner, you get an idea of just what Randall has in mind, and the lengths he will go to fulfill his own sadistic desires.  Gulp.

Strap in for this finale, friends. If you thought this episode wasn’t an easy one to watch, next week is going to make this one pale in comparison.

The Lost Papers of Black Jack Randall (Our Afterthoughts Section)

  • This episode takes its title from Chapter 35 of the Outlander novel.

We’ll see you next week for the first season finale and final episode of this year’s Summer TV Binge of the series, “To Ransom A Man’s Soul” and do let us know what you thought of the episode in the comments.

As of this writing, the first season of Outlander is available for viewing on Netflix, where seasons 2-4 are also available (except in the UK). In the UK, the show is available on Amazon Prime Video UK.  All five seasons of the show are also available via Starz (in the United States).

//TAGS | 2021 Summer TV Binge | Outlander

Kate Kosturski

Kate Kosturski is your Multiversity social media manager, a librarian by day and a comics geek...well, by day too (and by night). Kate's writing has also been featured at PanelxPanel, Women Write About Comics, and Geeks OUT. She spends her free time spending too much money on Funko POP figures and LEGO, playing with yarn, and rooting for the hapless New York Mets. Follow her on Twitter at @librarian_kate.


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