Amazon Prime UK TV review: Outlander Episode 15 (Wentworth Prison)
Ivan Radford | On 24, May 2015
Not seen Episodes 1 to 14? This will contain spoilers. Already seen Episode 15? Read on at the bottom for some additional, spoiler-filled analysis.
So, Wentworth Prison. Jamie’s held captive. Claire and Murtagh are on their way to rescue him. With only one episode left to go, Outlander seems set for the greatest heist in 18th century Scotland.
Of course, that’s not what happens. What we actually get is the most horrific prison heist in history.
It’s no surprise that Jamie doesn’t kick the bucket only 15 episodes into this whole saga – after all, a second season is on the way and we haven’t had nearly enough time to admire Sam Heughan – but Ira Steven Behr’s script keeps us waiting a whole 10 minutes until he wriggles his way out of the noose. The shock comes from how it happens: a pardon from Black Jack Randall. But more on that later.
As soon as Fraser’s future is looking up, we catch up with Claire’s cunning plan to get Jamie to safety. And so she swans into Wentworth to speak to the jailor, a nice, God-fearing man. Caitriona Balfe is fantastic in these scenes, as Claire attempts to be both chaste and innocent yet seductive and refined. She gives him the eye, shows a smile, then acts dismayed at Jamie’s ordeal – all the while pretending to be somehow related. Duncan Lacroix’s Murtagh, meanwhile, scowls in the background, struggling to appear polite and obedient as her manservant.
Interludes at the pub, where sleuthing of a more drunken nature is in progress, keep things entertaining in an episode where not very much plot happens. But what they also highlight is how ineffective Claire’s own methods are: Talking her way into a prison? Not a problem. Breaking back out? That’s another matter.
It’s no skin off her character’s nose – she outsmarts the guy in charge of the keys and easily commands the loyalty of the Scotsmen – but Episode 15 is a reminder that, just like time travel, some things are out of her control.
Nowhere is that better represented than Black Jack, who presents himself as part saviour and part tormentor. Tobias Menzies is wonderfully deranged as the despicable captain: it is testament to his utterly dedicated performance that it is in no way enjoyable to watch him in this episode.
After his previous encounter with Jamie, it’s not hard to guess what Randall is after – and it’s not long until we get back into debauched territory. It’s in these moments that Outlander is at its most interesting: when it slows down to simply let its characters talk. When Randall and Fraser’s fascinating duo becomes a threesome, things got even more warped and even more distressing.
Director Anna Foerster (a talent worth watching, who’s about to helm Source Code 2) frames it for maximum effect, from the dark corners of the cells to the close-ups of every facial twitch: seeing Jamie’s face move from anger to resignation is hugely affecting. With only the finale of Season 1 left, Outlander leaves us with the same nasty cliff-hanger facing Jamie: the sinking feeling that some fates are worse than death.
Season 1 of Outlander is out now on DVD and available to own from iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play. You can also watch it online on Amazon Prime Instant Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription – or, if you would also like unlimited UK delivery and 350,000 eBooks available to borrow, as part of a £79 annual Amazon Prime membership.
Where can I buy or rent Outlander online in the UK?
Additional notes (contains spoilers)
– A shout-out to MacQuarrie, who sadly dangled to his death today – and a bigger shout-out to Anna Foerster, who directs the hangings with the same eye for gruesome detail as her private exchanges: we see the guards hold on to the victims’ feet to make sure the rope cuts off their wind pipe. Eurgh.
– Randall rides into the courtyard just in time, but while he’s surely panicked and desperate to get his hands on Jamie’s preserved body, Menzies’ face is as cool and calm as it gets.
– That Letter of Complaint given to Sandringham against Randall? Black Jack wastes no time in setting light to it – right in front of him. The price for freedom, therefore? Surrender – total surrender (ahem) – and he will grant Jamie a noble form of departure.
– Tobias remains creepily polite throughout his planned torture of Jamie, which makes it even more satisfying when their exchange erupts into Fraser choking him with his own chain. The escalation of physical violence, though, goes off the charts when Randall starts beating Jamie’s hand with a mallet.
– A hugely ineffective hour for Claire rounds off with her being captured and Jamie having to rescue her – naturally (or, should we say, unnaturally) by surrendering himself to Randall. That’s the look that Episode 15 captures: the one of Jamie’s eyes glinting in determination from underneath that red hair. The kissing and licking that follows is horrible, as Jamie quietly cries.
– Claire attempts to turn the table on Randall by prophesying his exact moment of death (as well as revealing several other personal details she would not know if she were not, as she claims to him, a witch. You wonder why she hasn’t pulled that trick before. You know, on the kind of people who aren’t frightened villagers who would attempt to burn her at the stake immediately.
– Bonus points for no voice overs.