[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Saturday's Outlander. Read at your own risk.]
Outlander has reached one of many pivotal moments from the first book on which it's based, but even if you knew what was coming, Saturday's episode was still hard to watch.
The hour began with Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Dougal (Graham McTavish) coming face-to-face with the Red Coats, and our leading lady assuring them that she had been with the MacKenzie clan willingly. Still, Claire had to convince another man of her motives: Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies), the man who almost raped her when she first fell through the stones at Craigh na Dun.
Claire — whose sudden memory of her husband provides the stark contrast between Frank and Jack — eventually sits across the table from the Captain and pleads her case to resume her journey in peace. It's then that Clare brings up Jack's "reputation" at Castle Leoch, including that he once "administered 100 lashes upon 100 lashes to a poor Highlander boy." Randall explains his side of the story, as flashbacks depict Jamie (Sam Heughan) taking his punishment for theft without making any sound — something the vicious Captain could not stand for. What follows is a cringe-worthy, painful and bloody sequence — so perfectly and hauntingly portrayed by Menzies — that shows just how deep Jack's sadism runs. But for executive producer Ronald D. Moore, he views the flogging flashback as a way to, ironically, humanize and contextualize the character.
"Episode 6 was an interesting opportunity to look at that particular backstory through [Jack's] eyes," he tells TVGuide.com in our video from the set below. "We made a choice not to show the flogging of Jamie from Jamie's perspective [but] from Jack's perspective, which I thought was fascinating. You know Jamie's take — it sucked. From Jack, I want to hear what [he] thought when he was doing this horrific thing to this young lad. So it provided us a way to get inside his character."
On finding the humanity in a character so evil, Moore continues, "All great villains are human [and] like we all do, they have loves and fears and desires, but are acting a different way driven by different passions or different torments or different flaws. So I always just talk about Jack as a guy and here's his particular dilemma and his particular set of problems. We never talk about him as the villain of the piece."
For Menzies, he says it's important that he not be "campy" in his "evilness," but adds, "[The scenes] are tough to film in that you need to go there a bit, but there's also a certain amount of relish about it. You say and do things you couldn't do in real life." He also warns, "If the stuff in Episode 6 is tough, [the end of the season] is a whole other level up."
As for how the show tackles those tough scenes, Moore makes it clear that they're not setting out to sensationalize the gore.
"How we approach it philosophically on the show is that we're always saying, 'What's the truth of this scene? Some horrific things are about to happen, let's portray them truthfully. Let's try to make something painful look painful, something that's psychologically damaging look damaging and let's not celebrate it,'" Moore says. "It's not the style of show [to have] slow-mo spurts of blood, it's not about the celebration of the violence or the fetishistic aspect like, 'Ooh, this will be dirty and nasty.' You demystify it a bit. You don't tiptoe around it and you don't overly glamorize it either — you find what's real within it."
Outlander airs on Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.
What did you think of the episode?