Are we the villain in someone’s story? A self-examination after ‘Between Two Fires’ S05E02

Between Two Fires, has brought us a very different look than the first of the season. Basically, shit is getting real.  Once the final scene cut to black I said out loud “What? That was an hour?”  You know by now, I don’t do recaps but I do take something I noticed in the episode and dissect it.

Speaking of dissection – yes, I will be talking about Claire and her being elbows deep in Mr. F but I really think we need to start with Murtagh.

There were a lot of people talking about how they hated seeing Murtagh involved in the tar and feathering of political figures in Hillsborough. I was one, then I thought about it. Murtagh is the same man he always was. He decapitated Sandringham, ffs (we cheered), he cracked the skulls of MANY (also, cue us, cheering) and he has killed all manner of men.  We as viewers always saw the other people as the ‘bad guy’.  The villains.  We justified Murtagh’s actions and that was the difference.

This time, we didn’t know these men being tortured. The townspeople and the Regulators did. They know them as the political figureheads that took away their homes and overtaxed them. They are the elitists that live in luxury while they struggle to feed their families.  We sat back horrified that these men were maimed. The reason being, we had empathy for them. Whereas the Regulators, with Murtagh at the lead, were exacting revenge for themselves and those families. To them, completely justifiable.

This can open our eyes to our own worlds. How many times have we gotten into situations where people have thought of us as the ‘bad guy’ when we were only doing what we thought was right and/or the best for our family? We weren’t doing it against anyone but we were doing it for ourselves.  Some have a very hard time separating themselves from other people’s lives and understanding other’s decisions aren’t about them.

Jamie, for instance. The Regulator’s that were imprisoned, he freed them, they still questioned his motives.  They did so because they couldn’t wrap their brains around the fact he let them go because of his own conscience. His need to do something for what in his heart he knew was right.  Ultimately, he doesn’t care what these men think of him. What he thinks of himself is his paramount concern. He is mindful that he is a villain to these men. His willingness to be seen as less than, in their eyes, is what he is ready to do. For Jamie, the end justifies the means. I believe that particular phrase will play very heavily in Jamie’s story this season.

It has been my experience, “There are two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle, lays the truth.”  This isn’t because everyone is a liar, it is because people naturally put their lens on and tell their story through it. It is what makes us…us. The story is our truth.

It does give me a chuckle when it is said, “They only told you their side of things”  Well, of course, they did, whose side are they going tell?  There will be instances in everyone’s life where relationships were ended because of horrible circumstances where someone was CLEARLY at fault. The interesting bit, I assure you, is both sides will claim the other to be the bad guy and the clincher will be convincing arguments from both sides. Will one be very skewed?  Unquestionably.

When we think of these instances, we would like to think we would be unbiased when it comes to seeing who is culpable.  Being completely truthful, we often side with the person we care about the most. This will be the one we feel the most empathy for. No matter what the argument is, the story they tell, how convincing the tale told, we will choose to trust the person we want to, not always the person that is right. That is one of those horse-pills to swallow.

A very small moment in ‘Between Two Fires’ gave us a situation in which we can see this clearly.

A man, with his family, taking a break from travelling and stretching their legs. On the road comes a huge group of mostly red-coated soldiers. Not a word is exchanged but the soldier near the head of the pack throws coins at a child’s feet. Insulted by this action, the man spat in the direction of the soldier.

From the man’s perspective. This soldier does not know him or his family’s circumstances,  the assumption he needs or wants the soldier’s coin is insulting. To throw it at his child’s feet takes it a step further to be degrading. This is why the man spits in his direction. It tells the soldier what he thinks of his ‘charity’.

  • Others in this man’s shoes (even Jamie) would feel this insult and understand why this man would be upset by Lt. Knox’s actions. Some may even say they would have done worse than spit at him.  We know the bravado society puts after the fact.

From Lt. Knox’s perspective, a poor helpless family is needing assistance so he tossed them some coin he had on hand. It obviously wasn’t enough for them and the father spat at him. It was ungracious and disrespectful.  His obvious generosity was a caring act to be commended, the man and his family should have thanked him for this good deed.

  • The soldier’s and elitists in Lt. Knox’s company would see the situation exactly as he does. The reason? a) the soldiers because going against what their commanding officer says can pose a problem, so follow and agree. b) seeing themselves doing the same thing Knox has done, would feel exactly the same privilege.

The truth…

Lt. Knox is as thick as a brick so he is offended that this man couldn’t see his generosity. He was literally so high on his horse, he missed the fact this family was asking for nothing. He saw himself as superior to them and he chose to give them money.  Not just ‘give’ it to them but throw it at their feet. This was not an act of kindness but more an act of power.  Expecting thanks and accolades for such a deed is pure arrogance.

There are small instances such as theses in our everyday. Telling someone to smile, not saying excuse me when we bump into somebody, moralizing and proclaiming to others “I don’t see colour”. Sure, using the word “villain” does seem extreme, however, things like those mentioned can really mess up ours, or someone else’s day. The examples were more along the lines of being the type of person that makes others feel better when we aren’t around. Micro-villains, I prefer that.

My mother used to say “If it quacks…it’s a DUCK!” She didn’t waste her didn’t time with “if it walks like a …” stuff.  We know on Outlander, the whole “People show you who they are,” adage can be tricky.

Take Claire, she is working very hard to bring her knowledge of modern medicine into the past. Whipping up concoctions of this weird sounding ‘peniwhosiwhatsit’ that is supposed to cure all sorts of sickness. (I know what it is, I’m pretending to be from the 1700s and hearing the word…work with me)  You can imagine what prying ears might hear. Or, lawd-have-mercy, what they might see. Like the body of a man that apparently was buried, now with his chest cracked open and his giblets laying all over the place.

Claire’s acutely aware that what she is doing would be seen as sacrilegious, macabre and downright inconceivable. Which means, Claire, our heroine, the matriarch of Outlander if standing in the middle of her community being 100% herself would be 100% a villain in the eyes of those around her.  Given the people, the times, their education and knowledge of things that are – their perception would be altogether accurate.

Mrs. Bug thinks the woman is mad, hoarding all this bread to make some magic medicine! Imagine if she saw this poor chopped up man in Claire’s surgery.  What we have to admit, unless you truly love Claire, understand what she does, how legitimately intelligent and medically knowledgable she is, the things she does in the world she lives in would never be perceived as anything BUT evil.

Hard to wrap your mind around it isn’t it? Thinking of Claire as a villain.  While you are giving a go at those mental gymnastics, I want you to think of this – Stephen Bonnet as the hero.

WHAT THE ACTUAL F??? Yeah, me…I said that. I know…I know.  We all know how deplorable the man is and of course, he is a villain. The worst kind. THE villain.

The truth of the matter is, Bonnet doesn’t think so.  Get what I am saying?  Most people who we see as villains have no problem at all seeing themselves as heroes. They have zero qualms with excusing their behaviour as justified and often blame others for forcing their hand.

This describes Bonnet. Seeing him in Between Two Fires sent shivers down my spine. Yup, he has still got IT. That thing that makes your skin want to crawl off of your bones and run away from home. Every nasty thing that SunnuvaBonnet does, he justifies.

Rationalizing behaviour like this gives us permission to a) repeat it b) excuse it.  My point is, frequently those who so many of us see as the villain – will never see it themselves.  That is why they exist in the first place.  Those that have a measure of empathy and compassion – have the capacity to change.

As I sat with my own thoughts on this whole villain concept, I’m conscious of being the villain in other people’s stories. For some, I have made peace with that. It isn’t possible to alter their perceptions of me and for another, I don’t want that responsibility. I would rather be the perceived villain in our story than open the door to the chaos that created the situation.  For others, it makes me sad and embarrassed that I know I could have behaved in a different way. As a consequence, the story may have had a happier ending.

How many times have we justified our actions? Whether they were out of anger, self-preservation or ego?  I don’t know about you but my honest self says more times than I like to admit. Justifying something doesn’t mean we were right to do it, it only means we excused our actions at the time and painted ourselves on the “right” side.

The most interesting things cause us to sit back and look at the world, others and our own actions. This week it was this nugget of how we are seen through other’s eyes.  We can say we don’t care, some don’t. Some, care too much. Maybe if we were all just a little more aware, it would make us a little kinder to one another.

Boy, I hope I find something FUN to talk about in next week’s episode.  I am sure you do too.

Sher XO

PS – Don’t forget to join us as we livetweet to the W Network airing in Canada at 7 pm MST, using the hashtag #OutlanderCAN

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