Can you believe we are down to the wire now? Two episodes left of Outlander and WTAF are we gonna do then? I have ideas for myself but I don’t know if I will follow through with any so I’m not saying. I don’t wanna look like a slacker.
Episode 10, Mercy Shall Follow Me, was another episode packed with subtext. This season has more layers than a fricken onion, which is largely positive. A bit of a pain in my ass since I decided pulling from those layers would be fun. On the most part, it has been. This episode, my focus was solid, possibly because my lens is in fishbowl mode right now.
Something we hear people saying in regards to going through dark times and coming out the other side is “I had no choice.” I want you to sit with that for a while.
The choices our characters made in this episode changed their fate, the fate of those they loved and in some cases, changed the fate of people they didn’t even know.
We open with the sunnuvaBonnet and his new bestie Gerald/Neil Forbes, (played with weasely brilliance by Billy Boyd) meeting in a brothel. Bonnet is acting like he is all posh ‘n shit. It doesn’t suit him but I’m not focusing on him because his choices, will always be the same, about him. Forbes on the other hand didn’t have such a horrible life. Being a lawyer, in those days, he was doing pretty good. You know, except having an uncanny resemblance to a weasel. That could have been overlooked if he were a decent human.
He allowed an act of pathetic revenge toward Brianna for having a mind of her own and not wanting to marry him, fuel him. That choice set Forbes on a path that ultimately lead to his death. He did not think that through.
Brianna did not deny Forbes because she didn’t want to marry him, personally. Bree was denying every one. She was waiting for Roger, who she was handfasted to. Standing back and taking a look at this situation can show us a few things. First, when we perceive things as personal slights – they may not always be. People, more often than not, do things for themselves rather than against us.
We have a tendency to add ourselves to circumstances that we feel we may have been a part of the decision making, when we were not even considered. Hurtful? Of course, it can be. It has to be up to us what we will do with that. Forbes took Brianna’s choice as a personal attack that required him to pay her back. He created a scenario of having had Brianna as a wife, owning River Run and having it all taken from him. This fairy tale was a creation of his own making and he felt he was owed.
We see others do this every day, we may even do it ourselves in bite size pieces. Assuming peoples motivation without having all the information we need. We have a tendency to place our own narrative, where needed, to fill in the blanks. It makes our point much easier or assists us with being justified in our opinions. When we look at it from the perspective of this being a choice we make, it boosts our objectivity. Naturally, a commitment to be objective has to be realized.
Forbe’s weakness of character and subsequent choices didn’t only affect him. They caused another man to make a choice that will follow him. Ulysses, being a slave, (I am going by the information we have in the show – I know book readers have other information but we are not sure where the show is going so – easy does it) when he puts his hands on a white person in violence (or for any reason, let’s be real) he will be killed because of it. I’m not going to make it flowery. No matter what Ulysses status was in Jocasta’s household in 1700s society, he was a black man and that means, he was seen as property. He knew this more than anyone.
We know how intelligent Ulysses is, he doesn’t do anything without thinking, a man in his position can not afford to. He knew he could just push Forbes off of Jocasta or he could kill him. Either of these actions would get him the same punishment. He chose to wrap his tree-trunk arms around Forbe’s pencil neck and snap it. He killed Forbes with calculation, that was a pointed choice, not one made out of desperation. The desperation we saw in Ulysses was certainly deep emotion but also hope Jocasta was alive. That would make his actions worth it in his eyes. Those choices, that have a payoff, they end up meaning something. Colin McFarlane really brought that scene home for us.
Claire makes subtle choices in this episode that lead to a breakthrough. Walking into Sylvie’s brothel, she addresses the women there as ‘ladies’. Others in the episode don’t treat them with the same respect. Claire, on the other hand, treats sex workers like any other professional. When she notices that Eppie is in pain and has a noticeable limp, she offers to help. Claire is aware that Eppie may have information regarding Bonnet but this is not the whole reason she reaches out. Claire understands that when she makes a choice to connect and humanize those who are rarely seen, they may respond in kind. Whether now or later. In this case, Eppie held all the cards, literally. Though Bonnet was a client, Claire showed kindness. A rare commodity for a woman of Eppie’s social status.
Eppie may never know how her decision to help Claire affected others. It would have been easy for her to take Claire’s advice and move on with her day. No matter the reason, that moment changed the trajectory of more than a few lives. She saved Brianna from being sold to that gnarly finger-in-mouth-puttin’ Captain whatshisface, which led to the capture and ultimate death of Bonnet. I like to think it may have fortified her faith in humanity. That little nugget being stored for Eppie as it gets stored in us. I appreciated Leah Shine’s performance as Eppie, it was unassuming and real. Enabling us to relate to her.
We can’t always be aware of how our actions affect others. Good or bad. Those ripples have the potential to be huge. What we can always be sure of is how those choices make us feel, this gives us a fair indication of how others take in what we have left behind. When we think of what we have done, do we have a feeling of peace, love, gratitude? Are we happy with our choice and have no feelings of regret? I would venture to say, the ripples we have left, there are others in our wake enjoying the sun and harmony we have given them. There will be new moments created from the foundation we built. On the flip side…do we feel ashamed or try to defend what we chose to do? Do we try to ignore or avoid talking about it? When those are our responses to our choices, we can be sure the kind of waves behind us are jagged and others may be drowning in them.
Obviously, the characters in Outlander do things to the extreme but we can put ourselves in their costumes fairly easily with a dash of critical thinking. In the days of physical distancing, we are all making choices that affect others that we will never meet. It is interesting to think of things in the abstract of ‘I’. Not just as one, a person, individual… but as connected to numerous networks, one making a difference to the next and on and on. Would we be more aware of our choices, knowing we had such a global impact?
My view is, we already do, and probably should.
Back to that initial statement I asked you to sit with. Every time someone who has made it through a dark time that says to me “I didn’t have a choice”, I always answer the same thing. “Yes, you did. You chose was best for you.”
We seem to point out our weaknesses easy enough, it’s about time we start giving ourselves credit for the choices we make. The choices we make when we fight through difficult circumstances. The ones we make to help others, even when it means we get hurt. We always have a choice.
I choose you!