Outlander 5×10 “Mercy Shall Follow Me” is an uncomfortable episode, one that asks us to sympathize too much with a man like Stephen Bonnet, and one that’s more plot driven than character driven in most regards, and that’s why, despite a brilliant performance by Sophie Skelton, who does some of her absolute best work in Outlander so far, “Mercy Shall Follow Me” is not the type of episode I will hurry to re-watch.
It isn’t an exploration of Bree – not really. We know Brianna, and we’ve seen her struggle, and fight and ultimately, we’ve seen her move on from this trauma, as much as she possibly could. And yes, there’s a level of closure that comes at the end of this episode that’s entirely satisfactory, and of course, it’s hard to argue that a character like Bonnet, who has been so influential to every one of the Frasers, should get a quick end off screen. But I’m not sure we needed this.
The best part about Black Jack Randall was that the show didn’t really try to justify the way he was. Sometimes people are just …not good people, and that’s okay. Every villain has a backstory, yes, but I don’t always need it. The idea of trying to tug at my heartstrings for twenty minutes by trying to make me feel something for Bonnet, trying to make Bree feel something for him, is …well, not what I wanted out of this episode.
Especially because it was always going to end up the way it did. People like Bonnet don’t change, and sometimes TV does such a good job of trying to humanize villains that people can forget we’re still dealing with …villains. They’re not misunderstood, and yes, sometimes they’re the victims of circumstances, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t made their own choices.
In a way, this is on Ed Speleers and his wonderful, nuanced performance. It’s often the case, a TV show hires an immensely talented actor to play a bad guy, and they feel like, in order for us to truly appreciate the tragedy that is any person making the wrong choices in life, they have to give us backstory.
But I promise, I really don’t want it, or need it. My feelings for Bonnet would have been exactly the same without all the melodrama in this episode: I’m really; really glad he got what he deserved. Period.
And somehow, that isn’t even the worst part about this episode, no. It’s especially jarring to see Bonnet be humanized, and to see the ways his existence and the danger he poses to Bree just by virtue of having a penis, be respected and treated with as much historical accuracy as possible, when things like slavery are brushed aside. Hey, Ulysses, you now cool because you saved Jocasta! We don’t have to talk more about the fact that she basically owns you, though.
Not a “sexy” story.
This is only compounded by the fact that this episode basically tied up most of the book 5 plot points into a neat little bow. That means that in the last two episodes of this season, the show necessarily has to go into book 6. This has always seemed like something that was going to happen sooner or later, I can’t see Outlander running ten seasons, but I also don’t see them wanting to leave the story without a conclusion.
But I know what book 6 storyline they are most likely to bring into the end of this season, and as I said last episode, I’m having a hard time understanding why this is the one thing this show – this writer – wants to be “historically accurate” on.
However, I won’t complain about next week’s storyline yet. I will save that rant for when it’s required. For now I will just say, about this hour, that I wish we’d gotten as much emotion out Jamie and Claire’s reunion with Bree, or anything with Roger and Bree for that matter, than we got out of Stephen Bonnet.
I didn’t care when I met him – no matter how good the actor is – and I definitely do not care now.
Things I think I think:
- Custody of HIS son.
- HIS SON.
- This idiot.
- Do I really need these five minutes of just Bonnet?
- No one should trust Wiley.
- Of course if you don’t return they’re coming to find you.
- “He has a knack for almost getting himself killed every time he gets out of bed.”
- Solution: Don’t let him out of bed.
- SO OBVIOUS.
- Glad Ian is coming with. I’ve missed Ian. I like Ian.
- But can you do it, Roger?
- Jamie’s like fine, you do it, but actually do it, okay?
- And now they like each other, it’s super weird.
- Nobody should love Moby Dick. Moby Dick is the most boring book in the history of books.
- The way this beach scene is shot is very, very good. The sense of foreboding is at an all-time high.
- BREE, WHY DID YOU JUST RUN STRAIGHT AT HIM? STRATEGIZE OR SOMETHING.
- Also, Claire, that’s your daughter, you think she was just gonna leave?
- Ugh, now he wants to pretend to be a gentleman.
- No, she didn’t see SHIT in you. You attacked her.
- There are indeed two sides to every story. But that doesn’t mean there’s a justification.
- See, going to that jail was a bad idea Bree.
- Fucking Moby Dick.
- Having sex in front of Bree is a weird flex.
- “Bestow some gifts upon my family.”
- My favorite thing about this Jocasta scene is that Fergus and Marsali are also family for her, no questions asked.
- Ulysses to save the day, and then get nothing for it in return, yay.
- Of course Claire is the one to get the information they need.
- No one is gonna feel bad for you, Bonnet.
- You should have just shot that guy, Ian.
- Jamie letting Roger take care of it is kinda nice.
- Death by drowning is a cruel way to go.
- “Was that mercy, or was it to make sure he’s dead?”
- I know the answer doesn’t have to be either or, but I would have liked an answer.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of Outlander 5×10 “Mercy Shall Follow Me”? Share with us in the comments below!
Outlander airs Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.