Episode 510: "Mercy Shall Follow Me" (SPOILERS!)
Here are my reactions to Episode 510 of the OUTLANDER TV series, titled "Mercy Shall Follow Me".
*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
The opening title card shows an 18th-century cobbler modifying a woman's shoe to add a little extra height to it.
As the episode begins, we are in Wilmington, North Carolina, where Stephen Bonnet and Forbes the lawyer are discussing their attempt to get Bonnet declared as Jemmy's legal father.
"But for now, I recommend that you lie low."
"I'd rather lay low under my regular mare there," Bonnet says, eyeing one of the girls in the establishment.
Judging from the very low-cut gowns, this appears to be a brothel -- Mrs. Sylvie's, to be exact, as we learn later. I'm having flashbacks to Season 2, where so much of the important business was conducted in Madame Elise's brothel.
"So I suggest you start to behave more as my lawyer, and less as my priest." Good line.
Forbes says he's provided the magistrate with a list of witnesses who were at the tavern on the night that Bonnet raped Brianna. This sounds awfully far-fetched to me, especially considering that it's been two years or so since that night.
I liked the way Bonnet said, "Not a word of this to anyone," in a deadly serious tone, a reminder that he'll kill anyone who crosses him.
Meanwhile, in a tavern elsewhere in Wilmington, Jamie, Claire, Roger, Bree, and Young Ian are making plans to capture Stephen Bonnet.
"I have a really bad feeling about this," Bree says. (She's obviously read the script!)
"I want Bonnet out of our lives for good," Roger says, "and nowhere near you or our son." True enough, but I wish they'd used the original lines from the book, which packed much more of an emotional punch:
“I willna have this man in the same world as my children,” he said, still softly, “or my wife. Do we go then with your blessing--or without it?”Claire is worried about whether Philip Wylie will keep his word.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 103, "Among the Myrtles." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Well, if he doesn't, I'll likely be dead, so if ye could find the time, I'll appreciate it if ye'll make him suffer for it."
If that was an attempt at humor, it fell flat. I didn't like Jamie joking about the prospect of his death, considering that he came awfully close to dying for real in last week's episode.
Young Ian dressed in normal 18th-century clothing, in his disguise as "Alexander Malcolm", made me smile, but he looks VERY young, not believable as a prosperous whisky-maker.
Claire promises to help Ian cover up his facial tattoos, but that idea must have been dropped, as the dots are clearly visible in later scenes.
"Dinna fash," Jamie says. "Bonnet's only a man." But Roger, in particular, doesn't look reassured by that.
In the next scene, Claire and Bree visit a glassblower's shop. Claire wants him to make a glass tube for a hypodermic syringe, to replace the one Lionel Brown destroyed at Alamance.
"I prefer when they're made of glass. It's easier to sterilize." I liked the way Claire caught herself there, seeing the man's incomprehension, and substituted the word "clean".
"I swear [Jamie] is like a cat. Got nine lives, if not more." This reminds me of the bit in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES where Jamie recalls a fortune-teller in Paris telling him he had nine lives, and his discussion with Claire about how many he has left.
Jamie, Roger, and Ian arrive at Wylie's Landing. I was surprised that they just walked into the shed without checking first to see if anyone was there.
The dialogue here is based on this bit from THE FIERY CROSS:
“But you haven’t worked for Bonnet since February?” I asked. “Why not?”Roger's voice here sounds completely normal in this episode, as though the hanging had never happened. I don't like that.
Duff and Peter exchanged a glance.
“You eat scorpion-fish, you hungry,” Peter said to me. “You don’ eat dem, iffen you got sumpin’ bettah.”
“The man’s dangerous, Sassenach,” Jamie translated dryly. “They dinna like to deal with him, save for need.”
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 100, "Dead Whale." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Meanwhile, Claire and Bree are walking along the beach, looking for seashells, as though they're modern-day tourists. Seashells? Seriously? Is that the best the writers could come up with? It seems pretty contrived to me.
Back at Wylie's Landing, Roger announces that he wants to be the one to kill Stephen Bonnet.
"Now you tell me," Jamie says wryly. That made me smile.
Most of the dialogue in this scene comes straight from the book.
He saw Fraser start to speak, then stop. The man stared thoughtfully at him, and he could hear the arguments, hammering on his inner ear with his pulse, as plainly as if they’d been spoken aloud.I'm really glad that they included Jamie and Roger solemnly vowing to avenge one another, because it's another indication of how much their relationship has matured.
You have never killed a man, nor even fought in battle. You are no marksman, and only half-decent with a sword. Worse, you are afraid of the man. And if you try and fail …
“I know,” he said aloud, to Fraser’s deep blue stare. “He’s mine. I’ll take him. Brianna’s your daughter, aye--but she’s my wife.”
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 102, "The Battle of Wylie's Landing." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Back on the beach in Wilmington, Bree and Claire are startled by the appearance of several whales, breaching in the ocean not far away.
"God, I love MOBY DICK!" Bree says. This is clearly foreshadowing.
Claire and Bree running on the beach is kind of silly, and as Bree says, not so easy when you're wearing stays -- to say nothing of floor-length skirts! But at least now we know where this bit in the opening credits from Season 5 comes from.
This scene seems very obviously designed a) to separate Bree and Claire (if Claire is looking for seashells, why is she climbing up the dunes, away from the water line?), and b) to cause them to let their guard down.
Meanwhile, at Wylie's Landing, a rowboat approaches and three men get out. Bonnet isn't with them.
Young Ian greets them, looking very young and innocent. When the leader asks where the barrels of whisky are, Ian looks scared, as though he hadn't expected that question, despite the fact that he and Jamie and Roger had plenty of time to plan this encounter. Through this whole scene, Ian reminds me far more of the young teenager he was in Seasons 3 and 4, rather than the fierce Mohawk warrior he's become more recently, and I found that disappointing.
Bonnet's men burst into the shed, and a fight breaks out. The proximity of the water made it more visually interesting, in my opinion, but it must have been a challenge to film!
"What took you so long?" Roger asks Jamie.
"You were doing so well, I didna think you needed the help." Good line!
And then Roger strikes the man at his feet with what might have been the butt of his rifle (I'm not sure) and he slumps, unconscious or maybe dead, it's not clear which.
In the next scene, Jamie is interrogating the survivor of the fight. "Where's Stephen Bonnet?" he demands, holding the point of a knife to the man's throat. But the man still won't talk. So what is Jamie proposing to do, exactly? Torture the man to make him speak? Frankly, this struck me as an empty threat.
Back on the beach at Wilmington, Claire has just found a large seashell, when she hears Stephen Bonnet's voice behind her.
Alarmed, Claire stands up and pulls out a small and harmless-looking knife, pointing it at Bonnet. It's clearly not much of a threat, especially against someone like Bonnet.
This scene is based on FIERY CROSS chapter 103, "Among the Myrtles", though they've changed some of the details.
"How's my son?" Bonnet asks, and Claire snaps back instantly, "You don't have a son!"
Suddenly Bree runs up to them, takes one look at Bonnet holding her mother at knife-point, and freezes.
Claire shouts at her to run, but instead she stoops and picks up a pistol that's lying conveniently on the ground nearby. (Where did it come from? I have no idea.)
Marsali’s eyes were the size of saucers, her mouth clamped tight. Her gaze, thank heaven, was still trained on Bonnet, and so was the gun.Just as in the book, the gun misfires. Bree runs toward her mother and Bonnet, and within moments he's knocked both of them to the ground, unconscious.
“Marsali,” I said, very calmly, “shoot him. Right now.”
“Be putting the gun down, colleen,” Bonnet said, with equal calmness, “or I’ll cut her throat on the count of three. One--”
“Shoot him!” I said, with all my force, and took my last deep gulp of air.
“Wait!” The pressure of the blade across my throat lessened, and I felt the sting of blood as I took a breath I had not expected to be given. I hadn’t time to enjoy the sensation, though; Brianna stood amid the myrtles, Jemmy clinging to her skirts.
“Let her go,” she said.
Marsali had been holding her breath; she let it out with a gasp and sucked air deep.
“He isn’t about to let me go, and it doesn’t matter,” I said fiercely to them both. “Marsali, shoot him. Now!”
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 103, "Among the Myrtles." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Claire wakes on the beach, alone. She calls for Bree, but she has no idea where Bonnet may have taken her. Can you imagine how terrified Claire must have been at that moment? What's she going to do next? We don't know, because the scene shifts at this point to Bonnet's hideout, and Bree's point of view.
Bree wakes on a couch in Bonnet's house, to find him pouring tea, of all things. (Stephen Bonnet most definitely does not strike me as a tea-drinker.)
Sophie Skelton and Ed Speleers are excellent in their scenes together. This first scene is well done, and Bree reacts exactly as I would expect her to. But this whole "Bonnet kidnapping Bree" plotline is based on events that occurred toward the end of A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, so it takes some getting used to, for book-readers like myself who were not expecting it to happen so soon.
"I have something for you," Bonnet says, and turns to a chest on the floor nearby. The moment his back is turned, Bree grabs a fireplace poker. She glances over at the bed, obviously fearing that Bonnet will try to rape her again. But Bonnet has something else in mind.
He opens the chest, which turns out to contain a set of rag dolls. "For our son," he says proudly.
Sorry, but I don't find this believable in the slightest. The Stephen Bonnet we know from the books, and the one we have seen in the show up to this point, is a sociopath. Yes, he can be charming, but he doesn't care at all about anyone but himself. It's completely out of character to think he would take the trouble to acquire a chest full of toddler toys for "his son" to play with.
"I want to do right by you and him. To be a real father," Bonnet says, looking up at Bree with this earnest, innocent puppy-dog expression, but I don't buy it for a second.
All I can think is that it's almost a Jekyll and Hyde situation. "Good Bonnet" just wants to be Jem's daddy, but "Evil Bonnet" is interested only in what will benefit himself. He doesn't really want to be Jem's father; what he wants is to get his hands on Jocasta's property, the estate of River Run. And the more we see of "Good Bonnet", the more the sight of him turns my stomach.
In the next scene, Claire is galloping down the road, and somehow manages to find Jamie, Roger, and Ian, to warn them that Bonnet has kidnapped Bree. That's awfully convenient for the plot, though it seems Highly Improbable that she would just happen to run across the three of them on the road.
Back at Bonnet's house, Bree enters the dining room wearing a fancy gown, and finds Bonnet waiting for her with the table set for dinner.
I really disliked the whole idea of Brianna teaching Bonnet table manners and how to act like a gentleman. Bree went along with it because she didn't want to anger him, but again, I think it's totally out of character for Bonnet. "Good Bonnet" may want to learn proper table manners and how to behave like a gentleman, but "Evil Bonnet" doesn't care a bit about what society thinks of him, as long as they let him do what he wants.
"I don't think anyone can teach you a damn thing," Bree says, and I agree. Do you really think he cares for one second about following proper etiquette? It's preposterous, in my opinion.
"What I need is something I can't buy."
"A moral compass?"
That made me laugh out loud. Great comeback from Bree!
The rest of this conversation is just boring. Bree as Miss Manners? <sigh>
After dinner, Bonnet won't leave Bree alone. She tries to tell him it's "improper" for the two of them to be alone.
"I can have some of my men come and join us, if you'd prefer." Um, thanks but no thanks!
As a way to pass the time, Bree suggests, "You could read to me." Bonnet clearly doesn't like this suggestion, so she offers to read to him herself.
I liked the way they did this. Bonnet's reaction is consistent with what we know from the book:
"Stephen Bonnet canna read, nor write much more than his name.”I didn't care for the rest of this conversation at all.
I stared at him.
“How do you know that?”
“Samuel Cornell told me so. He hasna met Bonnet himself, but he said that Walter Priestly came to him once, to borrow money urgently. He was surprised, for Priestly’s a wealthy man--but Priestly told him that he had a shipment coming that must be paid for in gold--for the man bringing it would not take warehouse receipts, proclamation money, or even bank-drafts. He didna trust words on paper that he couldna read himself, nor would he trust anyone to read them to him. Only gold would do.”
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 73, "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"If I were to tell Jeremiah my story -- our story -- would he....feel for me?"
Again, this man is a sociopath! He has no interest in what other people feel for him, as long as they do what he wants. And hearing Stephen Bonnet babble on about "Will you teach me how to love?" just turns my stomach.
Bree reaches for a book, conveniently placed nearby, and I thought, why would a man who cannot read have books in his house? But Bree is a quick thinker. She offers to read to Bonnet the way she reads to Jeremiah, and to her relief, he agrees.
"This book is a good one. I think you'll like it." And Bonnet settles back happily to listen, like a kindergartener at story time. The expression on his face just made me roll my eyes.
Bree begins to tell him the story of MOBY DICK, from memory, pretending to read along in the book. That was a good idea, but I found the rest of this scene extremely boring and tedious. I came very close to fast-forwarding through it even on the first viewing, something I have never done with this show in five seasons. I just don't find "Bree and Bonnet's Storytime" to be compelling TV, to say the least. It seemed to last forever.
"And Ahab is drowned, then?" Bonnet's look of horror is genuine. We know from his conversation with Claire in Episode 401 ("America the Beautiful") that Stephen Bonnet has a deep fear of drowning.
"The sea....it comes for me. Darkness closes in. I cannot move. No one comes. No one ever comes."
He's clearly having a premonition of being "stakit to droon", just as in the book:
“Since I was a lad, I’ve dreamed of drowning,” he said, and his voice, normally so assured, was unsteady. “The sea comes in, and I cannot move--not at all. The tide’s risin’, and I know it will kill me, but there’s no way to move.”And then Bonnet wants to know how to comfort little Jeremiah? Oh, come on! Enough already.
His hand clutched the sheet convulsively, pulling it away from her. “It’s gray water, full of mud, and there are blind things swimmin’ in it. They’re waitin’ on the sea to finish its business wit’ me, see--and then they’ve business of their own.”
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 105, "The Prodigal." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Bree has finally had enough. "A lady would say good night now," she says firmly. "And she would go to her bed. Alone." Remarkably, that actually works. Bonnet goes out at last, locking the door.
The next morning, Bree wakes to find a woman setting out breakfast dishes on the table. It's the same woman we saw in the brothel in the opening scene of this episode.
I thought the breakfast conversation between Bree and Bonnet was awkward and not very interesting. Bree is doing her best to talk Bonnet into letting her go.
"Should we not spend more time together here, first, to bond?" That word "bond" jumped out at me as being a very modern 21st-century concept.
Bonnet agrees to let her go and bring back Jemmy, while he looks for a place to live in Wilmington. All he asks in return is a kiss. So she kisses him, reluctantly, and his attitude changes abruptly to fury, because he can tell she's faking it.
"I'll show you what you're missing," he says, and turns to the whore we saw before, who has just come back into the room.
The scene where Bonnet has sex with Eppie comes straight from the book.
Bonnet didn’t bother answering, but thrust the bottle into her hand, whipped off the kerchief that hid the swell of her heavy breasts, and began at once to undo his flies. He dropped the breeches on the floor, and without ado, seized the woman by the hips and pressed her against the door.I liked the actress who played Eppie, though I didn't catch her name. She did a good job.
Guzzling from the bottle she held in one hand, the young woman snatched up her skirts with the other, whisking skirt and petticoat out of the way with a practiced motion that bared her to the waist. Brianna caught a glimpse of sturdy thighs and a patch of dark hair, before they were obscured by Bonnet’s buttocks, blond-furred and clenched with effort.
She turned her head away, cheeks burning, but morbid fascination compelled her to glance back.
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 102, "Anemone." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Bree takes off her wedding ring (I stared at it, wondering where she'd got a gemstone that size) and gives it to Eppie, begging her to get word to Roger.
In the middle of their conversation, Bonnet opens the door, and Eppie leaves with him without another word.
"F*ck!" Bree says under her breath. That surprised me a little, as Bree normally doesn't use that sort of language.
In the next scene, Jamie and Roger confront Philip Wylie in Wilmington, demanding to know where Bonnet is, but he says he doesn't know. Roger puts a knife to his throat, and immediately Wylie starts talking.
"There's a brothel, he frequents, Mistress Sylvie's. He and I have had meetings there." Right. Because in OUTLANDER-world, a brothel is a logical and desirable place to discuss business in public. <sarcasm> This was a cliche by the end of the first half of Season 2, and I don't think it makes any more sense now, in Wilmington, than it did in Paris 25 years before.
Meanwhile, at River Run, Forbes the lawyer has come to call on Jocasta.
We get a very brief glimpse of Jocasta's husband, Duncan Innes, and once again he's basically treated like a prop, a character with little or no personality of his own. Speaking as someone who loved the character of Duncan Innes in the books, I find that disappointing.
Forbes comes into the parlor and sprawls on the sofa opposite Jocasta in a very rude manner, considering that he's a guest in her home.
Jocasta passes along all the latest news from Fraser's Ridge, but Forbes isn't even pretending to listen. He's openly taking advantage of the fact that she can't see him.
"I want you to help me bestow some gifts upon my family." That got Forbes' attention in a hurry!
Meanwhile in Wilmington, Jamie and Claire are visiting Mrs. Sylvie's establishment. This is based on a scene from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES chapter 56, "Tar and Feathers", but their motivation for coming there (to find out Bonnet's whereabouts) is entirely different.
Looking at all of the whores in Mrs. Sylvie's brothel, I couldn't help thinking that they all looked like figures out of a Rubens painting, something like this.
Eppie is there -- having evidently taken a boat and a Pony Express to get all the way from Ocracoke to Wilmington in no time at all. <g>
Back at River Run, Jocasta is dictating to Forbes a list of all the gifts she wants to give to her extended family (and some who are not even blood relatives): Marsali and Fergus and their children, Young Ian, Bree and Roger, even Lizzie. I was half-expecting her to mention the Beardsley twins and the Bugs as well, since she seems to be listing every significant character on the Ridge. Enough is enough already, we get the point!
Through all of this, Forbes is getting more and more agitated, until finally he bursts out, "No! You can't give away my money!"
And then he grabs a pillow and tries to smother her. Jocasta struggles hard, kicking over a small bell on the table. At the sound, Ulysses comes in and wraps an arm tight around Forbes' neck, apparently either snapping his neck or strangling him, I couldn't tell which. Either way, Forbes is dead. Ulysses hurries to revive Jocasta, who is shaken but evidently unhurt.
I was startled when Ulysses called her, "Jocasta", and even more when he kissed her hand. Maybe they are laying the groundwork for future plot twists?
Back at Mrs. Sylvie's, Claire diagnoses Eppie as having anisomelia, one leg shorter than the other. She explains how to treat it by adding height to the shoe on the shorter side. This is very much in character for Claire, to gain the trust of a stranger by offering medical help or advice, and it certainly worked in this case.
Eppie tells them where to find Bonnet, and they waste no time in finding a boat. Young Ian is back in Mohawk attire, having traded "Mr. Malcolm's" clothes for the boat.
The next scene, where Bree is displayed for sale to Mr. Howard, comes straight from the book:
“Good teeth?” Howard rose on his toes, looking inquisitive, and Bonnet obligingly yanked one arm behind her back to hold her still, then took a handful of her hair and jerked her head back, making her gasp. Howard took her chin in one hand and pried at the corner of her mouth with the other, poking experimentally at her molars.William Howard is a real historical figure who bought Ocracoke Island, NC, in 1759. According to this article, most of the natives of Ocracoke today are Howard's descendants.
“Very nice,” he said approvingly. “And I will say the skin is very fine. But--”
She jerked her chin out of his grasp, and bit down as hard as she could on Howard’s thumb, feeling the meat of it shift and tear between her molars with a sudden copper taste of blood.
He shrieked and struck at her; she let go and dodged, enough so his hand glanced off her cheek. Bonnet let go, and she took two fast steps back and fetched up hard against the wall.
“She’s bitten me thumb off, the bitch!” Eyes watering in agony, Mr. Howard swayed to and fro, cradling his wounded hand against his chest. Fury flooded his face and he lunged toward her, free hand drawn back, but Bonnet seized him by the wrist and pulled him aside.
“Now then, sir,” he said. “I cannot allow ye to damage her, sure. She’s not yours yet, is she?”
“I don’t care if she’s mine or not,” Howard cried, face suffused with blood. “I’ll beat her to death!”
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 107, "The Dark of the Moon." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Sophie was just terrific in this scene, absolutely channelling Book Bree, in my opinion.
Bonnet agrees to sell Bree to Howard for six pounds, but Howard insists they must go to his boat, where his assistant, Manny, is holding his purse. That seems like a pretty contrived way to get them all outside.
Manny turns out to be the same man who was at Wylie's Landing. Ian shoots him with an arrow, very much as he did the wild boar in Episode 508.
Bonnet tries to run to the boat, but he stumbles in the sand, and Roger manages to tackle him, pummeling him with his fists and finally knocking him out cold.
Jamie pulls out a flask of whisky. In deliberate echo of the scene in Episode 401 ("America the Beautiful") where we first met Stephen Bonnet, he allows him a sip from the flask.
"Know that whatever happens, the last face you'll see on this earth willna be that of a friend." I liked that.
The decision on what to do with Bonnet is ultimately left up to Bree. "I want to take him to Wilmington. I want him to be judged according to the law," she says, in an odd monotone, as though she's still in shock from recent events.
In the final scene, Stephen Bonnet is sentenced to death by drowning, tied to a stake in the middle of the river in such a way that he will eventually drown when the tide comes in.
Realizing that his worst nightmare is coming true, Bonnet screams, but no one on shore reacts. Slowly, the water rises, and suddenly a rifle bullet strikes Bonnet in the head, killing him instantly.
Bree and Roger are standing on the shore, and it's clear that Bree was the one who shot him.
"Was that mercy?" Roger asks. "Or was it to make sure he's dead?"
Bree doesn't answer, and the episode ends. I didn't like that at all. I wanted very much to hear her say, as in the book:
"I’m the only person in the world for whom this isn’t murder.”Leaving it ambiguous, as they did here, just makes it look like an act of pure vengeance, but that's not what it was to Bree, at all.
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 117, "Surely Justice and Mercy Shall Follow Me." Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I hope you enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my recap of Episode 511, and look here for my recaps of all of the OUTLANDER episodes so far.
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