'Outlander' season 4 episode 8 review: It is almost impossible to get over Brianna's harrowing sexual assault
Though the dreaded rape-scene took place off camera, Sophie Skelton's performance, as well as the indifference of people when Brianna was getting raped, continue to haunt fans
On December 23, prior to the screening of 'Outlander' episode 8, a warning was issued noting that the content portrays sexual violence. The book's readers knew exactly what was coming, but for those oblivious, there was much-unanticipated agony. Brianna Randall, the daughter of Jamie and Claire Fraser, whose mettle spirit has been a powerful force in the season, not only dwindled in pain but was a victim to one of the most frightening rape scenes of the series. Even though the disturbing scene happened off the camera, it wasn't any less heartbreaking and harrowing.
At first, it was all happiness for the red-head lass, who reunited with her 20th-century ex-lover, Roger MacKenzie, in Wilmington. She was swept off her feet because he traveled through time to be with her.
She even compromised his stuck-up mentality of marrying a virgin and married him in a handfasting ceremony, which basically is a temporary marriage until they take their vows. In a typical 'Outlander' sex scene, all artistically portrayed, Brianna and Roger have their honeymoon on the rugs beside a fireplace in some stranger's house. Soon after their intense lovemaking session, they get into an argument as Roger lets out the information that he knew about the deaths of Claire and Jamie at the Fraser's Ridge all along. Upset Brianna quickly realizes the mistake of marrying a man whose idea of marriage is to own her. She tells him to leave, and he does.
On her way back, she encounters the ultimate villain, Stephen Bonnet, who shows her a wedding ring that he stole from Claire Fraser in episode one of the season, and when she recognizes the ring and asks for it, he calls her into the room to arrange for a bargain. Little does she know that what Bonnet has in mind is not a monetary exchange. She does not think twice before entering the room, because let's be honest, the room is adjacent to a bar, where people are playing cards and many are just walking across the hall.
However, suffice to say here that the 18th Century was a dangerous time to be a lonely woman. Bonnet brutally rapes Brianna. Her boots are thrown out of the door, her cries echo through the halls and the corridors but no one comes to rescue Brianna.
From getting slapped hard by Bonnet to being subjected to lewd comments, the daughter of the time-traveling healer, was sexually assaulted and heavily bruised. Dead walking after the scene, Brianna collects her boots and heads upstairs to her room.
Horrified fans immediately took to social media to talk about the horror instilled after the episode. Days later, fans are still talking about the atrocious manner in which Brianna was raped while at the same time commending Sophie Skelton’s portrayal of the character.
Brianna's rape was so much harder to watch than read. How they didn't show it but you heard what was happening and no one did anything to save her.... I am heartbroken and devastated. #Wilmington #Outlander— JL (@JLnow2) December 24, 2018
Bravo to @SkeltonSophie for going above and beyond to understand her character. I believe showing the horrors of rape will help people understand it better. IMO, too many people think of rape as a misunderstanding instead of an act of violence. #Wilmingtonhttps://t.co/4h6CPxTu3R— Sandy (@SandyTep_) December 24, 2018
@SkeltonSophie I can’t imagine what it’d be like to film something like that & then not see it come to light. I know it’s not real & is “just acting”, but it’s still traumatizing. You did an amazing job in this episode. I wish I could give you a Mama hug.https://t.co/Z02xF5KoBL— ZenGeisha 👘🎏🏮🏯 (@ZenGeisha1) December 24, 2018
As a survivor of sexual assault I appreciated the way they portrayed it. I’ve never seen it done that way and for me it was more haunting than seeing it.— Whitney Hughes (@WhitneyLeigh817) December 23, 2018
I agree that hurt me more I think than actually seeing it. The not caring of everyone else. Smh— Let’s Fangirl (@letsfangirlbout) December 23, 2018
I am a beautiful survivor of rape, @SkeltonSophie. Your portrayal had me in tears and I was shaken. But I am deeply touched and impressed that you conveyed the numb devastation and soul sickness of the aftermath. I recognized my own pain and it was heartbreaking. I am fine.— Nancy Hibberd (@cinequeen1) December 25, 2018
Even Sophie Skelton took to Twitter to remember all those "who have suffered a story similar to Bree's."
🙏To all who have suffered a story similar to Bree's, I hope you're as okay as can be after watching 408. Thinking of you tonight and always and wishing you and all of the #Outlander fans a very #MerryChristmas and a happy, healthy and healing 2019. Thank you @harpersbazaarus 🎀 https://t.co/4B4LBBlotv— Sophie Skelton (@SkeltonSophie) December 25, 2018
In a recent interview, executive producer Maril Davis shared the decision behind choosing the rape scene to be off-screen, unlike the Wentworth Prison episode.
"There is a lot of rape in Diana’s book. Obviously, we’ve seen some of it and every time we try to figure out what is best for the story. We certainly want to be sensitive to the character who is going through this situation. We knew from the outset that we wanted to [have the rape occur off-screen]. We’re in the room with her at the beginning. Sophie did such an amazing job. It’s just a heart-breaking moment."
However, making it an off-screen scene does not mean the impact is any less. "It’s still horrible," Davis said. "When we approach a story, we want to see it in that time. The fact is, it happened quite a bit. We wanted to show how no one did anything and what a horrible thing that was. All of these people knew it was going on and did nothing to help… what it said about that society and how Brianna, as a single woman, was unattended and unaware and put in this situation. No one helped her. How tragic that was!"