Outlander Character Appreciation Post: “Black Jack” Randall

I know what you’re likely thinking. We don’t usually celebrate demons come to earth no matter their flawless ability to rock thigh-high boots, but Captain Jonathan Wolverton Randall’s birthday was yesterday, and I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves to be Prince of Darkness  for a Day on their special day.

Or the day after, if I’m busy that day.

With the Season 3 premiere less than a week away, let’s briefly dwell on one of the more disturbing villains to ever cross our screens, and why we find him so compelling.

  1. Evil : Good :: Villain : Hero. I can’t really underscore this one enough. The worse your villain, the greater your hero. We have some characters on the show that occasionally act in a morally questionable way (I’m looking at you, Mackenzies), but Jack’s C.V. would make Ghengis Khan clutch his pearls. A great villain helps define the greatness of the hero, and shapes his story and the heart of the conflict. In the Instagram snap that is Outlander, Jack is the Lo-Fi filter with the contrast turned up to 99.

2. Order vs. Chaos. Whenever something awful happens, like two additional months being added to a   hiatus, we like to rationalize as to cause. Very rarely are we comfortable with chaos. Jack is a military man, a product of order, and yet he actively seeks chaos. Jamie is the product of a volatile life, but becomes a reasoned man of the Enlightenment. The ballad of Jack and Jamie is the product of one key interaction that echoes over the course of their time together, building and intensifying to its inevitable end, a yin/yang that reaffirms both sides as it consumes and changes both its participants.

3. England vs. Scotland. This one is pretty obvious, but a lot of the atrocities committed in the name of King and country are echoed in Jack’s attempts to subdue and possess Jamie. “Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious,” in the words of Oscar Wilde. By framing their struggle (and its eventual conclusion) as part of the rise of the Jacobite rebellion, Jack becomes the embodiment of English aggression and tyranny, his disregard for Jamie’s humanity a symbol for the colonialist exploitation of the Scottish people.

4. Wild Card, B*tches. Just when you thought Jack was almost unnecessarily evil, we get a tiny birdhouse in the dark mine of his soul. Jack has a very real ability to love, his honest affection for human puppy and Randall white sheep brother Alex brings a confusing humanity to what might have otherwise been a very black & white portrayal. Even his reaction upon Alex’s death speaks to his inability to deal with the depth of his emotions, and the pity and horror he engenders in Claire and us as an audience just wraps another layer around a character that is already a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

5. Tobias MOTHERCOUNTRY MENZIES. Someday if I live long enough and reality TV continues to evolve on its same path, there will be a show that combines great acting and even greater acts of derring-do, like having to act your way out of a flour sack suspended over a river filled with man-eating piranha. When that day comes, there is only one man for the job, and his name rhymes with OhHellas Yeszies. Menzies brought an almost reptilian horror to this character while grounding him in the sort of cavalier matter-of-factness of a bureaucrat, the combination of which took “Black” Jack Randall from a sinister shadow into a three-dimensional villain for the ages.

Honorable mention: The Black Jack Wig, the best wig on Outlander.

Rock on in the ninth circle, BJR. Please salt the earth on your way out.