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.

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Outlander Character Appreciation Post 2: Dougal

To continue my hiatus series highlighting some of the ancillary characters on Outlander, let us move on to our morally ambiguous spare to the heir, and list the reasons we love Dougal “Big Poppa” Mackenzie. Full list after the jump.

1. Award-winning resting bitch face.
Most of Dougal’s common, everyday expressions are so shady that if they shot his feet, I swear tiny angry mushrooms would be growing there. Whether powering down for the night over a campfire listening to bedtime stories or chilling with some Rhenish while he ogles the merch, Dougal’s face is unremittingly, relentessly, deliciously transmitting that the stock of Dougal f*cks is backordered–and let’s face it, you shouldn’t hold your breath for restocks.

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2. Machiavelli would be proud.
Somewhere in the afterlife the big M is raising a glass in respect, thinking “Man, that dude is ICE COLD.” He knows right from wrong, he just can’t be @$$ed to care when his political interests intersect with morality. It makes him a loyal friend, a worthwhile enemy and sometimes, kind of an unpredictable dick. To paraphrase the master, Dougal is walking a fine line between maintaining and overthrowing the status quo, and you never know whether he is going to zig or zag, which makes for great TV.

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3. We can vacate the Cougar Corner. Sure we love Jamie like we love all Disney princes, but Dougal is the Hugh Jackman to his Nicholas Hoult. Young virgins? Okay. Silver foxes virtually identical from the neck down and with the benefit of experience? PLANT MY FLAG. Those of us closer to 50 than 20 may not post compulsively about his… um…assets, but we are certainly nodding elegantly in appreciation like the classy broads we are. In summary, you can ignore a lot of glaring when you’re busy elsewhere. Aging: URDOINITRITE, Mackenzie.

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4. Still waters run deep. Just because he has largely no use for 96% of people he meets, don’t assume Dougal is unfeeling. He is the BAM in Collum’s gavel, a loyal friend, and a man who cares deeply for the future and well-being of those under his care. He doesn’t open that side up to the general viewing public as a rule, but those of us watching from home know which attachments he holds dear, and for those he’ll go further than you can believe. Like, imagine how far you think he’d go, and then DIG A HOLE UNTIL YOU PASS OUT.

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5. Game recognizes Game. Dougal doesn’t like being outplayed, but he sure does appreciate it. One of the qualities of a good leader is to surround himself with talent, and he certainly acknowledges others’ skills while never once admitting that he may not possess them to the same degree, even if those skills are diametrically opposed to his own. His ego won’t allow for a loss, but that doesn’t mean that the dry martini where his sense of humor lives doesn’t have itself a quiet chuckle when it meets a worthy opponent.

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Honorable mention: Corn, the new Jessica Rabbit of grains. You know what you did, Sir.

Keep living chiaroscuro, Number Two. Dougal Mackenzie, we speak your name.

For a heads-up on the next one in the series, follow me here or @conniebv on Twitter.

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Outlander Character Appreciation Post: Murtagh

To kick off a series that I plan to do to highlight some of the ancillary characters on Outlander while on mid-season hiatus, let us start at the beginning with everyone’s favorite loveable grumpy muppet, and list the reasons we love Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser.

1. Any hair that sprouts from any visible place on the man is luxuriantly perfect.  

The eyebrows. The beard. The lashes. Murtagh is the shaggy fantasy of every little girl who ever ran a plastic brush through her Barbie’s pony, dreamily imagining the day she would braid her husband’s beard. Was that just me? No matter. It is still the craggy promontory on which the crankiest, dourest expressions break into daydreams of petting his face and crooning him into a twinkle from under those spectacular brows.

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2. He makes all the background stuff sound casual.

More so than just about any other character, Murtagh clarifies events that help provide information about the story and move the plot along without bogging us down with long monologues, and he’s frequently an agent of change. He brought Claire to the Mackenzies, provided the back story for Jamie’s troubles at the Gathering, and established that he has intel on all sorts of background characters, from Ellen Mackenzie Fraser (Jamie’s mom) to Dougal that we can look forward to hearing about in the second half of Season 1.

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3. He is physically incapable of pandering to your bullsh*t. 

Murtagh may be a lot of things, but one of the things he is NOT is here to waste time on your paltry feelings. From calling Dougal out on his rapey/not rapey tendencies to knocking Claire unconscious in episode 1 to brutally not bothering to correct or reassure Claire when her discovery of Jamie put him in danger, Murtagh knows you may need to be coddled at times, but he’ll be damned if he’s the one doing it.

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4. He will, however, lay down his life and put up his sword for those he loves.

Murtagh fights hard, frowns hard, and he loves even harder. He has a soft spot for Jamie’s mother Ellen, and he is Jamie’s sole Fraser kinsman among the Mackenzies, covering his back and giving him advice in situations both important and insignificant. He is on the lookout for threats and puts himself in their way rather than expose Jamie, like when he got his kilt for the wedding. From the second Claire marries Jamie, he sees how good she would be for him, and extends this courtesy to her. For a tough old bird, he can can surprisingly tender.

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5. He’s the uncontested Laird of the Ship, Captain of the S.S. Frasers.

You might love Claire and Jamie as a couple, but no one ships them harder than Murtagh.  The unadulterated glee on his face any time these two show love is an education. Our squeeing is but an echo of his loving, encouraging baritone. Lead on, O Captain. Your crew follows.

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Keep sailin’, you glorious bastage. Murtagh Fraser, we speak your name.

For a heads-up on the next one, follow me here or @conniebv on Twitter.

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