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‘Outlander’ Review: A Female Character Stays Afloat in a Sea of Masculine Energy in Episode 10

In “Mercy Shall Follow Me,” Stephen Bonnet returns and Bree finds herself in a precarious situation.




Given all of the enemies and high-stakes storylines facing the Frasers so far this season on “Outlander,” it was impossible to draw out the return of Stephen Bonnet (Ed Speleers) any more than the show already has. And so the series skipped ahead to a storyline out of Diana Gabaldon’s next book, “A Breath of Snow and Ashes,” on Sunday night’s “Mercy Shall Follow Me,” when the protagonist family put their whiskey dreams of catching the pirate in motion.

Following Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire’s (Caitriona Balfe) run-in with the powder-faced Philip Wylie (Chris Donald) a few episodes back, Wylie had arranged the promised meet-and-greet to secure Bonnet as a “business partner” in Jamie’s whiskey venture. The plan was to get Bonnet inside and then kill him, as Jamie revealed to Roger (Richard Rankin) last week. Except now that Jamie and Roger have finally bonded over Jamie’s near-death experience, Roger wanted to be the one to kill Bonnet. Because, as he reminded Jamie, Bree (Sophie Skelton) is his wife.

It’s all fine and well to want to honor the woman you love, but the problematic piece to that particular storyline is that no one made Bree a participant in the plan, or consulted her as someone who may have had an opinion on the subject of her rapist. It’s the ultimate victimization of a woman whose actions indicate that she may actually consider herself a survivor, and who has proven that she can handle such conversations. Sure, Roger had filled her in on Jamie’s plan, but by not bringing her to the table as Roger and Jamie discussed which of them should kill Bonnet (or even well before that), the show was leaning into that male energy that often casts female characters to the side under the guise of needing protection. If “Outlander” has proved anything this season it’s that the Fraser/MacKenzie clan works better together, and sidelining Bree wasn’t the smartest move. Luckily though, Bree hasn’t exactly been written as a character would can be pushed aside.

When Bonnet failed to show up at the exchange and kidnapped Bree from the beach instead, Bree was forced to face the man head-on… with an assist from “Moby Dick.” As Bonnet and Bree broke bread he revealed he wanted to be a man of society, but that no one had ever taught him how. And so Bree entertained him by “reading” him the classic Herman Melville novel and teaching him how to bring a fork to his lips. One thing that makes Bonnet a bad guy worth exploring are those small moments — every time he softens and lets his guard down, something more dangerous follows. In this particular case he wanted to create what he never had, a family. But when Bree’s kiss woke Bonnet up to the fact that the family in his head would never happen, his anger took over and his brutal nature came out yet again when he copulated with a prostitute in front of Bree. Then, he tried to sell Bree off into prostitution to be rid of her once and for all.

With the real Bonnet exposed, again, the race was on for the rest of the family to find its missing member. In a last-minute twist at the brothel Claire managed to dole out medical advice to Bonnet’s lady of choice, Eppie (Leah Shine), and drag information out of her as to Bree’s whereabouts. Was it convenient that Eppie had a medical problem? Of course. But at this point fans seem happy to wrap the Bonnet storyline up, and the fact that Claire was the one to earn that information was another reminder that females have value in terms of saving people too. Especially in the gender-heavy “Outlander” universe, which often plays into those stereotypes before bending them.

Once Bonnet was captured, what Bree wanted suddenly mattered again, and what she wanted was for the man to be legally tried in Wilmington for his crimes. That way justice would be served and her name would be cleared, freeing up any naysayers who questioned hers or Roger’s parental rights to Jemmy in the future. In the end Bonnet was sentenced to death by drowning, a death that Bree herself expedited by shooting him in the head. Roger — and viewers — wondered if she did it out of mercy or if she just wanted to be sure the man was dead. It seems like that answer will forever remain Bree’s little secret, and now the story is ready to move forward with all of the family members on equal footing. Finally.

Grade: B+

“Outlander” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Starz.

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