Such was the case with “Do No Harm,” the second episode of Outlander season 4. There have been times when this has happened before – where I come away from an episode knowing its overall theme and message were not something I could do away with in favor of talking about Jamie’s pectorals. Or (The Garrison Commander) where I just suck it up, focus on the positive and ignore the bulk of an episode that left me feeling raw and unnerved. But I don’t want to do that this time.
I don’t mean to imply that the episode was poorly written, that the set design was shoddy, that the actors were phoning it in, that the dialogue was cheap. You can tell there was craft and effort put into “Do No Harm” (although I wish more effort had been made to have it helmed by African American writers/director). But overall, an episode dealing with the realities and horrors of slavery, in which the primary point-of-view is a modern white woman just removed from the American Civil Rights Movement and in which the slaves are set dressing and secondary to her pain of being forced to witness them, leaves this modern American white woman with less to say and lots of reasons to say less.
There WERE great moments in this episode, the least of which is Maria Doyle Kennedy’s appearance and performance. She’s a favorite of most of ours from The Tudors and Orphan Black. She plays Jocasta with elegance and cunning. She’s graceful and a generous actor. I love seeing Jocasta versus Claire; it’s a different dynamic all together from Jenny or Mrs Fitz or Louise.
I loved Jamie’s tears at seeing his maternal aunt again. Watching him remember and look for his mother in her face and her speech was wonderful, a quiet way in which Sam Heughan was able to channel Book Jamie near perfectly.
I loved the actor playing Ulysses, Colin McFarlane. I’ve always found Book Ulysses menacing and withdrawn, but he played him with staid grace. His Ulysses was avuncular and quietly erudite.
I was excited to see John Quincey Myers, played by Kyle Rees, because he’s such a beloved character. His conversation with Ian was good-natured, even if it showed Ian’s naïveté. I laughed out loud at the actors acting out the skunk smell, as if the smell WOULDN’T have hit their noses when he was still a football field away. I was super into Jocasta’s upholstery.
Jerome Holder as Rufus provided an incredibly moving and intimate performance. I was in tears along with him. These are the types of things I might have put in a regular Top Ten Moments. But it is here that I have to stop talking about the things I liked about Outlander Episode 402, and give voice to those whose takeaways are way more important than mine.
Top Ten Comments about Outlander Episode 402: Do No Harm
I’m watching Outlander and they have all these black people as props on their show… :-/
— sassystephb (@SassyStephB) November 11, 2018
Le 1er épisode de la saison 2 #outlander joue trop avec mon cœur 😭
— crépuscule👑 (@akerey_daisy) November 11, 2018
The slaves scenes was vert difficult to me, as black woman, to watch. I felt it my heart, and i’m very grateful for the respectful and sensible way that was portrait. @Outlander_STARZ @caitrionambalfe @SamHeughan @mariadkennedy @Natsiepom @TheMattBRoberts 👏🏽🙌🏽 #Outlander
— anallu (@annabalfe) November 11, 2018
— Perdita (@PerditaPatrice) November 11, 2018
I’m actually going to have to tell my mom to skip this episode. Sure wish I had, damn. #ItsANOForMeChuck #HARDPass #Outlander #CouldntJustCombineRufusAndPollyAnne #AndSentHisAssOnDownToSeminoleCountryHuh #Ugh https://t.co/Wulk8wJsYl
— J. La’Shay (@Endurance97) November 11, 2018
— Perdita (@PerditaPatrice) November 11, 2018
Thank you @Outlander_STARZ for not shying away from showing slavery during that time period😰 as a young black female this was a really emotional episode for me 😭😰😥 @caitrionambalfe @SamHeughan in that last scene was so heartbreaking😭 #Outlander #TheFrasers pic.twitter.com/eGYcRDwwFK
— Jess (@LOutlander) November 11, 2018
I want it all shown so people will remember.
— Blacklanderz™ (@Blacklanderz) November 12, 2018
I liked the irony with ‘Do no harm’ on tonight’s episode. There was really no other way and that was the lesser of two evils of helping Rufus. I knew Rufus was lost the minute they took him down from the tree #outlander #blacklanderz
— Margot 🌙🦄 (@Margot94V) November 11, 2018
— 🗽 R Be Cee 🐱 (@Velvet214) November 11, 2018
I’m going to be real with y’all: I hope #DoNoHarm is a Wake Up Call for members of #Outlander fandom. Watching this ep when it’s very possible your ancestors WERE Rufus at 1 point gives you a very different outlook on life.
— Demelza-Rae Poldark (@amandarprescott) November 11, 2018
There are many more comments and tweets from these Outlander fans. It is worth reading their entire feeds tonight before you make judgement calls or comments of your own about the depiction of slavery and lynching in “Do No Harm.”