How Outlander, Starz handled difficult subject matter of ‘Wilmington’

BriannaSunday night’s new episode of Outlander was far from the typical one of the series — while there were heartfelt moments, there was also one of the extreme pain. The final ten minutes of “Wilmington” may be among the most horrifying of any that Starz has put on the air.

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We are sure that from the very onset of this story, there were discussions as to how to handle the Brianna – Stephen Bonnet assault scene. Ignoring it altogether would be almost impossible if Outlander is meant to be a true adaptation. It is a pivotal moment within the book series that pushes forward Brianna’s story in an extremely important way. Yet, what happens to her at the hands of the pirate is horrific, and we are in a culture now that potentially aware more than ever of the horrific nature of sexual violence. Bonnet uses his power in order to take advantage of her and, with his men sitting outside, there is no way anyone could help her.

Tackling this issue is difficult, and we do have to give Starz as a network credit for trying to prepare viewers both before and after the episode for what the story would put them through. The network put out a warning to viewers before the episode aired about the situation that was coming in the episode; meanwhile, at the conclusion of the episode they also put out a message with a hotline for those who felt the episode brought out traumatic memories.

Did the producers handle the scene itself correctly?

That is another issue that there is going to be discussion of, as producers chose not to show most of the physical act; instead, they played it where you heard what was transpiring as Bonnet’s crew sat outside. Sophie Skelton told Vanity Fair that she did film a version where the camera remains on Brianna and Bonnet, and admitted that there was a part of her that wished that version aired so that viewers understood exactly what she was going through. She also described what she channeled in taking on the scene:

I played tonic immobility—your body completely cops out on you and you go black. It’s like a machine, it just stops. Brianna’s eyes glaze over and she’s just not in the room basically … [After the fact,] she is shaking like an animal that’s frightened. Involuntarily, just shaking, shaking, shaking, but she herself in her mind kind of feels numb.

This episode was powerful, heartbreaking, and one that will likely stick with viewers for some time. We do appreciate Starz doing what they could in order to present the issue in as sensitive a way possible.

We do welcome your thoughts on this scene, and how Starz chose to handle it, below. (Photo: Starz.)

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