Respecting the darkness of the original source material while making an adaptation into a visual medium was always going to be a challenge for Ronald D. Moore and the Outlander production team. The final two episodes of the season tell the story of Jamie Fraser’s incarceration, rape, and torture at the hands of Captain Jack Randall. Even fans who had not read Diana Gabaldon’s books knew something was coming when, in an early press conference, Gabaldon said to Sam Heughan (Jamie Fraser) that she wanted to see him "raped and tortured." The question for the production team was not “if” these scenes would be included but “how.”
Darkness, intimacy, and isolation carried throughout both pre-production and filming of “Wentworth Prison” and “To Ransom A Man’s Soul.” Showrunner Ronald D. Moore reveled in Variety that part of the reason for the switch to Jamie’s POV earlier in Episode 9 (“The Reckoning”) as opposed to staying in Claire’s POV like the source material was to allow for the opportunity to tell these final chapters directly and in real time, not flinching from the material using the distance that would come from a retelling by Claire.
The constructed prison cell set was physically closed in and literally very dark. The production team sought to create a dark, sinister environment that would provide the weight and claustrophobia to inform the actors' performances. The actors were given the leeway to inhabit the scenes in ways unprecedented throughout the production schedule of the first season. Heughan and Tobias Menzies (Randall) were allowed extra rehearsal time alone with director Anna Foerster.
With the combination of the set, the content of the narrative, and the serious and weighty tasks of the actors, the atmosphere around the entire production changed. “This was pretty intense for all of us. It wasn’t the usual vibe where you shoot a scene and then you joke around and then you shoot the next take. It was definitely clear for everybody that this was going to very emotionally deep places. You could see it in the crew’s faces,” Foerster told the New York Times Arts Beat blog.
The result, extended graphic scenes unlike many viewers are used to seeing even on premium cable, conveys the darkness and brutality of the scenes from the book in a way unique to the visual medium of the show.