Review: Outlander S2 E7


Contributed by Julie Chaston

Outlander has become known as a show that is not afraid to push boundaries; going further than others may dare. Whether adapted directly from the books or invented/embellished for the screen, scenes are included because the producers and writers felt they belonged, not for the shock factor or to be gratuitous. They know their audience will have varying levels of acceptance and comfort. Last season’s “The Wedding” offended some just as much as Jack Randall’s graphic rape and torture of Jamie did others, yet the scenes couldn’t be more different. “Faith” is another harrowing episode, sure to create a lot of discussion.

This game-changing chapter opened - somewhat incongruously - with Claire in 1954 Boston, in a library with her red-headed daughter: they’re looking at a picture of a heron. As Claire is reminded of seeing herons in Scotland, the happy simplicity of that moment transforms into a graphic scene of ‘surgery’ in the 1700’s: a mother - Claire - losing her baby.

The hardest episodes to watch are also the most rewarding - for the actors and the audience. They get scenes they can sink their teeth into, we get performances that literally make us feel the emotions alongside the characters - whether the situations hit close to home or are completely foreign to us. What Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe gave at the end of the episode was so perfectly done by both, that I almost felt I was intruding on Jamie and Claire’s shared pain.

But overall this was Claire's episode; Jamie only appearing in flashback until those last scenes. We were reminded throughout what a strong woman Claire is - and although a million factors went into making this work, it was mostly down to the performance of Caitriona Balfe [Please, just give her all the acting awards now and be done with it!] She brought us right into Claire’s agony after losing her baby - whether we wanted to be there or not. It takes a very special performance to present the right feeling - to show hysteria without sliding into false histrionics; to be bereft, but not maudlin. The hopeful look on Claire’s face as she first said “I want my baby”; the emptiness when she described their baby to Jamie; the desperation as she sang to it, holding on to the fantasy until her friend Louise was able to intervene. And we felt Claire’s utter desolation as she came home to a house full of servants but empty to her: no baby, no Jamie, no hope. A nod here to composer Bear McCreary - the music as Claire returns - which also plays over the gravesite scene and closing credits - is appropriately poignant, and beautiful.

Once home, it’s poor little Fergus trying his best to look after “milady”, while carrying his own burden; thinking it’s all his fault. I’m not often a fan of child actors - but Romann Berrux has easily won me over. However, his rape by BJR was the one scene I felt did go slightly too far: showing the beginning (“but you’ll do”) and the end (as Jamie bursts in and sees what’s happening) would’ve been enough. We didn’t need the ‘thrusting’ shot in the middle, fleeting though it was.

Understanding why Jamie broke his promise spurs Claire into action. She plays coy with the King, basically offering herself up on a plate in order to obtain Jamie’s release - but it turns out that’s not all he wants: apparently her ‘witch’ reputation has even made its way to the royal ears, and he demands that La Dame Blanche be judge and jury for two “practitioners of the dark arts”.

Unfortunately, one of them is Master Raymond - whom she knows is ‘guilty’, but who has also been her friend and saviour. The other is the Comte St Germain. Claire has no idea if the Comte is guilty of sorcery, but she does suspect he’s far from innocent in other matters. Still, even after he admits to poisoning her, Claire initially can’t bring herself to sentence him to certain death, coming up with a plan that should allow both men to walk away unscathed. Master Raymond suffers no such misgivings, and manages to slip poison into Claire’s harmless potion. Yet it was ultimately Claire’s decision to go through with it, handing the Comte his death.

I did feel sorry for the Comte at the end, and that’s down to actor Stanley Weber who’s been an absolute treat in the role. He showed genuine terror as he realised his fate, and shaky defiance as he accepted it. It’s sad to lose this actor [assuming the Comte actually is dead?]

By the time Jamie comes home, Claire is drained, almost devoid of emotion. She’s had a part in killing a man and slept with the King to gain her husband’s freedom, and she’s decided that she was to blame for the loss of their child (“it was me who asked the impossible of you...put Frank before our family...followed you to the woods.”) It’s only once they finally share their feelings that they realise they have to move forward by carrying the weight together. The title: “Faith” is not just the name of the lost baby, it’s their faith in each other.

When Jamie hopes that “we may be given another” child, the episode comes full circle. The heron in the opening symbolises more than healing, they’re thought to be the basis for the legend of the Phoenix rising from the ashes...and the little flame-headed girl reminds us that - even in another time, another place - Claire and Jamie will be parents again. But for now, it’s time to go home. Home to Scotland.

Julie is a British-Canadian, currently living in Toronto. She enjoys walking, reading, wishes she had a TARDIS & believes aliens are probably already here. When it comes to TV "It's all about the characters!" You can follow her on Twitter @JulieChaston
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