Sunday, May 22, 2016

Outlander 2x07 Review: “Faith” (Tragedy) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

Original Airdate: May 21, 2016

In an affecting episode, Jamie and Claire endure more tragedy and come out the other side broken, but surviving.

This, along with the episode last season where Black Jack Randall tortured Jamie, was one of the toughest episodes of Outlander to watch. The episode was stunning – visually, emotionally, and even in the way it used sound. It was the culmination of Jamie and Claire’s time in Paris and, like them, I am ready to go home to Scotland by the end of it.

Humanity’s capacity for suffering – both inflicting it and enduring it – is astounding. And this episode contained so much suffering. It opened with Claire in the hospital, where her baby was stillborn. She woke screaming for her child, and Mother Hildegarde had to give her the terrible news. With Jamie in jail for dueling, she had to go through this tragedy all alone.

After some complications with the birth, Claire came down with a deadly infection. With Bouton the dog by her side, she sunk in and out of a fevered sleep. And deep in the night, she got a visit from her friend Master Raymond, who was able to use his magical abilities to heal her.

I’m gonna be straight with you all: I personally do not like when TV shows include storylines of losing babies. I find it almost unbearably sad. Having said that, I embrace the telling of women’s stories, and unfortunately, losing a child is a story in real women’s lives far too often. I think a lot of time there is not enough talk about what it is like to go through this experience – so real, live women are often left alone with stigma and shame. Likely you know many women who have experienced the death of a child, and you may not even know it because they haven’t talked about it. To those women, I love you, I see you, and I see your pain.

Now, this television season – on Outlander and on other shows – women’s suffering has been featured heavily. Women are raped, women mourn deaths of their loved ones, and women have been killed off so often it’s hard not to think that the writers and networks see them as expendable. In a real world that often doesn’t take women’s pain seriously, their suffering is frequently used as narrative fodder. I believe this episode focused on Claire’s pain in a beautiful and tragic way. It didn’t minimize her pain, and it allowed Claire complicated, human emotions, and she is a fully formed, complex character.

But how much capacity you have to watch women suffer is deeply personal. I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to see one more woman raped, to not want to see one more woman killed, to not want to see one more woman go through one more tragedy on their television screens. I get that sentiment completely and would not judge you for it. Women’s pain should be taken seriously, but it is not the only thing women have to contribute to a narrative. Even though Outlander handled Claire’s tragedy with respect – and I believe it did – it’s impossible to completely divorce Outlander from the rest of television and the rest of our culture. I don’t have any answers here, and I don’t think it’s black and white. But in general, I believe the more that women are involved in making stories, the more varied, complex, and respectful their stories will be. (It's worth noting, perhaps, this episode was written by a woman: Toni Graphia.)

Caitriona Balfe did have a wonderful performance, and you could see so much anger, heartbreak, and despair in her eyes and the way she held herself. You could see her body change when she was filled with rage at Jamie and soften after she talked with Fergus.

After Claire returns home, Fergus finally tells her what actually happened in the brothel and what led up to Jamie’s duel. After Fergus went into an open room in the brothel to try to steal perfume, he was trapped and raped by Black Jack Randall. Unfortunately, this story seemed glossed over on the way to get to the rest of the episode. Also unfortunately, it seemed like it was inserted as a convenient plot device: BJR had to do something bad enough to get Jamie to break his promise and bad enough that Claire would understand his betrayal. After Fergus tells his story to Claire, he is not seen again. I wonder if Jamie and Claire will take him with them when they leave Paris.

Another thing that Fergus’ story does is give Claire focus again (possibly making it more about Claire than Fergus). She was living in a deep depression after the death of her baby, but Fergus’ story woke her back up and allowed her to understand Jamie’s point of view, even though she was still mad at him for going to the duel. Her first point of action became to get Jamie out of jail.

To do this, she makes a private appointment with the king. Mother Hildegarde warns her that the king will likely expect to bed Claire if she asks for any favors. Turns out he does expect that, but first he enlists her to help with a trial.

The trial takes place in rather impressive chambers off the king’s bedroom. Claire enters, unsure of what she is supposed to do, and sees the king’s executioner at the ready. He is on hand because the king is trying two people for doing dark magic: the Comte St. Germain and Master Raymond. (Hm, Claire’s biggest enemy and best friend, how perfect.)

The trial was impressive to watch, but more impressive was Claire acting the part of La Dame Blanche. The king asked for her help because he heard the rumors of Claire’s abilities and thought she would be able to spot any dark magic inside the men. If she did, the king was going to execute him. Claire immediately assumed the persona of La Dame Blanche and expertly manipulated the situation. She came up with a plan to try to spare both men’s lives by giving them a poison – really a non-deadly concoction she could whip up – and saying that if the men survived, they weren’t evil. She gave it to Master Raymond first, who then put something in the mixture that turned it deadly. The Comte’s turn to drink was next, and he was dead after one sip.

After the trial, the king said he still needed payment from Claire for freeing Jamie. When the king asks you to do something, there isn’t real choice. If everyone is living at the pleasure of the king, that means your death could be the pleasure of the king as well. And a choice of having sex with a king to save your own life and the life of your husband is not a choice at all. The king had power over Claire, and when he raped her as payment for getting Jamie out of jail, it was rape, not a voluntary, consensual transaction.

The king was good to his word, and Jamie was let free. After visiting their daughter’s grave, Claire and Jamie head home to Scotland, carrying the weight of their tragedies together.

Un Petit Mot:
  • This entire episode reminded me of a Game of Thrones episode (throw the Comte through the Moon Door!), and BJR is reaching Ramsay levels of sadistic evildoing. 
  • “If it comes to sacrificing my virtue, Mother, I’ll add it to the things I have already lost in Paris.”
  • The way this episode used sound was wonderful. The sounds of the city were completely silent, muffling the life of the city just as Claire felt her life was muffled.
  • The set and costume department should get a raise. Both were beautiful, especially the room where the trial took place and Claire’s dress and veil when she visited Faith’s grave. Just stunning. I also love that Claire wore a Scotland-inspired gown when Jamie came home.
  • Oh yeah, the episode checked in with the future for a second, showing Claire with her daughter in the Boston in 1954. I wish there was more time spent in the future, but it was good to see the show hasn’t completely forgotten about Claire in America.


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