A tour-de-force acting performance by Balfe.
A rollercoaster of emotions that left us shattered and weeping.
Great pacing and clear focus to the storytelling.
A little too much seen during the assault on Fergus. This show was pretty rape-y.
A seeming reluctance to embrace the more mystical elements in the show, when we'd totally go with it!
Outlander delivers mega feels in one of the show’s most emotional episodes yet
This entire season of Outlander, all the time spent in France, has been building towards this episode. Not the political scheming, either, but every emotional stake and personal stake for our leading lady. Claire and Jamie have come together, and come apart, come together only to come apart again, and in this episode all the consequences of nearly every decision they’ve made since coming to France came to a head in the most heartbreaking of ways, set to a moving score by Bear McCreary. Outlander 2×07 packed an emotional wallop the likes of which we’ve never seen, and was one of the show’s finest (and ultimately most difficult to grade).
At the end of last week’s episode, we faded to black on Claire (the incandescent Caitriona Balfe, who should win all the awards ever) collapsing watching a duel between Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Black Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) as she was calling out for Jamie and asked Magnus to take her to L’Hopital des Anges and Mother Hildegarde (Frances de la Tour). This episode of Outlander deals with the fallout of that duel (including a stomach-churning glimpse into one of the reasons it happened at all) and Claire’s journey after losing her child. There is unimaginable grief, denial, anger, blame, and we, the viewer, are fully immersed in that journey with Claire. Toni Graphia, the writer of this episode, pulls no punches with our emotions. Our heartstrings are not just tugged here, our hearts are torn out, tossed on the floor and stepped on. How did this happen? Why is there an entire box of snotty tissues surrounding us? Let’s find out.
The episode opens a little unexpectedly, with Claire in 1954 with an adorable little redheaded girl (Niamh Ewell) calling her “Mama”, asking about herons. When pressed, Claire tells her she’s seen Herons in Scotland. The heron becomes a metaphor in this episode, but while opening in the future is a balm for our souls (it’s clear Claire does have a child, which we knew when she came through the stones pregnant in episode 2×01), the vague heron metaphor felt a little unnecessary. Still, opening with Claire as a mother was a smart decision given the river of tears that follows.
The heron fades to Claire losing her baby. Since it’s told from her point of view, it’s out of focus and contains flashes of what Claire sees (and don’t think we didn’t notice the irony of the King’s executioner, Monsieur Forez (Niall Greig Fulton) being one of the people helping to save Claire and her baby). The scene ends with an overhead shot of Claire, legs spread, covered in blood that really emphasizes the brutally of what Claire has just experienced.
After that scene, it’s so quiet. Mother Hildegarde approaches, and a confused Claire demands her baby. Frances de la Tour as Mother Hildegarde is everything you want her to be. There are years of sorrow on her expressive face, and when she tells Claire her child is with the angels, you feel it all. There were three scenes in this episode that were so marvelous you couldn’t tear your eyes away. This was the first. As good as de la Tour is in this scene, it is Caitriona Balfe who you can’t tear your eyes from. Her denial upon hearing her baby is dead is heartrending, and as she screams and demands her child, our first tears really start to flow. Despite Mother Hildegarde around her for support, and Sister Angelique’s admonition that Claire look to the Virgin for support, the absence of a support system for Claire is palpable here, and when the statue of the Virgin breaks, it definitely is a metaphor that works.
“My sins are all I have left.” -Claire
A few days pass, and in a moment of lucidity for Claire, Mother Hildegarde tells her she baptized her child and named her Faith so she could be buried on hallowed ground. It’s clear that Claire is dying, and as she’s given unction of the sick (it’s last rites, Mother Hildegarde, you can’t fool us) she won’t confess her sins, and we get the first hints of the guilt that she won’t, or can’t, release. Later that evening, Claire receives a mysterious visitor and it’s not just a fever dream, it’s Master Raymond. This was the first time in the episode when it felt a little uneven for us. Though Claire’s voiceover told us exactly what was wrong with her, and explained that Master Raymond’s hands were mysteriously healing her, we wish the show would really commit to some of its more fantastical elements. Though the scene is bathed in a tint of blue through a filter, and Master Raymond speaks about Claire’s aura being blue, similar to his own (further intensifying the sense that Master Raymond has a lot more in common with Claire than he has let on), it never fully embraces the magical elements. It’s a small complaint when the rest of the episode is so good, but nevertheless we wish Outlander would embrace magic as fully as it embraces nearly everything else.
After her healing we receive confirmation of what we suspected, that Jamie isn’t around because he’s been arrested and is in the Bastille, and that Black Jack Randall survived. In her grieving, Claire moves on to the anger stage, blaming Jamie for her loss. Through voiceover we learn that several weeks pass with Claire in the L’Hopital, physically healing before Fergus came to bring her back to her Paris home. This was the second of three scenes in this episode that were truly so exquisite you couldn’t tear your eyes away. The slow movement of Claire, the almost complete stillness of everyone within the scene, and beyond the beautiful score by Bear McCreary (the piano theme for Faith just intensified all of our feelings of misery), Claire being greeting with sorrow by her servants (Adrienne-Marie Zitt and Robbie Macintosh) finally broke us from a few lone tears to a full-on ugly cry. It’s clear there are many people in this scenario that feel guilt about what happened to Claire and Faith. The pacing of this episode was rather brilliant. Each quiet moment is allowed time to breathe.
Claire’s misery is interrupted by a nightmare from Fergus. Fergus has something to confess, and we finally learn about why exactly Jamie and Black Jack Randall dueled that day. This scene was brutal. We know that the creative team, Toni Graphia specifically, said that she felt that showing this scene was necessary. While we don’t argue that some of this scene was necessary, more editing was required here, as we feel it just tipped over the edge of a little too much. Roman Berrux gave a wonderful performance as he confesses to Claire what happened and shared with her the guilt that Fergus feels over his part in Jamie being arrested and Claire losing the baby, that the shocking scene almost undercut that fine work. It definitely made us question “How much is too much?” Despite that, however, the acting here was tremendous, and gives Claire the strength to move forward.
“I’ll add it to the list of things I’ve already lost in Paris.” -Claire
Claire returns to Mother Hildegarde requesting a private audience with the King, where she is warned that the King would probably expect sexual favors in exchange for Jamie’s release from the Bastille. As Claire walks through Versailles, we have to again give kudos to Jon Gary Steele. Anyone who has been to Versailles couldn’t even find fault in the stunning set designs as Claire strides through the palace. When Claire meets Louis (Lionel Lingelser), our sense of foreboding slowly rises and comes to a head when he calls her “La Dame Blanche” and instead of bringing her to his bed, instead brings her to a secret room and a stunning star chamber. For a man who appears to be doing his level best to destroy people who practice the dark arts, this room has a great many occult symbols. When Master Raymond and the Comte St. Germain are thrust into the room for Claire to judge, we can only echo Claire’s statement, “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.”
An Audience with the King
Claire uses the opportunity to accuse the Comte of knowing about Les Disciple, who in turn has a stunning speech in which he confesses to poisoning Claire and accuses her of being a witch. In a huge bluff, Claire states she is a white witch (oh Claire, will you ever learn?) and tries to attempt to have both Master Raymond and the Comte freed by having them drink bitter cascara. This plan is foiled by Master Raymond, who poisons the cup after he drinks it. Boy, will we miss Stanley Weber. When Claire’s poison detecting necklace turns black when she takes the cut back after Raymond has drunk, not only did we gasp because we know what’s coming, but so does the Comte and we are completely drawn in by the look on his face. He seemed terrified, sad, disbelieving, resigned and full of hate all at once. We know it probably isn’t right that we also cried for a villain, but we definitely shed tears for the Comte. Master Raymond is released, and Claire “pays” for Jamie’s release by lying with the king. Thank goodness this was mercifully quick (insert a joke a Louis’ expense here). This is definitely a case where a character , seemingly so innocuous at first, ends up being rather vile. Claire leaves Versailles with most of her dignity intact (when she picked up that orange again?!?)- but we’re pretty sure Claire, AND us for that matter, are pretty thrilled we’ll never be at Versailles again.
“I don’t even know if it was a boy, or a girl. Claire. Will you make me beg?” -Jamie
Jamie returns from the Bastille and it’s a confrontation we’re both dreading and needing to see. Even though his beard his terribly heinous (and Heughan has a bit of trouble acting around it), it’s obvious he’s in great deal of pain. Jamie and Claire are on opposite sides of the room, and Jamie expounds upon the guilt that he, too, feels for the death of their child. What followed was a tour de force of acting by Caitriona Balfe. The imagine of Claire holding her stillborn infant and singing to her was truly one of the most heartbreaking things we’ve ever seen. The use of Louise here (Claire Sermonne) was inspired. Louise is so obviously pregnant, and as vacuous and shallow as she was the last time we saw her, she completely redeems herself here, being all at once tender and strong, asking Claire to hold the baby, to finally let her go. This wasn’t a two tissue moment between Claire and Louise, this was a double fisting tissues while you sobbed your face off moment. Can someone please just throw all the awards and Balfe now? Pelt her with awards. Shower them upon her.
“I already forgave you, long before today, for this and anything else you could ever do.” -Jamie
When we return to the present, it seems that we finally get a Claire back that we recognize, and that she has moved to the acceptance stage of her grief. Claire acknowledging that asking Jamie to spare Randall to save Frank was putting someone else before their family, and absolves Jamie and even Jack Randall by taking the blame on herself. Jamie wisely tells Claire there is nothing to forgive. This was an interesting parallel back to Frank, telling Claire there isn’t anything she could do that would stop him loving her. It will be interesting to see how both of those statements, by both of the men in Claire’s life hold up as we move through further episodes. Jamie is put to the test immediately when Claire tells Jamie she slept with the King of France. While we appreciated Claire’s honesty, we wonder if part of the reason Claire tells Jamie is because of lingering anger at him for the death of the baby and for being arrested and putting her in that position to begin with. Jamie compares what she’s done to save him to sacrificing himself to Randall to save her, and we cannot take all the feels this episode is giving us. These two constantly seem to be trading tit for tat- Jamie gave himself to Jack Randall, Claire gives herself to the King of France. Jamie saves Claire’s life, she saves his, she asks for Frank’s life in return. The two of them are really going to have to find a way to forgive each other and move on together, past all of this, and stop trading to really find a better way to live together.
Claire asks Jamie to take her home, to Scotland, and we feel a palpable relief. They visit their daughter’s grave together (where we’re crushed by the Faith piano theme all over again), and though we’ll miss the fine acting of several Paris cast members, we can’t wait for the show to be home, in Scotland.
This episode explored how Claire & Jamie, Fergus, and even to some extent ancillary characters like Suzette and Magnus, take responsibility for the catastrophic events in the episode. There aren’t enough adjectives for how wonderful the acting was in the episode, and it just may be the show’s most emotionally impactful of the entire series to date. That being said, we do wish there had been a little more careful editing in the Fergus scene, and that the show would embrace its more mystical elements. Overall, the episode seemed to be paced just perfectly. The scenes that needed to breathe were absolutely given the space they needed to do so, and special kudos to Bear McCreary for his incredibly effective score. We can’t wait for the show to return to Scotland. How will Claire and Jamie move forward from here? They’ve forgiven each other, and vowed to move forward together, but what will that look like? And what their life in Scotland again be like? We’ll see next week!
Questions, Comments & Concerns
- Caitriona Balfe should be showered in recognition for this episode.
- Will this be last time we see Master Raymond? But there are still so many mysteries!
- Kudos to the entire Paris cast. We’ll miss seeing you and your expressive faces!
- We’re dying to get back to Scotland to see some of our old friends again.
Outlander Review 2×07 “Faith”