Hello, everyone! Sorry this is such a late posting (8 days after the original episode aired…oops!), but I’ve been up to my ears in end-of-the year school projects, so alas, my blog had to come second. But enough about my tedious day job, let’s talk about Outlander. We’re seven episodes in, which is a tad more than halfway, and “Faith” was a definitive ending to the French arc of Season 2. Good riddance to France, I say! I’m tired of pretending that Prague looks like Paris because it really, really, doesn’t.
The second season of Outlander has been scatterbrained up to this episode. While there have been moments of thematic cohesion, because of the episode order (only 13) and the vast amount of material they have to cover (over 750 pages), the level of cohesion in each episode has varied, with some leaving me satisfied, and others leaving me wanting. “Faith” was the first episode in Season 2 to be a thematic unit from start to finish. It was most prominently about grief, of losing one’s child and husband, but it was also about saying farewell to Paris and the stories that live there. It’s been a tumultous half-season in France, but I think everyone, including the viewers, is ready to return to Scotland.
I almost gasped when the title card vignette showed Claire with a little red-headed girl. The show has given us only one glimpse into Claire’s future, and with only six episodes remaining, it was clever of the writers to squeeze in a little reminder that Claire will eventually be returning to modern times. I also liked this vignette because it moved so seamlessly into Claire’s delusions as she lay feverish in the hospital. I’m a fan of cinematic fever dreams and to see Claire “dream” of her own future was an inspired artistic touch. Plus, the little vignette was especially poignant considering “Faith” was all about the loss of Claire’s first little baby. Such a bright, colorful scene, and yet so heartbreaking when you think back on it.
Outlander is adept at demonstrating the emotional consequences of pain and loss. We don’t spend that much time on the actual logistics of what happened to Faith; all we know is that she was born dead, and that Claire only had a few hours to hold her. There’s restraint here. I’m of the opinion that too much bawling and weeping and hair tearing can be melodramatic. But the hospital scenes were mostly trimmed of that gratuitous emotional fat. Claire cried, and she sang, and Mother Hildegarde and Louise tried to comfort her. I liked how it wasn’t glamorous. I also want to give major props to the writers for turning that Master Raymond “healing” scene into something semi-believable, instead of the weird ass magic voodoo that it was in the books. I don’t really buy that Master Raymond healed Claire’s fever with magic, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of the show.
The episode is called “Faith” for two reasons. One, because it was the name of Claire’s lost baby, and two, because it’s the act that binds the three stories of the episode together. After Claire leaves the hospital, she’s hurting over the loss of her baby and of Jamie, who she thinks betrayed her. I particularly liked the conviction in Claire’s voice when she told Mother Hildegarde that there wasn’t a sea deep enough for her to forgive Jamie because it showed just how deep the pain of the betrayal hit her. She wasn’t upset about him breaking his promise so much as she was devastated that his betrayal had led to Faith’s premature birth and death. It’s not rational logic, seeing as Faith probably died from normal medical complications, but the casting of blame is just another way that Outlander makes Claire’s loss realistic and compelling.
After those emotional scenes, there were still two more stories to resolve: one the viewer knew about, and one they didn’t. I’m going to talk about the known one: freeing Jamie from the Bastille and resolving the rift between him and Claire. Now as we know from last episode, something happened to Fergus in Maison Elise that caused Jamie to duel Black Jack. Having read the book, it was evident what had taken place, but Outlander still felt the need to clarify those events in case some people didn’t understand. Like many viewers, I disagree with the way those events were portrayed, but not for the same reason as the outraged majority. Jack’s sexual assault of Fergus didn’t need to be shown because it was skillfully implied in the previous episode. Detailing every action in this episode undercut the subtlety of the previous scene.
But, unlike many other viewers, I’m not outraged that they showed the rape because I don’t think it was exploitation. There was very little shown, it was mostly just visible intent. And I’m sick and tired of people getting torches and pitchforks every time a rape is shown on TV. They’re not promoting sexual violence, they’re not glorifying it, they’re just showing it because it’s a plot point. Do we have to ignore every plot point we don’t like because it makes us uncomfortable? I don’t understand why rape of all things makes people so angry and willing to quit a show. No one seems to care about characters getting stabbed or shot or poisoned, but if you show a rape that isn’t even graphic people act like you’re disemboweling a baby on live television. It’s a fictional TV show, people! You’re not saving the world by feeling outraged over a fictional rape. Get over yourselves!
I, for one, was curious how that scene would transition from book to screen, so I was satisfied with their interpretation. I wish we could’ve seen Jamie throw Black Jack down the stairs like in the novel, but we got some good ol’ face punching, so I’ll be content. The important thing is that Fergus’s confession gave Claire a reason to forgive Jamie and to try to get him freed from the Bastille, which means that we got to see what was probably the weirdest scene ever in Outlander: King Louis’ sorcerer execution chamber. This was the unknown story that we didn’t even realize we needed to resolve to get to the known story.
We already knew that King Louis was a weird dude, but a hidden execution chamber with a astral ceiling? That’s an inspired choice. This was the most entertaining scene of the season. Claire got to pretend to be a badass witch, Master Raymond literally had tricks up his sleeves, and Comte St. Germaine died a humiliating death. I know that Claire had some qualms about poisoning him, but death by poison was his rightful comeuppance. When Claire’s necklace turned black, it was such a striking visual. That is the “show, don’t tell” that the series should be focusing on.
In it’s entirety, “Faith” was my favorite episode of the season. It was the most thematically cohesive and the most compelling. The only aspect I would’ve changed was the return of the uneeded narration. I’d hoped that Outlander had foregone the narration altogether, but it returned in full force this episode, ruining tender scenes with unneeded explanation. But I’ll take the narration if it means we get a stunning episode like this one.
But how does it compare to the book? I think it compares favorably. I didn’t feel like the novel did a good job of describing Claire’s emotional turmoil after losing Faith. This episode clarified those emotions in a stronger way that Diana Gabaldon did. I enjoyed the way the poison scene transitioned from novel to television; it was just as strange and alluring as it was in the novel. Next week, thank the lawd, the crew will return to Scotland, so we can finally see some green. I’m so tired of cobblestone!