Welcome back to our coverage of Outlander season two. Read our past reviews and recaps here.
You’ve got to hand it to Outlander for making each episode feel like a game-changer. That’s my impression of the previous two episodes, which I apologize for not covering because of life. But I’m back, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to come back to a real game-changing episode like “Faith.”
“Faith” is likely to be the episode most will remember when they think of Outlander’s second season. A lot of ground is covered, and it’s exhaustingly emotional. (I’ve shed a tear here and there throughout the series, but this one got real sobs out of me.) Unlike my usual reviews, a breakdown of this episode by its most important parts seems necessary to dive in what made it all so affecting.
Let’s start with what made me angry. The previous episode certainly implied what happened to young Fergus at the hands of Black Jack, so why did we need a scene which rather explicitly showed a vile man raping a child?
Again, why couldn’t we rely on the young actor’s talent to aptly impart what happened to him as opposed to seeing it happen? It’s one of those times where “show, don’t tell” isn’t quite the right way to go. Call me sensitive, but that scene just feels so unnecessary and didn’t do anything to make me find the act any more repulsive than it is. I know it’s awful without ever having to see it; the writers should trust their audiences to know and already feel that way.
In order to get Jamie out of jail for illegally dueling Black Jack, Claire must visit King Louis and ask for a pardon. Mother Hildegarde, who sets up the meeting by Claire’s request, tells her that such a favor comes with a price; she will need to sleep with the King as payment. It ends up costing much more, as the King knows of the rumors that Claire is “La Dame Blanche.” On a crusade to rid France of any magic or “evil” arts, the King summons Claire to help him persecute one of two men for going against the King’s pious decree. One of the men is Master Raymond, Claire’s friend from the apothecary, and the other is the Comte St. Germain, who tried to poison Claire as revenge for inadvertently causing him to lose business in the first episode of this season.
It’s not a hard choice on who Claire should save, but still condemning a person to death over such charges can weigh heavy on the soul. Claire tries to out-maneuver the king’s methods of finding the heretic by lying about her “white witch” eye for seeing the darkness in a man’s soul. She suggests that the men drink poison and whoever survives is the good one. Claire’s concoction is far from poisonous, and Master Raymond obviously survives his taste and uses the opportunity to sneak some real poison into the cup for the Comte. It would be one thing if we didn’t know Master Raymond had done that, but Claire’s white pendant turns black once she brings the cup to the Comte. He immediately knows that after one sip he is dead and uses his final moment to spit some vitriol at Claire for being bested at his own game.
The King still takes his payment, an awkward and emotionless transaction, but Claire gets her request. Jamie is freed and Louis procures a pardon from the English, so that Jamie and Claire can return to Scotland without worry of prosecution..
There is no denying that this is Claire’s episode, and Catiriona Balfe hits it out of the park with her performance, breaking our heart and surprising us with her strength. It’s a tour-de-force that I am still marvelling about days after watching it.
At the end of last week, Claire began bleeding while in distress over watching Jamie and Black Jack duel. She miscarries the baby, almost dies from infection (but is saved by Master Raymond), and goes home to figure out a way to get her husband out of jail.
There’s much more to that though. Claire’s baby, named Faith by Mother Hildegarde, frames this episode’s story. We begin with the despair, move on toward anger, and end with resolution, letting go. For one, it’s completely and utterly heartbreaking, and God, do you feel Claire’s sadness so deeply. It never feels cheap, like the writers are trying to pull some kind of emotion from the audience. The raw depiction of Claire’s loss and the grief that follows is very well done, and it resonates with you long after the credits roll.
A few more thoughts on “Faith”:
Jamie is largely absent during this episode for obvious reasons, and it’s nice to remember that Outlander is, after all, Claire’s story.
When Claire tells Jamie about all she went through and explained how their baby looked like was far and away my favorite scene that I am too sad to ever watch again.
The flashforward scene is a stark change, but worked well into the episode.
This felt like the most cinematic episode of the series yet. The breathless pace of the plot teamed with the imagery and setting seemed to enhance this episode a bit more than others.
This is the end of the Paris arc. Even though I knew this was coming, it’s amsad end to what at first seemed like a hopeful new beginning. I’m pretty excited to see Claire and Jamie head back to Scotland at last. (Also, I wonder if the theme song will still be partly in French for the remaining episodes.)
Rating: 9/10 (It would’ve been a perfect 10 if it weren’t for Fergus’ scene.)
Outlander is rated TV-MA and airs Saturdays at 9/8c on Starz.