Saturday, May 21, 2016

REVIEW: 'Outlander' - Tragedy Strikes That Destroys Claire and Jamie's Lives in Paris in 'Faith'

Starz's Outlander - Episode 2.07 "Faith"

Claire is brought to L'Hopital Des Anges where doctors try to save her life and that of her unborn baby. King Louis asks Claire to judge two men accused of practicing the dark arts - one an enemy, one a friend.

"Faith" is a tragic, deeply moving and emotional episode of Outlander. It cements the tragedy of this season's arc in Paris. Claire and Jamie traveled to France in the hopes of creating a better life for both their family and all of Scotland. That mission filled them with hope as they overcame some truly dark and disturbing trauma. Ever since the season premiere though, the audience has know that this mission is destined for failure. One day Claire will return to the future and realize that all of her and Jamie's hard work in the past didn't change a single thing. And now, it feels like the season is moving towards the events that force Claire to travel through time once more. Last week's episode felt like it was wrapping up the Paris storylines. Claire and Jamie were seemingly successful in defeating Prince Charles and his rebellion. But that success was destroyed by the tragic brutality of Jamie dueling Black Jack and Claire losing the baby. This is a dark hour of television. It's one where the personal stakes are so clear and well executed. This episode doesn't rely on the mechanics of the main mission in Paris. It's instead about Claire and Jamie's relationship and how they can possibly move forward after this tragedy takes over their lives.

Claire and Jamie were allowed to feel hopeful earlier this season. They didn't know if their actions would change anything. And yet, they were still committed to the mission and felt like they were making a significant difference. They've had their disagreements on how to handle unexpected challenges. But they've also stayed committed to the mission and one another. The mission has consumed their lives. Claire and Jamie can't do anything in Paris without worrying about what effect it will have on the future. That has kept them from embracing the emotions and actions they truly want to partake in this world. They have to be sensible and rational at all times. Sure, they can lash out at each other behind closed doors. But their presence and actions have consequences throughout all of Paris. They have positioned themselves next to some very powerful people. Despite all of this hard work, all of it comes tumbling down so easily because of their personal need for vengeance.

Jamie deciding to duel Black Jack was not the reason why Claire lost the baby. She was experiencing issues with her pregnancy prior to that. Sure, her journey to the dueling site probably had some effect on the situation. But this is simply a tragedy that happens to Claire. She wants to believe that everything will work out and be fine. And yet, there is so much in this world that is beyond her control. She wants to do right by her baby and her family. But the baby still dies. Claire does get to the hospital in time to save her own life. But that only means she has to grapple with an existence where her baby died and her husband is in jail. The episode reminds the audience in the opening minutes that Claire is destined to get pregnant again. She's successfully able to raise her and Jamie's daughter with Frank in Boston in the future. That brief glimpse of what's coming for Claire also shows that she'll be living in that happiness for a couple of years. This season is building to that journey. But right now, it is marked by this horrifying tragedy. Claire doesn't know what to do in the aftermath. She survives thanks to Master Raymond. But she needs to find a reason to keep moving forward in this life.

Fergus has been traumatized as well. He puts on a brave face for Claire so that she doesn't have to deal with his pain. He thinks she has enough to deal with right now. And yet, Fergus can't hide from his trauma forever. He opens up to Claire. He shares the true brutality he experienced with Black Jack. It's another horrifying event that happens in this episode. It continues to show just how despicable Black Jack really is. He rapes Fergus. That's why Jamie challenges him to a duel again. He truly did want to keep his promise to Claire. He found a way to accept the request she asked of him. And yet, seeing Fergus being assaulted like that stirred up deep and powerful emotions in Jamie as well. Black Jack needed to be punished. And indeed, he was. He was stabbed in the genitals. He's still alive. So he'll still be able to one day marry Mary and produce a child. But it still comes at the grave cost of Jamie not being there for Claire when she needs him the most. When she's at the hospital, she's crying out for both Jamie and her baby. But Jamie has been arrested for dueling in France. So now, it's up to Claire to once again save his life.

Fergus' story helps Claire get rid of her anger towards Jamie. She wanted to believe he dueled Black Jack because of his own personal quest for vengeance. But instead, he did so to protect Fergus. The young lad has really become a surrogate son for Claire and Jamie. And now, he too has been traumatized by Black Jack. So, Claire now understands Jamie's actions. Even though she may not be ready to re-enter French society, she needs to do so in order to rescue him from the brutality of the prison. It's in that effort where it truly feels like the show is bringing to a close all of the stories in Paris. King Louis really hasn't been an important character so far. Claire and Jamie have mostly interacted with his son. Prince Charles was the main leader behind the Jacobite rebellion. But Louis' influence has been felt as well. His rule has forced characters to act a different way in his presence. And now, Jamie's fate rests in his hands. Claire has to find a way to convince the King to spare her husband's life. She's willing to do anything - including have sex with him.

It is true that King Louis wants a favor in exchange for releasing Jamie from the prison. And yet, his knowledge of Claire as "La Dame Blanche" forces her to do something she never thought she would have to do in Paris. Claire has been labeled as a witch many times over the course of the series. The Scottish clans wanted to kill her for it. They were scared by what they couldn't understand and wanted to sentence her to death. In Paris, the "La Dame Blanche" label has given her a mystique that has largely kept people away. There's nothing special about Claire at all. Her medical knowledge is centuries more advanced than the people of this world. But that's it. And yet, she gives in to this witch persona in order to help the King make a life-changing decision. Both St. Germain and Master Raymond are brought before the King accused of practicing dark magic. It's yet another thing outlawed from being done in France. Claire has to decide what their punishment should be. It's a capital crime. The King has the executioner ready. He just wants to see Claire's powers in actions to see if her husband is worth saving. It's an agonizing decision for Claire to make. On one hand, Raymond has saved her life on numerous occasions. He is a true friend. She needs to repay him for all that he has done for her. On the other, St. Germain has caused her nothing but pain since she arrived in France. He has poisoned her and got in the way of her main mission to stop Charles' rebellion. To the King, they are viewed as the same which only makes this situation more difficult for Claire.

Now, some of the French characters have been more successfully integrated this season than others. Raymond has been an amusing and necessary companion for Claire as she tries to understand this new world. She came to the city on a mission. Raymond helped her find purpose after she had to rely on Jamie to get close to Charles. He saved her when she was poisoned and again when the doctors didn't deliver her placenta after her stillborn baby. The show has made it so the audience cares what happens to Raymond. He has been there for Claire. And now, she needs to do the same for him. Conversely, St. Germain has really been a one-note antagonist for Claire and Jamie this season. He has served a purpose in getting in the way of their mission. But his villainy hasn't come close to that of Black Jack's. The show also played into the ambiguity of the situation with St. Germain. It never came down on whether he poisoned Claire or not until this episode. Until he admits that, there's just no real emotional urgency to killing him. It still makes for a powerful sequence. It shows just how far Claire is willing to go to save Jamie and Raymond's lives. But now, she has killed. That will change her just as much as losing her child.

Claire is successful in getting what she wants. Jamie is freed from the prison and is now sporting a nice beard. They've changed over the last few weeks apart. They've been changed by trauma. After all the hope that has filled them this season, they've lost it all alongside their baby. It's heartbreaking to listen to Claire as she goes into detail for Jamie about their daughter. She held onto her for as long as she could. She couldn't accept that this tragedy happened to her. And yet, it did. Over the course of this hour, she has to learn how to accept it. At first, she wants to blame Jamie. His actions forced this to happen. But that's not true. Then, she wants to blame herself for her role in this whole mess. But that's not a simple solution either. This situation is messy and complicated. Claire and Jamie don't know how to rationalize or explain it. It's just something they'll have to live with. Their life in Paris has been fun and enjoyable. But it hasn't been genuine either. It's been a world filled with deceit and tragedy. And now, they've lost their baby. They can no longer be in this world. They need to be in a place that feels like home. A place where they can relax and deal with what has happened to them. Only then will they have a chance at moving forward and accepting this tragedy. But of course, this is only going to be the start for complications in their lives once again.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Faith" was written by Toni Graphia and directed by Metin Hüseyin.
  • Claire and Jamie agree to return to Scotland at episode's end. So that likely means the return of some of those characters in the episodes ahead. However, they probably won't leave Paris until Murtagh gets back from his trip to Portugal.
  • Claire and Jamie leaving Paris is largely about them getting away from the trauma that has happened here and back to the home they want to be in. But will they bring Fergus along for the journey? Again, they've become surrogate parents to him. They both care deeply for him. So, is he going to leave the city as well?
  • Black Jack isn't in the same prison as Jamie because his injuries need to heal. Plus, he's being allowed to return to England. Plus, it's a good thing Jamie didn't kill him. Otherwise, Claire couldn't have done anything to save his life.
  • Master Raymond told Claire they would meet again after he heals her in the hospital. Was he referring to the King's chamber later on? Or will Raymond be seen again in the most unexpected of places?
  • It's surprising to see Louise at the hospital considering her remarks about the poor in last week's episode. But that's how meaningful her friendship is with Claire. She wants to make sure that she is okay and will give the baby back to Mother Hildegarde.
  • Bear McCreary's score has always been tremendous on this show. And yet, the piano that accompanies so much of this episode is phenomenal. Some of his best work so far.