Caitriona Balfe Gave the Performance of Her Life in This Week’s Outlander

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***Spoiler Warning:  This post contains Outlander discussion through Season 2, Episode 7. If you’re not caught up, back on out. Spoilers***

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Sitting through the final moments of  this week’s “Faith,” as Claire Fraser related to Jamie the moments she spent holding their stillborn daughter, endless tears rolled down my cheeks. I’m in complete awe of Caitriona Balfe’s heartbreaking performance. From the series’ start Balfe and Heughan have always impressed, though it’s often Tobias Menzies we’re marveling over because Jack Randall is such a crazy character, and Menzies is playing two completely different men. This week, all that all changed with Balfe’s incredible, heartfelt tour de force closing scenes. Displaying emotions that simply can’t be faked, she gave us a grief-stricken Claire drummed up from somewhere in the inner recesses of her mind, and drawing on who-knows-what experience in Balfe’s own life. The rawness of her feelings was real, palpable.

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Watching the scene, even scruffy Heughan was moved, and the pair managed to perfectly capture a happening so often botched or overdone on television and film. This is the thing about Outlander; it sneaks up and politely takes you from behind (sorry). I’ve never before been interested in love stories — those two dirty words. From the time I first heard the man — Ron Moore aka the television god of my Battlestar memories — was running this series, I tried to feign interest. More than once I popped in a bookstore, picked up Gabaldon’s first installment, and time and again left it there on the shelf. From the back cover description, I couldn’t have been less interested, even if the thought of the show kept nagging at me.  Finally, I could take it no more, I had to at least check out the hype and see what the fuss was about. Being late to the series had its advantages; I gulped it down in long weekend stretches, and shamefully outed myself on Facebook to friends. At first it didn’t seem so much the story as the actors, the attention to every detail; the setting, the gorgeous cinematography and clothes. Oh, and the smut; the smut was…well, it was good. At the risk of sounding like a closeted Young Adult reader (I’m not), I admit to finding myself all about the hot scenes between Jamie and Claire, and it was nice to see things from the female point of view. But time and again, it’s the actors who are so captivating, so convincing. Everyone from Dominique Pinon’s charming, quirky Master Raymond, to Lionel Lingesler’s amusingly flirty — until this episode — bright-eyed King Louis; from Duncan Lacroix’s loyal and lusty Murtagh to Stanley Weber’s dark, dangerous — then defiant and sad — Comte de Saint-Germain, everyone is stellar. No actor is lackadaisically hanging about, and each and every person makes the most of his or her character; just look at the way Claire Sermonne transformed Louise’s giggling, self-involved frivolity this hour. In a crisis moment even Mother Hildegarde (Frances de la Tour) couldn’t deal with, Louise stepped in and took charge, sharing a side of Louise we’d not experienced before — one we didn’t even realize we needed to see.

Kudos to writer Toni Graphia and director Metin Hüseyin for this perfect exploration of grief’s aftermath; to Gabaldon for her original story, and Ron Moore for knowing how to handle such weighty material. Still, it was Caitriona Balfe’s beautiful, soul-baring scenes during that last quarter hour that took “Faith” to another level, one we’ve rarely — if ever — been privileged and treated to on television. I do hope tptb ensure this episode is submitted to the Emmy gods. Balfe’s is a performance that needs to be recognized.

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Notes:

I take back everything I’ve ever said about Tobias Menzies giving us the ability for feel sympathy for Black Jack Randall, because after what we saw him do to Fergus, I WILL NEVER FEEL A THING FOR THAT EMMEREFFER AGAIN. Holy wow. I remind that I’m not all the way through the first book, so I have no idea if this storyline was included; either way, this character just won out over Game of Thrones‘ Ramsay Snow for most horrifying.

Well played Master Raymond. That whole sorcery scene with King Louis, Raymond, St. Germain and Claire was very strange. I found it odd that’s what the King wanted Claire to do — and like Claire, thought she’d gotten off easily, until… — and even more odd when he basically said he was okay with her being (white) witchy. It was slightly unbelievable how she changed the King’s mind about the snake, but I’m not sorry we didn’t have deal with it (Ack! Snakes!). And, Stanley Weber was most excellent in his final scene, taking his bitter medicine like a manly man. I do hope we see Master Raymond again.

Speaking of His Highness, King Louis, was that an embarrassing, um…moment, or what? Three pumps and done? I’m actually amazed Claire (who was probably greatly relieved at the brevity of it all) didn’t burst out laughing. Of course, her husband’s life was in her hands, so she wouldn’t, but still! He looked embarrassed; heck, I’m embarrassed for him. No build up, no foreplay — and in fact, a bit of deadly business directly beforehand — and still the King was nearly one and done. How long had he been dreaming of that moment?

Finally, I (kinda) understand how we saw Claire very pregnant at the beginning of the season, then just pregnant in her flash-forward with Frank. The second season premiere was rather confusing, but now I realize she lost this baby and must get pregnant a second time.

 

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over seven years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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