Did Outlander Really Need to Show That “Faith” Scene?

Outlander Season 2 2016

***Spoiler Warning:  This post contains discussion of Outlander events through Season 2, Episode 7. Spoilers***

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When I wrote about this week’s Outlander episode, I didn’t cover this subject because at the time I wanted to focus on Caitriona Balfe’s outstanding and moving performance. But, like being haunted by Claire’s loss and the events of “Wentworth Prison,” my brain keeps involuntarily returning to “Faith,” and the recurring defense of series explicitly playing out scenes that could perhaps be intimated, instead.

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During the episode just prior  — May 14th’s “Best Laid Schemes” — we’d witnessed little Fergus slip into a room at Maison Elise, tempted by a bottle just waiting to be scooped from its home atop a side table. Hearing a noise behind him, Fergus turned to face an unknown person, but we saw that red coat and knew just who it belonged to. Putting together two and two didn’t require much more thought, so when Jamie (inexplicably, from Claire’s point of view) broke his promise and fought Black Jack Randall, we were fairly certain we knew why. Granted, what happened when Randall caught Fergus mightn’t have led to our worst nightmares; for all we (behind in the written story, or unread) knew, Captain Jack could have beaten the boy or otherwise simply terrified him. But instead of stopping with the boy’s tearful “Faith” recounting to Claire, writer and producer Toni Graphia took the retelling scene all the way.

I’m not going to lie; those — thankfully short — seconds when Fergus turned and we actually saw Black Jack standing there, were stomach churning. Even more so, the moments that followed…and “You’re not what I ordered, but you’ll do”; Jack lunging after poor Fergus, and pinning him face down on the bed. DID WE REALLY NEED A VISUAL OF ALL THAT?

The answer is a resounding “No.” The fact of the matter is that Fergus’ face, and his voice as she struggled to tell Claire what had happened was more than enough. There comes a point when respect for your audience’s intelligence comes into play, and not a one of us needed to watch that boy be forcefully pushed onto a bed, hear his screams or see Randall’s face — his body in motion — or any of that graphic scene depicted. This was enough:

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If they really wanted to pound home the point, Fergus seeing Black Jack’s face would be enough:

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And if the writers and producers thought us utter idiots, Jamie’s expression would be more than enough:

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I promise you, Outlander, we are smart enough to have figured out what happened to Fergus. Unlike writers such as Graphia — who we do love for her sensitivity and attention to Claire’s grief — and Game of Thrones‘ Bryan Cogman, seeing the act is not at all “crucial.”

A lot of questions have been raised as to why we showed this particular scene, and so graphically. We want people to know we’re sensitive to this subject, and we weren’t at all being gratuitous or titillating with it. We just thought it was crucial to show the reason that Jamie broke his vow to Claire. He would have never done this to their marriage, to his wife, or risked his own child. He’s a man of his word, but this was something that he just couldn’t let go. He loves Fergus like his own son, and this is the one thing to trigger him breaking his word and getting retribution on Black Jack. The intent of showing it was to convey the emotion: the fear, the terror, the anger, the rage.” (Toni Graphia)

I adore this series despite the hard-to-watch scenes, the violence, all the flashbacks to Jaime’s never-ending torture at Black Jack’s hands, and the frequent rapes or attempted sexual assaults. But, like Game of Thrones‘ obsession with “spelling out” rape (despite respecting their audience’s ability to follow innumerable characters’ nuances, entendre-filled conversations, storylines and political goings-on) or “empowering” females with their nudity, I’m calling bullshit on this particular scene. What’s behind the decision is curious to me; I think we can agree it wasn’t in the least titillating or gratuitous, and the idea it could be only fills me with horror. There is a motive, and only one I can think of:  to stimulate conversation about the show, which while understandable, wasn’t at all necessary for this episode. With a stillborn baby, and Claire’s adventures at the King’s palace, everyone already had plenty to talk about. The overriding emotions I’ve seen people expressing are more to do with Claire and Jamie’s loss, and with Caitriona’s raw and moving performance. Frankly, that makes me happy; we could almost choose to ignore a short and terrible child-rape scene. At the same time, it’s disheartening that anyone would intentionally shoot the scene under the guise of its necessity, claiming we needed to see something that disturbing to comprehend something many people had already realized in “Best Laid Schemes.” And certainly, if Claire could understand what happened through Fergus’ words and the emotions he conveys, so can we.

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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  • Sirilicious

    I posted this elsewhere.
    —-

    I was very curious about how they would handle the rape of Fergus.
    There’s always the universal argument (not just for Outlander) ‘it’s in
    the book and it was normal at the time’, even from the people involved
    in the show. So while i had no desire to see it played out, i felt they
    had to, or forever shut up about the other rapes. I think they did a
    very good job. The actor is actually 14 and they discussed everything
    with his mom. They filmed it in a way with minimum damage to him (and
    us!) while still making sure to let the audience know there was actual
    raping going on, just by 2 seconds of Black Jacks face. And i think it’s
    important for all 4 characters to know it actually went that far. Poor,
    poor Fergus.

    ——

    Was it crucial? There are very few things that are crucial. I thought it was well done.

    • Did they handle it well, as far as such a thing could be? Sure. I still maintain we didn’t need any of the actual scene to understand what had happened.

      • Sirilicious

        Did we need to see more of Claire’s pain when she is telling Jamie about it? I didn’t, to understand what had happened. I think that is a personal thing and not a “we” thing.

        • I don’t see those situations at all the same, but point taken.

          • Sirilicious

            True, they are very different. But there is a difference between knowing something and feeling something, and visuals can help that (being worth a thousand words and such).

            I think the discussion about too much rape is a difficult one and i have trouble putting my thoughts and feelings into words. If there is a lot of nudity (usually only the victim) or is it JUST to further another person’s development and/or revenge quest, then it’s easier to say ‘fuck it’.