Warning: This contains spoilers.
Faith is the title of Episode 7 in Outlander Season 2 – and it more than lives up to it. After a slight step down in quality over recent weeks, the show’s second run rediscovers its best form in this moving episode of grief and strength.
Faith is only too fitting a word to describe Claire (Caitriona Balfe), following the events of Episode 6 – her self-centred woes about her husband breaking his oath after replaced by grief, as we learn that, yes, she did miscarry in the woods, while Jamie (Sam Heughan) duelled with Black Jack. We don’t learn this straight away, though – a decision that reinforces just how powerful Outlander’s storytelling can be, when it puts its mind to it.
More on that later, as we’re almost immediately swept up in the torment that Claire suffers, both physical and emotional. The show has never shied away from graphic details and shocking realities and Claire’s stillborn child is, commendably, no exception: the show makes it all too clear just how much Claire is in pain and sorrow, but still manages to do so sensitively. It’s a testament to Claire’s fortitude – her faith in herself to come through this situation. If you’ve ever wished there were more three-dimensional female characters on the small screen, Claire once again reminds us just how well Outlander has nailed this.
Claire also has faith in her husband, Jamie: after initially being angry, she hears from Fergus (Romann Berrux) what happened between him and Black Jack to cause Jamie to break his oath. Again, the show’s unflinching yet tasteful approach works in its favour – bolstered by a superb performance from Romann Berrux, whose timid narration gives the visuals we glimpse a horrible weight. We always knew that Claire would forgive Jamie, of course, – Outlander is, at its heart, a chronicle of their almost absurdly resilient relationship – but this moment is so well-handled that it’s hard not to go with it.
There is faith of another kind at play, though: Claire’s recovery is not at the hands of Mother Hildegarde (the tender Frances de la Tour), but at the hands of Master Raymond (Dominique Piñon, still stealing every scene he’s in), who somehow cures Claire of her suffering, which stems from an internal infection due to part of the placenta not being delivered. A wave of his arms and, miraculously, she’s cured. Is it a divine achievement? Sinister mischief? (The fact that Claire turns away a priest but welcomes her apothecary friend is revealing.)
King Louis XV shares that same faith – something that we learn, as Hildegarde’s connections with the crown wangle Claire a private visit to plea for Jamie’s freeing from the Bastille. Payment is expected for his favour, but it takes an unexpected form. Claire’s reputation as La Dame Blanche has preceded here and she’s asked to help him decide the fate of two suspected dark arts dabblers Le Comte St. Germain and, yes, Master Raymond.
What follows could be a laughably silly scene in a room bedecked in moons and stars, but the show cleverly ensures that we take it seriously. (“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” she mutters to herself, an amusing bit of blaspheming that again positions Claire’s faith as firmly in herself.) La Dame Blanche insists that she trades in white, not black, magic, something that spares her any risk of execution, but also means that the king trusts her to see into the hearts of both men. Claire, though, isn’t a monster and decides to trial them by feeding them both supposed poison (remember that Chekhov’s Herb from earlier that fakes death and illness?) so they can still survive. It’s a smart move that allows us to laugh at the dated stupidity of Louis and his court – and so, when Raymond works his powers once more to switch the substance to actual poison before Le Comte can drink it, it’s something we actually believe, because it’s presented to us from a rational perspective. That stone that changes colour when poison is present? Against all the odds, we take it seriously – proof of how well Outlander has built its world since Episode 2.
“I’m going to miss you most of all,” says Claire’s voice-over as we bid farewell to the exiled Raymond – another nice nod to The Wizard of Oz. But while Piñon continues to milk every minute he’s on screen, Stanley Weber has just as much fun as Le Comte, keeling over to die like true Hollywood villain. As annoying as his character often was, he’ll be missed.
Claire, meanwhile, must still pay the King for Jamie’s pardon – and the ensuring bit of unpleasant sex sees her former hatred for Jamie replaced with guilt for infidelity. (Where was that when she was demanding Frank’s safety?) Jamie, though, forgives her, as they have both now transgressed to save the other’s life. Certainly, this is the most traumatic the show has been since Jack’s abuse of him at the climax of Season 1 – and, again, Outlander argues that the only way either of them can get through such ordeals is together. It’s testament to how good Heughan and Balfe both are that this moment isn’t completely derailed by Jamie’s absolutely terrible fake beard – Balfe, in particular, has never been better than in these harrowing montages of loss. (See also: Claire’s unfortunate voice-over that declares “I lay back and thought of England” during her time in the king’s bedroom – something that sounds more like a Roger Moore Bond film than anything else.)
Jamie, meanwhile, has faith that they will be blessed with another child – and this is where Outlander’s excellent writing team flexes its muscles, as start the episode with a flash-forward to 1950s Boston, when Claire is talking with her daughter, Brianna. Is she Jamie’s child? The red hair certainly suggests so. Is she with Frank in this timeline? The fact that Claire is still wearing both her wedding rings (a nice touch – one on each hand) suggests that’s the case too. Either way, as the end contrasts that introduction with a flash-back to Claire cradling her lost baby, the opening glimpse of Brianna is a stirring piece of evidence that, no matter what (even as they head back to Scotland), Claire and Jamie do pull through. Sometimes, faith pays off.
Outlander Season 2 is available to watch in the UK exclusively on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Sunday, within 24 hours of their US broadcast.