***Spoiler Warning: This post contains discussion of Outlander events through Season 2, Episode 9. Spoilers***
While this week’s episode mainly centered around Jamie training and preparing his ragtag group for battle, some of its most affecting scenes once again involved quiet moments with Caitriona Balfe’s Claire. As she watched men go through the transformation they must to become a proper army, Claire began to recall her days as a World War II nurse. The simplicities of sharing a mess meal with displaced soldiers gave way to a jeep ride and then a terrible ambush, it became quite clear to the audience — if not Jamie, at first — that Claire was suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder. Balfe gave yet another gut-wrenching performance, reliving the attack that left two soldiers wounded and dying, and Claire — in a trench, protected from enemy fire — powerless to help them.
As always, even if Jamie doesn’t know right away what’s happening with Claire, he’d already noticed she wasn’t acting herself and even discussed it with Murtagh. And, he’s right by her side when Claire hits her worst moment, stopping his wife from slipping further into despair. Outlander delving into PTSD from a woman’s viewpoint is just one of the things that makes this series so compelling…special, and the relationship between Jamie and Claire fleshed out beyond many others on television. Even with the weight of the Jacobite Rising on his shoulders and in the midst of the chaotic training, Jamie keeps an eye on Claire and senses that something’s not right. Likewise, when a young soldier (Oscar Kennedy as John William Grey) sneaks in and Jamie needs to get information about where the British are camped, Claire quickly steps in and perfectly plays damsel in distress; of course, it works.
Of that particular scene, producer Matt Roberts said they were forced to scrap the actual bodice-ripping as written in the book by Diana Gabaldon not just because they had explored Claire’s trauma just beforehand (and a little differently), but amusingly, because Outlander‘s costumers are just a little too good at their job:
…we also tested that out in prep and our bodices are so well made that none of us could rip the bodice. It wasn’t going to happen in the way it was described in the book anyway. So Claire just gives Jamie that little nod to give him the OK to go down this road, and I wanted to keep the tone of the book where Jamie takes it just a step too far and it was reminiscent of the first-season spanking scene.”
Ahem. I think we all remember that.
That look Claire shoots Jamie (above) is fantastic.
Unfortunately, the trend of quickly forgetting one’s trauma will continue; Roberts said there won’t be any further mention of Claire’s PTSD in the foreseeable future.
You won’t see that this season. It may pop back up in future episodes of future seasons, but not this year. What I like to do is when our couple comes together, they solve problems with their connection. Bad things happen when they’re apart and good things happen when they’re together. But Jamie and Claire’s issue is that physically, they can’t stay together all the time. A lot of times they’re dragged apart, which we’ve already seen a lot this season.”
In the context of a series, I understand where the producer is coming from. At the same time, the idea that couples can solve their problems in one shot by coming together is a little too romance novelesque for my tastes, but I’ll happy suffer any minor faults because of the myriad things Outlander does so well. Its actors are top notch — and I’ll throw in a little shoutout to Graham McTavish’s excellent scenes this week (both here and in Preacher) with Sam Heughan, and especially with Caitriona (loved her response to his threat, “Jamie already knows”) — the settings, costumes, and such attention to detail all around. We can hardly complain about everyone’s commitment to the series and these days, it means a lot to know a series is renewed for not only one, but two seasons ahead. Not only that, there has already been some talk, “not serious” of spinoff series for Tobias Menzies’ Black Jack Randall, and the character of John Grey, who we only just met but later becomes a bigger — and a spinoff novel — character.
…we always joke about spinoffs, whether it’s Lord John or Black Jack or this person or that person, because there is just so much material. Diana [Gabaldon] gives us so much in the books that you can probably make 10 series and the fans would watch it all. We haven’t really discussed it seriously if we could do that, but that would be something for Starz to order before we could start talking about it seriously.”
With the series’ legions of fans, I have no doubt Starz is already considering such things, and I’ll put in my vote for the BRJ spinoff right this minute. I am ready.
Outlander returns with (the Battle of) “Prestonpans” this Saturday evening.
Read more of Matt Roberts’ Q & A here.