***Spoiler Warning: Spoilers for Outlander through Season 5, Episode 12, and Book Spoilers through Diana Gabaldon’s The Fiery Cross and A Breath of Snow and Ashes follow. Spoilers***
Warning: This hour’s episode contained graphic depiction of sexual assault and the following review discusses that in detail. If this topic is in any way upsetting or disturbing to you, you may not wish to read further.
Translating book events to screen is always a tricky process and doing it well is, at best, difficult. In its multiple depictions of rape, Outlander has handled such scenes with care, and “Never My Love” again demonstrates this series’ great respect for their actors and the audience, alike. From the writing (Matthew B. Roberts and Toni Graphia) and direction (Jamie Payne) to each actor participating in this episode, it’s evident how much thought went into presenting Claire’s horrific assault and the effects it had not only on her but everyone around her. Boosted by Caitriona Balfe’s transcendent performance, Claire’s dissociative dream-state provided sporadic respite in such a way that viewers were almost able to step into her experience, to understand the severe emotional trauma as it happened to Claire, and to share in the necessary escape her brain provided.
It is a credit to everyone involved that this visual device was immediately recognizable as such, and not some flash-forward or time jumping (at least not the kind we’re used to in Outlander); the moment to moment of Claire’s attacks weren’t presented linearly but rather in the disjointed manner it might actually feel to a victim — with parts of the attacks blacked out by her mind-flight. In between physical assaults (altered from the source material) committed by several men, Lionel Brown verbally abuses and taunts Claire, and fellow time-traveller Wendigo Donner (Brennan Martin) leaves her to her fate; it is only fearful Tebbe (Alexis Rodney) that is other than horrible and certainly, no real help.
After Jamie’s quick assessment of the situation at the house and the gathering of volunteers to search for Claire, they quickly come upon Brown’s group where Fraser finds his wife in a horrific state — tied up and beaten, unable to even cry out. Fraser orders all the men killed, but a single survivor is brought back to the Ridge to face its most fierce protector. Bree and Roger’s failed trip leaves a daughter waiting at home to comfort Claire — and Roger as well, after his first kill.
After their wordless and emotional reunion, Marsali takes over what Claire cannot do and thankfully stops Lionel from uttering one more despicable word; Jamie returns Brown’s body to his brother and along with thanks, receives a veiled threat. With all they’ve weathered and an unstoppable revolution marching straight towards them, Claire and Jamie know to take quiet solace in each others’ arms — to share the things they need to say. “When the day shall come that we do part, if my last words are not I love you, you ken it’s because I did not have time.”
” …I have lived through a world war, lost a child, lost 2 husbands, been imprisoned, and betrayed, and I survived. And this, I am supposed to be shattered by this. Well, I won’t be.”
Caitriona Balfe once again blows away an entire hour with her affecting and natural performance that my words here can hardly capture the nuances of. For me, most realistic was Claire’s rush to sob alone in a hallway, to release the flood of pain and conflict within herself in the way that we all understand. No matter how safe we feel in someone’s arms, there is a different rawness that escapes in our aloneness, and that Balfe was able to communicate that on camera is nothing short of astonishing.
Right behind her in conveying so much through a perfect emotional storm is Lauren Lyle, whose take on Marsali has caused us all to fall in love with this alternately brash and soft character. Her fearlessness with Brown set against her inherent belief system caused Marsali some of the same conflicting feelings as Claire and yet — as she told that scumball, “I have taken no such oath” — she summoned the strength to do what she needed to protect her family. I love everything about Marsali and it’s been a pleasure to watch Lyle’s evolution.
Speaking of, I feel Sophie Skelton is finally, definitely settling in and she’s improved so much over the season. The moments between Bree and Roger are becoming more and more natural, as when the two of them were walking toward the house, discussing their return home. I am curious how and when ***Book Spoiler*** their actual return will be handled, presumably next season.
As always, Sam Heughan knows just how to infuse Jamie with both the ferociousness and tenderness required this hour. “I kill for her … kill them all.” With zero emotion in doing what h felt he had to for Claire, then later, opening up entirely for his wife to give her the simultaneous softness and strength in their final scene together, Heughan was pitch-perfect. I loved his “You are alive, you are whole” to Claire when he found her.
For a change that required multiple rapes — in A Breath of Snow and Ashes, one man raped Claire — this was still handled well. We pretty much saw everything from Claire’s viewpoint which, while terrible, was also the best way to convey her terror and trauma. As a Game of Thrones viewer, I wish that series had even a fraction of the sensitivity on display by everyone involved with this episode.
In case you didn’t know, the song playing through Claire’s altered state was The Association’s, Never My Love, and the poem Bree recited to Roger was Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
Duncan and Jocasta were together in Claire’s fantasy world and all I can say is, “Noooooo!’ Everyone looked very cool though, I must say.
The rabbit was a callback to Jamie’s Culloden vision; the orange, to Claire’s rape by King Louis, and the blue vase reminded of the one Claire saw in Outlander‘s first episode, “Sassenach”
Brennan Martin played Wendigo Donner, who’d travelled with Otter Tooth, aka Robert Springer, and asked Claire if she knew who Ringo Starr was.
The boys who play Jemmy are just adorable, and I loved the scene when the Fraser-Mackenzies saw Ian — and he, them.
Outlander will return to Starz with Seasons 6 and 7 (the actors are already contracted) someday.