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Outlander - Never My Love (Season Finale) - Review

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I have been complaining for pretty much the entire season that Outlander does not put enough focus on its female main character: Claire. The season finale, however, puts the doctor back in the spotlight. Unfortunately, under the most dreadful, harrowing circumstances one can imagine.

In the penultimate episode, Lionel Brown and his people kidnap Claire after they learn that she is spreading medical advice under a male pseudonym. With the medical pamphlets, Claire’s intention was to educate people about their bodies and to inform women how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. To Brown, Claire is a witch who apparently plans on turning all wives against their husbands. He ties her up, insults her, beats her and encourages his nephew to rape her. Brown then proceeds by raping her himself and invites all his men to do the same. It is an entirely horrid scene that certainly made the majority of the audience sick to their stomach. While Caitriona Balfe did a brilliant job throughout the entire episode, I am asking myself if it really was necessary to add yet another rape to the already long list of sex crimes on this show. It is certainly the case that sexual assault was (and sadly still is) omnipresent in pretty much every society in the world. Films and TV shows are mainly considered as a means of entertainment, though, they are also very significant tools to point out injustice to a vast audience. Outlander keeps reminding its viewers just how often horrific crimes such as assault and rape are really committed. However, when is it too much? What is too much? Do people get apathetic when they see rape portrayed on television on a regular basis? What do scenes like the horrendous gang rape on Outlander do to people who were assaulted and raped in real life? There are no general answers to any of these questions but it is certainly something to keep in mind always when creating a plot around something as horrific as rape.

A moment that was almost as hard to stomach as the atrocious attack was the introduction of Wendigo Donner, a fellow time traveler from the 1960s. He is a member of Brown's group and approaches Claire to confirm his suspicion that she is from the future too. Even though he has the opportunity to help Claire he refuses. It was not him who raped her but he could have prevented it if he had wanted to. He is at fault just as much as Brown and his fellow rapists.

The entire timeline of the episode is fussy. It is unclear how long Claire was with Brown and his men. We do not know when or how Jamie, Roger, Fergus, Ian, and John Quincy Myers found her and how long it took them to get her back home to Fraser’s Ridge. However, the lack of clarity makes perfect sense considering the audience witnesses most of the episode from Claire’s point of view. Between the insults and heinous assaults she has to endure, she loses track of time. It is presumably a coping mechanism just like her escape into the imaginary world that she creates to distract her mind from all the horrible things that are being done to her: She imagines a Thanksgiving dinner in 1971 with all her family present. Jamie, Ian, Marsali, Fergus, even Murtagh and Jocasta who are madly in love with each other. There is no war, no threat. They are all safe in the 1970s. The entire scene is visually extremely pleasing and exudes a sense of peace and calm. However, the viewer fears that something horrible is bound to happen even within this idyllic fantasy. And it does. The police show up at the house and inform Claire that Brianna, Roger, and Jemmy were killed in a car crash. The fact that Claire’s mind went there very probably has something to do with her daughter saying goodbye and going back to the 20th century only one episode prior. At this point in the episode, Claire still believes she will never set eyes on Brianna and Jemmy again. She knows they are safe in the future but this does not lessen the pain of losing them.

When Jamie and his men find Claire they are shocked to see what Brown and his fellow criminals have done to her. She has cuts and bruises all over her body, she is severely traumatized. Jamie immediately knows that the men have forced themselves onto her. He removes the cloth from her mouth and cuts the robe around her hands and neck. “You are alive. You are whole, mo nighean donn (My brown-haired lass)“ he assures her.

Consumed by rage, Jamie orders his companions to kill every single one of Brown’s people. John offers Claire a blade. He wants to give her the option to kill the men who are still alive herself but Jamie refuses for her:

Jamie: “She’s bound by an oath. It is myself that kills for her.”
Ian: “And I.”
Fergus: “And I, Milady.”

All members of Brown’s group are killed except for the leader himself. They want to take Brown home with them. They have questions they want to ask before executing him.

This time around even Roger takes a life. Up to this point, he had never been sure whether he is even capable of doing such a thing but seeing his mother-in-law all battered and in severe mental and physical pain made him realize that there really is nothing he wouldn’t do to keep his family safe. 

To get a short break from the very dark parts of this season finale, let’s jump back to the beginning of the episode when we find out that Brianna, Roger, and Jemmy have not made it to the 20th century after all. In Journeycake the little family found out that Jemmy is indeed capable of traveling in time and decided to return to the 1970s. However, when touching the stone that is supposed to transport them through time they end up right where they left: in the 18th century by the stone cycle in the woods. When touching the stone Brianna and Roger both thought of their home and apparently they associate their current life more with the word "home" than their previous one. Surprisingly, even Roger feels that way. They return back home to Fraser’s Ridge.

It is a great relief for Claire to see Brianna back at the house when she returns to the Ridge. She always wanted Brianna, Roger and Jemmy to go back their own time as they would be much safer there. However, having her daughter close by right now is probably like balm for her soul. Brianna prepares a bath for her mother and helps her clean up. Claire is unusually quiet and withdrawn. None of which is surprising considering she was gang-raped (just writing these two words makes me sick) by several brutal, monstrous men. The way Caitriona Balfe portrays Claire in this episode is nothing short of outstanding. Claire is traumatized, she is struggling hard not to get swallowed by that black hole that keeps surrounding her but she is not broken. In every single scene, Claire’s strength and fortitude are visible, even in moments when she breaks down

Claire: "I have lived through a fucking world war and I have lost a child. I lost two husbands. I’ve been starved with an army and I’ve been beaten and I’ve been betrayed. And I’ve…. I’ve been imprisoned. And I will NOT … I survived… And this… I’m supposed to be shuttered by this? Well, I won’t be. I won't.“

Claire’s unbelievable strength is visible once again when she goes to see a badly wounded Lionel Brown in the surgery. She faces him standing tall. He begs her to have mercy, begs her to let him live. And for a moment Claire actually considers ending his sorry life then and there. She then informs him that she will do him no harm. She is a doctor after all and she has sworn an oath. Marsali, however, is bound to no oath at all. She is sick of wasting all the good medicine on a disgusting, horrific being like him. He caused her family so much harm and to make sure he will never be able to do that again she poisons him. She injects hemlock into his bloodstream and thereby ends his life. She is shocked by her own action immediately. It is Jamie who calms her down and assures her she will not go to hell for taking a life.

Marsali is the character that probably grew the most over the last two seasons. I believe a lot of it has to do with the fact that she has become a mother. She is a constant source of strength and joy for everyone around her. I'm praying to the gods of TV that we will see even more of her in season 6.

Jamie decides to bring Lionel's dead body to his brother Richard so he can bury him. He shares what happened and why he had to do what he did. Richard Brown shows understanding at first but then promises revenge "when the time comes".

The episode ends with Claire and Jamie lying in bed together, naked and wrapped in each other's arms. While the scene is certainly beautiful, it does seem entirely out of place when one considers its context. Claire was brutally attacked and raped by several men. She is traumatized and hasn’t yet had the chance to deal with everything that happened to her. Intimacy like the one portrayed is not something that comes easily after having lived through such a horrid assault.

What do you think about the season finale? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below!

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