Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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Outlander: 5×12 Never My Love. Review

Good morning clan!! It’s time for our favourite weekly appointment with STARZ’s period-fantasy drama, Outlander! It seems yesterday that season 5 started its run, and now it’s already time for the season finale! Expectations are high but I’m sure it will surely be up to the challenge! Without further ado, for the last time, let’s go discussing episode twelve of season five, entitled Never My Love.

Warning: this review contains major spoilers on the twelfth episode of season five and partial references to the fifth and sixth book of the saga “The Fiery Cross” and “A Breath Of Snow And Ashes”

We have reached the final chapter for this amazing, anxious and exciting fifth season. I’d like to say I didn’t cry for the whole duration of the episode, but I’d be lying. This episode was nothing more than the icing on the cake after a season full of drama, but also family moments, sentimental and even passionate. Each actor and character had their own space, and the ability to give the best of their acting skills and develop their own story with centric episodes but at the same time, the fifth season deserves praise for having recreated that atmosphere of ensemble and family that was so missing, recalling the good old times of the clans in Scotland. A really successful and accurate work of adaptation, made on the details at the base of this great and beautiful story, which leaves room for change and innovation compared to the novel by Diana Gabaldon, but always with consistency and quality, and managed to convey the same emotions as the books.

Courage and survival are the keywords of this episode, as you can understand both from the narrative line that some monologues present in the episode. It is an episode as beautiful as tough to watch and within its narrative you can distinguish two times, plus a final moment of conclusion, which are characterized by a very different rhythm but linked to each other. The first part sees a stormy, adrenaline-filled and somewhat discontinuous narrative, partly because of the contrast between the brutality of Claire’s abduction and the image of hope in Claire’s mind, which is nonetheless impossible, who she clings to survive during his captivity with Brown and his men. Stirring up this tense and adrenaline-filled narrative are also the images of war preparation that Jamie started for Claire’s life, and the rescue of the latter. The second part instead represents the so-called calm after the storm, a calmer rhythm but marked by moments of tension and silence far too noisy and an extreme coldness, similar to that of a crystal, but at the same time a lot of strength, as you can see from the scene of the return to Fraser’s Ridge and the greeting with Brianna and Marsali or in the bedroom scene with Jamie and the survival speech. Finally, the end of this season leaves us with a wonderful message of hope and rebirth, despite the storm that is getting closer and closer to the Ridge, symbol of the American Revolution that is about to break out (and who will probably be one of the protagonists of next season), with Claire on the porch of the big house simply observing an ordinary day of work in the fields of the Ridge, with Jamie at her side to love her and keep her safe, both physically and mentally. A special mention for her breathtaking performance (which I hope will be worth some awards) goes to Caitriona Balfe. Truly amazing actress who manages to convey a thousand sensations with a single glance. I can’t really describe everything she gave me, she was so good that it was almost hard to watch. This episode can be considered his swan song for this season, like the poignant “Faith” [episode 7 of season two]. Personally, another surprising and unconventional interpretation that I liked a lot was that of Richard Rankin. His Roger does not hesitate to leave and fight alongside Jamie to save Claire, but once he is on the field he finds himself having to go against one of his greatest values: not to kill. The way Richard shows the desperation and repentance of Roger who was forced to kill a man is really moving and gave me chills. Lauren Lyle is another member of the cast whose performance I was very impressed, both in this episode and more generally throughout the fifth season, managing to give evidence of great quality, even given the greater space and development given to her character.

There would be so many, so many things to talk about and reflect on, but let’s go in order and analyze the most important moments…

As I mentioned earlier, the beginning of the episode is marked by a tense rhythm and full of adrenaline, perfect to tell the abduction of our Claire, but at the same time the almost impossible reality that Claire creates in her mind that she clings to during her imprisonment, especially in moments of unconsciousness, causes alienation in the viewer. Personally I didn’t go crazy with this style choice, but the symbolism and the message behind it is undeniable and very beautiful. Personally I didn’t go crazy with this stylistic choice, but the symbolism and the message behind it is undeniable and very beautiful. As Caitriona Balfe reiterated in an exclusive interview to Harper’s Bazaar, “I felt that if we’re going to do it at all, we have to make it have a point, and have it say something about the experience that can maybe add something positive to the conversation.” And that’s why they decided to tell the experience from the perspective of Claire’s mind, without showing free details or giving too much license to her attackers. The woman during the days of her imprisonment is beaten, mocked, raped and treated as an object, all only because of her willingness to help others and spread medical knowledge at the time unknown, and in moments of unconsciousness clings to an illusion created in his mind, of an impossible reality full of elements that represent hope, security and survival. ”  it was really important that the only time we hear her speak is to either say ‘no,’ because this is what she would be saying in real time, or calling out for Jamie. Those are the only two times you hear Claire say anything during this whole disassociate dream state. She never participates in the conversation.” stresses the actress, so as to highlight the perspective used so as to highlight the perspective used in telling Claire’s story and victim condition. The sequence of this alternative reality set in the future in his mind is accompanied by the song Never My Love, which on the one hand seems to emphasize the impossibility of realizing that vision, On the other hand it seems to reinforce the idea of hope and the positivity in which Claire takes refuge, yet another example of the central dualism of this first part of the episode. In the succession of these flashes we follow a rhythm in crescendo, going to add more and more elements and passing from an atmosphere of total hope that is gradually contaminated to demonstrate that Claire loses hope, until we reach the moment of the rescue where in Claire’s mind we see only her illuminated by an ox eye and Jamie, the only person able to bring her back to life, who approaches and whispers the same words that told her on their wedding night. “Don’t be afraid, there are two of us now”. Each of the various symbols of hope, and not, that we meet in the various sequences of the dream present a precise reference to important moments in the history of Fraser, as well as previous seasons, like the vase, like the one that Claire sees in the window of a shop in Inverness in the first episode of the series and symbol of that stable house that Claire has finally found, of which we see the symbol in the painting depicting the Ridge and the Great House as we see it in season five; Jamie and the family reunited, with Jocasta, Murtagh, Fergus, Marsali, Germain and Ian for Thanksgiving; The dragonfly that Germain is playing with, is a reference to the amber amulet that Hugh Monroe gave to Jamie and Claire and that Jamie brought with him to Culloden, also a symbol of love, hope and survival; The rabbit that Claire sees on the lawn, the same one that Jamie saw in Culloden, also a symbol of survival and hope; Another important symbol is also the fact that, if we well notice, Jamie in the sequence of the dream, unlike the others, does not wear modern clothes, but clothes of his time, and in the scene of the rescue kilt, to demonstrate that even without all the comforts of modern life, with him he feels really happy and at home; Claire, who, if in reality renounces killing Brown, in the mental reality picks from the table an orange, in deference to the time when she did it when she had given herself to Louis of France to save Jamie, as if to say that she will not be touched by what happened to her but survives and goes beyond; In contrast, among the symbols of negativity that slowly begin to contaminate this mental space in which Claire takes refuge, there is the roof that drips first, the absence of Bree and Roger, the shadow of Brown that you see beyond the window of the house in the dark or at the table with them, And finally the police, impersonated by Brown and Hodgepile, who come to warn Claire that Brianna and Roger died in a car accident, representing a clear reference to both the death of Claire’s parents and Frank, both died in the same way, but also referring to Claire’s description of how she felt when she traveled through the stones for the first time. This discontinuous rhythm in telling the events of the rapture is already by itself a difference with the book, where instead the narrative is more linear and even slower, allowing readers to more easily perceive the brutality of what Claire undergoes and the randomness with which it all happens, even if this does not mean that it was better. In fact, as Diana Gabaldon also points out in an interview with the NY Times, the TV series was even more brutal with Claire, making her the victim of a gang rape, when in the novel the woman was mostly beaten and the rape had taken place by a single man who had also been kind to her.

In the midst of all this brutality, among the attackers we are presented with an interesting and relevant personality in the history of our traveler: Wendigo Donner. The man was the only one among Brown’s men to be a minimum kind to Claire, but certainly not in vain… just a couple of sentences in code, and here we find that Donner is one of the Otter Tooth, Robert Springer’s companions, the Indian time traveler whose skull Claire found last season, who had traveled back in 1968 to attempt to stop the American Revolution. Even if we are discovering their story only a little bit at a time, it remains one of the most interesting and intriguing parts, and it shows how many tangles there are in this great story.

Apparently, however, the Frasers are not the only ones whose plans go wrong, and what in the last episode for the Mackenzie seemed to be the journey of hope to a safer life in the future will take a surprising and unexpected turn (or maybe not?). The family relies on the simple thought of going home to guide their journey, but what they do not know is that the stones are not easily fooled, and with the rebound worthy of a boomerang, here they are reappeared in 1772, their true home of the heart. I admit that the motivation of the non-travel through the stones (or rather the roundabout) is not the most elaborate and could have done much better, but the joy of seeing the Mackenzie with their family again was really a lot. Especially with Roger responding to Jamie’s unspoken call that he’s gathering men to save Claire and declaring his loyalty to him at all times, You can understand how the journey was not so much the definitive answer to the question of what he would be willing to do to protect his family as to embrace arms and fight alongside Jamie. One of the scenes that most moved me throughout the episode was seeing Brianna and Roger who, upon the return of the woman from a visit to the Big House to see her mother, indulge in a moment of sweetness and mutual comfort, between the concern for Claire’s psicological recovery, the memories of the PTSD condition in which Brianna herself found, and the profound repentance that Roger feels following the murder of one of the assailants. In particular, the moment Roger confesses to Brianna the action as if it were the worst capital sin, and not a simple action made for self-defense and to save Claire, asking her to blow out the candle because she can not bear to see the expression of her beloved once confessed teared up my heart. Both of them have made a great journey this season, which has strengthened them very much as individuals and as a couple, allowing them to reach that communication that has always been lacking between them.

Once they find Claire, it’s time for justice. Nothing matters more than Claire’s safety and life, and Jamie is horrified to think that even one of those men is alive, given that Claire is not conscious enough to identify the abuser. Chilling scenes of the rescue, I was vaguely reminded of the mission to save Jamie from Wentworth in the first season, Jamie, Fergus, Ian, Roger and John Quincy Myers who offer to avenge Claire and finally the immediate “Kill them all!” of Jamie triggering the applause in the room. I don’t think I breathed until we saw Jamie wrap Claire in a tartan and lead her to observe the brutal and spectacular massacre of her attackers. Except for Lionel Brown, the gang leader and perpetrator of the kidnapping, who despite being dying is spared as his life is a guarantee for Jamie to finally receive answers on what their plans were. A choice that, although it may seem wrong and too good from our point of view, remains a diplomatic choice that perfectly reflects the values and ideologies of Jamie Fraser. Jamie indirectly asks Claire one more time if her oath as a doctor not to do harm was so strong, and the next day went to the clinic to treat that man (if so you can call it), we see her for a moment wobbling and almost giving in to the idea of killing him, irritated even by the sound of his voice, but in the end she clings to all her strength and lets go of the scalpel, showing how I anticipated before her will to go further and not to be scratched, descending to their level. Needless to say, Caitriona has been able to convey all the crap, anger and even how broken Claire is internally with just a look and movement of her body. Instead, Marsali is not of the same opinion of Claire’s about not doing harm, a real woman with balls as she has always been, takes the situation head-on and kills Brown. I loved this choice to bring Marsali to kill the aggressor to avenge Claire and hell that they all had to go through, allowing once again to show the viewer the wonderful evolution of the relationship between the two women. A much more sensible choice in the TV series universe than the Gabaldon novel, where Brown is killed in an almost causal way by the Fraser maid, Mrs Bug, who chokes him with a pillow.

The actual diamond points of this episode, in my opinion, are not so much the crude and brutal scenes of the kidnapping, but the scenes full of unsaid things, promises, emotions and breath-taking scenes between Claire and her family once she gets back to that house she never thought she’d come back to. The emotional greeting with Marsali and Brianna, daughters of her heart. The moment Brianna helps her mother to wash and recover, moments so quiet and yet so full of tension in which we see two great women, both rape victims, and both survivors. And then the scenes with Jamie. The latter allow us for the umpteenth time to see how deep their relationship is, first of all in the wonderful scene with their final scene completely naked in each other’s arms, finally declaring herself safe, in clear reference to the scene in episode 9 in which Jamie risked death and she holds him to try to bring him back to life. The speech that Claire does about survival and how she does not want to be crushed by what happened ends directly among the scenes of greater psychological impact throughout the series and it delivers a great message of hope and rebirth for all women.

“I have lived through a fucking World War. I have lost a child. I have lost two husbands. I have starved with an army. I have been imprisoned, I have been betrayed, I have been attacked… and I have fucking survived! And now should I be shattered because some wretched, pathetic excuses for men stuck their nasty little appendages between my legs?!”

Thank you for reading me, I hope you enjoyed the season and my reviews kept you good company during all these months! See you soon, hopefully, for season six!

Chiara

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Chiara Lombatti
Chiara Lombatti
When Cristina Yang’s mankind hate, and Sherlock Holmes’ deductive skills meet Randall Pearson’s anxiety and Jamie Fraser’s multilingualism (featuring Claire Fraser’s curls and Kate Pearson’s voice). Translator and feature article with a great love for cinema, TV series and books.

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