*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***
There are SPOILERS below! If you don't want to know yet, stop reading now.
I loved this episode, I think it's definitely the best one of the season, and it's among my favorites of the whole series so far. Kudos to Toni Graphia for a very moving script, and to Caitriona for an outstanding performance! It can't have been easy to play such emotionally intense scenes, but she carried it off flawlessly, and I really couldn't have asked for more. <g> Dominique Pinon, Frances de la Tour, and Romann Berrux were also wonderful.
Among the books in the opening scene is SHORELANDS SUMMER DIARY, by C.F. Tunnicliffe, published in 1952. According to Wikipedia, Tunnicliffe was "an internationally renowned naturalistic painter of British birds and other wildlife". Here's one of his heron paintings.
The scene with Claire and young Brianna in Boston in 1954 was a very surprising way to start this episode. I certainly wasn't expecting that! The little girl is very cute, and she does indeed look like a younger version of Sophie Skelton, the actress who will play Brianna as an adult. <g> I thought at first this scene might be a dream, but it seems more likely that this really is Claire, in 1954, remembering or reliving all of the events that followed, drawing strength and comfort from the presence of her living daughter there by her side.
The surgery scene was very effective. I liked the dream-like feel to it. Claire is understandably agitated, but Mother Hildegarde is a steady and comforting presence, saying, "We will take care of you".
"Where is my baby?" Oh, God, this is heartbreaking. You can see the hope in Claire's eyes turn slowly to denial, and then all at once she bursts out, "I want my baby! Bring me my baby!" When the little statue of the Virgin Mary fell to the floor and shattered, I thought it was very appropriate, for Claire is also going through a shattering experience, to say the least.
I didn't realize that baptism of a stillborn baby was illegal. Mother Hildegarde is kind and loving, almost as though Claire is her own daughter.
"My sins are all I have left." Oh, God, that's sad!
I'm so glad they included the scene showing Master Raymond healing Claire! Dominique Pinon is wonderful in this scene. Most of the dialogue here comes straight from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER chapter 25, "Raymond the Heretic", and they managed to capture the essence of this scene, even if they didn't actually show the blue healing light in the way it's described in the book.
"the Bastille Saint-Antoine" - interesting to hear Mother Hildegarde refer to the Bastille by its formal name, which I had never heard before.
BJR as "the cat with nine lives" - oh, no more than three, surely! And he's already used up two of them.
"[Jamie] may as well have run his sword through me." Good line.
"God says we must revel in mercy, tread sins underfoot, and hurl iniquities into the sea."
"I'm not sure there's a sea deep enough."
I like that very much!
Claire's homecoming was so sad. I liked the way Claire bowed to Magnus the butler. As heartbroken and devastated as she is, it's entirely possible that she wouldn't have survived if not for Magnus's quick thinking, in doing as she asked and taking her to L'Hôpital des Anges. She owes him her life, and it's only right to acknowledge that.
I like the hair-brushing scene. Fergus is so gentle with her, and this makes up a little for the scene with Fergus and Claire that was cut from Episode 205.
As Fergus moves to put the hairbrush away, we see him looking at the bottles on her dressing table. On re-watching, this is heartbreaking, when you realize what he is remembering.
And speaking of heartbreaking... Oh, God, the spoons! I was a little surprised that she didn't just pitch the whole box into the fire, but I'm very glad she didn't.
I don't (thank God!) have any friends or family members who have experienced a stillbirth or the loss of a newborn infant, and I can't really imagine what it's like for them. But I couldn't help thinking, when I saw how Claire reacted to the sight of that box, what it must be like for a woman in our own time who loses a baby, to come home to a house with a nursery all ready for the coming child, and reminders of the baby everywhere. Just devastating.
The scene with Fergus and Claire was excellent, really well done. So Fergus wanted to bring the bottle of perfume to Claire as a gift -- that just makes his feelings of guilt even worse.
At the sight of BJR standing in the doorway, I yelled at the TV, "GO AWAY!!!"
"You're not what I ordered, but you'll do." Oh, God! I'm glad they didn't make the rape scene too explicit. The scene in my imagination is bad enough!
I loved the flashback of Jamie bursting into the room (in full hero-coming-to-the-rescue mode) and fighting with BJR.
What a wonderful performance by Romann Berrux as Fergus! I had tears in my eyes at the end of that scene.
In the next scene, with Claire and Mother Hildegarde, I like the way Claire is finally able to focus on something other than her own grief and pain. She seems to be holding herself under tight control in this scene.
"If it comes to sacrificing my virtue, Mother, I'll add it to the list of things I have already lost in Paris." Good line!
I like Claire's gown in the scene at Versailles. It's simpler and much less ornate than most of her other French-court costumes this season.
The King's bedchamber is gorgeous and opulent, as one might expect. I like the King's costume in this scene very much. Just as in the book, he's surprisingly charming and personable. Most of the dialogue in this scene comes straight from the book (DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 27, "An Audience With His Majesty"), but I liked the added detail of his offering her hot chocolate and an orange (expensive and rare items in this time), which is not in the book.
The Star Chamber set is just breathtaking! Jon Gary Steele did a wonderful job with the set design in this episode. Again, most of this scene is just as I imagined from the book, but I liked Claire's muttered, "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ!" as she realizes exactly what King Louis expects her to do.
Stanley Weber is excellent in this scene as the Comte St. Germain. He seems taken aback, even a little frightened at first, by the sight of La Dame Blanche. (I had a strong urge to tell him that simply repeating, "I'm not lying! I am NOT lying!" is not a very convincing way to prove to a skeptical audience that you're telling the truth. <g>)
I like Claire's slight smile when the Comte says, "She's a witch." She knows the power of those words now, ever since she cursed Jack Randall in the dungeon of Wentworth, and she's not afraid to use it.
"But only the normal darkness that lives in the souls of all men," she says, turning to Monsieur Forez -- a man who would seem to have more than the usual amount of darkness in his own soul, given his enthusiasm for his job as the public executioner!
It's too bad we didn't get to see the snake in action <g>, but I can certainly understand why the production people would think it was too dangerous!
Bitter cascara, again? I wish they'd stayed with the dragon's blood, as in the book. But I did like the way Master Raymond managed to distract everyone with his coughing and retching long enough to slip the poison into the drink, and I also liked seeing the stone in Claire's necklace change color.
I liked the Comte's farewell speech very much, calling Master Raymond an "evil bastard" and Claire a "witch who sucks the c*ck of the devil." Say what you want about the Comte, he certainly has a way with words!
Claire quoting Dorothy's line from THE WIZARD OF OZ ("I'm going to miss you most of all"), even if only in the privacy of her own thoughts, made me giggle.
The sexual encounter between Claire and King Louis was portrayed more or less as I had imagined from the book -- brief and impersonal. A transaction, nothing more.
The sight of Jamie climbing those stairs slowly, reluctantly, is a sudden and very vivid reminder that Claire's grief over the loss of Faith has not diminished in the slightest, although she may have been distracted somewhat by the events at Versailles. Jamie is clearly as shattered by the baby's death, in his own way, as she is.
I like Claire's gown in this scene, with the white puffy sleeves. We caught a quick glimpse of it in one of the early episodes this season, but I don't recall seeing the whole outfit before.
Jamie with a beard made me think of Captain Alessandro in VOYAGER, of course. <g>
The ticking clock was a nice touch, referring back to the beginning of Episode 205 where Claire comments on it.
The whole sequence with Claire holding the baby is just heartbreaking! I cried all the way through it the first time. And when Claire starts singing to her -- Oh, God, this is so sad!
The scene with Louise is just wonderful, but at the same time it's almost unbearably sad, watching Claire break down sobbing like that. And Louise, who has seemed so frivolous in her previous appearances, turns out to be a good friend after all, showing up at a time when Claire was feeling very much alone in the world, and offering her what comfort she could.
This exchange between Claire and Jamie is not in the book, but I like it very much:
"It was me who asked the impossible of you. It was me who put Frank before our family."
"Frank is your family, too."
I don't think it's right for Claire to take all the burden of guilt upon herself for what happened. And I just love Jamie's response, when she says, "It's my fault":
"I asked your forgiveness once. You said there's nothing to forgive. The truth is, I already forgave you, long before today. For this, and for anything else you could ever do."
This is a very strong reminder of Jamie's voiceover in Episode 109 ("The Reckoning"), after their big argument by the roadside. Good to see Jamie say it to her directly here.
"I slept with the King" - Jamie seems awfully quick to brush that aside, but I'm glad he didn't make a big issue of it. They've spent so much time this season being angry and/or distant with each other. As much as I like the way this scene plays out in the book (nettles and all), I'm fine with the way they did it here. We needed to see them coming together in their shared grief and forgiveness, far more than we needed to see yet another conflict between them.
"How can we ever be the same?"
"No, we can't be. The weight of what has happened here is too much for any one of us to bear alone. The only way we can live with it is to carry it together."
What a terrific line! And of course, he's right. The most traumatic events in Diana Gabaldon's books always have permanent effects on the characters, and the loss of Faith is no exception.
The scene at the gravestone was very well done, a wonderful addition to this episode.
"If we must bury you here in France, let's leave a bit of Scotland wi' ye." So they left the spoon of St. Andrew (patron saint of Scotland) at Faith's grave. Very appropriate!
And at the end, they're holding hands. Carrying the memory of their baby, together. Seeing them kneeling there together made me think of this quote from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD:
His face changed then; he drew a huge breath and took me into his arms. I embraced him, hard, and together we let out a great sigh, settling with it, his head bending over mine, kissing my hair, my face turned into his shoulder, openmouthed at the neck of his open shirt, our knees slowly giving way in mutual relief, so that we knelt in the fresh-turned earth, clinging together, rooted like a tree, leaf-tossed and multi-limbed but sharing one single solid trunk.They will need that sense of being one, in mind, body and soul, if they're going to survive what we know is coming.
(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Welcome Coolness in the Heat, Comfort in the Midst of Woe". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What a wonderful ending to a terrific episode!
I hope you've enjoyed this recap. Please come back next week to see my comments on Episode 208.
Here are my recaps of the previous Season 2 episodes:
Episode 201: Through a Glass, Darkly
Episode 202: Not in Scotland Anymore
Episode 203: Useful Occupations and Deceptions
Episode 204: La Dame Blanche
Episode 205: Untimely Resurrection
Episode 206: Best Laid Plans...
Look here for my recaps of all of the Season 1 episodes.