Performer of the Week: Outlander's Caitriona Balfe

THE PERFORMER | Caitriona Balfe

THE SHOW | Outlander

THE EPISODE | “Faith” (May 21)

THE PERFORMANCE | Note to Best Actress Emmy presenters, whoever you turn out to be: Balfe’s first name is pronounced “Katrina,” and you’re going to need to know that if Powers That Nominate have even passing knowledge of Saturday’s Outlander. Because Balfe turned in a performance that was raw and almost too real, diving to the nadir of Claire’s grief over losing her child and then staying there for an hour that was emotionally exhausting — in the best possible way.

Balfe played every horrible moment of Claire’s stillbirth, from the moment she woke up and learned her daughter had died to her brittle reunion with the husband she “hated,” with a riveting intensity. Balfe eventually funneled Claire’s despondency — conveyed both through body-shaking sobs and eerily still moments — into a cold façade that allowed the character to do what was necessary in order to free her imprisoned husband.

But the most impressive showcase of Balfe’s gift came when that husband came home, and Claire and Jamie were forced to face their loss together for the first time. In a roughly 10-minute sequence, Balfe gave Claire’s rote recitation of their dead infant’s appearance — her flashback to singing to the baby before having to hand her over to Louise was particularly affecting — and then cracked wide open as she admitted to despising Jamie for not being there when she needed him most. Claire’s all-encompassing pain? Something we hope we don’t have to witness again for some time. That level of performance from Outlander‘s lead actress? A glorious site to behold.

The FlashHONORABLE MENTION | A few hundred laps around the magnetar was nothing compared to the emotional roller coaster Grant Gustin endured in The Flash’s Season 2 finale. From go, as Barry cradled his brutally murdered father — the second parent’s slaying he has witnessed— Gustin got his (and our) waterworks pumping. Later, when the Man in the Iron Mask was revealed, no one was prepared for the gut-punch Barry would sustain, laying eyes on dead Henry’s doppelgänger. (“He looks just like my dad!,” a blindsided Barry bleated.) Then, just when it seemed time for a well-earned victory lap, Gustin showed us Barry’s ache at having to hit the brakes on his future with Iris. “I wish I was in a place where I could try that with you, but I… feel more broken than I’ve ever felt in my life,” he explained, before setting out to apply a(n extreme) fix to the past.

Penny Dreadful HONORABLE MENTION | If last Sunday’s Penny Dreadful doesn’t get Eva Green the Emmy for which she’s yeas overdue, nothing will. As Vanessa revisited her darkest hours at the Banning Clinic, her portrayer plumbed depths of despair so harrowing that, by the end, we were ready for a padded room ourselves. But the episode wasn’t just an eloquent exercise in torture porn. Rather, Vanessa’s heartbreaking friendship with the orderly who’d eventually become the Creature (Rory Kinnear) allowed Green to remind us of her character’s sweetness. And when Miss Ives was threatened by sibling rivals Lucifer and Dracula (both embodied here by the remarkable Kinnear), the actress conjured up enough strength to scare the devil out of them. “You think you know evil,” she said, dropping all traces of vulnerability from her voice. “Here it stands.” Though Vanessa was the one hypnotized during the episode, we were all the same entranced.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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43 Comments
  1. Go Flash Go says:

    Grant Gustin is phenomenal The absolute best choice for Barry Allen.
    Deserves every accolade he can get. Just wish the highbrow “academies” would honor genre shows.

    • jtrattray says:

      I thought Grant was wonderful. Although if I was giving awards for acting on The Flash Jesse L. Martin and Candice Patton would be first.

      • spindae2 says:

        Lmao! Candice really? In which episode? She barely gets 2-3 lines pro episode.
        Candice is a sweet girl but acting wise she hasn’t shown anything, and I blame the writers for it.

        • DC Fan says:

          Candice is a great actress. When Francine was sick, when Earth 2 Joe died, and when Barry disintegrated, she showed that she could really carry an emotional scene. Even at the end of last season. But I agree, they don’t give her nearly enough to do and there is only so much she can do with the amount they do give her.

          Anyways congrats to Grant, he really does give 150% every time! Very deserving of the mention :)

      • coco says:

        Well deserved mention for Grant Gustin’s performance. He did an amazing job.

      • coco says:

        umm nope.

  2. Liz985 says:

    It definitely was a week of amazing performances. And as much as I love the shows that incorporate great special effects and other production values, it is so great to see *acting* driving a show and its narrative. Out of the 3 it would be hard to choose, but I think I have to give the overall win to Eva Green (with a high-five for the assist from Rory Kinnear). The emotion that woman can convey with her eyes alone is phenomenal.

  3. Rory Kinnear deserves supporting performer of the week. I would have flip-flopped Green for Balfe, but both were great.

  4. Lea says:

    Eva Green’s performance in episode 4 was riveting. So much pain, desolation, vulnerability, weakness, strength and love all there in her eyes. We were silent guests invited to watch this interplay between two master actors. In fact, you never feel like she’s acting at all. She IS Vanessa Ives. If Eva doesn’t get an Emmy this year, then voters need to retake Acting 101.

    • MissD says:

      Indeed it was, but so was Balfe as the grieving mom who suffered a miscarriage. Both were completely into it, honest and gut wrenching. But the Emmy’s seem to hate science fiction.

  5. Kristif8 says:

    Balfe Balfe Balfe! Omg was she heart-rippingly fantastic. Every twitch of her brow to every heart pounding sob, she reeked of the perfect emotion. I’ve seen the episode at least 9 times and she has me sobbing every single time! She deserves every statue made for acting this season

    • Absolutely! I NEVER cry at a performance but she had me sobbing!

      • Kristif8 says:

        The thing that makes her the top performance for me is that every time I rewatch the episode I sob just as if it were the first viewing. I see nuances that I didn’t catch previously or just am caught up once again in the emotion she so brilliantly brought to Claire as grieving mother.

    • ekolint48 says:

      So much sobbing on my part from this episode. The only break was during the La dame blanche scene with Raymond. And even then I was filled with so much stress not knowing what was going to happen to her or her dear friend. Then even harder sobbing ensued for the following scene. Balfe made me hurt so good!!!

  6. Shannon says:

    agree, Caitriona and Eva were amazing, my heart broke for these two beautifully written characters 👏 I hope these two actresses are nominated for an Emmy
    I would however put Rory Kinnear here too.

  7. Cheryl Walters says:

    Caitriona Balfe was so into her role as grieving mother and the scenes following were played out by her magnificently. So believable; heart wrenching. She’s NO.1.

  8. MissD says:

    Eva Green, Caitriona Balfe and Tatiana Maslany are all HUGE acting forces on television right now. I can’t decide from week to week who is more awesome. Such strong women in intense dramatic roles. They all deserve Emmy nominations in my book, and yet I’m sure Sofía Vergara will win again for Modern Family or something stupid because the Emmy’s seem to hate science fiction.

  9. Joey says:

    The way in which Balfe and Green are ignored by the Academy should be a criminal offense.

  10. Ruby says:

    Caitriona Balfe, Eva Green, Tatiana Maslany, and Keri Russell are four names that should be read for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series the morning of Emmy nomination announcements.

    Knowing that won’t happen makes me angry.

    • Kristif8 says:

      Totally agree!

    • Johanna says:

      They so deserve it.

    • drhenning says:

      I really don’t care if they win awards though I’d be happy if one of them did.. What makes me happy is that I can enjoy the wonderful performances of all the women listed. In this golden age of dramatic TV, I thank these sites pointing me to great shows. Americans, OB, Outlander, PB or those shows among others.

    • Tim says:

      Add Vera Farmiga and that would be a perfect list!

    • lululime says:

      People’s list: Caitriona Balfe, Eva Green, Tatiana Maslany, Keri Russell, Vera Farmiga.
      Actual list: Viola Davis, Taraji Henson, Juliana Marguilies, Robin Wright, Claire Danes.

  11. ndixit says:

    I am glad Grant got a mention here after missing out for ‘The Runaway Dinosaur’. He was brilliant in the finale. Running the full run of emotions from despair to rage to shock with ease. I mean it really is incredible how talented this guy is and how he’s sprung out of nowhere to become such a great Barry Allen.

    • coco says:

      Yes he’s so underrated and doesn’t get enough credit for his work in my opinion.

      • Ricky23 says:

        Its kind of annoying that DC decided to go with someone else to play the part in the movie. He has grown so much into that role its hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job than him.

        • The Carpooler says:

          I agree. He can carry Barry on the big screen. I think Amell could carry Oliver Queen as well. Sadly, neither of us, and neither of them, are going to see that happen.

  12. patrickmaloney33 says:

    Every week Jon Bernthal doesn’t get recognized for him portraying the first perfect Punisher, is another week that a worthy performance doesn’t get the credit it deserves!

  13. S. McMary says:

    Of the three, the only one I saw was Grant Gustin in the Flash because I don’t get Showtime or Starz. I agree he was very good especially in the scene you cited. I think a lot of viewers had guessed who the Man in the Iron Mask would be but that still didn’t take away from the moment when Barry hears his “father’s” voice and sees his face so soon after Henry’s death. Also, in keeping with the theme of great grief portrayal, I would like to give a nod to Peter Gallagher on Law and Order SVU’s season finale. His scenes with Andy Karl (also worth mentioning) were very moving but it was his breakdown with Mariska Hargitay that had me in tears.

  14. Jane says:

    Caitriona Balfe isn’t all that new to the acting scene. She was in the movies, Super 8 and Now You See Me. These roles were peripheral and did not allow her to demonstrate her true acting chops. Thank goodness she was chosen for Outlander!! She has proved herself an immense actor with great depth. She is Emmy worthy!!!!

  15. Kathy Moore says:

    Cait Balfe in Outlander was amazing. She deserves an Emmy for this performance. Outstanding.

  16. Catriona Balfe (Claire Fraser of Outlander), gave an incredible performance that is the best I believe I have ever seen! I had to watch it 5 times before I could watch it without crying! Outlander season 2, Episode 7.

  17. Jeanna says:

    You nailed it! Definitely the performances of the week – possibly the year for Caitriona Balfe and Eva Green. Just stunning. I would also add Tatiana Maslany who continued an amazing arc this week. Here’s to the ladies and hopefully some well deserved Emmy nods.

  18. Joey Padron says:

    Grant have been great on The Flash this season. Hope he gets nominated for a Golden Globe this year and other awards too! I know Emmys will be tough for him to get nominated this year with a bunch of great performances from other actors.

  19. Debra McGill says:

    Caitriona Balfe is an amazing underrated actress. Her performance in the episode “Faith” left me sobbing as she repeated “Where is my baby?” The rest rest of the cast, especially Sam Heughan, Tobias Menzies & Romann Burrux, are equally brilliant & underrated. Let’s then talk about costumes, led by Terry Dresbach and the settings, designed by zjon Gary Steele & team. Outlander is the best show to hit the small screen in years. They should SWEEP the Emmys!

  20. John Davis says:

    Grant Gustin is an amazing actor. What a great choice to the role of Barry Allen.