Warning: This post contains spoilers from Outlander‘s Season 5 finale.
Outlander‘s Claire is home safe on Fraser’s Ridge, but that doesn’t mean she’s completely escaped the hell that was her time with Lionel Brown and his men.
Caitrona Balfe’s character was beaten and raped — by several men, it was implied — during Season 5’s final hour. The highly stylized episode featured Claire retreating into a sunny, modern daydream while she was violated. Eventually, she was rescued by her husband, Jamie; their friends and family carried out vengeance on Claire’s behalf. (Read a full recap here.)
The story marked the third time that Outlander depicted the sexual violation of a major character: Sam Heughan’s Jamie Fraser was raped in Season 1, and Sophie Skelton’s Brianna Fraser was raped in Season 4. Balfe told The New York Times that her character’s assault, which was taken directly from the Diana Gabladon novels on which the Starz series is based, therefore needed to have extra meaning.
“If we’re going to tell these kinds of stories, we have to highlight something that hasn’t been in the public eye, so we can start conversations,” Balfe said. “With Jamie’s recovery in Seasons 1 and 2, we dealt with something that hadn’t really been explored much on TV, which was the idea of male rape. With Claire, it’s the psychological mechanism of disassociation.”
She referred to the escapist daydream to which Claire retreated throughout her assault: a modern home, where her family — all updated with late 1960s wardrobe and hairdos — gathered for Thanksgiving dinner. Balfe added that Netflix’s Unbelievable, a drama about a young woman accused of lying about rape, influenced how Claire’s attack was shot.
“You never really see the attackers,” she said. “We didn’t want to give them any space.”
When the show eventually returns for an already ordered Season 6, viewers will watch Claire continue to process what happened to her, Balfe added. “I think the danger with Claire being considered a strong female character is that sometimes people forget that she is not Teflon. Things can hurt her deeply.”
What did you think about how the show handled Claire’s assault? Let us know in the comments.