Outlander has now finished airing its fifth season on Starz and Amazon’s Prime Video with a traumatic season finale for Claire Fraser (played by Caitriona Balfe). In the harrowing episode, Claire is the victim of gang rape. But what did actor Balfe think about this storyline and how did she help change it from the book?
What did Caitriona Balfe think of Claire Fraser’s traumatic assault storyline?
In the final episode of Outlander season five, Claire was kidnapped by Lionel Brown (Ned Dennehy) and his men.
She was taken in revenge for a newspaper article she wrote, under the pseudonym of Dr Rawlings, as well as their distrust about her healing skills.
Viewers will remember how she was held hostage as they transported her to Brownsville to face their own view of justice.
But in one of the most upsetting scenes of the series so far, Claire was subject to a horrifying rape by multiple members of the gang.
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At the same time, the scene was accompanied by Claire retreating into a vision of her in the 1960s with her family.
Speaking to The New York Times about the moment, Balfe said: “We had so many conversations about how to empower Claire.
“You never really see the attackers. We didn’t want to give them any space.”
She also spoke about how they wanted to handle it sensitively in the series with her retreating into a vision of the 1960s.
Balfe added: “I felt that if we were going to do the dream-escapes, we had to keep in mind why.
“They’re not a gimmick, not a reason to wear cool costumes. Claire is experiencing something terrible.
“This has to show the progression of her mental state, to show that she’s reached a breaking point, that she’s snapped in some way, and is trying to stay in one piece.”
She also went on to explain how they worked to change earlier drafts of this scene to include less dialogue.
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Balfe explained: “I felt that if she speaks, she is not going to be constructing a conversation about cooking or anything.
“She’s going to say the only thing that she can say in that reality. She says, ‘No,’ and she says, ‘Jamie.’
“This is her grasping onto moments in her life that make her safe and comforted.”
The show also made a decision to change the aftermath of what happened in the books for the series.
In Diana Gabaldon’s novel, Claire and Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) had sex again very soon after the rape.
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However, it was felt this would not reflect well on screen and may be seen as not focusing on Claire’s recovery.
Balfe explained: “I think that if you read that scene in the book, you see that as Jamie giving Claire confirmation that she’s still lovable and desirable.
“But if you film that, I don’t think it would come across in that way.
“I think it would come across as Jamie taking away Claire’s agency in deciding when she’s ready for that kind of thing.”
Outlander season 5 is available to watch now on Starz Play and Amazon’s Prime Video.
For support about any of the issues raised in the show visit rapecrisis.org.uk
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