‘Outlander’s’ Caitriona Balfe Talks Slavery Storyline With ‘THR’

Caitriona Balfe on the red carpet
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Season 4 of Outlander returned on November 4, with the Fraser family finding themselves in America, the New World, looking for a place to settle in and finding themselves, in true Outlander fashion, befuddled by drama.

Warning: Outlander spoilers below.

The second episode of the season, “Do No Harm,” follows Jamie and Claire Fraser as they travel along the river to meet Jamie’s maternal aunt, Jocasta Cameron. While visiting the plantation, a sprawling settlement in North Carolina called River Run, Claire confides in Jamie the troubling ramifications of slavery still prominent in her time frame. Jamie, seemingly ignorant, but always having Claire’s back when it comes to such matters, has a conversation with his aunt Jocasta and her associates that creates tension between the newly-introduced crowd.

Tensions grow higher when a slave, Rufus, breaks the law and is being punished for his infraction. Injured with a hook in his abdomen, Jamie and Claire intervene and attempt to save the young man’s life. An angry mob comes to collect Rufus, and introduce the Scottish Frasers to the way of life in the New World. A worried Jocasta settles the mob, but Claire has done what she thinks is the most compassionate thing for Rufus. She quietly, and quickly, kills him.

Slavery, a major theme in this episode, is at the front and center of every conversation. River Run employs a hefty amount of slaves to tend to its various crops and attend to the sprawling estate. Claire, from her futuristic standpoint, makes it very known her thoughts on slavery to a crowd of naive clanspeople and new Americans.

“It is such a huge part of the book, and we couldn’t have done this season without exploring this. And unfortunately, it still has a resonance in today’s current time, which is quite awful,” Caitriona Balfe, Outlander’s Claire, told the Hollywood Reporter.

“In this episode it’s the first time — or maybe not the first time but the first time in a long time — that you see Claire acting truly from a place of emotion. We’ve seen a much more mature and rational Claire over the last two seasons, and when she’s faced with this horrific firsthand view of slavery, it just unsettles her to her core,” Balfe added.

While this wasn’t the first time, and certainly won’t be the last time the Frasers get themselves tangled in the webs of history, the cast takes pride in bringing attention to the issues as they are relevant to the history of the world.

“It’s never easy to film these scenes, and it’s never easy to take on these issues in a show like ours. But it’s important that we look at what America was in that time and face some of the realities of that time,” Balfe concluded.