There are a number of different challenges that come with playing a character on Outlander, but circumventing expectations is one of the most significant. How do you find a way to make a likable character do unpopular things? How do you add a fallible dimension to someone you can so easily be idealized? This is the challenge that Sam Heughan tackled as Jamie Fraser throughout this episode, and this is why he is worthy of a spotlight in this Top Actor feature.
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In a lot of ways, “The Deep Heart’s Core” was the perfect bookend to “The Birds & the Bees” the week prior in how it worked to take some of the sheen off Jamie as a character. Last week, you see through Brianna’s eyes that Jamie is just another man — even if he may be so much more to both Claire and also many fans. Then, we experience that further when he impetuously attacks Roger, thinking as though he is responsible for the assault on his daughter.
This brings us to perhaps the most challenging scene of last night’s episode, where Jamie attempts to show Brianna through force how she couldn’t have possibly tried harder to avoid Bonnet’s horrible onslaught. We will admit that, as a non-reader, that we started to feel a sense of dread and fear as Jamie began to question Brianna, not realizing that he was setting up a physical exhibition for her — one where she could see that she did all she could. We wondered, at least for a moment, if it was a bad dream or if Brianna was just conjuring up these words of provocation. Whether or not you agree with Jamie’s actions is one story; yet, the physical and emotional commitment that Heughan brought to this scene was exceptional. It’s a difficult place to put Jamie in, one where he feels like the best way to cure Brianna’s trauma is to potentially cause her more. In the end, the scene does exhibit that Jamie is willing to do whatever he can to help his daughter — though he may not be particularly well-equipped in 20th-century methods of therapy. His method seemed to work, though there were greater obstacles down the road.
This brings us to the confrontation scene within the cabin, one in which Brianna takes on Jamie and Young Ian both over what transpired with Roger. This was yet another shining moment from Sophie Skelton, and for Heughan he had the tough task here of channeling a misinformed, judgmental, and eventually an enraged and ashamed version of his character. This was far from the most-likable scene for Jamie this season, one in which hurls accusations at his daughter without all of the key facts. Yet, this is a necessary moment for this character in order for him to understand the error of his ways both in the past as well as the present. Jamie may not have fully learned the lesson about keeping secrets (he still seems to be doing just that with his Stephen Bonnet plan), but he does at least realize that he has made a grave mistake with his immediate judgment. That gives us a chance to see a determined, repentant side of the character, one who is fighting for redemption and will do what he can to make it happen.
With any actor, one of the things you crave is range. Heughan brought that to this episode, whether it be a physical expression of anger, words of genuine sorrow, or moments of personal vulnerability when discussing Wentworth Prison. When it comes to being able to bring different aspects of Jamie Fraser to life, this may be one of Sam’s stronger episodes in some time.
What did you think about Sam’s Outlander season 4 episode 10 performance as a whole? Be sure to share right now in the comments. (Photo: Starz.)