The first time Claire comes on screen, she is a peppy but naïve highschool cheerleader jumping off of a huge building in an attempt to kill herself – for the sixth time. She has discovered that she’s unable to be injured permanently. This is a very, very young Claire. She’s just found out she’s a freak, and she’s trying to get to the bottom of it. She doesn’t understand herself. She’s scared, she’s worried about her image almost more than anything, and she rejects herself, calling herself a freakshow. She is concerned with herself and pretty much herself only at this point – a typical teenage girl going through changes. It’s all “me, me, me” to Claire, to the point that she’s exchanging an unpopular boy’s cinematography skills for talking to him in front of people at school. This shows that while she’s willing to be friendly to someone who’s not part of the “it” crowd, she’s still extremely arrogant about her social status. Instead of paying him, offering to do his homework, offering him a date, or anything else one might thing teenagers could exchange, she’s offering him public communication between the two of them to boost his reputation. She’s confused and frightened of herself, but above all of that, above something as important as self-discovery, she’s about image. The first instance of Claire’s appearance on screen show an incredibly shallow young woman dealing with something so much bigger than herself that she makes herself look more shallow just by trying to handle it.
The second time we see her, she shows a selflessness that is incredibly rare for her in the beginning of the series. There is a train wreck, and as she and Zach (the aforementioned boy from school) pass it, she stops. Initially, she just wants to know if she can survive the fire. She asks him how hot he thinks he is in there. But for the first time since her ability presented itself, she serves a purpose. There is a man, trapped in the fire. Claire runs through it, through the smoke, to save his life. Initially, she was selfishly driven. But now she sees that the changes happening to her could have some sort of benefit. Unfortunately, the presence of that realization doesn’t last long as far as outside appearances go.
Because then we’re riiiiiight back to step one. Claire, at first, when asked about how her day was, blatantly says “I walked through fire and I didn’t get burned.” Sandra just takes her as metaphoric, and says Claire is wise. Claire was being literal, but she’s not taken seriously. So she slaps on a happy face and gets on with her night, reaffirming that she’s just a freak show nobody would believe. She feels disheartened, and even when her mom tries to be positive and tell her that she’s special, she just sees it as a burden. It hurts her, deeper than just shallow surface level. That two-dimensional shallow girl we saw in the beginning has already shown two sparks of depth, and a real humanity that a lot of teenagers can relate to at sophomore age.
Claire continues to search for what causes her special ability. She asks her adopted parents about her biological parents. This has changed from the first instance where her concerns were mainly about being a freak, about her life as she knew it being over. She wants to know why. She’s searching for reasons now, not just experimenting. She says to her dad that she’s very complex, just like the issues surrounding meeting her biological parents… And while she’s being playful about it, it’s more true than I think even she realizes this early on.
Another aspect of Claire is shown. Though depicted quietly, there is a jealousy sparked within her when another girl at her school takes credit for the life she saved. However, in the interest of self-preservation and, again, the preservation of her image, she doesn’t say anything against it. She asks after the man she saved, though; showing that despite her selfishness and general teenager flaws of being absorbed in her own problems (occasionally to the degree of being blind to the feelings of people around her), she is a caring and compassionate individual who genuinely worries for the well-being of others.
She also displays a huge amount of fear. When Zach comes to her and tells her the tape is missing, we see a terror in her unlike anything we’ve seen previously. Any fear she exhibited before was fear for her image, fear for her reputation – but this is genuine fear for someone finding out about her. Part of it is driven by not wanting others to know about her unusual talent, but a part of it is very clearly a deep-seated horror. It’s clear in how she speaks that she’s afraid of others finding out and their reactions, what would happen because they knew, in more ways than just never having anyone to sit with at lunch again. When she is emotionally charged like this, she lashes out irrationally and spits fire and anger. Claire can be an incredibly vicious person when she feels threatened, and this is the first time we get a taste of the anger she holds within her; this time, it is an anger borne of being petrified.
Then comes the relief when her father’s reluctance wanes and she finds out he’s taking steps to find her real parents. While she shows elation, to a degree, about learning more about her true roots, she also shows the Daddy’s girl that Claire really is, and has always been. She’s close with both of her parents, but the connection she has with her father is deeper and closer than any other familial ties. He wants nothing more than to protect her, and she’s more than content to allow him. Her vulnerability at this point is clearer and more present than it’s been so far, and the true childish aspects of her character come forward. She wants to find out about herself, but she doesn’t want to venture too far from home to be safe.
This episode gives us much more insight into the tender-hearted, deeper, and better hidden parts of Claire. She’s lost, she’s confused, and she needs guidance and support just as much as the next person. We’re allowed to see past the egocentricity and vanity and shallow adolescent fears, into the girl she really is. Gentle and sweet and compassionate, with a real place in her heart for the well-being of her fellow man – but also a girl who is both curious about and terrified of herself. We hit the parts of Claire that she isn’t proud of, and the parts she doesn’t display on her sleeve to just anyone. Every chink in her armor is shown to us, no matter how small. She becomes so much more than a cheerleader with a banner to paint and a reputation to protect.
and since tumblr insists on being a twatwaffle about my gifs which are apparently, even when with the same number of frames and same dimensions, too large, here’s what it was SUPPOSED to be: