A dif­fer­ent kind of pos­ses­sion drama

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

Re­view­ing the first sea­son of the strange su­per­nat­u­ral drama.

UK Broad­cast Fox, fin­ished US Broad­cast Cine­max, fin­ished Episodes Re­viewed 1.01-1.10

Outcast is a prob­lem­atic show to re­view, be­cause the one truly bril­liant thing it has to of­fer is also a bloody great spoiler. Not so much in the sense of a plot twist; it’s not a se­ries that hinges on some big fi­nal WTF fi­nal rev­e­la­tion. In­stead there’s some­thing re­ally clever and in­trigu­ing in­her­ent in its very for­mat; some­thing that slowly be­comes clear as the episodes progress and which gives the show a thought-pro­vok­ing USP. And it’s more fun dis­cov­er­ing it for your­self.

So what is safe to dis­cuss? Well, Outcast is a pos­ses­sion drama, crafted for screen by The Walk­ing Dead cre­ator Robert Kirk­man from his own comic. The in­ten­tion is clear: how do you put a new twist on a genre that has been dom­i­nated by The Exorcist for so long? Outcast achieves this in a num­ber of ways; some of which are quickly ev­i­dent, the oth­ers, not so much.

Kyle Barnes is a wreck of man, liv­ing alone in his hovel of a house in Rome, a small, ru­ral town in West Vir­ginia. His mar­riage is over and he has a re­strain­ing or­der for­bid­ding him from see­ing his wife and daugh­ter. He is, ap­par­ently, a wife beater. The truth is more com­pli­cated. Rome is full of peo­ple pos­sessed by… some­thing. The lo­cal rev­erend thinks they’re demons, of course. Kyle’s not so sure. He has the power to ex­or­cise these demons, and that ex­or­cism needs ex­treme vi­o­lence to work. In the pi­lot he lit­er­ally beats the “de­mon” out of a small boy. It’s deeply un­set­tling to watch.

So im­me­di­ately Outcast has some­thing dif­fer­ent to of­fer from the usual pos­ses­sion drama. This isn’t one exorcist vs one vic­tim. These pos­ses­sions are rife, and they’ve been em­bed­ded in the town for a very long time. The

No­body talks about what’s go­ing on

“vi­o­lent” na­ture of the ex­or­cisms also raise ques­tions of moral­ity, ques­tions which deepen as the sea­son goes on and we learn more about the na­ture of the “demons”.

This is all grip­ping stuff, and the cen­tral mys­tery at the heart of Outcast is com­pelling. The show also has a very im­pres­sive cast. Pa­trick Fugit (Al­most Fa­mous) is ex­cel­lent as the raw, emo­tion­ally burnt but res­o­lute Barnes while Philip Glenis­ter es­capes the shadow of Gene Hunt as the pok­er­play­ing rev­erend with a near mono­ma­ni­a­cal need to rid Rome of its demons (his US ac­cent is a darn sight bet­ter than it was in Demons too). Reg E Cathey is a de­light as the joc­u­lar but no-non­sense sher­iff, while the women – Wrenn Sch­midt as Kyle’s sis­ter and Kate Lyn Sheil as his wife – make the most of thinly writ­ten roles.

Be­cause for all that Outcast strives to do some­thing orig­i­nal with its con­cept, it seems weary­ingly con­tent to go with clichés for its char­ac­ters and plot­ting. The Rev and Kyle bicker about the same faith-ver­sus-proof guff week af­ter week. The main women are all abuse vic­tims (ei­ther of su­per­nat­u­ral or real world va­ri­ety). No­body talks to each other about what’s go­ing on. The “demons” talk in rid­dles un­til it’s big rev­e­la­tion time. Brent Spiner turns up as a mys­te­ri­ous man in black to act as the voice of the demons. It’s all rather pre­dictable drama me­chan­ics.

Re­lent­lessly dour and unashamedly slow-paced, the show also never quite de­liv­ers on the pi­lot’s promise of bound­ary­push­ing hor­ror un­til the sea­son fi­nale. In-be­tween it’s pretty stan­dard-is­sue TV shocks.

Hav­ing said all that, by the fi­nale, you’re still des­per­ate to learn more about these “demons” and what Kyle’s next move will be. So the show’s do­ing some­thing right. Dave Golder

Both were hor­ri­fied by the state of the cov­ing.

“Of course there are other colours be­side brown. We just don’t own any.”

He’d had it up to here with the lo­cal graf­fiti artists.

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