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Outcast Season 1 Premiere Review

HaydnSpurrell HaydnSpurrell With an opening sequence suspiciously similar to his other major hit, Robert Kirkman brings another of his comic book stories to the small screen from a script he wrote himself in Outcast. And despite being under the same penmanship, this is clearly an attempt to deviate from the sprawling, ensemble epic that needs no introduction.

Instead, this pilot is a much quieter, slower affair. It's personal, introducing us to a cynical and quiet man who has a clearly tormented past that's hinted at throughout the opening hour. Played by Patrick Fugil, Kyle Barnes emotes very little apart from outbursts of anger and clearly has a nagging sense of guilt and loss following him everywhere.

But we don't begin the show here. Instead, Outcast makes it abundantly clear that this is a horror series, the kind we're not yet all that used to on television but what may start to become a trend as we await an Exorcist TV adaptation. Here, though, Outcast launches its start with a standalone tale that makes it apparent that this is serialised storytelling playing the long-game, with week-to-week opportunities for new victims of possession and new opportunities to peel layers back from Kyle Barnes as a tortured hero.

We meet the first victim, a child, in his own bedroom, eyeing a bug with rapt attention. We know where this is going, but its still startling when it happens. Next the boy's in the kitchen, snacking on chips while his mother and sister argue in the background. Again, we know where this is going, but its frightening when we see it. Cinemax isn't interested in subtlety, and the series is clearly going to challenge our conceptions on what can and can't appear on television, even in an age where we think we've seen nearly everything.

Philip Glenister plays Reverend Anderson, the weary ageing man deeply committed to the town of Rome but clearly happy to be consumed by the bottle in the midst of the difficulties he faces. As is hinted at rather frequently in the pilot, the town has a serious problem with demonic possession. Or so it would seem. While some are skeptical, it seems a slate of occurrences similar to that which the young boy suffered have been taking place in the town, and when we reach the climax and see just what Kyle is up against, it makes for some truly compelling television.

Patrick Fugit and Philip Glenister in 'Outcast'
Patrick Fugit and Philip Glenister in 'Outcast'

Taken in that regard, the slow build is absolutely spot on. It builds to a scene that is uncomfortable to watch, and the show is brutally unafraid to make us watch it anyway. But while the slow build works to a certain extent, there's nothing overly compelling about the surrounding cast. And in fact, the premiere is so saturated in gloom and misery that it's hard enough looking for some kind of energetic spark to get the ball rolling.

Instead, while the show does a good job of introducing the inner turmoil of its characters, it doesn't exactly do so well in explaining their actions. Kyle takes a trip to the home of the possessed little boy, but we're given very little explanation for why. It leaves us with the job of assuming that it's because he's curious, or that he's somehow attracted to it. While it's a small thing to consider, there's a bigger picture and upon examining it this is a pilot that perhaps lacks the polish of other, more successful pilots.

Rather than story flaws, these come in small, bite-sized portions. The reverend, kicked to the ground with his glasses flying in the other direction, rolls over a second later, glasses intact and sitting upon his nose. Kyle opens up a brand new flip phone and makes a phone call before going through any other annoying process that we've all experienced when it comes to new tech. Again, these are small things, but they have the ability to drag you straight out of the world it so desperately needs us to exist in. When Kyle approaches his kindly neighbour in need of his car, it tells us less about the character that he doesn't greet the man he's aiming to borrow from. It seems more like a shortcut.

Wrenn Schmidt plays Megan Holter, Kyle's sister whom is clearly very caring toward him. Though he'll have none of that. He wants nothing to do with her, or so we're led to believe. By the end of the episode, there's clearly more at play. When Megan's daughter accuses Kyle of abusing his daughter, Fugit delivers a convincing portrayal of a man who's at his wits end when it comes to the blame and the pain that's come of whatever took place in the past. By this point, we're curious about this character. We want to know more about where he's come from. Once the possessed child starts to speak to Kyle as if he knows him, that's where the intrigue spirals.

Of the horror in Cinemax's new series, there are few moments to gorge on. But what we get are promising, and there's enough we're left pondering to suggest this is a show to keep an eye on. Whether its gloomy aesthetic amounts to nothing more than a deterrent remains to be seen, but Outcast's first episode is a sincere attempt at inviting us into a small part of Kyle Barnes' head space. Set in a small town, the show will be reliant on a strong core group of characters. There's promise here, though it's a series that might rely just as much on its second episode as it does on its first, to try and ensure people are in this for the long stretch.

Posted in Outcast,

HaydnSpurrell HaydnSpurrell

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