Preview based on the first four episodes:
It’s the story of Kyle Barnes and Reverend Anderson, two men who find themselves on the front line of a war we may already have lost. Anderson’s faith is tested to the limits and Kyle, a man with so much blood on his hands they may never be clean, is suddenly given context for the parade of horrors that have defined his life. Horrors that have only just begun…
The first thing you have to remember is that this demon possession show pulls precisely no punches. Literally. It’s uncomfortably brutal at time. Yes, it shares the same quiet, rural desperation as The Walking Dead but that’s where the similarities end. TWD is a show about rebuilding. Outcast is a show about withstanding, whether that’s an assault on faith, on hope or on the human body.
That’s reflected not only in how quickly the horror arrives but how visceral that is. These exorcisms aren’t polite shouting matches between priests and demons; they are knock-down drag-out fistfights. The violence in the show isn’t constant but it is constantly threatened and some viewers are going to find this a tough watch. In particular, the first victim they help in the pilot and the opening sequence of episode three – “All Alone Now” – are amongst some of the nastiest TV violence we’ve seen in a long time. The show never sensationalises the voilence but also never backs down. So, domestic abuse survivors of all forms, be aware going in. Likewise the squeamish.
That being said, this is an amazing start. Patrick Fugit and Philip Glenister are excellent as Kyle and Anderson. Fugit in particular excels at playing a man ripped apart by tragedy and haunted by the idea that none of it may be his fault. The show pretty clearly maps possession onto abuse and one of the big reasons that works is Fugit’s performance. Kyle is precise, and cautious and at times hysterical, desperate and brutal. He’s an open wound of a man, and one the demons we see delight in teasing. Glenister’s Anderson is a far more buttoned down affair. He’s a man of faith, with a slight hint of the Johnny Cash’s to him. Thankfully, there’s not a smidge of Gene Hunt or Rupert Galvin to him and Glenister gets some surprisingly heavy dramatic lifting to do, all of which he excels at.
Elsewhere the cast is stacked and there are a couple of people it’s really best we keep as surprises for you if you can. The other standouts so far are Wrenn Schmidt and David Denman as Megan and Mark Holter. Megan’s parents fostered Kyle after… everything… and she maintains a cheerful, compassionate and magnificently foul-mouthed fondness for him. Denman plays her husband, Mark, a local police officer who has very good reason to not like or trust Kyle in the slightest.
They’re the control, if you like; the basically normal people to balance the constant threat that Kyle and Anderson embody. They’re charming and funny and untidy and by episode three they’re in serious trouble themselves. This is another patch of deep water for the show but the quality of the writing, and acting from Schmidt lifts what would otherwise be a tired, lazy trope. You like her and Mark, instantly. And the moment they get in trouble you like them more precisely because you understand why.
They embody the life outside Kyle and Anderson’s war but the show never lets us or them forget that that war is all pervasive. Mark continually stumbles across disturbing cases in his job, Anderson’s flock is full of people quietly suffering and every town corner feels… watched. There’s an incredible sense of threat to the show that’s made all the more effective by how desperate Kyle is. The early episodes set up a good idea of what he can do and then instantly have both him and Anderson push its limits. Both men are continually battlefield-tested and the places they go, and what they try and undo, can be heartbreaking. Episode two in particular goes places that shows like this normally don’t but that are a very pleasant surprise.
That intelligence, not to mention the ludicrously high quality of the cast, is what makes Outcast a dark, nasty jewel of a show. This is the most savage, bare-knuckled possession story you will ever see and the show works precisely because it’s clever enough to pull no punches whatsoever. You get answers in these four episodes, all of which lead to more questions and all of which lead to more trouble. Better still, you get to see an unlikely duo of not-quite heroes try and fight a war they can barely understand with a weapon they can barely use, and usually on their door step. The Winchesters would sympathise. But the Winchesters at least have some information. All Kyle, Anderson and we have is that one word: “outcast”. A mission statement for the exorcists, a name for Kyle and an arc plot for the season all in two syllables. Whether we, or they, will get answers remains to be seen. What’s clear is that if you can stomach it, this first month of Outcast is essential viewing for horror fans. Preview by Alasdair Stuart
Outcast premieres in the UK on FOX on Tuesday 7 June at 10pm.