Outcast S01E04 “A Wrath Unseen” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on FOX, Tuesdays, 10pm
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Director: Julius Ramsay
Essential Plot Points:
- Welcome back to Rome, the happiest little town twinned with Hell! And, odds are, Poughkeepsie!
- We open on Norville’s funeral, attended only by Anderson, Kyle and Caleb the handyman. The burial winch breaks and Caleb leaves to get his tools. When he does, the man in Black appears to pay his respects. He speaks eloquently about Norville and introduces himself as Sydney. He also drills Anderson and Kyle for information.
- Later that night Anderson is on what’s pretty definitely a date with the lady from last episode. She admires his collection of porcelain figures, all of which are gifts from people he’s exorcised. His hands shakes as he picks one up and changes the subject, talking about how his ex-wife Janet always hated them.
- At Megan and Mark’s house, they’re getting ready for a night out. Megan’s still a little nervous but they’re relaxed and happy and very cute together.
- At dinner, Mark pitches the idea of going on vacation but Meg sees Donnie and tenses up. Donnie arrives at the table and introduces himself. He’s charming and funny and Megan is absolutely terrified.
- At the Chief’s house there’s a cookout in progress. The Chief’s dog reacts very violently to one of their oldest friends and… the Chief doesn’t see it. Or perhaps chooses not to. Especially as he returns the watch Mark found in Murder!Caravan last week to his friend….
- In town, Kyle goes into a bar for a drink and runs into Donnie.
- Then he runs Donnie into a table. And his fist.
- The pair are thrown out and immediately start fighting again. Donnie beats the crap out of Kyle who, halfway unconscious and bleeding from his face, yells at Donnie to stay away from Meg.
- The following morning Kyle calls Donnie to warn her. She shoots him down, chews him out for trying to beat up Donnie and then thanks him.
- Anderson is at the graveyard, tidying. Kyle comes to see him. He’s itching for some “action” and Anderson points out he has a gift for good and a bad reputation. Then immediately recruits him for a day of good works.
- Elsewhere the Chief suits up for a couple of days in the woods, hunting.
- Anderson and Kyle visit one of Anderson’s former “patients”, the one who gave him the figurine at the top of the episode. Her daughter, Sophie, takes Anderson to one side and tells her that her grandma has changed. She’s foul and angry now. Anderson doesn’t believe her as, outside, Kyle meets the old lady.
- She immediately, cheerfully, starts talking about Kyle’s history of domestic abuse and grills him on what he saw at Joshua’s exorcism. Kyle leans down to help her as she hobbles to a chair and she screams in pain…
- They leave and Kyle tells Anderson about what happened. He admits that she was one of the exorcism victims. Kyle thinks she’s still possessed. Anderson is adamant that the power of God expelled the demon from her.
- In the woods, the Chief is out hunting. He stops for a rest… right by Murder!Caravan
- At Meg and Mark’s house, Mark gets home and they talk about the fantasy of a white knight Meg used to have. Mark is amused he never told her about it but Donnie did. Meg is angry, and refuses to talk about it.
- Later, Meg flashbacks to her teenaged years, hiding in the bathroom and running into her room to try and avoid Donnie. He comes in, closes the door and rapes her. In the present, she gets dressed for bed and, numbly, reaches for the gun case on top of her wardrobe…
- The following day Kyle is heading home with the shopping when Mark picks him up for a chat. He takes Kyle out for a drink and questions him about Donnie.
- Kyle confirms his suspicions; Donnie abused Megan when he was fostered in her home. Kyle explains that he slept on the floor of Meg’s room once he found out. That he’d take a beating to try and slow Donnie down. He leaves a horrified, furious Mark in the bar.
- At Donnie’s motel, Meg confronts him. She demands he leaves and agrees to go to his room to talk.
- There, Donnie apologises and claims he’s changed. The conversation goes back and forth, Donnie claiming he’s changed and Megan refusing to believe him and vowing to protect her family.
- Anderson goes to visit Mildred. The old lady dodges the various enquiries Anderson makes and then, finally, shows him what she really is; possessed. Still.
- Out in the woods, the Chief is watching Murder!Caravan. He sees his friend from the barbecue arrive with a can of gasoline and set it on fire.
- Anderson arrives at Kyle’s house and admits, in a roundabout way, that Mildred is still possessed. They go to Mildred’s house only to be thrown out by her daughter. As they leave, Mildred watches from the window. Anderson leaves the figurine she gave him by the steps. A job not done. A reward unearned.
- Leaving town, a car is pulled over by the police. It’s Donnie. And Mark. Donnie tries to reason with him and Mark quietly and methodically drags him to the side of the road and beats him with his flashlight. All of which is caught by the camera in his patrol car…
- Washing the blood from his hands at home, Mark gets a phone call from the Chief. The Murder!Caravan case is still open and all the evidence is going to be processed.
- Megan, unharmed, appears and they chat. Neither of them telling the truth but, perhaps, for very different reasons…
- Driving home from Mildred’s Anderson and Kyle berate themselves for missing Mildred’s possession. Kyle wants to go check on his wife, terrified that she’s still possessed. Anderson refuses at first and then turns the car around and guns the engine.
- Back at Megan and Mark’s, Megan takes a box out to the backyard. She lays a series of glasses out, puts goggles on and smashes them to pieces with a hammer.
Okay, this is where things get interesting. Two of the ways the show does that are genuinely great. One is very worrying.
Let’s get that out of the way first and let’s call it “The Donnie Problem”. We’re fighting shy of comic spoilers here but suffice to say that Donnie’s arrival is handled very differently in the show. In the comics, Mark and Kyle are on the same page from the get go and Mark is far more clued up on what Donnie did.
And Megan? Megan is just more clued up in general. Her confrontation with Donnie in the comics is far, far shorter and more decisive. Crucially, it also doesn’t sacrifice her intelligence on the altar of drama; there’s no standoff in Donnie’s hotel room and intensely annoying lack of resolution.
Worse still; there’s a clear implication of this going two ways, only one of which is good.
Well, we say good.
Good is relative in this show.
The good option is that the things that are happening to Meg are not caused by Donnie but rather by what we’re increasingly convinced is going to be the big mid-season reveal. That would give the show a nice gut punch and a sense of urgency it’s maybe starting to need.
The bad option is that the meeting with Donnie is in fact the reason why the imminent bad stuff happens. Which means Meg joins the long, thoroughly pissed-off line of female characters on the show defined by and perennially orbiting an abusive past. We really, really hope it’s not this option. And we promise once this plotline pays off we’re going to be much more specific.
That’s the troubling element; the idea that this show may well stop using abuse as a frame of reference for possession and start using it for cheap thrills. We’re not there, yet, but we’re closer than we’d like.
Elsewhere there’s a lot more to enjoy, and pretty much all of that is wrapped up in Kyle and Anderson. The world’s grumpiest exorcists are finally on (enough) of the same page to not be having the same conversations repeatedly. Plus, Anderson’s discovery that at least one of his exorcisms didn’t “take” is neatly tied to Kyle’s realisation to create a moment of huge tension. Yet again these two men are struggling to find out what they can do but they’re doing so in lockstep now.
Finally, Wrenn Schmidt and David Denman turn in fantastic work this week. Megan and Mark are the control characters for this show and it’s very hard to do normal in an interesting way. They manage it, giving them the subtle nuance of communication only a long term couple has. Denman’s especially great this week and his scenes with the Chief are especially great. But it’s the confrontation with Donnie he, and you, will remember.
This is another good episode in a strong first season but it’s also the first time we’ve seen the show creak. Things are definitely shifting up a gear and that’s good. Now we just have to wait to see if the show heads in a good direction, or the one it looks like it’s going for. Fingers crossed.
- The entire cast. All of them. Good God this show’s casting director deserves a raise.
- “I’m tired of playing games with you.” Graze Zabriskie, ladies and gentlemen. Landing a, “BOOGITY BOOGITY!” scare like a champ.
- “Hard to keep the romance alive once you start throwin’ punches.” But it’s this earlier line that’s the kicker. Mildred is so chirpy, so up with people and just terrifying.
- “You talk to God with that mouth?”
“Oh he’s heard a lot worse’n that!” Kyle and Anderson’s wounded, cautious friendship is blossoming quite nicely.
- “All I HAVE is a Game.” Meg and Mark are adorable in a lovely, normal way. That’s going to make what’s coming so much worse.
- This show’s ridiculous habit of not naming people on screen is becoming aggressively annoying at this point. Mildred isn’t named until almost halfway in. And what the Hell is the nice lady who clearly fancies Anderson’s name?! It’s been two weeks!
- The pacing is going to be hard for some people to deal with this. This episode is damn near a full hour and there’s a lot of stuff that could – and in a longer season would – be moved. Here, knowing we’re rocking up on the halfway point, it works.
- Less bad, more fair warning: things are going to happen with Meg if they keep sticking closely to the comics. Worryingly, there seems a more than slight possibility that these things are going to happen for quite spectacularly muddle-headed reasons. Here’s hoping that isn’t true. And we promise we’ll talk about them when we can.
And The Random:
- Graze Zabriskie, who plays Mildred, is that rare thing; a performer who actually is a legend. She was Sarah Palmer in Twin Peaks, Lois Henrickson in Big Love, Mrs Ross in Seinfeld and many many more.
- Scott Porter does excellent work as Donnie. You’ve previously seen him as Tim Armstrong on Scorpion, heard him as the Scarlet Spider on Ultimate Spider-Man and as Nestor on Caprica. Oh also, Jason Street on Friday Night Lights. Head down! Eyes closed! Can’t lose!