Outcast S01E05 “The Road Before Us” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on FOX, Tuesdays, 10pm
Writer: Robin Veith
Director: Craig Zobel
Essential Plot Points:
- We open on Allison staring blankly into the fridge. Upstairs her daughter is playing with two dolls. One of them is pleading with the other to not “drink the black poison”. She does and has one doll attack the other yelling, “Stop it!” over and over. Alison comes in, talks her down and gets her ready for bed. She sees Kyle and Anderson in a car outside.
- In the car, Anderson argues with Kyle about how smart the plan is. Kyle, worried that Allison mat still be possessed, is all set to go in but Anderson is adamant that he should go in first and that Mildred was an anomaly. Slowly, he wins Kyle round.
- The following day, Kyle calls Megan and begs her to set up a meet with Alison. She’s not happy but she agrees.
- At the Firehouse, the Chief visits his friend from the barbecue. His name is Ogden and no we’re pretty sure that’s not been mentioned on screen for four episodes either. Ogden is, of course, the owner of the watch and the amateur arson enthusiast who burnt down Murder!Caravan. The chief goads him and Ogden clearly suspects the chief knows the truth.
- Back in the car, Anderson and Kyle pull up to the house of one of Anderson’s previous “customers”.
- They meet Roy, the father of Sherry, the girl who’d been possessed. Roy admits Sherry ran away from home and is living on the streets. Roy is guilt-ridden, believing he failed to protect his family.
- Unsurprisingly, that hits home with Kyle who asks if she may have still been possessed. They leave as Roy starts to realise his daughter may not have been cured at all…
- Back in the car Anderson rips Kyle and makes him apologise.
- Megan goes to see Allison to try and sell her on the visit from Kyle. The two women chat as Allison starts to redecorate her daughter’s room. Allison admits she has trouble with Amber and Kyle never really did. Sensing an in, Megan suggests Kyle might be able to help but Allison shuts her down.
- Allison admits she lost entire days of memory. She doesn’t trust her own mind anymore.
- Anderson visits another former possession victim, Brian. He and Kyle find the man living in his now closed pet store and clearly possessed. They try and exorcise him but Brian breaks free and threatens them with a shotgun. They flee and Anderson realises none of the people he exorcised actually were.
- Kyle gets a call from Megan to tell him to stay away from Allison and that she may be self-medicating. Brilliantly, he immediately goes to see Allison.
- The Man In Black arrives at Kyle’s house and searches it, getting to know his enemy.
- Back at the station house, Mark walks in on the chief. He’s got a positive ID on the DNA from Murder!Caravan. One Lisa Payton was arrested for shoplifting a 12-pound ham from a Piggly Wiggly and then disappeared. Mark points out that they have the DNA of a missing woman at what seems to be a slaughter house that was just burnt down. The Chief tasks him to find a relative of her and discover more.
- Kyle shows up at Allison’s and coaxes her outside. Amber interrupts and asks when he’s coming home. He tells her that’s not up to him and Allison hushes her inside. Amber calls her a bitch and Allison takes her inside then blows up at Kyle for turning her daughter against her. She leaves him outside and locks the door, then, watches him leave. She closes her eyes and…
- She wakes up in the ER department of the local hospital, one side of her face grotesquely swollen. It’s the day of the attack and even though she realises it’s a flashback she panics, screaming as the nurse tries to restrain her.
- In the present, Kyle meets up with Anderson who’s decided to go find Sherry. He emotionally blackmails Kyle into helping find her.
- The Chief finds Ogden out on the land chain-sawing a fallen tree. He pleads with the fire chief to tell him what’s up and gets shut down, hard. The conversation is interrupted by Mark saying he’s found the lady whose DNA was discovered in the caravan.
- The Man i]In Black goes to see Mildred. They chat about the distractions of mortal life and The Man In Black assures her that he’ll deal with Kyle. On the way out, Mildred grabs him and savagely kisses him. He throws her aside, and chastises her for “trying”. She, who was apparently attempting to jump into his body, claims she won’t survive. He replies, “Sometimes we all draw the short straw.”
- Meanwhile, out on the street, Anderson and Kyle are looking for Sherry. They trace her to an abandoned warehouse. When Kyle helps her up she screams in pain and backs off. Anderson realises the truth: none of the exorcisms worked.
- Sherry says, “We need you!” to Kyle and attacks him trying to draw his essence out. Anderson wrestles her free but is taken down. Anderson screams at Kyle to hit Sherry and she hisses, “Hit me, like I hit your pretty wife,” then levitates. Kyle tackles her and she vomits bile out onto him. Kyle floats in mid air, wrestling with the essence of the demon before dispelling it and crashing to the ground, unconscious.
- At Allison’s house, Allison sees what seems to be a trail of blood leading into the house. She follows it upstairs to Amber’s house and finds the little girl painting the wall red. Allison loses it, attacking her daughter who hides in a closet.
- At the hospital, Anderson and Roy pray over Sherry as Kyle looks on. Kyle is convinced that this is their fault but Anderson calls it a win; she may be in coma but at least she’s free.
- Kyle’s had enough, and tells Anderson if his God is out there then he’s laughing at the priest.
- Kyle gets home to find Allison sitting on the porch. They talk, simultaneously intimate and completely alone. They kiss and she pleads with him to tell her what happened that night. He can’t and she leaves.
What a very odd episode this is. On the one hand there are some major revelations as Anderson gets conclusive proof his exorcisms don’t work and Kyle and Allison get closer together than they’ve ever been. On the other hand there’s even more of the same problems we’ve seen before.
Let’s start with the good. The comic is always at its best when it grounds the principles of demonic possession in – if not science – then certainly quantifiable rules. There’s some really smart stuff coming there and the start of the journey towards those revelations begins this week. The idea that Anderson’s exorcisms are all, without exception, fake is chilling. The man is such a stalwart, such a near-zealot that his faith not being a weapon really is disturbing. He believes fervently, desperately even and it’s still not enough.
That raises the stakes in a subtle and very meaningful way, as well as putting Kyle under even more pressure. Not only does he have the one weapon they know works but Anderson has just had the pillar of his soul kicked away. He’s not going to be in good shape for a while. Then again, Kyle’s disgust at Sherry being in a coma meaning she’s “saved” means the two men probably shouldn’t be around one another for a while.
Interesting it’s not just our heroes who hit their limitations this week. The scene between Mildred and The Man In Black is a highlight, not just because of how good Zabriskie and Spiner are either. There’s welcome nuance to both of them here, as we get a sense of the Man In Black’s seniority and a surprising hint of mortality on the part of the demons. For a moment, you get a sense of there being a very different version of this story told from the other side. We’re hoping we get to see that in future episodes.
There’s also welcome, and bluntly overdue, development for Allison. After four episodes of running on the spot she’s starting to interrogate her own mind and not liking what she’s finding there. Or rather, not finding… Allison’s missing time and her gradual awareness of just how much she doesn’t know looks to be a much-needed new gear for the show. The ending of this episode may seemingly shut that down but we’re suspecting she won’t be taking no for an answer.
That being said it’s also looking fairly likely they’ll be having that conversation for another couple of episodes. Outcast is in this very unusual position where it’s got lots of plots in the air but is advancing them maybe an inch at a time. The Man In Black schemes. Kyle and Anderson argue. Mark finds out an extra clue in the Murder!Caravan case. Meg’s still awesome. Allison is still traumatised. There’s progress here to be fair but it feels both small and overdue. We’re at the halfway point of the season now, the build-up is way past done. If Outcast is going to live up to its promise, the second half of the season needs to pick up the pace. A lot.
- “Y’know the hardest part? If I could erase 10 minutes from our lives, 10 minutes, they’d be perfect.” The part of the show that’s working, brilliantly, is this. A young couple trying to define something horrible that’s lodged between them.
- The entire cast continue to turn in really good work. Also Kate Lyn Sheil finally being let off the bench to do something other than mild confusion gives the episode a lot of what energy it has.
- The refusal to give easy answers. It is hugely frustrating that Kyle doesn’t tell Allison what happened but it’s also understandable. So, from a character point of view, it’s great writing. From a watching point of view, it’s Hulk transformation-worthy levels of annoying.
- The Chief! Reg E Cathey is great and the fact the Chief is very clearly putting stuff together is really interesting. I mean, he’s almost certainly dead but still, let’s enjoy him while he’s here, eh?
- The pacing. Oh God the pacing. This is the second, at least, episode whose central conceit is, “Kyle and Anderson argue over the efficacy of their respective abilities or lack thereof!”
- In five episodes.
- Of a 10 episode season.
- We get it. We get that this is a terrible burden no one should have to shoulder alone. We get that Anderson’s faith is undefeatable even in the face of apparent abject failure. We get this because that’s what every single scene between Kyle and Anderson has been about for five episodes. We get it. Move on.
- “This man lost his child to the streets!” Did she leave on a cold and gray Chicacgo morning? As she did was another poor little baby child born in the ghetto? (In the ghetttooooo?)
- We understand completely that Kyle can’t bring himself to destroy his relationship with Amber so keeps quiet. But for a show whose pacing is rapidly (heh) approaching glacial, teasing a massive reveal like that and then backing away from it is a really bad move.
- Kyle vs the bile demon doesn’t work. It’s close but it feels forced and spectacle-heavy, something that doesn’t sit well with the rest of the show.
- No Donnie this week. Could Mark have… no… he didn’t kill him. That would be too easy.
Review by Alasdair Stuart