Outcast S01E09 “Close To Home”
Essential Plot Points:
- Out in the woods where she was shooting a few episodes ago, Meg stares at a piece of glass.
- She closes it in her fist, cuts her hand open and forces herself to relive everything: Donnie raping her; Donnie returning; Mark beating him.
- Ogden is fixing to move out when Giles pulls up. Ogden gets in his face and claims he drove them out of town. Giles retorts that he did something for Ogden he wouldn’t do for anyone else. Ogden fires back that getting rid of a single “passenger” does nothing and Giles is, in fact, throwing out the one person who could have protected him. From what, he doesn’t make clear.
- Mark takes Amber to see Megan who is taking a “sick day”. Kyle immediately spots her hand and she lies, repeatedly, about what happened. He reassures her and makes it clear that he’s there for his sister.
- He also – this being Kyle – asks her for a favour: Amber needs to be back in school. She agrees to help out. They talk about Allison who neither have heard from and Kyle decides to go out and find her.
- At Patricia’s house, she and Anderson talk about his son. He tells her a story about how he berated his son for not acting like a preacher’s kid a few years previously. He asks what his son would think of him now and Patricia, finally getting something to do, good-naturedly kicks his ass and tells him he should move in.
- Mark and Meg take Amber to school. Amber wants to stay with her dad and Kyle apologises to her for all the changes she’s been through and promises to make it up to her. She figures out he’s going looking for Allison and completely refuses to buy any of his reassurances.
- They make a deal: Kyle won’t lie and Amber will make a go of school.
- Anderson confronts Florence, one of the council who fired him, at the market. She tells him the deacons are meeting to choose his replacement at noon.
- On the way out of town, Kat and Ogden stop for supplies. Kat is confronted by Sydney who tells her he has a new job for her.
- Kyle runs into Mark, clearing his desk. He apologises and asks for Mark’s help in finding Allison. He explains that he can’t go into her house because of the restraining order and Mark agrees to help look for her, on the condition Kyle doesn’t say anything about it.
- Anderson arrives back at church, perhaps for the last time. He goes into the deacon meeting and finds Sydney there. Anderson goes full Anderson, beating the snot out of Sydney. Oddly, he does not get his job back.
- Brilliantly, he is completely okay with this. After all, as he admits to Giles when the police chief comes to arrest him, punching the devil in the face was worth it.
- Despite Giles warning Sydney to back off, Sydney presses charges and Anderson is arrested.
- Mark and Kyle break into Allison’s house. Kyle hears someone upstairs and breaks into a locked room. All he finds is an open window; she’s gone.
- Mark gets a call from the school saying Megan’s gone home feeling ill. He heads off to meet her and Kyle thanks him for the help, then continues searching the house. He packs a bag for Amber, finds the drawing she made of Allison and the black cloud and… hears someone downstairs.
- It’s Allison’s mom. She tells Kyle that Allison is terrified of herself and that she knows what’s going on. Also that she blames Kyle. He begs her to tell him where Allison is.
- Giles drives to the station and lets Anderson go. Because Giles is awesome and no one in town deserves him.
- Kat and Ogden arrive at their new place, which, it turns out is Sydney’s new “job” for Kat. It’s an underground abandoned mall. Kat is delighted; Ogden is reluctant to say the least.
- At home, Meg is slumped against the bath. Mark comes home and she levels with him that she’s terrified he’ll go to prison. She’s especially worried because… well… she’s pregnant. She wants an abortion, because they can’t afford it if Mark’s fired. Mark retorts that he has a job interview the next day and they’re due some good luck. The pair of them are completely, totally, honest with one another and it’s adorable.
- Kyle arrives at a nearby asylum to see Allison. He’s turned away and then, again, is completely honest about how scared he is for her.
- It works. He’s let in.
- Kyle pleads with her to believe that what happened wasn’t her fault. He tells her what happened to his mom, that what happened to her wasn’t her fault and what he can do. She tells him he is the kindest, gentlest man she’s ever known but she can’t come back. She kisses him and leaves him alone.
- Anderson sneaks up to Sydney’s trailer and watches as asshole teenager arrives and talks to Sydney.
- Kyle calls Meg and asks about Amber. Meg tells him Amber had a great day at school but Kyle lies about Allison. He does this really badly and Meg seems to sense that her brother is super not okay.
- Back at the house, Kyle finally takes down all his own old kid’s stuff and replaces it with the things he brought from Allison’s house for Amber.
- Anderson and Patricia confront Aaron when he gets home. He threatens Aaron and, the moment he does this, she throws him out.
- As Anderson drives off, Aaron appears. He explains that his dad used to beat him and his mum then passes on a message from Sydney: it’s too late to stop what’s coming.
- Anderson shows up at Kyle’s place.
- Meg screams as the water in the shower turns cold. She walks, uncertain and curious, towards the mirror and stares at it. Mark rushes in, asks if she’s okay and…
- …She drives his face into the mirror.
- Mark slumps to the floor, somehow gushing blood from a throat wound. Meg, fascinated, paints with his blood as her husband bleeds to death in front of her.
- Anderson and Kyle have the talk they needed to have four episodes ago: Anderson admits he’s jealous of Kyle’s gift; Kyle explains it’s not a gift.
- Kyle’s phone rings. Amber, terrified, tells him Aunt Meg is sick like mommy was.
Here we go.
After eight episodes of setting up what has, at times, felt like the grimmest remake of Northern Exposure humanly possible, Outcast turns the last corner into the home stretch. In doing so, Scott Targum’s script perfectly embodies every single thing the show does right and everything it has no business doing at all.
First off, the good – and that brings us to Howard Deutch’s direction. The camera is locked off a lot of the time and it gives the show the static, moving-through-amber feel it needs. Plus, some shots are flat-out gorgeous, especially Kyle framed against the psychiatric facility’s windows.
Of course we also get Meg finger painting with blood but hey, we’ll get there.
The things that work here all stem from one thing; honesty. Kyle levels with everyone this episode and it gets him where years of denial didn’t; trusted. Anderson does the same thing and it gets him the same thing and even Giles finally admits the town has a problem and starts doing something about it. Even Meg and Mark are back on an even keel after episodes of sniping at one another.
That single idea is brilliantly executed and uses the small-town setting as a bonus rather than a limitation as it has been in previous episodes. These people know – and in most cases trust – each other. That trust in turn leads them to be inclined to listen when someone has the guts to be honest. That in turn makes them a community, something the fundamentally selfish, conniving “passengers” aren’t. Hope is, maybe, born for Rome in this episode and it’s born in the show’s two leads putting it all on the line. Pugit and Glenister are especially great this week too and Glenister in particular seems to relish getting to climb down from the shouty pulpit. It’s been a long road but as this episode finishes Kyle and Anderson are finally who they need to be. They’ve stopped reacting and starting taking charge and it’ll be fascinating to see how that change hits them.
Almost as fascinating as seeing how the show fixes its problems. The glacial pacing is mostly fixed now and while eight episodes of context are a touch few the show has undoubtedly benefited from them.
The issues it now has are more difficult though. We talk about the uniformly terrible way it deals with its female characters below but there’s also the fact that Outcast is reaching a point of no return. If we get another season full of, “Something bad is almost here… any time now… maybe in another six episodes,” then the momentum and following it’s built is going to come apart. There needs to be a pay-off, a big one and soon. Because if not, everyone and everything we’ve seen will have been doing little more than marking time. And, given how the female characters in particular have been used, there’s no excuse for that.
So, bring on the season finale. But make it good.
- Some absolute zingers this week, most of course from Police Chief Awesome:
“What were you thinking?”
“I came to get my job back.”
“Hell of a strategy.”
- “If you knew that then why’d you fall for it?”
“Not every day you get to punch the devil in the face.” Although this is the best line Anderson has had all season.
- “Don’t make me hurt you.” This was when we knew what happened in the comics was coming in the TV show. Didn’t make it any easier though.
- “That’s good advice. I liked it better the hundred times I was giving it to you.” The role reversal at the top of the episode was great.
- Kyle checking in on Meg like she does for him is adorable.
- Anderson buying a clue in the final scene was a massive relief. His wake up call hits earlier in the comics but here, despite the sheer amount of repetition we’ve seen, it feels slightly more earned.
- Amazing ending. This is a show that in previous weeks hasn’t so much ended as stopped. This week? You’re distressed it’s gone by so soon.
- Okay, comic spoiler time. This is the first time the show actually pushes past what the comic did and, for us, it doesn’t work. In the comic, Meg’s possession is revealed a little earlier and in the process of trying to help her, Mark is shoved through a window and loses the use of his legs.
- That leads to some really interesting stuff with the pair of them as Mark, a very physical guy, struggles to come to terms with his loss of mobility. Meg, in the meantime, is placed in the exact same spot Kyle is: faced with the consequences of actions carried out by her but not of her choosing every single day.
- In contrast, the random way Mark gets his throat slit (we watched the scene three times and… really?) feels cheap. We don’t know he’s dead, yet, but it seems pretty likely and if so the show’s down a fun character and Meg, arguably its best character, is in danger of going the same route as every other woman on the show: victim or plot device.
- Let’s talk about Patricia and Aaron. The pair of them as abuse survivors makes sense. The only problem is it makes too much sense. We’re now four for four on every female character in this show being subject to abuse of some form: Meg was raped and has now been possessed; Patricia was abused; and Allison and Kat were both possessed.
- Now, in fairness at this point Kyle, Anderson and maybe Ogden could be viewed the same way. But even taking them into account look at the difference in agency. Kyle and Anderson grapple weekly with what they can do to improve their situation while Ogden has made his peace with his.
- Now let’s look at the women…
• Meg: Rape survivor who’s basically pretty great life has just been completely destroyed by the consequences of that event and something she had no control over.
• Allison: Voluntarily locked herself away in a psychiatric care facility in order to protect her family from herself.
• Kat: Fiftysomething lady given a supercharged libido and a new lease on life by her possession but is in perpetual servitude to Sydney.
• Patricia: Abuse survivor living with a horrifically broken teenager who turns on a dime and protects him from her not-quite new boyfriend where seconds earlier she was berating him for hanging out with the town’s chief demon.
- This show is very, very bad at female characters as anything other than horror punctuation. And that’s a really sad thing to see. Not only because it’s 2016 but because when it isn’t using its female leads as cordwood for the doom pile, they’re the strongest members of its cast.
- And that brings us to the way abuse is handled here. This scene is just mystifying. Not because it makes no sense but because it plays like this was a beat they forgot to make overt a few episodes ago. How the Hell does Aaron get in front of the car so fast? What possible reason does he have for explaining the abusive past he and his mom have that isn’t info-dumping? The entire scene is cludgy and cack-handed.
- This is a really finely balanced issue. You could argue that Outcast doing this is absolutely in keeping with its über-dour southern gothic tone and approach. But you could also argue that 16 years into the 21st century is at least a decade and a half past the point every horror female character deserved something else to do. Anything else to do.
And The Random:
- Frequent Outcast director Howard Deutch is quietly one of the busiest people in Hollywood. CSI Cyber, The Strain, True Blood, The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, American Horror Story and Warehouse 13 are just some of his previous credits. However he’s best known for Some Kind Of Wonderful and Pretty In Pink, two of the definitive teen movies of all time.
Review by Alasdair Stuart