×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Outcast’

With:
Patrick Fugit, Philip Glenister, Gabriel Bateman, Wrenn Schmidt, Reg E. Cathey, Kate Lyn Sheil, Julia Crockett, David Denman, Brent Spiner

Based on “Outcast’s” ominous teasers, one might assume that it represents yet another piece of creator and executive producer Robert Kirkman’s exploration of all things occult. But instead of Kirkman’s zombies, the rotting stars of his best-selling comics and hit series “The Walking Dead,” in “Outcast,” viewers are introduced to demons and scenes of possession.

“Outcast” even opens with a familiar horror film cliché: the possessed child. Slack-jawed and slobbering, the afflicted kid stares at a cockroach on his bedroom wall before violently crushing the creature with his own skull. The fun builds from there.

Pull back for a wide shot at the story’s fictional setting, though, and you’ll find that the dark forces at play are both literal and figurative. The most powerful entities are almost entirely metaphorical, and ultimately, “Outcast” is not about the slaughter. Rather, the show’s power comes from the characters’ hopes of connecting with others in their fractured community, which is haunted by isolation. “Outcast” wants us to feel for these poor souls before all Hell breaks loose.

Is it a horror series? Yes, at first. But “Outcast” quickly pivots to become a suspense-laden, psychological examination of inner shadows – the undesirable aspects of ourselves that we strive to keep hidden – and the figurative demons constantly flitting around us all. Everyone in the small town of Rome, W. Va., is engaged in a death match with evil spirits, in the form of bad reputations or traumas scratching just beneath the skin.

Like the Image comic book series that was developed alongside the TV title, “Outcast” tells the tale of ragged, titular hero Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit). Kyle is an isolated shut-in as the story begins, which suits most of the townsfolk in the crumbling town just fine. Rome is a place where everybody knows everything about everyone else, and whispers abound concerning Barnes’s grim, violent life.

No reasonable person would believe the truth about Barnes, which is that he has hidden himself in the decaying home he once shared with his mentally ill mother (Julia Crockett) in order to protect others from the malevolence he attracts.

But the town’s minister, Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), has an inkling of what’s going on, largely due to his own experiences with possessions. Rome is rife with them, the latest afflicting an eight-year-old boy. Though Anderson does his best to push back against the sinister tide by performing exorcisms and delivering fire-and-brimstone Sunday sermons, his efforts are insufficient. So he recruits Barnes to his cause, in large part due to his knowledge of what really happened to Barnes and his mother long ago.

Fugit depicts Barnes with the scraggly desperation of a starving, wounded animal. With his poignant portrayal securely holding each hour’s center, “Outcast” quickly mutates from a creepfest into a tragedy about doubt, coping and human frailty.

Oh, there are queasy moments, and a certain “exorcism of the week” element at play within the first few episodes, although these are not handled in a rote fashion. Rather, as Barnes and Anderson touch the darkness coursing through Rome, viewers may end up contemplating the insidious nature of ordinary evil — and the frightening fact that no amount of prayer can banish it.

Glenister’s Reverend is an amiable warrior whose devotion to good is leavened by a unapologetic flair for crass language and a paternal protectiveness toward Barnes. The actor’s performance is key in keeping the show’s energy from becoming unsustainably dour, and he and Fugit have marvelous chemistry.

Also worth noting is “Outcast’s” writing for Wrenn Schmidt as Kyle’s adopted sister, Megan Holter. A caring woman who won’t let Kyle to fade into non-existence, Megan demonstrates strength of spirit and will as she navigates the difficult role of Kyle’s nurturer while remaining loyal to her husband, Mark (David Denman), a town cop.

Schmidt makes Megan doting but far from soft, a trait that grows in importance as more details emerge about her own inner darkness. Reg E. Cathey gives his portrayal of as Mark’s boss, Chief Giles, a welcome touch of enigmatic vigor; Giles is a solid man whose motivations aren’t always obvious, but who clearly should not be toyed with.

Viewers tuning in with an expectation of classic Cinemax-style extremity may be disappointed, but “Outcast” may be a sign of what’s to come in the cable network’s next evolutionary phase. Having retired its adrenaline-loaded series “Banshee” and “Strike Back,” Cinemax is moving beyond bone-breaking action and blunt sexuality in favor of more atmospheric, thematically challenging content like its critically acclaimed medical drama “The Knick.”

There is plenty of shock and depravity to go around in “Outcast,” but after the pilot, most of the show’s graphic, gory moments occur in flashes brief enough terrify without overpowering the tale’s psychological punch. Some of the worst violence in “Outcast” is verbal; the implication of what people are saying or thinking is often as bad, if not worse, than what they do. But what is possession, if not the planting of an invasive seed that blossoms and strangles a person’s best nature?

TV Review: 'Outcast'

(Series; Cinemax, Fri. June 3, 10 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in South Carolina by Fox International Studios and Skybound for Cinemax.

Crew:   Executive producers, Robert Kirkman, Chris Black, David Alpert, Sharon Tal Yguado, Sue Naegle; director, Adam Wingard; writer, Robert Kirkman; camera, David Tattersall; production designer, Tom Hammock; costume designer, Ane Crabtree; editor, Louis Cioffi; music, Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, Claudia Sarne; casting, Laray Mayfield, Julie Schubert. 60 MIN.

Cast: Patrick Fugit, Philip Glenister, Gabriel Bateman, Wrenn Schmidt, Reg E. Cathey, Kate Lyn Sheil, Julia Crockett, David Denman, Brent Spiner

More TV

  • Billy McFarland of the Fyre Festival

    Entertainment One Takes International Rights to Hulu's 'Fyre Fraud'

    Entertainment One has picked up international rights to Hulu’s documentary on the disastrous Fyre Festival. “Fyre Fraud” looks at the unscrupulous dealings of Billy McFarland, the self-aggrandizing huckster who sold thousands of tickets to a music festival in the Bahamas that turned out to be a sham. Duped by a promotional campaign on social media [...]

  • ‘Stan & Ollie’ Producer Making Joan

    ‘Stan & Ollie’ Producer to Make TV Series About Joan and Jackie Collins

    The colorful lives of movie star Joan Collins and her bestselling novelist sister, Jackie, will be dramatized in a TV series. Sony-backed Fable Pictures, the British film and TV producer behind “Stan & Ollie,” will make the series, having secured the TV rights to the Collinses’ story. The series, which has the working title “Joan [...]

  • Friends From College

    'Friends From College' Canceled by Netflix

    Netflix has canceled comedy series “Friends From College” after two seasons. “Friends from College will not return for a third season,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “We’re grateful to creators Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco for creating a wise, funny and supremely relatable show. We also want to thank the hard-working crew, [...]

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • Desus Nice The Kid Mero

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Feb. 18, 2019: Academy Awards, 'Desus & Mero'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, the Academy Awards air and Desus & Mero make their debut on Showtime. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content