×
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

  • Westworld Season 3 Trailer

    'Westworld' Season 3 Trailer Focuses on New Cast Member Aaron Paul

    Ahead of the final episode of “Game of Thrones,” HBO released the first trailer for the new season of another flagship show: “Westworld.” The first look at the third season of the sci-fi show puts the focus on new series regular Aaron Paul, best known for his run on “Breaking Bad.” The trailer doesn’t reveal [...]

  • Adam Lambert Libertine show, Front Row,

    Adam Lambert Does Double Performing Duty on 'Idol' as New Winner is Crowned

    A new “American Idol” winner was crowned Sunday night, but not before Adam Lambert returned to the stage for the season finale for a pair of performances that included his new single and a duet with eliminated contestant Dimitrius Graham Sunday. The show concluded with Louisiana teen Laine Hardy showered in confetti as he was [...]

  • Beyonce Emilia Clarke

    Emilia Clarke Worried Beyonce Would Hate Daenerys After 'Game of Thrones'' Final Season

    After eight seasons as the Mother of Dragons, “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke has a lot of celebrity fans. But the most impressive? Probably Queen Bey. In a New Yorker interview posted after Sunday night’s series finale, Clarke revealed that she met Beyonce at an Oscars after-party hosted by the musician and her husband, [...]

  • Game of Thrones Finale

    Why the 'Game of Thrones' Finale Couldn't Have Satisfied Everyone

    The “Game of Thrones” finale may have achieved a strange feat: Aiming for fan service while being constrained, by its very nature, to the reality that it would end up pleasing only very few. The episode was larded with character touches designed for devotees — from a title, at long last, for fan favorite Bronn, [...]

  • Game of Thrones Finale

    'Game of Thrones': Celebrity Fans Have Mixed Reaction to Series Finale

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the series finale of “Game of Thrones,” titled “The Iron Throne.”  Whether you loved it or hated it, the series finale of “Game of Thrones” was one for the history books. After the final episode aired Sunday night, fans across the globe took to [...]

  • ‘Game of Thrones’: 8 Shocking Moments

    ‘Game of Thrones’: 8 Shocking Moments From the Finale

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the finale of “Game of Thrones.” Well, that’s it. After the “Game of Thrones” finale, many of us will likely emulate Jon Snow and just retire North of the Wall. It was billed as one of the biggest events in TV history, and showrunners [...]

  • Front row: CBS THIS MORNING co-hosts

    CBS Hurls New Anchor Team Into TV's Morning-News Wars

    News Team: Assemble. CBS News plans to hurl a new anchor squad into TV’s morning-news wars Monday when a different trio – Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil –  takes the helm at “CBS This Morning.” The A.M. effort that has won critical plaudits by focusing on harder news topics, like international affairs and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content