‘Outcast: Season 1, Episodes 1-2’ - TV Review

I had the absolute pleasure, being an Angelino, to find myself at a premiere screening of the first two episodes of Robert Kirkman’s (The Walking Dead) new series, Outcast. Based on his Image comic series of the same name, created by Kirkman and Paul Azaceta, and having premiered on Cinemax on June 3rd, the show was projected on the wall of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery for a crowd of excited fans. For those who know nothing about the comic series, it’s a show about exorcism, but not in the way you think. Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) has lived a troubled life, one surrounded by demon possession in his family members. Not a great mix. It’s created a debilitating sense of guilt and self-loathing in him. He also has an inherent power, one that somehow can fight the possession. He just doesn’t know how it works exactly or how he got this supernatural power or what that makes him.

The first episode finds Kyle Barnes back in his hometown and living in his childhood home where the demons (if they are demons) first began to possess those he loved. Kyle would like nothing more than to disappear, but he’s drawn into a situation similar to his own because questions gnaw away at him, and he needs answers. A boy has been possessed and the local preacher, Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), is having a difficult time driving out the demon. Kyle decides to help and his past and present collide, driving him forward into a strange supernatural conspiracy in which his demons, both literal and metaphorical, need to be dealt with.

I love the comic book. For all its supernatural horror goodness, it is more focused on the unfolding human drama, bringing these characters to life quite brilliantly. The first two episodes captures the spirit of the comic book perfectly. You haven’t seen an exorcism scene like the ones presented here. These are real people fighting, spitting, and clawing to keep their heads above water. These are people who don’t have any easy answers, who are in way over their heads from the first frame. Director Adam Windarg (You’re Next, The Guest, The Woods) brings his deft hand at bringing suspense to the first episode, "A Darkness Surround Him." There are some genuinely creepy moments, and the final exorcism scene is absolute chaotic joy. As a writer, Kirkman can sometimes fall back on exposition that doesn’t land very prettily, but when he’s on his game, the words flow like honey for the actors.

The second episode, "(I Remember) When She Loved Me," written by Howard Deutch and directed by Jeff Vlaming, has a little more of a budget and really takes time to further the personal lives of our overworked heroes. The first sequence is creepy and heartbreaking in the same way some of the best episodes of The Walking Dead are. I love Reverend Anderson. The grounded sense of humanity that Glenister gives him is powerful in its simplicity. He’s fervent and forgiving, shows passionate resolve and yet sincere understanding. It’s a pitch-perfect performance. As Fugit sinks into his role and starts to break free of the character's oppressive sulking (which doesn’t last long), you see him start to play with the dimensions, the fear, the conflict inside of himself. Plus, the introduction of Brent Spiner as the mysterious Man in the Black Hat is about the most perfect bit of casting I’ll see this year.

This is a wonderful start, and while the show isn’t perfect (using the same flashback device too many times), there’s so much room for this ambitious series to grow into itself. As the writers, directors, and showrunner Chris Black perfect the voice and vision of the series, as they dig deeper into who these characters are, I expect great things based upon what I’ve seen thus far - in the first two episodes and comic book series.

And, yes, a second season has already been ordered.

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