Outer Range Season 1 Review
“Twin Peaks” meets “The Neo-Western.”
Many shows have attempted to recreate the unique blend of small-town drama and otherworldly surrealism found in Twin Peaks over the past three decades, with varying degrees of success.
Perhaps a western would be more appropriate. An entirely new series from Brian Watkins, Outer Range seeks to combine the strangeness of David Lynch’s iconic series with a modern Western.
At the very least, the odd mash-up of genres piques the interest of the audience. As a metaphysical thriller, Outer Range succeeds in its first three episodes, pitting two ranch families against each other after a series of inexplicable incidents occur on their properties.
In the middle of its eight-episode first season, the story suffers from a lack of cohesion, pace, and intrigue.
Josh Brolin portrays Royal Abbott, the patriarch of a long-standing Wyoming cattle herding family. Wayne Tillerson (Will Patton) and his three sons, who collectively make up the oddball jerks of the local town, live just across their fence line.
The Abbotts and the Tillersons have been friendly neighbours for generations, but a skewed land appraisal claims the Abbotts owe the Tillersons 600 acres of their western holdings. Immediately after that, the theme of local families at war is introduced as a backdrop for the eight episodes of other oddities.
Outer Range has enough of soapy stories for fans of shows like Yellowstone and Big Sky, from a murder to a renewed romance and a missing person investigation to an existential crisis.
It’s hard to argue that any of these storylines are very original, but they all tick the small-town intrigue boxes with a little extra bull riding thrown in.
When the show is allowed to be odd and cryptic, it works best in the beginning. A cluster of unusual events on the Abbott property seem to be calling Royal in the first three episodes—”The Void,” “The Land,” and “The Time”—which build the basis for that. His property is ringed by strange god trumpet sounds that seem to herd him toward an area of land with an unusually deep pit.
Alonso Ruizpalacios, his cinematographer, and his camera crew use rack focuses and depth of field gauziness to beautifully portray the disquietude of both the land’s secrets and Royal’s uneasiness with it all. Filmed with an understated mournful color palette, which adds visual richness to the whole endeavor, the series is a visual treat for fans of the Abbott family.
One of the piece’s most unsettling intrusions is Autumn River (Imogen Poots), a young woman hiking alone who shows up to Abbott Ranch and asks Royal permission to sleep on his ranch.
When he agrees, he regrets it right away. she seems to have an insatiable curiosity about everything that happens in the Abbott household, from Cecilia (Lili Taylor) and Rhett (Lewis Pullman) to Perry’s daughter, Amy (Tom Pelphrey), and the rest of the family, including Cecilia’s suspicious son, Perry (Tom Pelphrey) (Olive Abercrombie).
A wild-eyed yet fascinating portrayal as Autumn is given by Poots in the first half of season. It’s a mystery worth delving into until her story goes off the rails in a way that’s utterly ludicrous.
Getting bogged down after the first three episodes is the show’s main flaw. First, Watkins establishes a winning tone and tempo, which contains essential but mysterious revelations, and some excellently tense cliffhangers.
Atheist Royal’s version of a supper prayer is one of the funniest and angriest things this ex-Catholic has ever heard, and there are many more. But by the end of Episode 4, “The Loss,” all of that promise vanishes. In the following section, the author delves too deeply into the mediocre personal stories of each family member.
Nevertheless, Will Patton deserves special mention for his performance as the wacky patriarch Tillerson, who is obsessed with something he knows can only be found on Abbott territory and will do anything to get his hands on it even as his health deteriorates.
As the series progresses without much resolution, his pranks become fewer and farther between. However, Billy Reid, Noah Reid’s songbird son, does come to the rescue with his increasingly boring musical interludes. The show’s greatest enigma is why he has to sing in every episode.
Because it gets off to such a fantastic start, Outer Range falls short of expectations
Despite its promising start, Outer Range ultimately fails to live up to its potential. As the episodes accumulate, this sense of urgency fades, perhaps because the stories are too specific, or perhaps because there are too many episodes (several of which run longer than 50 minutes) to maintain a tight narrative focus.
Season finale doesn’t feel heavy enough with answers to elicit much enthusiasm because the huge discoveries that are dangling within the season have been meted out so sparingly.
There’s a lot of intrigue and mystery to be found in Outer Range’s first three episodes, but the series begins to lose pace towards the middle. In spite of Josh Brolin, Imogen Poots, Lili Taylor, and Tamara Podemski’s intriguing performances, the whole storyline ends up annoyingly soapy, bloated, and slow.
When it comes to balancing a small town family drama, a murder mystery (which the audience already knows the answer to), and a creepy, spooky plot, the writers of the show are having a difficult time. As a result, the latter is significantly more interesting, but is only presented to us in vague and ultimately unsatisfactory ways.