Outcast: Season 1 Episode 1 Review – A Darkness Surrounds Him
We got to see an early preview of Outcast‘s first 4 episodes and trust us – they’re all great. Below, you will find our spoiler-heavy review of Outcast‘s pilot episode. All future episodes will be reviewed upon their release.
Robert Kirkman is becoming a titan not only in the comic book world, but recently in television too. After the boundless success of AMC’s The Walking Dead, which he has strong creative involvement within, Kirkman’s new creations are now so sought after that his recent comic Outcast (which at the time of writing is only 18 issues in) was snapped up for a TV show almost as soon as it hit the comic book stands.
With Cinemax at the helm (but FOX taking over in the UK), we knew (being big Banshee fans) that Outcast would be suitably bloody, yet the opening scene of the pilot surpassed even our expectations (despite this scene being pulled directly from the comic book).
The pilot opens with a young child intently observing a cockroach. He then slams his head into the roach, killing it, and continues to eat its remains. The scene then escalates even more by having the child bite into his own finger and tear a chunk of it away, as his Mother watches on in horror. Despite this scene being rather difficult to watch, we felt that this was a strong move for the show; it cements the tone from the outset and firmly indicates to the audience that this show will provide strong, gruesome, intense horror, without fear of holding back. And that’s exactly what this comic needs from an on-screen adaptation.
The shows goes on to set up Kyle’s position. He’s a shabby recluse and a man who’s lived in the shadow of possession his whole life. Not only was he abused by his possessed Mother as a child, but once he acquired his own family his partner became possessed also.
Kyle now steers clear of most people (“All he ever wants is to be alone,” his sister observes) and lives idle in squalor, visited only by his sister Megan Holter (Wrenn Schmidt), who tries to help him, or as Kyle puts it: “you don’t need to make me your mission.”
We love Schmidt (Boardwalk Empire, Person of Interest) so it’s great to see her popping up in more shows. Megan also serves to offer a sensible, sceptical perspective on the possessions: “Are they kidding with that nonsense? Dark forces? Please. Your Mother was sick and some people in this backwards town are crazy.” It’s an important stance for the show to address, because it would be unrealistic to have a whole town full of people all fully willing believe in the reality of possessions. Even Kyle presents himself as a sceptic several times during this episode, despite what he has previously seen. He at one point asks: “why don’t we stick to what we know, before we start blaming the boogeyman again?”
Despite Kyle’s voluntary solitude, he longs for any connection at all with his young daughter, who now lives solely with her mother and whom he has been ordered to have no contact with. “You hurt your little girl,” Kyle’s niece explains, “and now you’re not her Daddy anymore.” Whether Kyle did in fact do this, or whether he is covering for what Allison did while possessed, is unclear at this point. One flashback does show Allison hurting their daughter, so it could be this instance that Kyle has taken the blame for (whether voluntarily or being falsely accused of this).
Kyle does have a few friends in the town of Rome and the most crucial of these is Reverend Anderson (Phlip Glenister). The Reverend is a man willing to throw himself into dangerous situations in order to help the citizens of Rome, who he states have been afflicted by a darkness that has got much worse since Kyle left.
The flashback scenes of Kyle’s violent childhood and the present-day scenes of the possessed boy Joshua are scattered within the narrative and serve to suitably punctuate the calmer, more everyday interactions. Not only does it now allow the viewer to relax (which is a good thing), but it’s a nice balance that all culminates later on in a violent exorcism. An exorcism is something that is expected off a show about possession, so it’s the right move to perform one in the very first episode.
The demon inside Joshua reveals that it is the same demon that possessed Kyle’s Mother all those years prior and the same demon that possessed Allison too. “So long I’ve been trying to find you, Outcast,” the demon claims, revealing to us the crucial backbone of the show – that Kyle is special to these demons (his blood is shown to be the tool that expels the demons from their hosts) and more than once we see this demon try to suck some supernatural force out through Kyle’s mouth. Whether the demon is referring to Kyle as an “outcast” due to his anti-social behaviour, or whether “outcast” means something more supernatural, is unclear at this point.
Faithfulness to source material is a superb quality for any show to have and this show has that quality in spades. Not only is the opening scene pulled directly from the comics, but also the poker scene, the sister visiting Kyle, the phone that she gives him, what Kyle’s niece says to him, the pulling away of the blind to reveal the light, and so many direct quotations too. Really this is one of those rare shows that is extremely faithful (so far at least), to the point where they have effectively pulled all of the narrative straight off of the page.
We love to see that, as too many shows these days stray too far from their source material, to their own detriment. It does leave us a little anxious, however, knowing that the show will very soon overtake the comics, because then there will be no content to pull from so tidily.
There is an undeniable risk in creating a TV show just as a comic book is barely off the ground. Just look at the A Song of Ice and Fire series and how quickly Game of Thrones overtook the books, and at how Kirkman’s own The Walking Dead keeps rapidly gaining on the comics. Both of these highlight how quickly TV shows can catch up with their source material (and those two examples both had a huge quantity of source material to wade through first).
Outcast is certainly going to overtake the comics very quickly indeed. Whether this will be to the show’s detriment or not remains to be seen.
We adored this first episode of Outcast. It makes us want to go back and re-read the comics and it makes us very excited for what’s to come this season. Rest assured that Outcast is yet another brilliant Kirkman show, adapted very beautifully and cleverly by Cinemax and the team behind the show.
Outcast airs every Friday at 10pm on Cinemax and the following Tuesday at 10pm on FOX, in the UK.
Image Credits: Cinemax / FOX