A well prepared first expedition into the demonic, perfect for any lover of The Walking Dead.
Outcast is the youngest sibling within the Robert Kirkman family, along with elder brother The Walking Dead and similarly new sister Fear the Walking Dead. Whereas FWD is completely autonomous, Outcast has followed in the footsteps of the elder series, and has been adapted from its comic book counterpart. However, the threat posed in this world is no longer physical; it is not the body, but the soul that is being plagued.
The undead have been replaced by the devil, in the form of a small boy, who opens the series unabashedly. His movements at first glance could be likened to that of a walker, which is probably no accident, but the unnatural and freakish behaviour he portrays is far more unsettling. At least a walker’s behaviour is unremarkable and predictable – a shuffle here, a munch there – it’s their sheer physical strength which we fear. Yet, only in the face of a new, abominable evil, we begin to appreciate their lack of spontaneity. The boy nibbles at his finger; a meal in honour of its creator and his romance with the undead. A purposeful nod to the origin of Outcast, and to the fans of the former series. We begin to perceive this new threat as not the perverse unnatural, but the intangible supernatural; a whole new ball game to sink your teeth into.
The distinctions would not be made if they were not there to find; Robert Kirkman’s style is certainly apparent, despite the change in scenery and narrative. It is, in parts, chilling and gruesome, and yet retains his distinctive sombre and restrained shade.
Our protagonist Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) is empty from his self-inflicted isolation from the world. Caught between flashbacks of the distant and recent variety, he seems utterly lost. His belief in the shared concept of our reality was shattered years ago, and we are left with the confused and questionable makings of a hero. He is ostracized by a town that does not understand him, as he ostracizes himself from the world that caused him pain and suffering. Adopted sister Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) obviously cares for him, but equally doesn’t understand, while he and the Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), who share a past, succeed in helping the possessed boy, yet are punished for doing so. In this universe, the living are in the majority, and thus our hero’s fate lays in their incapable and closed minded hands. However, before departing this world, the demon shows a special interest in Kyle, giving him the chance to find answers to the questions that have defined his being.
We see less of the aggressive and more of the passive with Kyle, who lacks any substance or emotion until provoked. Fugit plays a compelling act, switching between moments of spurred emotion and rage, and moments of silence and emptiness – he is a man with nothing left to live for, angry at the world for all of his unanswered questions. Hopefully more screen time will be dedicated in later episodes to Glenister’s priest, while the character of Megan provides moments of normalcy and humanity which Fugit’s understated and restrained performance may lack.
Overall, the pilot proved a strong first episode, with thrilling heights that blended classic horror movie stunts (the magic carpet demonic ride was a nice touch) with tell-tale signs of Kirkman style. However, this self-imposed gloomy mood may also be its one weakness, as its main rival Preacher (find the review of the first episode here) possesses many of the same questions of religion and morality, but a much more comical disposition.
Preacher airs on FOX UK on Tuesdays at 9pm.