Outcast opens with a young child smashing his head against a wall to kill a bug, eating the bug and then trying to bite his own finger off.
Needless to say the show had me intrigued.
I’ve never read the source material for this show, a comic created and written by Robert Kirkman. I’ve read and watched The Walking Dead, both of them well-past the point of being enjoyable. I haven’t read Invincible, but I heard it’s very good for a while and then becomes pretty crappy. It kind of seems like a Robert Kirkman trend to string things out past their expiration date. Hopefully Outcast doesn’t fall into the same pattern.
The lead of Outcast is Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit of Almost Famous… fame), a tortured soul who comes into the show comparatively late. He’s a man with a dark past, a childhood filled with abuse from his mother. His mother just happened to be possessed by a demon. The show also introduces Kyle’s sister (Wrenn
Schmidt), his disapproving brother-in-law (David Denman) and the local Reverend (Philip Glenister). It’s through Reverend Anderson that Kyle gets brought into the story. The Reverend is dealing with the possessed child from the opening of the episode and he gets help from Kyle.
The premiere just barely sketches these characters out. Kyle gets the most development, but even that is vague and impressionistic. He seems to be plagued by possessions, first his mother and then his estranged wife. Reverend Anderson, played by the very capable Glenister with an iffier Southern accent, gets a little more shading in his personality as well. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare as well, but Schmidt and Denman do their best. With Reg E. Cathey also in the cast as the local Police Chief I can only assume the supporting cast will get some meatier stuff to play in the rest of the series.
The first episode lays out the bare essentials of the plot, showing that Kyle is special in some way when it comes to these demons. Not only does he seem to attract them he’s able to expel them using his blood. The possessed boy manages to get off some ominous warnings of things to come, so I’m sure this isn’t the last Kyle-assisted exorcism the Reverend will have to perform.
Patrick Fugit is an intriguing lead even if the character seems a little stock right now. The most interesting stuff they’re doing in this episode is relating everything to abuse. There are the horrific flashbacks to a young Kyle being hurt and locked in a closet by his mother. There are the implications that Kyle was a perpetrator in something awful that made his wife and daughter leave. Kyle uses violence at first to try to exorcise the child. There are some undercurrents of dealing with family trauma coursing throughout the episode and, presumably, the series to come.
The pilot has an ace up its sleeve in director Adam Wingard. The man behind You’re Next and The Guest brings a solid eye to the series. He shoots the setting of Rome, Virginia as a decaying middle America town. The setting echoes Kyle’s broken-down childhood home, the possessed people from Kyle’s past and present and Kyle himself. The exorcism scenes are appropriately unnerving and the special effects are solid for a TV budget, using minimal CG effectively. Wingard brings his expert eye to the show and hopefully the series directors going forward follow his style.
See it. The atmosphere of the show, the deep bench of the supporting cast or the magnificent lead performance from Patrick Fugit would would all have been good enough reasons individually to keep watching. Thankfully “A Darkness Surrounds Him” is packed with all of that. I hope to see some development of the side characters going forward, which is bound to happen, but as it is I’m digging the relatively measured pace. A troubled lead character with a dark past who is “Special” is certainly nothing new but Kirkman and company put enough of a spin on it to keep it intriguing. If the series can go more than 7 episodes without seeming like it’s overstaying its welcome it’ll at least have one up on Kirkman’s other adaptation.