All season, Cinemax’s new horror series, Outcast, based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta, has concentrated as much on its characters’ inner demons as it has on possession by external, hellish ones. Protagonist Kyle Barnes has struggled to discover what inner quality he has that draws the demons to him; other townspeople have attempted to control their own demons, internal psychological ones, and external, hellish ones; and the spiritual leader of the community, Revered Anderson, was forced to recognize that he has been casting out demons more for his own glory than for God’s. Episode 8, “What Lurks Within,” took a harrowing and unexpected turn when characters — and viewers — were given a chance to “choose” a demon — perhaps even the Devil himself — who was less evil than his pedophile human host.
The episode was a bit confusing at the start, showing Sidney (Brent Spiner) in a loud-print shirt, waiting on some boys at a shop, then at home, where he had a young boy bound and gagged in a padded torture chamber. Initially, I assumed that the Devil in Sidney was also a pedophile, and it freaked me out. I feared Outcast was about to go into graphically violent and sexually explicit territory that would trigger me, and lose me as a viewer. Instead, we gradually learned that this was a flashback of Sidney before demonic possession. Sidney the man was a pedophile, not Sidney-the-demon.
Please allow me to introduce myself…
As Kyle (Patrick Fugit) learned when he visited Sidney in jail, the demons, who are attracted to Kyle’s “light,” don’t have a choice about what body they end up in. They simply open their eyes and discover who they’re in, along with what kind of life that body leads. Much as Mildred and Sidney discussed in an earlier episode, they can “find their passions” in the new bodies. Mildred’s demon learned to like collecting porcelain figurines. Sidney’s demon learned that the body he inhabited was a pedophile, a rapist, a torturer, and perhaps a serial murderer as well. Sidney-the-demon was not happy about that.
As you can imagine, Kyle thought Sidney’s story was ridiculous when he first heard it. No doubt, he thought Sidney was playing him for a fool. Kyle simply didn’t believe that these demons — which can destroy a person’s life, and which have some nefarious ulterior motive for invading the residents of Rome WV — don’t have any control over where they end up. Sidney-the-demon was surprisingly forthcoming, however, which forced Kyle to believe that it was telling him the truth.
Though the demon never did reveal exactly what it is about Kyle that draws them to Kyle, the demon did say that they were, in fact, honing in on some sort of light or radar in Kyle that attracts them. The demonic possessions may have started with Kyle’s mother. It may have started before that.
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
Kyle, who was a young boy when his mother was possessed and her personality changed, may not have noticed the demons in any other Rome inhabitants. When choosing between the demon and his mother, however, Kyle chose his mother, casting the demon out as best he could, leaving his mother a catatonic shell.
To Kyle’s horror, Demon-Sidney revealed that the longer a demon is in its human host, the less of the human host remains when the demon is cast out. That means that Kyle did, indeed, cause his mother’s catatonia, albeit unintentionally, when he exorcised the hellish demon.
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
Then Demon-Sidney told about the host that his demon inhabits. The story eventually returned to flashbacks involving Sidney-the-Pedophile, with a vicious looking knife in hand, about to open the locked door to the padded room where the bound boy was imprisoned. In a shocking volte-face, viewers rooted for the demon, who was not a pedophile, and who actually released the imprisoned boy rather than killing him.
Would you ever have imagined that you would prefer a demon to its host? Well, if the host is a murdering, raping pedophile, the demon is preferable. Especially when that demon releases the intended child victim rather than hurting him. When you’re introduced to the Devil, which The Rev (Philip Glenister, below) believes Sidney to be, and you find the Devil to be less evil than his human host, you’re probably going to choose to have the Devil stick around.
As if it weren’t enough of a shock for the viewers to find themselves rooting for the Devil-as-Sidney, we learned that some of the other Rome residents also prefer the demon to the human host. When The Rev cornered Ogden’s wife and took her to Kyle’s house (below) so the two of them could drive out the demon, Kyle didn’t want to do it. He doesn’t know how long the demon has been in her, and he doesn’t want to cause yet another innocent host to become catatonic: recall that it’s already happened with Kyle’s mother and with the runaway Sherry.
Now Kyle knows why the exorcism sometimes causes catatonia. It’s nothing that Kyle is doing or not doing correctly: instead, a successful or failed exorcism depends on how long the demon has been in its human host. Too long, and there’s nothing of the human host left. When the demon is cast out, the remaining host becomes catatonic. Kyle doesn’t want to risk another exorcism without knowing more about the possession, especially how long the host has been inhabited by the demon.
The Rev has gone absolutely off-the-rails-crazy, though, and he and Kyle had a knock-down-drag-out-sine-missione brawl. (In fact, the battle was so physically rough that when Philip Glenister’s The Rev smashed Patrick Fugit’s Kyle and knocked him into the car, Fugit/Kyle hit the car so hard, he dented it.) When Chief Giles (Reg E Cathey, above L) pulled up with Ogden, to rescue Ogden’s wife, he also had to stop the fight between Kyle and The Rev.
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
In a reversal of their roles over the last few weeks, Kyle has become the cautious and pacific one, while The Rev has become the hot-tempered, violent one. Now, instead of trusting The Rev, people like Giles prefer to trust Kyle. Chief Giles was inclined to change his opinion of Kyle and of The Rev before he saw them fighting. On the trip over to Kyle’s home, Ogden (Pete Burris, below) explained that he already knows his wife’s body is inhabited by a demon, that he took her to the camper in the woods because some host-bodies fight harder when they first become possessed and that’s where Ogden kept his wife during those early demon-thrashing times, and that Ogden actually prefers the new demon-wife to his former human-wife.
Unlike Mildred’s daughter, Sophie, who preferred the sweeter pre-possessed version of her mother, some of Rome’s inhabitants like the demons and do not want the demons exorcised.
Talk about turning the Possession trope on its ear! As Kyle, and the viewers, came to realize that Demon-Sidney was vastly preferable to the Pedophile-Rapist-Murderer-Sidney, other characters have revealed their own preferences for the demons.
What a shockity-shock, my fellow Outcasts.
The Devil has introduced himself, and he’s more likeable, affectionate, and moral than some of Rome’s original residents.
Even in the human bodies, however, the demons appear to have their own “demons.”
After the red-head son of the red-headed Patricia (who’s dating The Rev) showed up at Demon-Sidney’s home, Sidney cautioned the boy to leave. The boy has already lied to Chief Giles, telling him that he saw The Rev carve the pentagram into his own chest, when viewers know that Demon-Sidney did the flesh-artwork. The boy broke into Demon-Sidney’s home. The Kid appears to suspect, or actually know, that the Devil is in Sidney, and, contrary to expectations, The Kid likes the Devil. The Kid seems to prefer the Devil’s company to that of his mother or The Rev.
Unfortunately, the pedophile is still lurking beneath the surface of Demon-Sidney, and it wants the Redhead-Kid.
The Kid doesn’t want to go home.
He’d rather hang with the Devil.
And hang, he may.
(lyrics, in italics, from “Sympathy for the Devil”
© 1968-69 by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards)