Dark & Shadowy
Cinemax’s new horror series, Outcast, based on the comic books/ graphic novels by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta, is deliciously spooky, and not just because the protagonists are fighting possession and demons. They’re also dealing with their inner demons, which, most of the time, are even scarier than the supernatural kind. Episodes 4 through 6 of its premiere season are as plot-driven as the first few episodes, but the stories are getting more complex as the characters fight their way out of the darkness that’s surrounding them. Add spooky good cinematography and creepy music, and you have a delightful Friday night spook show.
A Wrath Unseen
In Demons, Demons Everywhere, I reviewed episode the first four episodes without giving away plot lines. If you haven’t yet seen episode 4, stop reading now, since this post and subsequent ones on Outcast will contain plot spoilers. “A Wrath Unseen” is where Outcast departed from its Exorcism of the Week format and began exploring the inner demons haunting most of the characters. The plot was a strong as it had been in the initial episodes, but the character development significantly improved with this episode.
Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit) is beginning to be a bit less “broken” than he was in the first three episodes. Though he is slightly afraid of his own inner demons, he also is very protective of women, children, and men who are possessed. He wants to help the Reverend exorcise the demons in Rome’s population. Unfortunately, Kyle doesn’t know specifically what he does that causes them to be cast out. Based on what happened to his own mother when he was a boy, he’s pretty sure that light, his touch, and his blood all cause the demons to react violently, but that doesn’t mean he can actually get them out of the body and soul they’ve inhabited. It’s still a trial and error procedure for Kyle. Furthermore, unlike the Reverend, Kyle doesn’t believe in God, though he clearly believes in demons.
Every other character in Outcast knows Kyle is angry, but viewers don’t yet know exactly what’s behind his anger. Is he angry because he feels stalked by demons? because the townspeople of Rome misunderstand his previous actions? because he had an abusive childhood? because his wife and child left him? any combination or all of the above? We’ll have to wait to see what Kyle’s real story is, but I suspect that Kyle is much more sympathetic than he’s currently being presented. This episode showed him extremely protective of his sister Megan, even if Kyle’s idea of protection is beating up — or, more accurately, getting beaten up by — her childhood rapist Donnie.
The story of Kyle’s adopted sister Megan and her family was expanded greatly in the fourth episode, and included flashbacks to Megan’s childhood. In the present, Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) and her husband Mark (David Denman) went out on a date night, only to have it ruined by a mysterious man named Donnie (Scott Parker), who clearly upset Megan, though Mark didn’t seem to notice. In flashbacks, Donnie was revealed as foster child who raped Megan when she was a girl (all violence was off-screen, and merely implied).
Later, Megan got a revolver out of a safe-box, and, in one of the more foolish moments in Megan’s life, went alone to the hotel where Donnie was staying, went into his room and let him close the door, and told him to get outta Dodge. Of course, Donnie is as emotionally abusive as he was previously sexually abusive, and he told Megan that he wondered why she was there, with him, in his hotel room, alone. I wondered that myself, again, since warning lights were going off. I expected her to pull out the gun and shoot Donnie, but she refrained. She simply told him that he hadn’t “ruined” her life as much as he thought. It was a hollow cry against her rapist, one that didn’t ring true despite her character’s insistence.
Later, Megan was shown buying glassware from a thrift shop. The final scene of the episode showed her going out to their backyard in the middle of the night, setting up the glassware, donning protective eye-wear, and smashing the glass with a hammer. Megan has as much rage as her adopted brother Kyle. She also has as many demons, though hers are not supernatural.
Police Officer Mark
Mark didn’t learn the truth about Donnie from his wife Megan, though it was revealed that Mark knew about the childhood rapes, just not the identity of the rapist. Mark took Kyle out for a beer and Kyle, who had already gotten into fisticuffs with Donnie the night before, told Mark who Donnie was. Later, Mark pulled Donnie over for a “traffic stop,” then beat him at the side of the road, revealing Mark’s wrath and his anger on behalf of his wife.
While it was theoretically admirable that Mark”punished” his wife’s rapist, he did it on the job: the assault was captured on Mark’s dash-cam. (That was one of the interesting touches in the cinematography this episode: the viewers got it from the dash-cam. It was very powerful.) Obviously, there are going to be consequences to this assault being caught on camera.
Reverend Anderson (Philip Gennister) is still one of the most developed characters in the show. Profane yet devoutly spiritual, vain and proud yet humbled by his obvious personal and professional failures, the Reverend wants Kyle’s help ridding Rome of its demons, yet Anderson wants to be the main one responsible for “saving” his congregation from the Devil and his minions.
In fact, Kyle learns from Anderson that one of his “favorite” sins is Pride. Not as glamorous as sins like Lust and Greed, Pride is more sinister. The Reverend is clearly suffering from the sin of Pride: he wants to cast out the demons in Rome, but he wants to be recognized, even praised, for it. And he doesn’t seem to want to share any of the spotlight and applause with Kyle.
One of Reverend Anderson’s widowed congregation members, Patricia (Melinda McGraw), wants to have a relationship with him, and while the Reverend is interested in her, he seems to be haunted by his own failed marriage. In any event, the Reverend is pretty busy casting out demons these days, and he gets rattled when Kyle reveals that he doesn’t think all the Reverend’s exorcisms have been successful. The Reverend insists that he’d know if a demon was sitting in his church on Sundays, but viewers already suspect, from Sidney’s lurking presence, that the Reverend may not be able to tell the well-behaved, well-dressed demons from the rest of his congregation.
Kyle’s elderly neighbor, Norville, who was murdered, was buried. While Kyle (Patrick Fugit) and Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) were at the graveside, the ominous Sidney (Brent Spiner) showed up. The Reverend recognized him as a recent visitor to his church and was polite, but Kyle seemed uneasy. Sidney told them he’d be staying at Norville’s home, claiming that he, too, was a friend of the deceased. Sidney’s role is still a small one, but I expect that will change given that such a well-known and popular actor is playing the character.
Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) has that bloodied camper in the woods to investigate, although he previously told Officer Mark to leave it alone. Officer Mark got pretty upset with this “order,” since it’s obvious from the blood-spray inside the camper that something bad happened inside. Like, murder. Or something really close to that. Besides the blood in the camper, there were all those mutilated carcasses mounted to trees, seeming to show the way to the camper.
In “A Wrath Unseen,” viewers learned that there was a specific reason Chief Giles told his subordinate to “ignore” the crime scene: Giles recovered the watch of his best friend from the camper. At a backyard barbecue with his friend Ogden (Pete Burris), Giles returned the watch. Ogden’s face didn’t reveal anything. And that was despite the fact that Giles’ German Shepherd was going berserkers around Ogden. Given the fact that the two are friends, it would seem odd if that were the first time Ogden was at Giles’ home. Surely, Doggie couldnt’ have acted like that in the past. Something has changed. And that something has more to do with demons, I’m guessing, than with the camper in the woods. Unless, of course, Ogden was summoning demons in that camper. Or offering sacrifices.
Chief Giles may never know for certain. While Giles was on a stake-out in the woods, keeping an eye on the camper, Friend Ogden soaked it in gasoline and set it aflame. So much for evidence.
Veteran character actor Grace Zabriskie joined Outcast as Mildred, one of Rome’s residents, and one of Reverend Anderson’s “successful” exorcisms. When Anderson and Kyle go to visit Mildred, bringing food and supplies, Mildred’s daughter Sophie asks to speak to the Reverend alone. She is pretty distressed by what she views as her mother’s completely changed character. Previously, Sophie found her mother loving and caring. Now, Sophie can only think of four-letter words to describe her mother. Her complaints make the Revered have a few flashbacks of demon-possessed Mildred.
While Sophie and the Reverend are talking about Mildred, Kyle goes into the living room, where he meets Mildred. After he introduces himself, she says she knows who he is, in a tone that drips with venom and… well, demons. When she loses her balance slightly and Kyle attempts to help her, she screams at his touch. Somehow, it wasn’t a surprise, but it was a delight to see Zabriskie get to be a nasty old lady.
When the Revered returns on a later visit, sans Kyle, Mildred alternates between hostility and Karo-syrupy sweetness. She even momentarily displays a demonic face: after the Reverend flinches and pulls back, she says, laughingly triumphant, “Gotcha.” She also says she still “likes to play games” with him. He was referring to Scrabble and other board games. Looks like she was referring to games concerning devils and God.
The Road Before Us
“The Road Before Us” introduced us a bit more to Kyle’s ex-wife Allison, their daughter Amber, the criminal investigation surrounding the camper in the woods, and Sidney’s role in the demonic possession of Rome.
Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil, above L) has a restraining order against ex-husband Kyle because, despite her lack of memory of the traumatic event, she believes that Kyle violently beat her. She’s afraid of him, yet she’s still attracted to him. Given that she’s acting somewhat strangely herself in this episode, and given Kyle’s enigmatic refusal to give other characters a full account of “what happened that night,” viewers are beginning to suspect that Kyle is right in fearing that something is “wrong” with Allison, and that that something may be a demon or two. Further, to make the situation worse, their daughter Amber is playing very violently with her dolls. Something happened to the girl, something the girl seems to recall, despite the blanks in her mother’s memory. Amber wants to spend more time with her father, but Allison fears for Amber’s safety.
Megan and Allison still have a relationship, and the two clearly care for each other. Kyle attempts to set up a meeting with Allison through Megan, but Allison isn’t interested. She confides in Megan that Kyle seemed to be better at handling Amber than she herself was. When Allison finds what looks like blood on the floor of the garage, and follows the trail through the house, she discovers that her daughter has decided to paint her bedroom walls blood-red. (Don’t ask how this little tyke got the lid off the paint, or even why there was blood-red paint in the house.) Allison goes berserkers on Amber, causing her to hide in the closet, a symbolic mirroring of the scenes with Kyle as a youngster when his possessed mother locked him in the kitchen pantry.
Later, however, Allison goes to Kyle’s house to talk to him. She ends up kissing him. Danger, Kyle Barnes, Danger. We know Kyle still loves his ex-wife, and that he’s protecting her from something violent she herself did to their daughter and for which he’s taking the blame. But she does have a restraining order against him, and she thinks he’s the one that assaulted her (though she can’t remember the attack herself). Poor Kyle: he’s in for some choppy waters ahead with Allison.
Chief Giles is catting around Rome, trying to make his friend Fire Chief Ogden nervous. Giles wants Ogden to confess, even if Giles doesn’t know exactly what he wants his friend Ogden to admit. Ogden is having none of it, however, and he tends to stare blankly at Giles whenever he shows up unexpectedly and starts rambling about “If I were in trouble and I had a friend…” ‘Cause, you know, that line always works on criminals in the real world, so it’ll probably work in a demon-possessed world. Of course, Ogden says nothing to implicate himself. And why should he? I’m guessing Ogden’s a demon himself, and he’s got more important things to do in the demonic world.
Officer Mark, in a surprisingly short time, got the DNA results from the blood in the camper. All that blood, sprayed over everything, seems to have come from just one person. Whom the DNA-guys have actually identified by name.
Oh, come on. If DNA worked like that, I’m pretty sure there are plenty of criminals, including killers, who’d be on death row or in prison for life right now. How the actor managed to say Officer Mark’s lines with a straight face is beyond me. And Chief Giles, instead of being absolutely astounded at the rapid advances in DNA testing in recent weeks, casually told Officer Mark to further investigate the “missing girl” since she might be staying with someone secretly. So her boyfriend wouldn’t find her.
I guess Officer Mark was so flabbergasted by the amazing DNA test results that he forgot any additional police procedure, and I can’t say I blame him. The lab was able to determine the name of the “victim” whose blood was in the camper in the woods without having a matching DNA sample from said suspected victim.
It was so hard to stay focused on the remainder of that scene. Talk about shoddy science. I mean, I know the show is horror, that it’s dealing with the Devil and demonic possession, that it’s more concerned with exorcisms than scientific realities, and that Kyle’s supposed to be some “chosen one” whom the congregating demons need for some reason. Willing suspension of disbelief, and all that. I got it.
But it was really tough to stretch credulity further by having this miraculous DNA test that could give the police the name, address, and phone number of the missing “victim” out of the great wide yonder. I realize that the creator-author of Outcast, Robert Kirkman, is also the creator of The Walking Dead, which dealt with zombies and a post-apocalyptic world, but that’s not the world we’re being given in Outcast. Even if it were, I’m guessing DNA tests couldn’t give the zombies the name of a victim. I laughed aloud when Officer Mark said he’d “found” the victim through the DNA test on the blood.
It’s never a good thing to laugh in a show that’s supposed to be horror. Just saying…
Reverend Anderson & Kyle
Reverend Anderson is rather proud of his record of successful exorcisms, and doesn’t seem to find it odd that his tiny congregation in Rome WV has so many demonic possessions. He’s just doing his job. And he’s proud of the fact that he’s doing such a great job. Unfortunately, Kyle bursts the Rev’s Pride-Bubble by insisting that Mildred is still inhabited by, and perhaps controlled by, a demon. The Reverend then drives around with Kyle to the homes or businesses of various previously-possessed-but-now-successfully-exorcised peoples. The Rev’s trying to prove his worth to Kyle, I guess, because the Rev believes in God and so he must be more successful at exorcisms that Kyle, if only because of the belief-in-God factor.
Imagine the Rev’s dismay when he discovers that at least two people besides Mildred may still be possessed by demons. One of them, Sherry, has run away and is living on the streets in Charleston SC, because that’s the demon-hang-out, I suppose, and the only reason a teen runs away is because she’s possessed by the Devil. The other, Pet-Shop-Boy, is now divorced from his wife and living in his abandoned petshop. After Kyle does the sneaky moves and grabs Pet-Shop-Boy from behind, he goes crazy and gets a shotgun. The Rev and Kyle back off pretty quickly. They decide to track down Sherry instead, presumably because she won’t point a shotgun at them.
They find her in Charleston (wait: how far is that from Rome, WV?). At this point, before they find her, I have to say, I’m getting rather bored with all those scenes of the Rev and Kyle in the car. I don’t know if the show’s trying to imitate the comic books on which it’s based, or if the director just likes buddy-movie-road-trip shots, or if the writer couldn’t think of any other setting in which two characters might discuss such profound topics as God and demonic possession, but enough with the car-shots already.
So, the guys find Sherry in Charleston, and they find her pretty quickly given that they didn’t have her DNA on hand. They follow her into an abandoned warehouse / train station / terminal, and she “recognizes” Kyle. That is to say, the demon(s) recognize him. She says, “We are the nameless, the numberless; we need you.” When Kyle goes to help her to her feet, she does the screaming routine, so we know that she is, indeed, still possessed, and the Rev is about to have is ego dashed again.
The black gooey crud that poured out of the mouth of Joshua, the first exorcised person in the show, comes out of Sherry’s mouth, too, but it’s more wiggly and snake-y than we’ve seen previously. It’s also a lot stronger: the demonic sludge surrounds Kyle, lifts up in the air, then dashes him to the floor. The Rev, who’s acting a bit jealous, asks, “What’s so special about him?” but the demon-sludge is too busy with Kyle to answer.
Then they get the bad news: Sherry is lying catatonic on the floor, just like Kyle’s mother is lying in the Home all those years after Kyle drove the demon(s) from her. It seems that sometimes when Kyle casts out a demon, it destroys the body-mind of the victim. Kyle is really upset about that. The Rev thinks it’s still Coolio and the Gang as long as the Devil doesn’t win the victims’ souls. Kyle has a serious problem with that interpretation of events. They have a shoving match in the hall outside the hospital room where Sherry is lying, unresponsive, while her father sits, grieving, beside her. Kyle and the Rev part ways: Kyle refuses to continue exorcisms is they’re going to leave the victim catatonic. Despite the fact that at least two possessed still have demons in them, the Rev is confident that he can continue the exorcisms alone.
Sidney & Mildred
Sidney shows up at Mildred’s house, and in a comical scene, she first tells him, from the window, that she doesn’t need her house numbers painted on the curb, or magazine subscriptions, or whatever else he’s selling. Then he just opens the door and walks in. She starts to get annoyed, then recognizes the demon in him — and his demon seems to be the boss of her demon — and she apologizes. They stand around Mildred’s living room, discussing human nature, including its tendency to collect knick-knacks, before they talk specifically about Kyle. It seems that both of their inner demons are upset about Kyle and about his exorcisms, even if he’s not as in control of them as he’d like to think. Sidney tells Mildred that he’ll take care of Kyle.
In a surprise maneuver, Mildred grabbed Sidney and kissed him, attempting to steal his soul or his energy or his life-force or whatever. She was unsuccessful because he’s much more powerful than she is, as well as physically stronger. He pushed her off. She then apologized, attempting to excuse her behavior by whining about the fact that she’s not strong enough to survive till “The Merge.” Sidney reminds her that she took the same chances “as the rest of us.” Now we know that there are a great number of demons, inhabiting humans, most of them in Rome, and most of them looking for Kyle, apparently. Mildred is one who fears she will not last until some apocalyptic event called The Merge, but Sidney feels no sympathy for her.
From the Shadows It Watches
Episode 6 of Outcast took viewers to virtually all the characters in the series, letting us know that It is watching all the people in Rome, whether they demon-possessed or not. Since there are 10 episodes in season 1 (the show has already been renewed for a second season), we’re more than half-way through this first season, so things are starting to bubble and boil in the demon-infested town.
Megan & Donnie
While having lunch with Kyle, Megan got a phone call from a number she didn’t recognize, and she ignored it. After Kyle when back to work, the phone rang again, and Megan answered, asking, “Who is this?” Viewers didn’t hear anything, but later, when Megan showed up at Donnie’s hospital room, we realized that he had been the one calling her. Beaten and brain-damaged, Donnie is attempting to blackmail Megan: he wants hush-money to not tell the truth about Officer Mark’s assaulting him.
We don’t yet know how Megan will respond to the blackmail attempt, but later in the show, we saw that she was unhappy enough with husband Mark’s violence to put their daughter into bed with her, and then to tell Mark to leave the girl there in bed. He went to sleep somewhere else in the house without even asking Megan what on earth was going on. He’ll find out. After all, the shadows around Megan are filled with demons, too.
Thanks to the miraculous DNA test results, Officer Mark is able to get the “missing” woman in for questioning about the mutilated animal carcasses as well as the bloody camper in the woods. She won’t give him any information, saying that he’s a big guy with a big gun and a big piece of male anatomy so of course he can’t imagine why any woman would want to just “disappear” from her boyfriend, leaving all her clothes and her car behind. Officer Mark doesn’t know what to do with that comment, so he just lets her leave the police station. Later, the woman shows up at Ogden’s house and tells him the Camper is being investigated. In case he didn’t know that already from all the Chief’s innuendoes and from his returning the watch found at the scene of the bloodied camper.
The woman and Ogden have apparently done more than a few things for which he might get into trouble, way out there in that camper in the woods, and at least one of those things involves a whole lotta blood. Ogden seems more concerned that his wife will discover that he and the woman have an inappropriate (probably sexual) relationship, than he does that the Chief may discover that a crime was committed. Did he and the woman mutilate and kill all those animals? Was all the blood in the camper from the animals or from humans? Was that his wife standing in the open doorway of the house watching him talk to the woman or was that just a shadow on the screen door? Demon or human, that man is in for some trouble.
Kyle and the Reverend Anderson are seriously competing to be the Alpha Male Exorcismus. After another exorcism, this time of the Rev’s worker Caleb, Kyle says he is willing to help the Reverend if they do it Kyle’s way, but the Reverend would prefer to do it his own way, if only because he’ll get all the attention from God and from his congregation if he’s a successful Exorcist all on his own. After much shoving, yelling, and name-calling, the two eventually come to an uneasy truce.
The Reverend is having some serious issues with faith, God, demons, the Devil, and his own role in this world where the demons within the human bodies are stalking other humans and demons. Also, the Rev is pretty upset that, though Kyle managed to cast out a demon from Caleb, the worker tells the Rev afterward that he wasn’t frightened or tormented when possessed. All Caleb felt, he tells Reverend Anderson, was “warmth,” and Caleb can no longer tell his fellow believers to fear demons or the Devil.
As you can imagine, this makes the Rev none too happy. He gets into quite a few “arguments” with God during this episode, and he eventually throws a glass or a bottle at the cross hanging in his home. After Patricia offers to help the Rev in his work, she gets frightened and wants to get Kyle. The Rev is not happy with her lack of faith in him, and he basically tells her that she can forget any personal relationship if she lacks faith in him.
In a delightfully surprising move, Mildred goes to Kyle’s house, cold-cocks him with her walking cane, and then, straddling him in an obviously sexual manner, attempts to drain the energy or soul from him, much as she did with Sidney, only taking the precaution to knock the guy senseless beforehand so he can’t resist her or fight back. While she’s sucking the black-energy-crud from him, she yelps and is tossed off him. Later, at the neighbor’s house where Sidney is staying, we see Mildred there, reassuring Sidney that she didn’t harm Kyle. It was apparently Sidney who yanked her off Kyle.
Sidney tells Mildred that she’s not to attract attention to herself. She responds by saying that the Reverend Anderson is doing lots more harm than she ever has, but the look Sidney gives her makes it clear he is not happy with her at all. Later, when Kyle goes to her home to talk to her, he finds her catatonic. Yeah, I’d say Sidney was more than unhappy with her. And he must be a pretty powerful demon. (But if that’s the last we see of Mildred, I’ll be disappointed: not only is the character great, but the actor, Grace Zabriskie, has some of the best charisma and on-screen chemistry in the show.)
When Kyle’s not arguing with Reverend Anderson, he’s attempting to clean up his life: he’s cleaned himself up physically, gotten a job, seems to be getting along with his fellow workers, is sending money to his ex-wife (though she returns the envelopes, unopened, through his sister Megan), and trying to support his daughter Amber. After he sees the spooky-snaky demon in a bucket of tar while working on a road-crew, Kyle decides that he’s meant to help the Rev with the exorcisms, so they work out a deal.
Sidney finally revealed himself as the Bad Boy he is by going to Reverend Anderson’s home and ordering him to cease-and-desist with the casting-out-demons routine. Of course, the Rev wanted to argue about it, so Sid just shoved him into the wall, took out a knife, and carved a pentagram into the Rev’s left breast. Oh, man, it was creepity-creeps of the best kind. Brent Spiner is actually believable as the eerie and demonically violent Sidney. The Rev was devastated. So will everyone else in town be, when they look behind the curtain and find Sidney.
Outcast airs Fridays at 10p.m. ET on Cinemax. You can watch the premiere, “A Darkness Surrounds Him,” free on Cinemax (or on its YouTube Channel) and watch all the episodes on MaxGo. Think of Outcast as a kind of updated Exorcist. Lock your doors, turn out the lights, and enjoy the spooky ride.