Outer Range

1 out of 5

Created by: Brian Watkins

What a waste.

Take the hatch from Lost and replace it with a giant hole in the ground; take the unconvincing CGI smoke monster and replace it with an unconvincing CGI-d bear. Outer Range may not be structured around flashbacks and -forwards, but when they happen, suck out any real sense of consequence to the story. Finally, swap out any likeable, interesting characters for ones that are either puzzlingly repellant – because I think we’re supposed to find some common ground, and we don’t – or just entirely uninteresting.

Mash this up with Lynchian small-town weirdness – transplanted to farm land – and the director’s appreciation for juxtaposing locality with surreality, except minus out any overarching visual or conceptual themes (or, really, any sense of purpose) that helps tie that together.

Now you have Outer Range: in which farm owners the Abbotts are at war over land ownership with neighbors the Tillersons, complicated by a Tillerson son going missing – and we know this to be tied to the Abbotts; in which there appears a strange drifter (Imogen Poots) who patriarch Royal Abbott (Josh Brolin) allows to camp on the farm for reasons of plot convenience; and in which Royal discovers the aforementioned giant hole in the ground on his land, which he passionately tries to protect and maintain as a secret, for reasons that are A. non-existent and / or B. withheld until the final episodes of the season.

A show that spins out cryptic lore around this hole, and keeps pushing further secrets and secrets and secrets stemming from it, is very Lost-y; a show that keeps the Whys and Whats vague and uses the hole as a metaphorical study of the crumbling families and local culture could be pretty Lynch-ian. Outer Range is a show that whispers, in prosaic, forcefully “poignant” dialogue, lines that want to effect both of these approaches, with unmotivated, drifting camera work to keep it all visually askew (against an incredibly bland palette of muddy blues and browns), and meanwhile ends up doing neither one of these things. It does, quite frankly, nothing, for about 7.5 of its 8 episodes.

Meanwhile, what a cast to waste: Brolin, Poots, Lili Taylor, Tom Pelphrey, Tamara Podemski, Will Patton… Taylor and Pelphrey are allowed scenes which give their characters some room for expression, and they’re perfect in each; it’s unfortunate that their narratives have practically nothing to do with the minimal story that exists. Brolin and the others are stuck with managing dialogue that’s likely nibbed from something like “templates for speeches with gravitas;” their acting carries them through their scenes, but those empty words have no plot or sympathetic characters or captivating settings or interesting visuals to ping off of.

The entire season is a holding pattern. And for what? Good question.