This Outcast review contains spoilers.
Outcast Episode 4
What begins as a continuation of last week’s deliberate episode, the aptly titled “A Wrath Unseen,” ends with a fury of blows both literal and figurative. If last week provided a chance to catch our collective breaths, Outcast’s fourth episode ignites a slow burn.
There’s still a concern that the writers are juggling too many storylines in the air, but tonight, arcs which heretofore didn’t seem to fit the demon profile begin to make sense within a broader context. Where once we feared Reverend Anderson couldn’t see the forest for the trees, his eyes have been opened, and the brief rift with Kyle has already begun to close as they resume their crusade to rid the townspeople of the evil unseen. Still, how many of these mysteries relate to the core evil remains uncertain which raises the question of how they fit into the story’s fabric.
Written by Robert Kirkman and directed by relative newcomer Julius Ramsay (The Walking Dead), “A Wrath Unseen” opens as the camera looks straight down on Norville’s stark wooden casket ready to be lowered into the ground. Are secrets being buried along with the body? Arriving late, Sydney, the man in black, walks up, introduces himself as an old friend of Norville, and tells Kyle and Anderson he’ll be in town to put Norville’s affairs in order. Given that one thing this episode does is reinforce Kyle’s notion that evil permeates the town, it seems likely that Sydney is at the epicenter of whatever’s going on.
Kyle’s melancolia, coupled with his seeming inability to control his actions, (“I can’t do nothing; you know that,” he tells Megan) leads us to fear for his future, but sensing the young man’s desperation, Reverend Anderson takes him to make a house call. The demon hunters deliver groceries to a shut-in Mildred, (does anyone play cranky as well as Grace Zabriskie?) whose daughter tells the reverend that she can no longer abide the vile words that come out of her mother’s mouth. Immediately, the old woman becomes the latest suspect, and when she tells Kyle she knows who he is and what happened to his mother, his wife, and Joshua, the hunch seems correct. That she asks what he saw during those occasions reinforces these suspicions, and when he touches her arm, her violent reaction tells Kyle everything he needs to know.
We learn that Anderson performed an exorcism on Mildred two years prior, but Kyle’s not convinced he got it all. “I have faith in the power of God over the devil,” Anderson declares, but Kyle clearly thinks the reverend’s naive. This exchange resonates with the reverend, and he later admits that his hubris blinded him to the fact that not all of his jobs have been done well and sets off to rectify these shortcomings.
It quickly becomes evident that Mildred’s still possessed and tells him her time’s limited, and she’s tired of playing games (literally and figuratively) with him. He sees the demon face and snaps back, but she plays it off. “What if we like what we’ve become,” she asks him. Tells him there’s so much room in the human soul for things beyond God, ways he hasn’t even imagined. What makes this scene so potentially important is that Mildred implies that she’s on board serving the devil. Clearly, the reverend has his work cut out for him, but it’s beginning to appear that he recognizes Kyle’s desperate need to act as a savior may well be the key to saving the collective souls of the entire town.
“What if she’s not the only one?” Kyle asks Anderson implying what we’ve feared, that there are a number of demon filled individuals out there, but to what end? Kyle fears it’s the same with his ex-wife Allison, and we know he’s headed toward a path that will not end well.
However, it’s the anguish plaguing Megan and not a demon that vies most emphatically for our emotional attention. On the one hand it’s a relief to know that she’s not involved in an illicit affair, but when she comes face to face with Donnie Hamel, (Scott Porter) she’s clearly uncomfortable and won’t even look at him. “Dumb jock and a bully, and I never thought I’d have to see him again,” she tells Mark. But that’s just the beginning as her sordid past slowly unfolds.
When Kyle and Donnie meet at a local bar, Kyle jumps on him immediately. Though Donnie beats Kyle into submission, it’s obvious he harbors a dark secret related to Megan. “Don’t you know guardian angels don’t exist,” Donnie mocks. We get the sense that Megan is doing everything in her power to keep it together, and when she insists Kyle stand down, we wonder whether or not she’s planning to take matters into her own hands.
Director Ramsay presents a haunting image of Megan peering through the crack in the doorway of her daughter’s room as she relives the past incident with Donnie, implying that it took place in this very house? As she retrieves a lock box from the closet, it seems obvious it contains a gun, and when she removes the revolver and holds it in her hand, we fear the worst. Does she insist Kyle do nothing because she needs to obtain closure for herself?
The truth about Megan’s harrowing past continues to surface as Mark, Megan, Kyle, and Donnie each play out their roles in the psycho-drama. Mark forces Kyle to tell him the truth about Donnie, who it turns out was a foster kid that her parents took in. He abused her and when young Kyle found out, he slept on her floor to try to provide a barrier. Now that he knows the truth, Mark sees Kyle in an entirely new light delivering one of the episode’s most poignant scenes. Should Donnie be more frightened of Megan or Mark?
Facing her greatest fear head on, Megan goes to Donnie’s motel room to tell him to leave town, but she says she won’t let her husband ruin his life implying that Mark would kill him if he found out. Clearly, she has the gun in her purse, and on the one hand, we wait with awkward anticipation for her to give him what he so richly deserves, while on the other, aware of the fact that she has a young daughter waiting for her at home. Does she drive to the motel intending to scare him or kill him?
Not surprisingly, Donnie’s night isn’t quite concluded as Mark pulls him over and proceeds to beat him in full view of his onboard camera. They do go out of range, but the damage seems to be done. Now at home he and Megan continue to keep secret what they’ve each been doing about Donnie, and the fact that the chief has his own secrets may be the only thing that keeps Mark out of trouble over this indiscretion.
Any misgivings we’ve had concerning Megan disappear when we witness her carrying a box out of her house, through the back yard and into the woods in the middle of the night while Mark sleeps. She takes out bottles and arranges them in a line and we know what she’s doing. Even though it turns out her weapon of choice here is a hammer and not a handgun, the emotional impact is just as powerful. How long will she be able to keep her rage contained, and is the bottle smashing simply a precursor of something far more horrific looming on the horizon?
In a much more subtle fashion, Chief Giles lays the groundwork for an off the books investigation, and as he and his wife entertain another couple at a cookout, his dog reacts violently toward the husband. With the women inside, Giles produces the watch Mark found and returns it to the man. That both men lie about the watch only adds to the mystery. Sensing something amiss, Giles witnesses the man torch the camper prompting the chief to have Donnie resume the investigation.
As Outcast approaches its season’s mid-point, it’s not unreasonable for viewers to expect a few dramatic turns in the story arcs. We’ve waded through enough exposition, and it’s now time to get on with the action.
How will the Donnie situation play out? What is Sydney’s role in all of this? What’s the deal with the guy who torched the camper? Is Mildred still possessed? Will Kyle approach his ex-wife?
It’s not imperative that all these questions receive answers, but Outcast runs the risk of treading water too long without reaching shore.