This review contains spoilers.
1.10 This Little Light
At first glance the season one finale of Robert Kirkman’s horror series Outcast may be viewed as a disappointment. On the one hand, no major questions are answered, the show’s protagonist appears to be running away from the story’s principal conflict leaving behind those who have helped him in the past and those who clearly need his intercession now, and we’re no closer to understanding what’s really going on than we were when the series began. However, that’s not the appropriate way to examine This Little Light, since it should be clear at this point that the writing team of Outcast has chosen to employ a slow, deliberate storytelling approach, and given the material, this approach works brilliantly.
Taking place primarily over the course of one horrific night, the episode shines a light on the approaching storm and the principals forced to weather it. The decision of director Loni Peristere to allow each scene a chance to really develop touches us immediately via the opening eight minute extended sequence in which we find the aftermath of Mark’s murder and his bloody wife staring at her hands like Lady Macbeth. In the same way as others before her, we watch as Megan painfully adapts to whatever it is that now inhabits her.
Virtually all of This Little Light takes place in the dark which makes understanding what we see more problematic, but considering the events occurring in Rome, it makes sense that, like Kyle, we still don’t see things for what they truly are. But then that’s the issue; what really is going on here? Who is Sidney and what does he plan to do with his army, whose size increases seemingly by the minute?
It seems odd that the man in black has waited this long to take from Kyle the one thing he loves most, but it sets up the scene in which Kyle begins to receive answers to some of his questions. “What is it about me that makes this all worthwhile?” he demands to know, and Sidney assures him he’ll get some answers. Though Sidney’s idea of an answer may not coincide with Kyle’s and that of the audience. He tells Kyle that “We found our way into your world every day. Can’t stay where we’re from, so we come here,” and then informs him that they need Kyle for something.
From the start the assumption has been that Rome, WV has been inundated by demonic possessions, and that Sidney, who may or may not be the devil himself, at the very least represents his evil interests. Eventually we come to consider the possibility that Sidney and his followers aren’t demons at all but angels of some ilk, and his cryptic statement to Kyle about finding themselves on Earth in what we consider the normal plane of existence lends some credence to that possibility. But given the totality of Sidney’s interactions, a nefarious objective seems imminently more likely.
Nevertheless, the major thrust of the episode revolves around Kyle and his family, as he’s forced to wage war on two fronts when Sidney takes Amber and he realizes that a possessed Megan killed Mark. It remains to be seen how long Chief Giles is willing cover up the crimes committed by apparently innocent individuals, and even he wavers now that one of his own has fallen prey. For now, he’s on board, but his wife calling Kat for information can only complicate things.
Kyle Barnes’ internal struggles reach their apex this week when he admits that “I should have never come out of my house.” We know he’s “Outcast,” and even though its meaning remains unclear, his increasing sense of isolation leads him to take a new direction. He does, though, correctly conclude that the longer a person has been possessed increases the likelihood that the individual will end up non-responsive like his mother once the demon is expunged. And it’s the chill-inducing sequence when Kat attends to Megan that precedes the episode’s most significant revelations.
Aside from protecting his daughter and aiding his sister, Kyle’s resolve to “pull that thing out of her” ultimately produces the evening’s most unexpected twist. As Megan violently attacks her brother, who unlike Mark is at least prepared for her actions, Amber bolts to her father’s aid. Having already recognized that her condition is “just like mommy,” Amber nonetheless jumps on her aunt displaying the same kind of bravery we’ve witnessed from her father. When she screams, “Don’t you hurt my daddy,” we brace ourselves for one of the most heinous crimes of all, the murder of a child. But that is, in fact, not what happens.
Like her father, Amber apparently possesses the power to exorcise the demon as we witness the evil pour forth from Megan who ends up dazed but apparently none the worse for wear. So what does all of this mean? Is Amber Outcast, and what does this mean for her future?
Now that he sees things more clearly in the light of day, Kyle begins a new journey with his daughter to search for a place “where people don’t know about our superpowers.” How far does Sidney’s reach extend? Can Kyle find a place to hunker down and ride out “the merge?” Is “the merge” some sort of hybridization of the human race?
It does seems out of character, though, that Kyle would leave behind his sister unless a conversation with Giles about her involvement in Mark’s death takes place off camera. He does tell Amber they’ll return for her mother and aunt once they’re settled, but departing this way does leave a lot to chance, or more accurately to Sidney’s discretions. And what about Reverend Anderson? Is Kyle depending on him and the chief to watch over Megan? Should Kyle fear his sister being charged with murder more than Sidney making another run at her?
The beauty of This Little Light as a season finale is that it doesn’t deviate from the approach Outcast has taken all season. It’s nice to not get caught up in a whirlwind of urgent behaviours that eventually leads to a major life or death cliffhanger. Instead, the scene at the gas station underscores the subtle approach Patrick Fugit and the writers have taken with Kyle Barnes all season. A simple man, thrust into a maelstrom from which there seems to be no easy exit, merely trying to do what’s right while keeping his family safe.
As Outcast heads into its second season, a little light has been shed on the events of the past ten weeks. Though Sidney remains an enigma, the fact that he admits needing Kyle opens up a wealth of possibilities. Is this some sort of alien intervention or perhaps even an inter-dimensional invasion. Regardless, it does appear as if these possessed souls have come to Rome in survival mode. Why and from where remain unanswered.
That viewers have so much emotional investment in the characters and their stories, yet so little true understanding as to what’s taking place, speaks to the force of Robert Kirkland’s storytelling team since we come back week after week hungry for more. How long will Kyle Barnes’ self-imposed exile last? More to the point, will he actually leave Rome? The wait begins.