Warning: this review contains spoilers.
If last night’s opening episode was about setting up the board and pieces for Outcasts, then this second episode sees writer Ben Richards start to gradually move those pieces into significant places. And now that the establishing work is done, he’s freed a little to pen this more sure paced instalment of the show, which gradually builds towards the promise of some big moments ahead.
There’s plenty to wrap our heads around, and the show is already establishing that every character has secrets, or blood somewhere on their hands. None more so than President Tate, it seems, who ordered the execution of carriers of the C23 virus. The problem? He gave the job to Mitchell, played by Jamie Bamber. The same Mitchell who was killed in last night’s episode, and the same Mitchell who didn’t kill the people he was supposed to. Thus, we have the outcasts of the show’s name, led by the gloriously menacing Langley Kirkwood.
At first, I thought he had a touch of The Others from Lost about him, but it soon becomes clear that his motivation for disliking the occupants of Forthaven is a real and understandable one. Condemned to death, he’s a man who doesn’t have Tate on his Christmas card list. And, more to the point, he has Stella’s daughter. He also has a sick baby, and a trade is done to return said daughter, Lily, once the baby is cured. Easy.
Only, of course, it doesn’t turn out that way. The uneven relationship and distrust between the characters, no matter what side of Forthaven’s wall they fall, is paramount here. And it manifests itself with the spurt of violence that sees Daniel Mays’ Cass with more blood on his hands, and divisions broadening still further.
Yet, this is just a fraction of what this second episode dealt with. For we’ve also got the survivors of the transporter crash, and amongst them is the none-too-pleasant Julius Berger. Again, maybe I’m playing hunting-the-sci-fi-show reference, but my first thought was that he had a bit of Battlestar Galactica’s Gaius Baltar about him. However, he quickly turns perhaps more sinister than that, albeit under the surface. And no one is more hating of him than Aisling, whose mother he condemned to death in the young girl’s eyes.
Elsewhere, we have Stella, who came across like she’d been given a deep brain visualisation kit for Christmas in this episode. Twice she threatened to use it this episode, and while she was clearly desperate to see her daughter – a daughter who, it turns out, isn’t keen about seeing her – her toolkit seems quite limited at this stage. I suspect it won’t be long before we see someone subjected to her DBV fetish, mind, but that’s for the weeks ahead.
For now, President Tate also has the problem about the population of survivors, as one of the broader arcs of the show comes into play. Namely, the mysterious C23 virus. Outcasts is hammering home the fact that Tate lost his own family, and it seems keen to present him as the upstanding man who’s been faced with extraordinary decisions and impossible choices.
I wonder how long that will stay, though. Will Ben Richards be tempted to subvert him a little, as he continues to cloud the lines between who seems to be good, and who seems to be bad? The potential is certainly there.
As it stands, the only people seemingly capable of producing healthy babies are the outcasts themselves, and as we leave the episode, Tate realises that he’s got to return the baby to them. Even though they’re not likely to be pleased with him at all, given the fresh casualty at the hands of Cass. It’s a situation that’s been set up here that’s best described as ‘tricky’.
There’s room for a couple of unexplained moments, too. The row of bodies: who killed them? Are we supposed to be believe they died in the shuttle craft (the likely outcome)? Or was there an implication that the outcasts killed them? We were certainly pointed towards the notion that said outcasts, or Lily, may have arranged them in order. If it wasn’t them, then who could it be?
And also, what caused the drawing of Tate’s family on his desk to start turning round? Is there something there we’re supposed to be reading things into?
If you’ve not guessed by now, Outcasts is throwing a cocktail of science fiction ingredients and real life issues into the mix (we’ve not even touched on Fleur), and episode two finds it simmering gently to the boil. There are threatened flashpoints, certainly, but the show has resisted the urge to put its foot down just yet.
As such, it’s still a show finding its way. This is certainly a more confident episode than the opener, albeit one that’s still requiring a greater than expected amount of buy-in from the viewer to keep on top of it all. For it’s a show dealing with impossible situations, with constantly dark tones to it. How dark is it willing to go? That’ll be interesting to see. Because if Outcasts has the courage of its convictions, then this might be as bold a piece of science fiction that the BBC has commissioned in a long time. Outside of Cardiff, anyway.
The teaser for episode three seems to bring the opposing factions into conflict, and hopefully, off the back of the maiden two episodes, the show will carry over its viewers to see just what happens. We’ll certainly be there.
Read our review of the series opener here.
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