Warning: this review contains spoilers.
Appreciating that there are good reasons why it couldn’t jump straight in at this point, my initial reaction to Outcasts’ third episode was that maybe the show wouldn’t have had quite as bumpy a first week had it kicked off with the events we get here. For what the episode delivers is a central, here-and-now concern to focus everyone’s energies, and to bring the tensions and beliefs simmering under the surface to the fore. And it also gave the show its best episode to date as a result.
The unifying event is a massive whiteout, one that we discover early on – courtesy of some scientific deciphering by Tipper – is going to be five times greater than any the new residents of Carpathia have seen before (and it’s certainly bigger than the whiteout we saw in episode one). And it’s also an event that energises the show’s effects team with really impressive results.
But it’s the impact on the residents of Carpathia that’s the most important here, and if you’ve been looking for some pay-off to the building work that Outcasts has been doing for two episodes, then here it was. Because there’s some strategic shuffling of the characters going on, as their varying approaches and influences became more prominent.
Trying to hold it all together, for starters, is President Tate. His calmness under pressure is showing signs of the odd crack, and this manifests itself most notably in his decision to come clean to the residents of Carpathia. I’m not quite sure why he’s choose to do this, although he’s clearly a haunted man. But with the growing influence of Julius on the people, perhaps he felt he had to compete in some way. Whatever his motivation, revealing to all of the treatment of the ACs is surely going to backfire. And backfire badly.
And that leaves Julius in prime position to benefit. I’m a little cautious as to how the religious elements of the show are going to slot into place, especially given the fact that it’s a subject matter that’s tripped up many strong shows in the past. For now, writer Ben Richards is happy to underplay the card, allowing Julius thus far a chance to broadcast to the residents of Forthaven, and play his part in keeping them calm. But crucially, he’s effectively anointed him the Peter Mandelson of Carpathia, by having him appointed to the ruling general council, in a role without portfolio. Hmmm.
What I particularly liked about this episode, though, was its work with Rudi. It would have been easy to have the ACs as a two-dimensional threat, and to keep the focus firmly on Forthaven. But Outcasts has taken a gamble here, and a successful one. For the rounding out of Rudi’s character has turned the tables a little, arguably making him the one easiest to sympathise with.
He escorts Fleur to safety, and doesn’t take the opportunity to kill people when he can. Intriguingly, too, he reveals that his eyes and skin have adapted to the whiteouts of Carpathia. Given that he and the rest of the outcasts have already proven they can successfully breed, they’re fast becoming the most valuable people on the planet.
But bringing the two sides together is going to be a massive job, and one that the rest of the series is surely going to have fun exploring.
Elsewhere, some background work is still ongoing. Stella and her daughter seemed to get over their quarrels very quickly, although again, the whiteout is a nice device to make that happen (plus, Stella gets to play with her brain toy). We get some further hints as to the dark side of Cass’ character. And Tipper, we learn, has had some psychiatric help, although as he babbled over the airwaves and snapped some surely eBay-able vinyl, that wasn’t tricky to piece together. Still, these are small but welcome
The only clumsy element, I thought, was the wedding. Even though it played comfortably with what we were led to expect, having pointed towards one of Leon or Trix meeting their maker before they could exchange vows, it felt a little clunky, and unnecessary. The show already has a strong enough emotional core for me, and this overegged that a little.
Still, it’s a mild grumble, as for me, this episode was a far more confident outing for Outcasts, and one that takes the show in some really interesting directions. There’s enough pay-off for the episode itself, and there’s still clearly lots for the show to get its teeth into in the weeks ahead. Here’s hoping, after its bumpy start, it builds on the fine work that’s been done in episode three.
Read our review of episode 2 here.
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