Warning: this review contains spoilers.
After what’s been a bumpy week for the BBC’s Outcasts (courtesy of its forthcoming transfer to late Sunday nights), it’s something of a relief to be talking about the programme itself again. And, with its last episode in its 9pm Monday slot, the show went through the gears again, adding another ingredient into the mix.
That ingredient was Patrick Baxter, the first person to land on Carpathia, and a man who has been talked about, but presumed dead. And after the twin revelations of the end of episode four, Outcasts went off in the opposite direction and spent most of the episode following Baxter’s story. It was frustrating to a point, in that it didn’t progress the big events of last week. But instead, it managed to deal us an entirely new one.
Baxter, aka Pak, enters as a mysterious, cloaked figure, as if he’s just staggered into the saloon in a western. Some whiskey later, out comes a pocket full of diamonds, as the other drinkers allow the penny to drop that Baxter is something a little different to the norm.
He’s also, as we discover in a bar fight, really quite strong. Is that living in the backwaters of Carpathia and having to fight his corner? Or is there something about the planet that’s given him his strength? Couldn’t tell you, and given his demise at the end of the episode, there’s no immediate sign of finding out.
Elsewhere in the episode, a few other factors were being dealt with. The golden rule of landing on a foreign world was established, for instance, in that you better make sure you have a damn good chess set. That’s one box ticked right there.Elsewhere, Cass and Fleur are drawing closer together, although the former seems more comfortable with that than the latter.
Jack, meanwhile, gets bitten by a creature and Stella comes to his aid. But, given the dirth of wildlife on the planet, could the show have sowed another story seed right there? That bite might just get nasty.
Meanwhile, Tate confesses to Stella that he’s been seeing his dead family, which might just wrap over with events at the very end of the episode. The twin theories we had for the President’s visions – ghosts and hallucinations – were both dismissed by Tate. So, what else could it be? Is Tate on the level, or is someone, somewhere, messing with people’s minds? Either way, Stella doesn’t have the look of a woman who believes what he’s saying, and it can only serve to weaken Tate’s position. At a time, of course, where he needs all the strength he can get.
It’s Baxter’s presence that drives most of what’s going on, though, luring Cass and Fleur to the coast with stories of bodies and more diamonds. In the end, a handful of bodies there, indeed, were (and no shortage of jewellery), deduced to be from a family. But many of the mysteries of Baxter still remain.
Why did he lure them out there? Who were the other people pointing guns? Did he just want some company in his final hours? Whose bodies were they? And are we getting broader clues as to the breadth of the problems they all face on Carpathia?
While we were considering all of that, and while we were wondering if the show would get back to some of the threads that it was beefing up last week, in came the rug pull. And it was a corker.
If the episode before the ending was divisive – and it was certainly more keeping with week one of the show than week two – then the ending is surely an ears-prick-up moment. Because Julius, whose power base has been growing over the past few episodes, and whose frictions with Tate have come to the surface, has something up his sleeve.
Namely a great big spaceship. With other people who we don’t know about on board.
Last week, the potential future of Carpathia was hit by the existence of a potential threat from the planet’s past, as the fossils were found. This week? More problems might just be arriving by transport. Quite fast by the looks of the impressive special effects.
Which inevitably raises an alarm bell. Outcasts has three episodes to pull these threads together, with little hope of any more screen time after that to do so. And it’s impossible to see how it can do, without suddenly breaking into a sprint. There are simply too many balls in the air, and it’s inevitable that there’s a chunk of story that’s not going to be resolved.
It’s a shame, too. There were moments in this episode, particularly in the light of the show’s lack of future, where it all felt a bit of a luxury, that feet had been taken off the gas at the point where we could have used the accelerator being hit. But again, we warmed to it. And the show is continuing to prove that it knows how to put a cliffhanger together, even if the ‘next time’ edits do little to promote the qualities of the subsequent episode.
This, then, wasn’t the outright best Outcasts episode to date, but it was still an interesting and strong one. Even appreciating it’s Sunday nights from here on in, we’ll be back for more next week. (To pass the time, why not leave your theories about the dog in the comments?!)
Read our review of episode 4 here.
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