This review contains spoilers.
The very last episode of Outcasts? Given the way events have panned out over the past few weeks, it was always bound to be frustrating. Because, by the time the end credits rolled, it was clear that there was a plan in place for a second series, with a major thread left dangling in the air. Yet, there’s no chance whatsoever of that second series being commissioned, and we’ll never see just why Julius looks quite so smug at the end, and who is on the transporter ship that’s finally landed on Carpathia.
It’s a pity, too. Outcasts has made its mistakes across the past eight episodes, and it had effectively lost its battle for ongoing survival after two episodes. But for those who stuck with the show, even after its move to late night Sundays, there’s been plenty to feast on.
This final episode, then, does get through a lot of business, and it answers some of the questions that have been posed over the past few weeks. What’s more, it brought to the fore some characters that haven’t been quite as fleshed out over the past few weeks and offered tangible explanations as to why.
Yep, we’re looking at Fleur. The same Fleur who has edged closer and closer to Cass these last weeks, who suddenly, we discover, ends up in Jack’s bed. Clearly betrayed by her discovery of the fact that Cass isn’t who he said he was, Fleur is in a muddle here, and when the revelations about her character are opened up, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that things do not immediately improve for her. Imprisoned, and discovering that her life as she knows it isn’t what she thought, Fleur has reason to be unhappy. For, after all this time, she’s an AC. And that gives Julius some extra ammunition.
But this episode didn’t take the obvious path in front of it. And I thought it was a lovely sideways turn when Tate surrendered the presidency, and gave it to Jack. I was expecting that Julius or Stella would get the nod, and some cunning master plan would be unveiled. But, no. A wise strategic move was played out, and it worked infinitely better than the smattering of chess metaphors.
Because giving Jack responsibility, and playing on his feelings for Fleur, was a tactical moment of genius, and one that knocked Julius off the front foot. In fact, for a good chunk of this episode, he seemed to be playing catch up. His clunky hints about the transporter were the only moments that didn’t utterly convince for him here, but otherwise, he was a fascinating character to watch.
He’s also thinking on his feet, not least when Stella uncovers just how the virus is being transmitted, and how the dominant force on Carpathia has been playing people all along. In short: DNA is being transmitted.
Heavy followers of science fiction will, no doubt, shout bullshit loud and proud at this, but on reflection, I thought it was an intriguing development. We don’t know, after all, what this force on Carpathia is and just what powers it has. And while there’s a leap of faith required to buy what’s going on, it’s nothing more than Lost asked us to do on an increasingly regular basis.
The best bits of the episode, inevitably, were the quieter ones, though. Not least the terrifically handled moments with Fleur and Cass, as the two of them reveal more of each other and deal with increasingly unpleasant truths. It’s one of the real frustrations that we’ll never get to see just where these two would have gone.
I also really liked, again, when the two different Tates met, face to face. This worked exceptionally well for me, with the two sides laying down their position for, again, a battle we’re not going to get to see. But the idea of the weaker species adapting was clearly and cleanly established, and when we leave Forthaven, it’s at least in some kind of position to defend itself.
But, inevitably, Outcasts leaves threads all over the place. There’s Lily’s relationship with her mother. Where the events of the episode leave Jack. What happens now that Tipper and Lily are cured? And how on earth can Forthaven’s finest keep an unknown and very dangerous foe (the Host Force) at bay?
It’s been a bumpy journey these past few weeks, and I struggle to think of a new sci-fi series that’s incited such intense discussion and debate. It ends, ironically, on its best episode, with the kind of teasing it’s turned into an art form. (Outcasts, whether you liked it or not, sure knew how to pull a cliffhanger.) And I’d still argue that, warts and all, it deserved a better fate than it got. This finale, for my money anyway, was really good telly.
Yet, Outcasts‘ time is up, and where all of this leaves the BBC’s commitment to genre drama remains to be seen. Because all concerned have taken a few bruises on this one, and inevitably, it’ll be analysed for some time to come.
Me? I’m glad Outcasts happened, but you’ve probably guessed that by now. I’ve shared one or two of the frustrations of the show at times, but I maintain that there’s been ambition from the start here, and something of interest even in the weakest episodes. It’s a show that can go out with its head held high (although I suspect there’s one element right at the end that might not go down too well with everyone!), aided by a very good final episode.
I wish that it had had a fairer hearing in some quarters (although I’ve no quarrel with those who simply don’t like it). I wish it had had a slightly better scheduling deal from the BBC. But right now? I just wish I knew how it all would have ended, had series two got the green light…