Outer Range Throws Josh Brolin Into A Trippy Western That

Josh Brolin in a sci-fi western may be all it takes for some TV viewers to be drawn into Brian Watkins’ new drama “Outer Range,” which is based on that very idea.

“Outer Range” will give, up to a point, for those who might require a little additional background information and/or motivation.

The Gruff Father

The gruff father of a family ranch on a parcel of Wyoming land with a gaping secret, played by an unusually melancholy Brolin in the series’ premiere with two episodes on April 15 on (Amazon) Prime Video, is the series’ main focus.

The western portion of the Abbotts’ ranch, in particular, is home to a large black hole whose origins are unknown but whose throbbing power is obvious to anybody who stumbles upon it.

Outer Range Throws Josh Brolin Into A Trippy Western That

The hole’s persistent presence dominates most of what transpires outside of it in the pilot, which Alonso Ruizpalaicos directed with a sense of eerie discomfort. (The show’s nighttime scenes frequently feature shooting in such muddy darkness that it might be impossible to see what is onscreen unless you’re showing “Outer Range” with the use of thick blackout curtains.)

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Royal, whose own origins are a mystery to everyone, including himself and his wife Cecilia (Lili Taylor), is particularly drawn to the enigmatic location, which he resentfully refers to as “a blank.”

Royal hijacks the dinner prayers to curse it and whichever deity may have brought it to his door in one particularly potent sequence that calls upon all the fire, brimstone, and pure hatred Brolin can manage.

Royal spits, “I’m asking you to fill that vacuum,” as his wife and sons Perry (Tom Pelphrey) and Rhett (Lewis Pullman) watch in disbelief. “I’m asking you to come down here and explain yourself because I despise you because this world of yours doesn’t make sense. I genuinely despise you, even though I don’t even think I fucking believe in you. Amen.”

It’s at times like these that “Outer Range” succeeds, not because they’re circumnavigating some strange rift in the earth. A straightforward Western with well defined family dynamics can be a smash on its own, as “Yellowstone” has unquestionably shown, and “Outer Range” follows suit in terms of character development.

It does a good job of establishing the dedication of Royal to his family, Cecilia’s intensely divided faith, Rhett’s underlying desires, and Perry’s desperate attempt to understand the sudden absence of his wife.

Outer Range

Tamara Podemski’s portrayal of Joy, an indigenous deputy attempting to make sense of things while vying for sheriff’s chief position, proves to be a required cooler counterweight to all the hotheaded men surrounding her.

No matter how much “Outer Range” tries, none of these stories require a supernatural element to be interesting.

Grounded Themes

At its best, the series merely makes use of the emptiness to provide its more grounded themes—grief, loneliness, faith, and longing—a genuine sense of eeriness (due in large part to the dissonant score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans).

It even occasionally veers into a bizarre type of comedy that breaks up the show’s typically gloomy rhythms, notably while spending time with the Abbotts’ garish

competitors, the Tillersons, who live across the fence from them. At the Tillerson ranch, where owner Wayne (Will Patton) and his sons Luke (Shaun Sipos) and Billy (Noah Reid of “Schitt’s Creek,” complete with randomly sung covers of classic songs) struggle with the strangeness seeping into their own lives by embracing it, “Outer Range” is always a little bit different.

Single Character Who Sets Up Camp on the Abbott Ranch

The point at which “Outer Range” falls short, then, is when it appears to be submerging itself in the mythology of the void, a problem symbolised in a single character who sets up camp on the Abbott ranch and instantly causes havoc.

“Autumn Rivers” (Imogen Poots) is one of those headstrong and seductive woman characters that appears sent to haunt men, or else drive them into doing her own bidding, as you could probably infer simply from her self-consciously unique name.

She’s weird and wild, or untamable, to use a phrase these cowboys may better comprehend. She also resembles a Manic Pixie Nightmare Girl who is supposed to be subversive but comes out as completely cliché, to use a phrase this TV critic is tired of using but yet needs.

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Last Words

While Poots tries her hardest to make Autumn as captivating as the scripts demand, the most of her scenes end up detracting from the show. Another more interesting female figure would have been welcome in “Outer Range,” but not one like her.

If the programme is destined to continue sinking into oblivion, as its final few episodes unmistakably suggest, it might be better to make this important character less of a tedious bore.