Sunday, June 5, 2016

Outcast, Season 1, Episode 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him

Before I even begin this review I’m going to start by saying this is a show that doesn’t flinch at brutality – including the very open beating of a child to exorcise him. This is not going to be an easy show to watch for many

So the opening credits of this show are super duper ominous. I mean it’s trying really really really really hard to be creepy. Super hard – music, camera work, everything

I actually find it a little off putting. Not out of fear of the creepy but because a show that is trying THIS HARD to tell us its creepy feels overly… defensive? It’s like a guy who yells how huge his cock is. You know he’s either not all that anatomically gifted – or he is indeed sporting double digit inches but the rest of his skills and personality are so terrible that this is literally his only marketable asset

Yes, I’m overthinking it – but the opening makes me think either a) it’s not that creepy or b) it IS that creepy, but with no real plot (this could be because I’ve been burned by Damien)

And having watched it I’m still getting a whole lot of Damien as well – and not just the over-emphasis of tone. There’s a general feel to building towards something for most of the episode when we pretty much know exactly where we’re going. “Is this demon possession?” Yes, it was billed as a show based on the Exorcist. Thankfully it doesn’t build for too long but it generally didn’t engage me. To be fair, though, the episode was mainly about introducing the characters – I think the main problem there is that I’m not overly invested in any of them yet and the episode rested heavily on me becoming invested

Our protagonist is Kyle. When he was a young boy his mother was possessed by a demon (though many characters assume she was mentally ill which is a trope we often see in possession stories of every kind) who violently and terrible abused him for a long time. He was eventually taken in by Megan’s family and now they’re all adults Megan views him as a brother and tires to look out for him

That’s necessary because Kyle isn’t doing so well, living in his old home where he was abused, tormented by memories with no food in the house, no running water and generally neglecting himself. I feel for Megan, even while she’s stomping all over his space and boundaries, she’s desperately trying to reach out to her brother.

His descent into hermitdom isn’t just because of his childhood; he apparently grew up well enough to fall in love, marry and have a daughter and then Something Ominous happened which split it all up. It’s heavily implied it was all Kyle’s fault, that he did something bad – so bad that Megan’s husband doesn’t want him around their daughter: while at the same time admitted some other Event means Megan owes Kyle hugely.

That bad event seems to have been Kyle’s wife Alison was possessed as well – it looks like Kyle is something of a demon magnet

There’s a whole lot of careful dancing around past events that are constantly alluded to but not examined yet.

We have other minor cast members in the form of Nice Church Ladies who think Kyle’s mother was possessed and a much nicer and heartbreaking neighbour who would clearly do anything for Kyle because he and his wife lived next door to him when he was a child and didn’t realise the extent of the abuse they were overlooking and how has an incredible amount of guilt.

That’s Kyle. And now we have another boy, Joshua, possessed by a demon and it’s all as disgusting and horrific and terrifying. And yes it’s definitely demonic possessing – complete with levitation and terrifying black goo and spooky voices.

Kyle can’t stay away, especially since helpful reverend Anderson is determined to gently drag this very fragile human being demon hunting with him. Kyle joins him for a series of attempted exorcisms, drawing on what he remembers from how he managed to unpossessed his mother (who is now comatose in hospital) as a guidance on how to save Joshua which, after several brutal scenes, the do

I have to emphasise now those brutal scenes. This show likes it’s gores and horror. We see that small child eat his own fingers – graphically. There’s blood everywhere. And to “help” Joshua we see Kyle and the Reverend manhandle this child a lot and there’s a scene where Kyle flat out punches Joshua repeatedly in the face. A grown man just full on beating this child up.

Between memory and current events, Kyle realises his blood and tears are demon poison and they manage to exorcise Joshua with Kyle’s blood – giving us an ominous black cloud with threats for the future

Throughout this it was clear the demons knew Kyle and were targeting. We also had a weird moment where Joshua-demon tries to suck green gas of some kind from Kyle’s mouth.

Joshua is returned to humanity at the end – and Rev Anderson’s friendship with police chief Giles and the mother’s refusal to press charges means Kyle isn’t arrested for beating up a child (the mother refuses to press charges? Since when does the mother get to decide that it’s ok to overlook the brutal beating of a child? That just makes her complicit to child abuse) though he hasn’t made any fans on the police force

I’m leery – how much of this show will revolve around a plot and how much around these utterly brutal scenes?