Still, as programs dabbling in the paranormal, otherworldly, and supernatural are presently very ‘trendy,’ it’s probably as good a time as any for a streaming outlet like Amazon to come up with their own addition to the genre; and their brand-new serial Outer Range is probably as good an opportunity as anything else. While grounded firmly in what we’d commonly accept as the American frontier (it takes place on a cattle ranch in Wyoming), its main storyline involves little more than a ‘hole in the ground’ that very well might be the gateway to … well … I’m getting ahead of myself.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Here's the series’ premise as provided by the good folks at IMDB.com:
“A rancher fighting for his land and family discovers an unfathomable mystery at the edge of Wyoming’s wilderness.”
As one who’s done more than his fair share of reading into topics of High Strangeness, here’s the dirty little secret most folks ignore about such events: whoever is piloting those flying saucers has no interest or desire to land on the White House lawn.
You see, those visitors from other worlds have no interest in being taken to our leaders as so many stories, films, and TV shows have suggested. They prefer to traffic in the dark or areas wherein they’ll not be disturbed from doing whatever it is they’re intent on doing. The American President would want to sit down with them, maybe share a chat, or – even worse – capture, kill, and dissect them, all in the pursuit of galactic peace, mind you. So it’s much easy for these shady goings-on to take place in small towns, out in the sticks, and places only angels fear to tread.
In fact, I’d encourage those who believe otherwise to do a bit of research. While there have been some history of the paranormal tied to the big cities, it’s far more common for curious occurrences to happen in places like Skinwalker Ranch, a private property spanning over five hundred acres in near Ballard, Utah. The location has been the subject of television shows, movies, and books; while the true facts are not without some controversy, my point remains the same – High Strangeness is tied to places far and wide where there’s some freedom to exercise without humanity’s prying eyes. Need more? Check into the cattle mutilations that have been taking place for decades in and around Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a topic recently explored in the great documentary On The Trail Of UFOs – Night Visitors (2022). What’s happening there couldn’t happen freely in the ‘burbs or on any New York City street; these operators need the peace and quiet of the great outdoors … and that’s why I’d argue Outer Range is perfectly set.
Royal Abbott (played by the great Josh Brolin) finds himself plagued by some curious sounds emanating from his wide, open spaces. Though his family don’t seem to notice these otherworldly hums, he does repeatedly; and he’s eventually drawn to what appears to be the source – a massive hole in one of his prairies seems to extend to nowhere. While no bottom is visible, the gaping maw is always accented with some curious floating mist; it might be dirt or fog, but it’s clearly ignoring the laws of physics as it rather languidly dances against gravity in an almost hypnotic pattern.
Nothing unconventional is without ‘the conventional’ in episodic television, and Outer Space is no different. Royal’s family gets drawn into a land grab instigating by their neighbors, the Tillersons (the patriarch – Wayne Tillerson – is played by the scene-chewing Will Patton). Before you know it, Royal’s sons – Perry (Tom Pelphrey) and Rhett (Lewis Pullman) – are drawn into a fistfight with one of the Tillerson men, and the results are life-altering in more ways than one. Some cattle have disappeared – have they been abducted or might they merely have fallen into that hole – and even Perry’s wife has gone missing. If that isn’t enough, then how about a curiously wealthy traveler – Autumn (Imogene Poots) – entering the lives of the Abbotts while on her own vision quest?
Mind you: though all of these winding subplots appear as little more than the usual fare tied to adult soap opera program, they’re all equally laced with the wild and weird in ways I’ll not spoil for those who’ve yet to view the first hour. It’s an interesting concoction … but, as I warned above, it’s hard to truly pass judgment on the pilot episode precisely because nothing is definitive. Nothing is complete. These are the opening, establishing moves on a game just beginning – even the last reel delivers a shocking surprise that might serve to redefine where the main arc could be going – and I’m not a reviewer inclined to heap praise when little has been earned.
As pilot hours go, Outer Range’s ‘The Void’ is at its best when teasing the conventional. How will Royal survive the legal challenge to snatch his west pasture out from under him? Why is he so indifferent to ideas of faith, and why is he so angry at God Almighty? Where did Rebecca Abbott get off to, and why has the family seemingly accepted her absence? What is it that ties Autumn to a ranch she’s never seen before? What fate awaits Perry and Rhett, and just how will they answer for the sin of murder?
As for the paranormal?
Well, consider the ‘unconventional’ just icing on the ‘conventional’ cake.
Saddle up, pardners. This might be the wild ride you’re been waiting for … but only time will tell.