ABC TV’s Lost is probably the defining example, at least so far as the current generation is concerned. The serial came from a team put together by – ahem – wunderkind JJ Abrams, and it ran on the network for six seasons between 2004 and 2010. Over the course of its life, the cast grew and changed just bit – central players remained, however, up until the end – and, along the way, audiences were introduced to a smothering layer of mysteries, so much so that methinks everyone knew there was no way a single answer would ever account for every possibility. Eventually, a finale was delivered – one not without a wealth of controversy – and many of the show’s essential questions remain unanswered (yes, depending upon your perspective).
When asked about the gaping holes in their narrative, Lost’s showrunners insisted that viewers never turned in for the mysteries; rather what kept bringing people back – in their opinion – were the characters.
I bring this up today not to throw a bucket of cold water on Amazon’s Outer Range. For clarity’s sake, the program is only in its third hour – this one titled “The Time” – and we’re still being modestly introduced to many of the players. We’ve only really spent time with Josh Brolin’s ‘Royal Abbott’ and his family, though there have certainly been sequences with the Tillerson family and a few regulars from the Wyoming town. But showrunner Brian Watkins (this is his very first property according to IMDB.com) has rather deftly begun moving around the various pieces tied to his central mystery … that being little more than a magical hole in the ground in the Abbott’s west pasture.
Lo and behold, the hour also ends with the two of them (along with the rest of the Abbott family) in the same kitchen: Amy’s returned quickly from her daily hike with news that she’s discovered the body of Trevor Tillerson dead on the trail. Royal makes the best logical move possible, calling the sheriff and reporting the find, which has the end result of casting ever more suspicion on the family to begin with.
In between the opening and the (modest) cliffhanger, the forty-five minutes bends and weaves in some predictable ways. Perry Abbott finds a bit of redemption on the back of a bucking bronco when he achieves a new record time at the rodeo. Deputy Sheriff Joy makes a bit of progress in the investigation of Trevor’s disappearance, only to lose a critical piece of evidence by way of kinda/sorta mishandling it. Cecilia Abbott begins to confront a ‘loss of faith’ in her spiritual life, casting her perception of reality into a bit of disarray. And Royal and Autumn Rivers attempt to restart their tenuous relationship, an event that just might make a mole hill out of a mountain.
Yes, as the show has demonstrated in hours one and two, there are a few oddities that take place – a convenience store thief seems awfully invested in disappearing people; a rancher wants to know what the sheriff’s going to do about magical mastodons; and just where did that mountain in the west pasture hide away for a few seconds – but it’s difficult to make anything of these events. Much like the aforementioned Lost, freakish happenings take place … and the showrunners (in the end) insisted they weren’t important (what mattered was the characters) … so I’ve learned not to invest all that much in said freaking happenings. Sure, they’re cool … but, in the end, they may mean nothing.
But in the meantime, Outer Range continues to plug along like any good procedural, giving these actors some great small moments to cement their territory into a lasting foundation. These players are all very, very good at what they’re doing … so let’s keep our fingers crossed that Watkins knows exactly where all of this is headed.