Reveals have to be carefully staged, and they should both serve the narrative as well as obviously increase the show’s popularity. (Serialized television is still a business, after all.) In the process, characters cannot be ignored: one or two may need to be shelved for a bit, but the relevant ones need to have their time in the limelight as well. While it’s important to keep pushing the mythology (as it develops), audiences hate to get bogged down with unnecessary exposition, especially when and if serves no understandable purpose. The truth is viewers are very kind: we’ll suspend disbelief so long as we trust you’re taking us somewhere special. But it has to be somewhere special. And they better not all be dead when we get there.
Like baking a good cake, the baker must include the proper ingredients in all the right measures, lest he (or she) be willing to simply chuck it all out at any point and start all over.
That said, I thought “The Loss” – episode four to Outer Range’s first season – was more than a bit muddled. Or should I say ‘underdone’?
Hear me out, haters. (I said what I said, and I’m not sorry.)
Being fair, the program has dealt with a reasonable amount of set-up. Showrunner Brian Watkins (along with screenwriter Zev Borow) has introduced a good-sized cast, and he’s rather deftly managed to give each of them his or her own ‘corner’ of this world. (If there’s anyone who hasn’t been clearly established in my eyes, then it’s the youngest player – Amy Abbott – but I’ll get to that in a moment.) These people have been given their ‘beats’ and backstories that help viewers define them, what they stand for, and what purpose they may serve in this grand puzzle. We’ve seen how they fit in with one another, and we’ve been set on a trajectory wherein we can both recognize and maybe even anticipate how they’ll inevitably collide and conflict with one another. It may not have always been perfect, but it’s been exceedingly well done. So … hats off!
“The Loss,” by comparison, covers an awful lot of ground … so it’s a good thing there’s so much land available (pun intended).
Audiences are introduced to Patricia Tillerson (played by Deirdre O’Connell) – the matriarch of the opposing ranch family – and she’s given the dramatic ‘first blush’ only a true mover-and-shaker has earned: she’s whisked in by helicopter to deal with the unexpected loss of her son. In the scope of this sixty-minute episode, she essentially takes charge of the Tillerson narrative, damn near usurping the law’s authority involving the investigation and pronouncing one of the Abbott’s as being guilty at the near immediate funeral. (Erm … didn’t we just find this body?) For a show that’s established itself as a slow burn, we’re suddenly sprouting flames everywhere as “The Loss” continues to pile on these develops with no rest for the wicked.
And about that funeral?
And so long as we’re throwing subtlety out the window?
Viewers are treated to Royal Abbott and Autumn Rivers facing-off yet again – this time over poker – (didn’t they just make peace in Episode 3?) as the tension in their relationship continues to boil over. (Seriously, I thought they made peace.) Royal risks it all (or does he?) in one hand of the game in order to obtain a crystal the young lady wears around her neck; the significance of the piece remains understandably elusive … but it’s a development that unlike their other confrontations has finally felt more than a bit ‘staged’ in more ways than one. The show’s been a bit more nuanced about its interactions up until this date: “The Loss” – perhaps spurred by the hour’s central loss – ladles it on rather heavily and not without a bit of excess.
Still, O’Connell’s screen-chewing introduction serves as a high point in an otherwise clumsy affair.
But as this mystery evolves, I can’t help but wonder why Amy has been pushed to the background. Though I could be wrong, I’m starting to wonder if her fate might be tied a bit more closely to Autumn than has been suggested … that perhaps they’re the same person?
There have been plenty of indications that the Abbott’s hole-in-the-ground is a portal to different times.
For those not paying as close attention, Royal’s journey through tossed him two years into the future (or, at least, that’s what was said, so I’m inclined to believe it). Could it be possible that a trip through might go the other way? Into the past? We’ve also been treated to sights of the wandering buffalo (bison?) simply lolling around the plains with arrows from Native Indians stuck in its hide, which leads me to believe the past can come into the present. (Episode 3 also explored this idea with the story involving the mastodon.) So … could Autumn actually be Amy? Could Amy have been thrown into the past – say ten or so years – only to eventually make her way back to the ranch as the young adult Autumn? It would possibly explain why her background is a mystery: she could be concealing it for reasons we simply cannot yet know.
Though “The Loss” was fun, perhaps giving the cast and characters the chance to blow off a bit of steam, maybe even let their hair down, I’m hoping for a return to form next week. I’m okay with a bit of eccentricity, but ‘weirdness for weirdness sake’ has its storytelling limitations.