Yes, I’m up on my high horse this morning, but that’s only because screenwriters Zev Borow and Outer Range creator Brian Watkins have unintentionally foisted me up here. Their episode seven – “The Unknown” – decided it was necessary to tie an unnecessary political opinion into a show that really has no business casting angry aspersions on anything or anyone. Here’s a tip: when you’re dealing with the imaginary, maybe stick with the imaginary? Leave politics to the politicians. Let those of us who choose to escape the daily news cycle by investing in your paranormal drama do so. We’re all better off when we find things we can share in common; dividing us with your anti-America bias will serve no one here. You don’t like this country, then you’re always free to go elsewhere.
At its core, Outer Range is about family, and the outcome of episode six was to fully fracture the Abbotts. Perry’s confession led to his arrest, and the cost for his coming clean is shaping up to be the very land that’s served them generationally. Royal’s stress reached its limits, and he’s forced (at gunpoint) to agree to a spiritual ‘cease fire’ about pursuing Autumn. And Cecilia continues pushing away emotionally from her husband and her children, turning into the arms of a dead bear cub for cold comfort. Good grief!
Naturally, the Tillersons also come to grips with high tension. Billy proves he can’t be trusted keeping secrets and shares the truth about the hole with Luke, who ends up getting all teary-eyed about it for some unexplored reason. Luke also ends up trying to smother dear ol’ dad (another kinda/sorta curious development) before his brother pulls him off, putting the two seemingly at odds yet again. And Billy – ah, yes, there’s something about Billy – reveals an almost homicidal tendency when it comes to protecting Autumn from Royal’s emerging desire to kill her for what she’s done. Talk about your family values!
However, the hour’s closing moments come with what might be the Range’s biggest reveal as it would appear that that fateful hole in the west pasture has a mind of its own, may even close up when it wants to, and might just go elsewhere whenever it wishes. I’m not inclined to dissect this development all that much, but …
It also deserves to be mentioned that – for a family that’s spent a life living off the land – the Abbotts haven’t quite learned some of the lessons of a 101 course. For example, what was Cecilia thinking when she absconded that dead bear cub? Hiding it in some outer shed was only going to increase the possibility that its mother would eventually find it and the episode showed us the end result of that. Again, I’m no rancher, but I know well enough that you don’t mess with dead bodies; how is it that Cece didn’t know better? Is she ignorant to the spoken and unspoken laws of Mother Nature, or are we seeing the seeds for a madness undiagnosed? Is she struggling with something greater than the (rather obvious) clinical depression?
Sadly, Rhett has (for me) turned into the program’s least likable character. Though the first few episodes painted him as one of the more relatable ones – a young buck trying to find his own way against the tide of family while still trying to be respectful of all involved – he’s very quickly turned into this moody loner who seemingly wants nothing to do with anyone around him. He spends the bulk of this installment struggling with his own anger, staring into space, drinking beer, and swearing at Autumn. If those are his daily pursuits, then maybe the family’s better off without him? It’s a sad development for what once seemed to be a bright spot at the Abbott ranch.
Also, Outer Range has been plagued – since its start – by some curious editing issues. I’ve mentioned them before (I believe) in passing, but it bears repeating: too much happens in too little (presented) screen time.
Autumn, in particular, is a character they’ve written as being damn near omnipresent: she’s everywhere and anywhere the script needs, and logic be damned. One minute, she’s in the distant frontier, and the next minute she’s in town – with no means of transportation presented – refilling a prescription at the pharmacy. How is this even remotely possible? Are there, perhaps, more than one of her? Have we been deliberately misinformed? Seemingly, three or four characters interact with her in the scope of what’s presented to be a short span of time – over several different locations about town – and we’re given no plausible explanation for how she can be anywhere almost instantly. It’s either bad writing … or another secret the storytellers are withholding.
“The Unknown” finally gave us the answers I’d kinda/sorta predicted about Royal: his origin story is tied directly to that portal. It also gave us a few moments that made little sense because they were – once again – kinda shrouded in curiosity and hope without explanation. (FYI: it also gave us some of the worst screen kissing since the original Top Gun introduced the excessive tongues of Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise.) All I can wish is the first season finale might shine a bit of light on the show’s remaining mysteries before it’s all too late.