Entertainment Magazine

Review #2347: Outcasts 1.8

Posted on the 08 August 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Bronzethumb

The final episode of “Outcasts” has a lot of build-up, to confrontations within Forthaven and with the external forces threatening it, enough to make even the more cynical audience members hopeful for some kind of dramatically satisfying conclusion to the series. Unfortunately, Ben Richards seems to have been taking lessons from Russell T Davies on how to write finales, because despite a string of tense moments and solid performances, the episode still fumbles in the last.

Review #2347: Outcasts 1.8

Most of the overarching story elements come to a head in episode 8, one of the chief ones being the discovery of the alien “host force” living on Carpathia that’s communicating in four-digit codes via radio waves. And with all the exposition in previous episodes about the C23 virus, it should’ve been plain as day about halfway through the series that the virus would be making a comeback at some point (though last episode’s “Next Time” trailer did cinch it).

Unfortunately, the depiction of the virus was somewhat lacklustre compared to the stories of a plague that audiences have been hearing since episode 1. Only a few main characters are shown to be affected, and despite hearing about a handful of other victims and a good performance from Hermione Norris, conveying that mix of strong leadership and human concern, the episode never really sells the fact that the entire community is threatened by the disease.

The aliens themselves don’t get a good showing either: rather than an indigenous species trying to defend itself, they’re painted as manipulative gits who target specific people just to see how the Forthavenites squirm and run around trying to fix the problem. No doubt the return of Richard’s double was meant to be menacing, but despite the logic mechanics of what his visit was demonstrating (that the aliens pretty much have the run of things and can do whatever they want), they come off as villains with cartoonishly-evil motivations, and if Liam Cunningham had a moustache then no doubt much twirling of it would have ensued.

Julius Berger’s manipulations reached their apex as well in this episode, but though Eric Mabius continues to give an entertainingly-oily performance, the logic of his takeover seemed to fall through at the end. For several episodes now, he’s been awaiting the arrival of a transport ship whose occupants are apparently ready to oust the current Forthaven leadership, but that just raises the question, why does Julius actually need to do anything? His political chess game with Richard comes to naught, and his alliance with Jack falls apart, yet the episode still ends on what appears to be his victory. Nonetheless, the tete-a-tete between Julius, Richard, Stella and Jack makes for engaging viewing, which just makes it all the more disappointing that it doesn’t seem to come to anything.

For the most part, the ACs were very much where they were supposed to be: in the background, driving the plot by proxy and reputation rather than through action, right where Rudi can’t suck away whatever intensity the episode has managed to garner so far. The threat of an armed conflict between the ACs and the Forthavenites was also in the background, despite all Julius and Jack’s talks of taking the fight to them. Not for a moment did it seem like the characters would actually follow through on the promise of a battle, especially not with so many other things brewing back in Forthaven, but after the lacklustre conflicts of the past few episodes, it’s probably for the best that the show didn’t try to force another one on us.

The grand reveal that Fleur is really an AC, and everything that comes of that, plays out like Ben Richards’ last big attempt at doing some thematic science fiction, tackling the “What Measure Is A Non-Human?” topic as her and the rest of the characters suddenly have to evaluate just how human, or non-human, Fleur really is. Continuing last episode’s trend of surprisingly good character writing coming from this show, the theme came through best in the quiet scenes between her and Cas, who had a reveal of his own to make (one that was shocking and disturbing enough to not be as disappointing as these reveals typically are) and a surprisingly moving moment to talk about feeling like a monster, less human than Fleur or the ACs or the rest of the Forthavenites. Daniel Mays and Amy Manson give great performances, and their scene at the end of the episode was all the better for its lack of dialogue, really showing that despite having a host of weaknesses, the cast of “Outcasts” is not among them.

The climax of the first series – and the whole show, though not by design – unfortunately is among these weaknesses, as a lot of build-up winds up coming to nothing. All Julius Berger’s manipulations mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, because the transport ship has arrived to free him and take control of Forthaven. Stella’s plans to keep the “host force” out are only just effective enough to magically cure the virus, but don’t actually stop the Richard doppelganger from returning to deliver vague supervillain-y threats. The most interesting part of the climax is the sudden arrival of the transport ship – not its arrival on Carpathia, which we’d known was coming all episode, but its arrival right on top of Forthaven, ready to carry out whatever nastiness they’d schemed up with Julius. But it’s not even a climax: it’s a cliffhanger, to tease the audience until the next series that’s never coming.

The tragedy of this episode is that so much of it is done well. There are great performances from all the actors, it looks good and there’s an escalation of tension. But the episode – and as a consequence, the entire series – ultimately builds to nothing but poor decisions, easy conclusions and squandered potential. It’s worthy of a watch, but “Outcasts” will never be considered a classic.It’ll never be one of those well-loved shows that people pull off the DVD shelf years later, and TV viewers in the future will only remember it as that British show that made an admirable effort to pick up the ball from “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate Universe” and ultimately fumbled and fell over.

Rating: 6/10

(Series Final Rating: 7.0)

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