Entertainment Magazine

Review #2578: Outcasts 1.3

Posted on the 04 July 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Bronzethumb

The third episode of “Outcasts” barely manages to hold its own against its immediate predecessor without rising to meet the quality of the premiere. The problems that plagued the first two episodes return in full force, as devastating to some of the most promising characters of the series as the white-out was the Forthaven, but a handful of strong moments managed to keep this episode from being a complete disappointment.

Review #2578: Outcasts 1.3

Episode three sees “Outcasts” dipping into problem-of-the-week territory, as the residents of Forthaven discover that the perfect storm equivalent of a “white-out” – in essence, a thunderstorm at ground level – is on its way. Everyone gets a chance to pitch in and help, from the PAS officers and expeditionaries helping to keep people safe to Richard and Julius showing off their strong leadership, but for most of the episode this white-out feels like a vaguely-defined excuse to have things happen to the characters, something that will push the story forward and then disappear once a plot device is no longer needed.

There were a few instances, however, where it seemed like something genuinely necessary for the story. The shot of the mountains with crackling white fog slowly flowing over the top, or of the dust and water tornadoes that sprang up seemingly out of nowhere, served as excellent reinforcements of what an alien place Carpathia really is; scenes in the white-out itself, of Cas and Leon struggling back to Forthaven in the midst of all that dust and sound and lightning, and of the cloud washing over the settlement with a real sense of force and power and menace, were the only moments where I felt the intensity and apprehension that the characters clearly felt and the episode itself had been trying to communicate.

In the midst of this, a number of smaller character stories were unfolding, some worthwhile and some less so. Fleur’s journey into the wilderness to return the ACs’ baby yielded something that seemed impossible after the previous episode: some interesting moments with Rudy. Perhaps the writing gave him more to work with, or the director thought to give the actor some direction, but whatever the case, Rudy came across as a character rather than a cardboard cut-out, someone who has motivations beyond “doing what the writer says”. His attachment to Fleur seemed a little out of the blue, but the fact that he seemed attached to anything was a huge improvement. He also had a big moment at the end of the episode, a heartbeat from killing Cas where he seemed genuinely angry.

Cas had some good moments as well, with his breakdown and later when trying to save Leon, but it was Mitchell Legge as Tipper who gave the standout performance and turned the forgettable, one-note character from previous episodes into the emotional heart of this story. His arc over the episode, from the front of flippancy and the one-liners that gives way to reveal someone who is intelligent but very messed-up, was extremely well-written and felt more organic than a lot of the character bits we’ve seen in this series. His breakdown on the radio, and later when he got to relive the memories of his sisters, was fantastic television.

A far weaker story was that of Trix the nurse and Leon the engineer, who – as the episode felt a constant need to remind us – were getting married the next day. It smacked of a cheap ploy by the writers to ratchet up tensions when the white-out hits, and did so from the very first moment that Cas bumps into Trix for a three minute scene that serves no purpose but to tell us that Trix is supposed to get married the next day. That kind of blatant attempt at emotional manipulation doesn’t increase the audience’s sympathy and make them worried about the fates of these characters; through its obviousness, it does the exact opposite.

One gets the sense that originally these two characters had simply been there to service the story – a nurse and an engineer, in a situation where buildings are going to be damaged and people are going to be hurt – but Ben Richards decided to pair them off in a very late rewrite. He even used them to deliver what’s becoming a standard trope of the series, the “Patrick Stewart speech” at the end about humanity and culture and what’s good about us, but these throwaway characters couldn’t deliver it with the conviction and believability that Jamie Bamber and Liam Cunningham managed, and just made it seem hollow and silly. Had these characters been introduced in a previous episode, this story might have worked, but all it wound up doing was taking the audience out of the episode.

The standout character of the previous episode, Julius Berger, also seemed to get the short end of the stick. Episode 2 ended with Julius sliding into the Forthaven community, an outsider who used charm and charisma to cover up the viler aspects of his nature, who was amassing something of a following and who had Richard and Stella well and truly nervous. This time, Julius just can’t wait to help out and the higher-ups of Forthaven just can’t wait to let him. Stella in particular seemed to have back-pedaled completely when it comes to Julius, letting him be friendly and a bit flirty when in the previous episode, she came within a hair’s breadth of calling him a child molester.

Such a sharp one-eighty from all these characters only serves to alienate them from the audience, and it’s only a tiny, tiny moment at the end, coming through Eric Mabius’ performance rather than any dialogue, that indicates this change in characterization might be deliberate on the part of the character rather than a fault on the part of the writers.

Two episodes in a row, this series has failed to live up to the high expectations set by the premiere, and it was only some surprising turns from the minor characters that save episode three from sliding down even further thanks to the show’s mostly two-dimensional approach to characterization. Unfortunately, there aren’t many more minor characters that can spring into the foreground and surprise us, so some kind of miraculous turnaround will be necessary to keep “Outcasts” from being one of the bigger disappointments of the year.

Rating: 6/10

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