Entertainment Magazine

Review #2898: Outcasts 1.5

Posted on the 17 July 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Bronzethumb

If the fourth episode of “Outcasts” settled into a groove, the fifth episode continues right along that path: not brilliant, and not overcoming the flaws that have been present since the beginning of the series, but full of intrigue, interesting ideas and ultimately delivering a solid hour of television.

Review #2898: Outcasts 1.5

An old man who calls himself “Pak” wanders into Forthaven on a dark and stormy night, not knowing a thing about President Tate or the human community but somehow possessing bags and bags of raw, uncut diamonds. Cas and Fleur, and later Stella and Jack, chase Pak into the wilderness beyond Forthaven and are convinced to follow him past the “radiation pockets” and to the sea that nobody on Carpathia has ever seen before, in the hope of finding out what Pak knows of the planet’s past and future. Meanwhile, in Forthaven, the sudden influx of diamonds is causing chaos and destabilising the community as people leap on this new form of currency, while Julius Berger leaps on the issue as a way of strengthening his power base.

Part of the groove that “Outcasts” seems to have settled into involves “crisis of the week” storytelling rather than the more serialised dramatic storytelling that episode one seemed to promise, but the series is making better and better use of the device. Introducing diamonds into the Forthaven community is such a seemingly innocuous idea, yet the consequences are huge and the series deserves a pat on the back for continuing to side at the harder end of the science fiction scale. If anything, this could have been a much larger part of the episode with more scenes along the lines of Lily’s attack, the Forthaven government’s reaction and more minor characters weighing in as Tipper did at the end.

The other main stories of the episode, Cas and Fluer’s journey with Pak and Stella and Jack’s rescue mission, felt much the opposite, as though they’d been stretched too thin. One too many scenes with these characters would likely have had many in the audience inching towards the fast forward button, but their patience was well-rewarded with some subtle and very well-played character moments in the latter half of the episode. The pairing of Stella and Jack for an episode could have been an excuse for each to preach about their organisation’s importance in helping the Forthaven community, or to bring up the tensions between PAS and the expeditionaries that have been simmering since episode one. Instead those tensions were dealt with through actions rather than words: Jack helps Stella, and Stella helps Jack, and afterwards they’re a lot closer and kinder than we’ve ever seen them. This felt like a much better way to bury the hatchet than any drawn-out debate or screaming match, and it’s exactly the kind of character scenes that the show actually excels at.

Gary Lewis gives a fantastic guest performance as Pak, creating a character who is mysterious and compelling, supremely confident in himself and yet lonely and withdrawn. His dialogue with Cas and Fleur in the later parts of the episode could’ve come off as very dry monologues, but there’s so much age and emotion and conviction in the words that stories of landing on Carpathia or about how much the rest of the humans don’t know about the planet will keep viewers transfixed. Daniel Mays and Amy Manson rise to the occasion as well and deliver some of their best performances, especially in the moments where they have no dialogue – the sheer joy they both convey after finding the beach really is infectious.

But through all of this, “Outcasts” delivers the one thing it has consistently delivered: intrigue and mystery. Everyone from Richard Tate down to Tipper thinks that Julius Berger is an untrustworthy schemer, but the end of the episode really kicks it up a notch sets the stage for future conflicts. Likewise, the group’s “Lost”-like discovery on the beach creates more questions about Carpathia than it answers, and with each episode both the characters and the audience feel more and more alienated from the planet. But one of the more subtle yet interesting elements going through the episode is the hallucinations that Richard is having, though he claims they’re more than simply figments of his imagination. The final scenes with Pak and a very creepy shot of the Carpathian landscape reinforce that there’s more going on than simply waking dreams, and the possibilities are enough to get viewers at least a little excited about where the rest of the series is going.

There was a lot to like about episode five, with the main complaint being that the most interesting of the three stories was given far less screen time compared to the others, which seemed to be stretched out a little too much. Nonetheless, a fantastic guest star, actors who continue to give great performances and engaging science fiction ideas all help make episode five very watchable, and go a long way towards redeeming “Outcasts” for its poorer offerings earlier in the season.

Rating: 7/10

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