What is the best trope in fiction? The reluctant hero? The fallen idol who must find their will to fight? The begrudging alliance between two foes for a greater cause? All are valid, and Outcast does them justice. But no, as Outcast this week demonstrates, the best trope in fiction is the charismatic monster, the one who puts no fight up when it comes to imprisonment.
Like Skyfall’s Silva or The Dark Knight’s The Joker, Brent Spiner as Sidney happily goes into a prison cell on the say so of the Chief (Reg E Cathey, once again conveying a life of hard work with just a tilt of the head). Following last week’s lean, mean, suspense laden episode, this one is a little more pensive.
While Anderson (Philip Glenister) fights to rebuild his shattered reputation, much of the heaviest stuff is done by Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit). The build up of the last episode is a good culmination into the more heroic and determined way that Kyle confronts Sidney about who or what he is. The three men all deserve Emmy nominations, giving gravity to their monstrous world. Glenister’s fire and brimstone passion as he does to someone suspect that which we know to be good. Most of all it’s great to see the actions of men coming back to haunt everyone. In one sequence, Glenister goes from doting preacher to hardened soldier of God in a matter of seconds.
It’s an episode of confrontations. Kyle and Sidney, scenes which carry so much tension that even leaving the scene does nothing to quell the unending terror of the white haired monster. Anderson confronting a possessed member of his flock, unaware of just how bad things are, and just how deep this satanic conspiracy lies.
Even Cathey’s Giles is confronting a couple of people, whilst the after effects of Anderson’s outburst have begun to unravel the entire fabric of the world they have set up. Yet for once in a TV series, it’s not the antagonists (Brent Spiner, Pete Burris and Debra Christofferson) that hold the audience’s hopes and fears, but our heroes.
Moreover, the episode features more great work by the incredible Madeleine McGraw as little Amber Barnes, and while the elements of Wrenn Schmidt and David Denman as Megan and Mark Holter actually hold some dramatic sway for the first time in the series, the episode throws it away fairly quickly, instead adopting a much sillier stance by the end. As opposed to the tension cracking end to last weeks episode, what we have is a much more sober conclusion, less thrilling and a little more empty than before.
The promise of the episode was much better than the execution. What works is that like all great hero stories, we have our two heroes torn apart, and torn down. Without their lives, this is in great mythic tales the beginning of the end. The Devil has made his play, and it’s time for our heroes to stand up and be counted. Because by our count, it’s three against one: Brent Spiner’s got his work cut out.