Robert Kirkman has already proven he is a master of morally ambiguous horror storytelling with The Walking Dead, my hands-down favorite currently running television series (despite the fact that I hate zombies). Now, his second comic series reaches the screen with OUTCAST, premiering this Friday on Cinemax.
Cinemax is where HBO sends their more gruesome and gratuitous-violence-driven action series, so going in, one expects a more jarring experience than AMC manages to do with The Walking Dead. That expectation is met early on, and repeatedly throughout the first hour. There is bug eating and child punching and ooze spewing and all sorts of others things that make the series uncomfortable to watch.
But there are also really good characters, first and foremost Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit, Almost Famous, Full Circle). Kyle was abused as a child and has been plagued by literal demons ever since. They destroyed his mother (Julia Crockett, The Absence) and his marriage, leading him to seek a hermitic existence in a dilapidated house, fine with everyone believing he hurt his daughter (Chandler Head, A Walk in the Woods). After all, that’s preferable to dealing with a reality in which supernatural forces seem to be out to get him, right?
Kyle isn’t as alone as he’d like to be (assuming he really wants to be as alone as he proports). His sister, Megan (Wrenn Schmidt, Person of Interest), brings him groceries and attempts to engage him, even as her husband, Mark (David Denman, The Office), doesn’t trust Kyle around his niece (Callie Brook McClincy, The Originals) because of what Mark believes Kyle did. A neighbor, Norville (Willie C. Carpenter, Devious Maids), offers Kyle food and the use of his car. Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister, Ashes to Ashes) wants Kyle to help him exorcise demons, knowing Kyle is good at it for some reason.
Will Kyle come out of his self-imposed isolation? He has that option, as police chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey, House of Cards) seems content to let Kyle work with Anderson, even when that takes Kyle into the houses of local children. Though, it’s unknown if Kyle’s ex-wife, Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil, House of Cards), would consider taking him back, or even if Kyle is the one who is staying away, and I do feel like Kyle isn’t going to be happy without his family, no matter how much evil he defeats,
Basically, this is a show about a huge war between our lowly hero, Kyle Barnes, and some pretty powerful forces of darkness that have taken an interest in him.
Even with all that, though, this show isn’t for me. I thought long and hard about why I won’t be watching OUTCAST past episode one. After all, while I admittedly hate zombies and do not watch zombie movies, I love The Walking Dead. I don’t like demons and possessions, either, and avoid those films, but unlike with Kirkman’s previous work, I’m not able to overcome the grossness inherent in the genre to enjoy the story. Why?
It’s not the performances, but it could be the writing. While there is something relatable in The Walking Dead, it’s lacking in OUTCAST. You may never want to go through what the characters in the zombie apocalypse go through, but you can relate to them and understand their quandary. To me, though, I don’t find that same connection to Patrick. His worldview is just too far removed. It’s hard to say why exactly that is, but I just can’t get into this show.
If, however, unlike me, you enjoy The Exorcist, this is a deeper, more complex take on a similar story, with a lot more going on, and every bit as much gross stuff as that popular movie. OUTCAST premieres this Friday, June 3rd, on Cinemax.