UK TV review: Outer Range
James R | On 15, Apr 2022
Josh Brolin is the kind of actor who seems made for Westerns. He’s brooding, well-built and if he told you to get off his ranch or he’d shoot you, you’d definitely believe him. Outer Range sees the No Country for Old Men star ride back into frontier territory, and he’s lost none of the hangdog, rangy, desperate edge that makes his familiar gruff presence enjoyable unpredictable.
He plays Royal Abbott, the man of the farmhouse deep in Wyoming. Married to Cecilia (Lili Taylor) and living with their sons, Perry (Tom Pelphrey) and Rhett (Lewis Pullman), he’s a seasoned cowboy but struggling to make ends meet – and they all know it. They’re a compellingly volatile bunch, with Rhett ambitious to take over the ranch, while they all face rivalry from the eccentric neighbours over the fence – Wayne (Will Patton) and sons Luke (Shaun Sipos) and Billy (Noah Reid).
When tensions escalate in town, Royal’s boys find themselves with a body on their hands, a plot that feels a little like a distraction from the main premise of the series – the gigantic hole that appears, unexplained, in the middle of the family’s west field. Royal is completely flummoxed by it, and refuses to tell anyone else, which sends him into the kind of internalised combustion spiral that gives Brolin something meaty to sink his teeth into.
So far, so eerily intriguing. Except, well, there doesn’t seem to be much more than that offer. Things are meant to kick up a gear when Autumn (Imogen Poots) rocks up hoping to camp out on the Abbotts’ land, but her dialogue is too clichéd to add atmosphere to what is already a show bulging with portent. After a slow-moving, portentous first act, the end of Episode 1 appears to dovetail several elements together in a jaw-dropping flourish – only for Episode 2 to rake over more of the same ground and not deliver on the answers that are already needed. A strong supporting turn from Tamara Podemski as Joy, the deputy sheriff that the local men refuse to take seriously, but the excellent cast soon feel like they’re running on empty, with the show’s sci-if mythology mistaking being opaque for being mysterious.
There are standout moments that still hold promise, however. One dinner time sequence sees Brolin suddenly decide to pray, taking the opportunity to deliver a fire-and-brimstone rant against God, asking him to “fill that void”. You’ll soon be joining in those prayers – although, for now, perhaps faith in Josh Brolin will prove enough.