Outer Range is a moody, atmospheric neo-noir thriller. At times the show does have a tendency of meandering off in different directions, but the central mystery is exciting, gripping and utterly enthralling.
In its simplest form, Outer Range combines the atmosphere of M Night Shyamalan’s Signs, the 2016 film Arrival, ABC’s Lost and Paramount’s Yellowstone. It’s a bizarre medley of influences and it’s likely to be an acquired taste for many.
The story takes place on a large expanse of land in Wyoming, US, split by a dividing fence between two rival farms. The Abbott family have been on this farm for generations but when Royal uncovers a bizarre mystery on the western expanse of his land, he’s unwittingly sucked into a sci-fi bending plot that changes his life forever.
This story is intertwined with a brewing rivalry between the Abbott and Tillerson families. Royal’s sons, Perry and Rhett, end up fighting with Wayne Tillerson’s boys at a bar that night, with Trevor and Perry trading blows. When tragedy strikes, an investigation is launched against the Abbott family. Fronting this is Sherriff Joy, who becomes a more central part of this story as the episodes tick by.
These two intertwined storylines are further complicated by the arrival of a mysterious woman called Autumn. She convinces Royal to let her stay on the land, far away from their house.
However, as the episodes progress it soon becomes apparent that she knows more than she’s letting on. By episode 4, more of her story is uncovered and it becomes increasingly clear that she’s an important part of this mystery.
Outer Range is a bit of a turbulent ride at times, with the opening few episodes absolutely gripping before episode 3 takes a bit of a backseat and slows everything down completely.
However, this feels like a minor blip as the show picks up the pace and starts to deliver on more of its mystery.
With Amazon releasing two episodes a week (with a sporadic episode length ranging from 45 minutes to 1 hour), there’s just enough to whet your teeth while leaving you hanging on for more.
The tone of Outer Range is absolutely on the money too, with a great mix of tension, suspense and drama. There are light bites of comedy too, typified by Billy Tillerson’s constant renditions of “Angel in the Morning.” These aren’t laugh out loud funny though, more an amusing addition to try and add moments of levity to an already-serious story. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
The characters themselves are all interesting and the show makes good use of its run-time to actually explore each of these people, with Wayne Tillerson in particular becoming an ever-more fascinating character as the episodes tick by.
Royal is the glue that holds everything together though and Josh Brolin commands the screen with every scene. He has some cracking moments, especially when this combines with the weird happenings on the farm and beyond, and without him Outer Range would probably fall part.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that this show is going to be an acquired taste. If you’re in the mood for a cowboy drama, check out Yellowstone or 1883 instead. If you want an outright sci-fi flick, Arrival is probably the closest in tone you’re going to get.
Outer Range effectively nestles itself between the two states rather well. At times the show does have some issues with pacing, and those impatient for answers are unlikely to enjoy how drawn out this one is at times.
However, there’s something inherently moody and gripping with Outer Range that’ll keep you thinking about this one after the credits have rolled. Whether enough time has suitably passed before the world is ready for another big mystery box series (especially given it’s only been 2 or 3 months since Yellowjackets finished) will depend on audience reaction, but there’s enough here to whet the appetite and want for a second season nonetheless.
Outer Range releases weekly on Amazon Prime Video starting 15th April 2022!
Verdict - 7.5/10