Season 1 of The Outlaws on Prime became a huge hit. The show caught on to the mass nerve of watching serious-minded drama wrapped in a light-hearted comedy. While season 1 had its rough edges, season 2 of The Outlaws perfectly manifests that idea and more.
For those who believed trouble was behind the outlaws, this season sees them spend most of the time trying to get out of last season’s mess that resurfaces with menacing undertones. Not only do they have to deal with larger problems, but they must also face demons on a personal front that threaten to derail their lives. The manner in which season 2 is set up demands that the group work together and help each other out in both circumstances.
Stephan Merchant and Elgin James return as showrunners, while the former once again heads the writing department. The Dean has an overwhelming presence in this season’s storyline, compared to the mere mention of his existence in the last. He demands that the outlaws repay his money – that Frank, Myrna, and John have already spent – along with interest.
With Christian behind bars, they are left to deal drugs on their own and make the operation an efficient one so as to adhere to the given timeline. That pretty much sums up the overarching storyline within which Merchant and his team also carve out space for personal alliterations common in the lives of the outlaws.
Season 2 is especially brilliant for its much more mature handling of thematic exposition that was left untouched in the last. It seemed that Merchant and co were just finding their feet with the story and characters in season 1. They seemed reluctant to expand their scope of examination more than anything that didn’t have to do with the underlying plot.
This time around, within the same number of episodes and run time, the writers do a much cleaner job of taking relatable and emotional moments from the outlaws’ lives and creating storylines where they’re allowed to be imperfect and vulnerable. It is no argument that they are collectively the most endearing. But seeing the likes of Rani, Gabby, and John go through meaningful change during the season’s course was a special occasion to celebrate.
This certainly counts as one of those rare occasions when a subsequent season outdoes the predecessor by a long hop. Season 2 also introduces fresh themes not necessarily hinged on various cultural and societal contexts that the characters belong. One of the reasons for calling them fresh is that they aren’t confined to the traditional norms of race, gender, and economic bias.
Rani discovering her rebellious side and embracing it does not just stem out of the person she is. It emerges from a deeply calculative and measured nudging of personality through hit and trial. Rani just doesn’t fall into being a badass. Or realizing she enjoys being one. There are several stages she goes through; small bits that eventually coalesce into the bigger outcome. And that is where Season 2 is so fascinating.
It wouldn’t be too out of place to call the execution of the story much better in season 2, as a result. Almost all the seven members are given sufficient screen time and attention by the writers. This choice also resolves another problem with season 1 – the risk of concentration.
By spreading the runtime nicely across the characters who are so different from each other and bringing something distinct to the table, Merchant and co made sure that the narrative was layered and viewers weren’t stuck with navigating a one-dimensional theme-park-like situation. They had the option to try different rides and experience different emotions. The changed choices in execution also brought forth a new challenge for the cast.
The actors have all reprised their roles from season 1. Rhianne Barreto, Christopher Walken, and Eleanor Tomlinson, perhaps had the most altered outlines, with Ben being the outlier in the group. I did not like how his character was treated and developed in season 2. It seemed like he was still the same person from season 1. Granted he was the main focus of attention as well, but we ought to have been given something different to work with.
What sets The Outlaws apart from any other show of its kind is the compassion in the script. Every story arc and most episodes end with a beautiful tying up of human values of trust, earnestness, and love. Withering the storm didn’t fall on isolated pair of shoulders, even though the script had compartmentalized different functions to them all. Season 2 is a delightful recurrence of a compelling family drama with enough thrills and laughs to give you a comfortable weekend watch.
Verdict - 8.5/10