Prime Video's Outer Range Will Fill That Twin Peaks And Dark-Shaped Hole In Your Life
Josh Brolin stars in Prime Video's weird western sci-fi drama about mysterious pits, eccentric neighbors, disappearing buffalo, and the esoteric passage of time.
2022 has been something of a renaissance period for out-of-the-box genre TV. Showtime's Yellowjackets--the story of a maybe-but-maybe-not cannibalistic girls soccer team stranded in the probably haunted Canadian wilderness--felt like an heir to the pop culture behemoth Lost. AppleTV+'s Severance borrowed ideas from the niche subgenre of corporate horror (think games like The Stanley Parable or even sci-fi shows like Westword) to create a tense and harrowing examination of work/life balance. Now, Prime Video is getting in on the action with Outer Range, which launched on the platform back in April with an 8 episode first season.
However, unlike both Yellowjackets and Severance, Outer Range failed to generate the same mainstream buzz and conversation as it quietly completed its first season run--and that's truly a shame, because where Yellowjackets felt like Lost and Severance felt like a horror rendition of The Truman Show, Outer Range feels cut from the same cloth as other cult classic juggernauts, specifically David Lynch's loved-and-loathed Twin Peaks and Netflix's German sleeper hit, Dark.
Perhaps this isn't entirely surprising, seeing as both Twin Peaks and Dark were never what anyone could call blockbuster hits in their own time--but, hey, sometimes the shows you have to go looking for on your own are the ones that stick with you the most, right? And Outer Range is definitely one of those shows.
Set in modern day Wyoming, Outer Range follows rancher Royal Abbot (Josh Brolin), a taciturn luddite of a man who prefers the quiet life of his family's cattle ranch to any major modern amenities. This, unfortunately, becomes a problem when a giant, endlessly black pit--perfectly circular and filled with a swirling sort of dust--mysteriously shows up on the ranch's west pasture. Things get even more complicated when the Abbot family's eccentric neighbors and rival ranchers, the Tillersons, show up with an inexplicable and suspicious interest in stealing several miles worth of the Abbot's west pasture for themselves, a bombshell that's dropped almost simultaneously with the arrival of a strange city girl named Autumn (Imogen Poots) who claims to be a "poet" and wants to camp on the Abbot's land.
Individually, these parts all sound like they could be coming from three very different shows, and that's honestly part of the charm. Something Outer Range does incredibly well is weave in different tones--there's plenty of sci-fi surrealism and fantasy (if the strange bottomless black hole in the Earth wasn't enough to clue you in) but there's plenty of intentional absurdity, too. The Abbot's lives are filled with singing cowboys, possibly sentient taxidermied animals, and bureaucrats with pet ravens that sit in their offices--like a sort of western flavored riff on the Log Lady, except instead of ominous warnings, this particular eccentric character wants to know what the sheriff is going to do about all the mastodon sightings happening in caves around town. (There aren't, in point of fact, any mastodon sightings happening in caves around town--at least, not yet.)
This is where the other part of Outer Range's one-two punch comes in. For the uninitiated, Dark, a German sci-fi show that aired in America on Netflix, grew to cult popularity for its fresh and emotional take on classic time travel tropes and ideas, frequently turning expectations on their heads. In Dark, it was never as simple as driving a DeLorean or hopping into a time machine, nor was it ever as easy as just not interacting or interfering with the timeline or avoiding the creation of "paradoxes."
Outer Range never hides the fact that it's a show ostensibly about time. Episode 1 opens with Josh Brolin's raspy voice over asking the audience "You ever hear of a Greek God called Cronos?" Cronos is, of course, the god who governed the passage of time, the harvest, who was largely viewed as both an agent of extreme chaos and extreme order. The allusion to the strange hole on the ranch and the possibility that it connects, somehow, to time itself is there from the start. But, as it is in Dark, the idea of time travel is anything but simple and not to be taken at face value. The hole isn't a wormhole or some sort of dimensional portal--it's full of what looks like an unknown mineral that has mysterious properties all on its own; properties that don't involve anyone becoming wannabe Marty McFlys.
If you hadn't already guessed, it's difficult to get into too many other specifics without spoiling some of the show's big reveals. But, at a very reasonable 8 episodes--all of which are available for streaming on Prime Video right now--Outer Range doesn't ask for too much commitment to binge through and learn its secrets on your own. Especially if you're the sort of person who has been chasing the high of Dark's final season, or just really wants something to fill the Twin Peaks void as you chug through other currently airing TV shows--it's worth checking out. It may very well be the sort of show that only ever finds a limited but dedicated audience of niche genre fans--but, if you're one of them--you'll know right away how special something like that can be.
Outer Range Season 1 is streaming on Prime Video now.
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