Title: Outer Range (2022) Creator: Brian Watkins Stars: Josh Brolin, Imogen Poots, Lili Taylor, Will Patton
A mystery is unfolding out in the Wyoming ranchlands. The feud between two families hides a darker truth, and as a strange, perfectly round hole with dark, swirling energies is discovered out on the pasture, people start to go missing. The feud turns deadly as a traveler arrives, obsessed with the land and its secrets.
To pin Outer Range down to one specific genre is impossible. It is a contemporary western family drama with science fiction elements and a mind-bending central mystery that is… well… truly mysterious! It never holds your hands, nor does it spoon-feed you with clues and answers. I like this. It is creepy and very hard to figure out. Despite being set in very different environments, the mood and atmosphere in Outer Range often reminded me of David Lynch’s original Twin Peaks.
The story of Outer Range takes place in the Wyoming ranchlands, where the Abbott family is feuding with its neighbors, the Tillerson family, over land rights. Royal Abbott (played by Josh Brolin) and his religious wife Cecilia (played by Lili Taylor) try to lead their family through a hard time, as nine months earlier, the wife of his son Perry (played by Tom Pelphrey) disappeared.
When Perry and his brother Rhett (played by Lewis Pullman) gets into a bar brawl that ends with the death of one of the neighbors, the Abbotts do everything they can to hide the evidence. And where better to hide a body than in a mysterious and seemingly bottomless hole out on the pasture that seems to swallow up everything in its swirling black energy? And who is this girl, calling herself Autumn (played by Imogen Poots), that seems to have been drawn to this ranch in particular?
Strange times at the Abbott ranch, to be sure!
It is hard to pin down and get a handle on the central mystery in Outer Range. The series keeps you guessing for a long time, which could have been frustrating if it hadn’t been for the outstanding cast. Of particular note is Josh Brolin’s ranch owner Royal Abbott, the head of the family who discovers the mysterious black hole. As his obsession with the mystery, and the strange girl Autumn increases, he becomes more and more distant from his family. Lili Taylor is also great here as the guilt-stricken religious matriarch of the family. And then there is Will Patton with a role seemingly made for him; the rivaling and ailing ranch owner Wayne Tillerson. The cruel and greedy Tillerson family is so over-the-top that it borders on the cartoonish, but it works.
There is not much more I can write about the story and the characters without risking going into spoiler-territory. But I also want to point out that Outer Range is beautifully shot – the environment, the grand vistas of the Wyoming ranchlands, and the wilderness becomes characters in themselves. Like the beforementioned Twin Peaks, Outer Range creates an atmosphere that is both peaceful and not quite right – like something wrong just on the edge of sight. And it shows us how the simplest idea, like, for instance, a dark hole in the ground, can be the scariest.
Outer Range is a creepy, trippy and at times darkly funny supernatural drama that is carried through eight episodes by its outstanding cast. It has its ruminations on faith and explorations of the bizarre – a sometimes tough balancing act to pull off. But Outer Range takes its time with the story and its central mystery and is absolutely the better for it. Absolutely worth a watch!
Outer Range premiers on Prime Video on the 15th of April.