Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Outcast’s demons aren’t just any old demons

Illustration for article titled Outcast’s demons aren’t just any old demons

One of Outcast’s strongest features is the relationship between Reverend Anderson and Kyle Barnes. Their fraught bond is the driving force of the narrative, and the way their interactions shape and reveal one another add depth to a show that could easily just shoot for cheap thrills. Outcast is doing something a little different though, using its demonic undercurrent to ultimately explore themes of loyalty, perspective, inherent violence, and redemption. Last week’s episode was all about how certain events and traumas can cause a person’s worldview to completely crumble. This week’s episode, “From The Shadows It Watches,” is the necessary follow-up, focusing on how one can pick up the pieces of the crumbled worldview and hopefully move forward.

Because “From The Shadows It Watches” basically resets Kyle and Anderson’s relationship, bringing them back together again after their conflict in last week’s episode, there’s a slight feeling of redundancy throughout. What I mean is that parts of “From The Shadows It Watches” are narrative beats the show’s hit before. The difference in opinion that splits Anderson and Kyle has been focused on nearly since the premiere. We have a good understanding of where they stand in terms of their approach to demon hunting, so devoting an entire episode to the foregone conclusion of them overcoming their differences is a little disappointing. That’s not to say there’s not a lot to love about the episode, but rather that it’s the first time this season that it feels like Outcast is merely standing still.

Thankfully, Outcast is about much more than narrative momentum, so there’s still plenty of thematic material to make this episode compelling. For instance, Reverend Anderson spends the entirety of this episode trying to exorcise a demon from a man all on his own. He not only wants to prove that Kyle Barnes isn’t so special, but he also wants to reassert the sanctity of his belief system. After confronting the failure of his life’s work last week, here he’s in denial, doing everything he can to ignore the fact that he needs Kyle Barnes. More than that, he’s insistent on fixing this man himself because he wants to believe that evil can’t adapt. This religious fight between good and evil is supposed to be cut and dry, but these demons are challenging that, showing that relying on scripture and thousands of years of faith isn’t necessarily the most bulletproof strategy. Things change, and Anderson needs to accept that, for the sake of those he’s treating and for his own wellbeing.

If Anderson’s worldview was shattered last week, it’s Megan’s turn this week. She’s trying her best to take care of Kyle and encourage his newfound sense of purpose, but while they’re having lunch she gets an ominous call. It’s Donnie calling from the hospital and he wants her to visit. She obliges, and she learns that it was Mark, her husband, who put Donnie in the hospital with possible brain damage. Donnie’s potential blackmail is an important detail for the rest of the season, but the immediate impact is on Megan. She’s always had this understanding of Mark, and now that’s changing. Just like those 10 minutes changed Allison Barnes’ life forever, so too could this one reveal, delivered by someone from her past, completely destroy Megan. After all, the past fades but it’s always there. Like spray-painted demons on the side of Anderson’s church, you can cover them up but their imprint still lingers, a reminder of the wrongs and evils that populate the world.

Outside of the main plot, which sees Kyle and Anderson come back together to cure the man the Reverend has locked up in the church, the mystery of the police investigation and the camper in the woods finally gets a bit more attention. Outcast is still playing the long game with both of its season-long arcs, but for the first time this season the investigation led by Mark, with Chief Giles always nearby, feels like a significant part of the show. Here we see Mark questioning a young woman (and prostitute, it seems) whose DNA was found in the camper. When she pleads ignorance it looks like she’s telling the truth, but later she’s visiting with the fire chief, the same man Giles saw burning the camper down. Again, the details are few and far between, but it’s a start; Outcast‘s most beguiling storyline finally has some intrigue and a sense of direction.

So, “From The Shadows It Watches” sees many citizens of Rome reckoning with the past in order to move on and take control of their future. Mildred does her best to steal some life from Kyle before Sidney steps in. Megan must hear the truth about Mark from a figure of her past before moving forward with her family. Reverend Anderson must sift through old tape recordings of his exorcisms before he can accept that he needs Kyle’s help, and that there’s no shame in asking. Kyle must accept that the man he was is not necessarily the man he has to be for the rest of his life, so he decides to face these demons head-on in order to take back his family. Judging by the fact that the episode ends with Sidney carving a pentagram into the Reverend’s chest, something tells me that the future may not be any more welcoming than the past.


Stray observations

  • I like that Patricia is the one to bring Kyle and Anderson back together. She could use a more active role in the narrative.
  • R.I.P. Mildred. We’ll miss your performance, Grace Zabriskie.
  • One reason the Reverend is so shaken by this current encounter is that the man says he didn’t feel afraid of the demon. Instead, he felt warmth. Again, that challenges Anderson’s entire belief system.
  • Giles finds a picture of the camper in Mildred’s house. Interesting.