Review: Outer Range Season 2 Is Boring Nonsense

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 16, 2024 (Last updated: Yesterday)
0
View all
Outer Range Season 2 Review – Dull, Self-Important Sci-Fi
Outer Range | Image via Prime Video
2

Summary

Outer Range Season 2 commits the worst sin any piece of contemporary media can – it’s boring.

Outer Range has one of the best elevator pitches in the business. What if Yellowstone, but it’s a bit like Lost? Genius! And while Season 1 of the Prime Video series mostly lived up to that promise, Season 2 squanders the potential by committing the worst sin any contemporary piece of media can – it’s mind-numbingly dull.

To be fair, the first season wasn’t perfect either. But as a tale of two halves – the enduring conservatism of the Western on one hand and woo-woo sci-fi silliness on the other – it came together about as well, if not better than could be expected. These seven episodes, which dropped together instead of being doled out weekly in a distribution strategy that increasingly seems like Amazon trying to get them out of the way unnoticed, tone the silliness down to instead endlessly and self-seriously postulate on what all the previous silliness might mean.

And who cares? Outer Range never gets outlandish enough to constitute properly out-there science fiction, but it’s far too maudlin to be fun. Now its two distinct halves feel even more ill-fitting than ever, with isolated subplots that feel as if they could have been plucked from another show and just dropped in for the sake of it.

But let’s briefly go over the mechanics. Season 1 revolved around a land dispute between two ranching families in rural Wyoming, the Abbotts and the Tillersons. Of particular interest to both was the coveted west pasture, mostly because it contains a giant a**s-like hole that transports anyone who falls in it through time.

The catch is that you don’t get to choose when the hole spits you out. The show has never bothered to explain why this is, and I get the sense that is probably because it’s easier not to. It’s useful for creating drama since anyone who falls in is basically impossible to find, and it’s always a nice surprise for the audience – if not the characters themselves – to see where they crop up.

At the start of Season 2, Abbott patriarch Royal (Josh Brolin) has invited murderous backpacker Autumn (Imogen Poots) to stay on the ranch on the rather flimsy grounds that she’s a version of his granddaughter Amy from the future. And since present-day nine-year-old Amy is missing, Autumn might be the only way to find her.

This is the core plot, more or less, but it’s surrounded by side stories of various quality, and these occupy the bulk of the second season’s runtime. Deputy Sheriff Joy Hawk is particularly ill-served by a multiple-episode sojourn in 1882 which feels totally detached from everything else. More Native representation is certainly nice, but it’s all so superficially presented that it barely justifies its inclusion.

And this is a problem all throughout Outer Range Season 2, which consistently enjoys being weird without ever committing to any of its bigger or better ideas. I used to find its tight-lipped approach to the sci-fi conceits quite compelling, but now I find the lack of explanation and logic to be trying. I’m privately convinced that nobody knows where any of this is going, and you can feel that in Season 2 much more than you could in the debut outing.

And the lack of commitment makes the whole thing tedious. It doesn’t try hard enough to be funny, or weird, or surprising; it instead just suggests it might become one or all of those things if you stick with it for long enough. And so you stick with it – some of us out of professional obligation – and it doesn’t ever make good on its promises.

This season feels, in a way, like a cover band take on the first. Not to point fingers, but that could be down to the show’s creator Brian Watkins having been replaced by Charles Murray. Then again it could just be the fault of a half-baked idea given too much rope with which to hang itself – sometimes success can be a project’s worst enemy, and there’s an argument to be made that Outer Range perhaps would have been better as a limited series.

But here we are. There are things to like, don’t get me wrong, especially the performances. Brolin and Poots are excellent throughout, the latter particularly, but the indifferent script ceases to ask much of them after a while. There’s a better series in the margins of this one, a series that flexes the rules of time travel and interrogates its possibilities, that gives Tamara Podemski more to do and finds a way for its cowboy stoicism to mean something in the context of a magic portal through time. Maybe they’ll get there in Season 3.


RELATED:

Amazon Prime Video, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
View all