One of the reasons Outcast continues to work so well is that although it is dealing with the supernatural, it has been rooted in a gritty realism, approximating what real demonic possession would be like. It’s why the show is genuinely scary, with its ever present sense of doom, the kind you only get when it feels like everyone and everything is constantly in the worst kind of danger. So this week’s opening scene, the montage of Philip Glenister‘s Reverend Anderson’s past exorcisms, stood out as a departure from the first five episodes in that it was very theatrical. Yet it worked, and helped set up the revelation of what has actually motivated the Reverend all these years.
We already know how awful possession can be, but that montage let us know just how much–and for how long–it has been the driving force of Reverend Anderson’s life. He’s seen some shit. Watching it, I couldn’t help wonder why he taped them all. What was the benefit? Was it to learn something? To prove he was helping the afflicted and and not causing the harm? Why keep a record of these terrible things?
I got my answer when the beaten down Reverend, realizing his life’s work was a total failure because he’d done nothing to help these people, confessed his real motivation wasn’t to do the lord’s work, but to feel god’s power, to be praised and loved. Those tapes were trophies; they were his rewards. Being admired for doing the deed mattered more than actually saving people. His motivations were selfish, no different than the demons taking over the bodies (in an apparent attempt to save themselves, which is, despite their proclivity to evil, more defensible).
It was a huge realization for him and for us, that even the “good” can fall prey to wickedness in the pursuit of good. Of course, that self-actualization didn’t prevent him later on from insisting Kyle leave the possessed Caleb to him (“God dammit he’s mine!”), because it’s not about saving people, it’s about being able to say you saved them. Giving up his life, and his son, those weren’t sacrifices the Reverend made, they were necessary for his own pride and vanity. For a show that would appear to pit good versus evil, the two sides are growing more and more alike the more we learn about them.
Possession comes in many forms, and sin is everywhere, even within a man of god. That’s why Sidney’s branding of the Reverend might backfire, because it’s Anderson’s chance to truly feel his shame and to fight back against it. That sign of the devil carved into his chest is his scarlet letter, and wearing it might be just what he needs to shed his own sins and actually be the instrument of god he knows he should be.
Just like Kyle was motivated to really join the fight by his vision of the black tar as one of the fleeing demons, causing him to realize he can’t escape this battle, this episode could be the turning point for the Reverend. He can’t save these souls on his own, and if he can overcome his pride, his favorite sin, he might be able to realize that god has given him the tool he needs in the form of Kyle.
That is, if Kyle really is a tool of god. We know Kyle is the “Outcast,” but from what is he an outcast? The devil was cast out from heaven, and these demons seem to need Kyle’s light for something, so is it possible that he is really a tool of satan? Mildred wanted his “kiss,” and in doing so she risked many other “compatriots” of hers and Sidney’s, so what is Kyle exactly? Which side needs him more? And based on Caleb’s comments that he wasn’t afraid while he was possessed, I have no idea what is happening, and which side is more fearful of the mysterious Merge to come. Maybe they both are.
All I know is the more questions the show raises the better it gets.
(Let us pause to bid a bittersweet farewell to Mildred, played to perfection by the always excellent Grace Zabriskie. You were the sweetest old creepy demon ever.)
Beyond the opening scene’s overly cinematic feel, there was a consistency to director’s Tricia Brock’s framing that also made this look and feel different than the previous episode: wide angle shots of two people consistently used throughout gave it a picture-come-to-life feel, where two forces are in a face off. Additionally, she also used unconventional framing in other scenes, like when Mark was interviewing the girl that rendezvoused with the Chief Giles firefighter friend in the trailer (also connected to Mildred, so that subplot is only getting bigger). Instead of placing them in the normal spot to the right or left she transposed them to the other side.
Something is watching in the shadows, I just have no idea if I’m supposed to be afraid of that or the light.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Talk about it with us in the comments below.