In case you missed it, Cinemax released the premiere episode of their new series Outcast, their adaptation of the supernatural comic book series about demonic possession written by Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead). Titled after the first issue, “Darkness Surrounds Him,” it was released by Cinemax two weeks early (you can watch it here), so if you want to avoid any potential spoilers before reading our review, check it out first. I suggest watching it alone, in a very dark room, without any snacks.
“I’ve seen a lot. Thought I’d seen the worst suffering a man could imagine, but that was uh–I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
While Reverend Anderson is referring to the demonic possession of young Joshua, he just as easily could have been talking about watching a scene where a grown man repeatedly and viciously punches a young child in the face.
Long before that, though, it became clear that Outcast wasn’t going to–ahem–pull any punches. The unsettling opening sequence with young Joshua, where he first smashes his head against his bedroom wall to make a bloody snack of a bug, followed by him noshing on his finger (I gasped, even though I knew it was coming), was indication enough that in a world full of people possessed by real demons, things can and will get bloody and violent.
Written by Kirkman himself, the episode stayed mostly true to the comics, with only minor changes (Mark’s missing mustache aside). It was tense from start to finish, with little in the way of an emotional break. It’s hard to really judge Patrick Fugit as the main character, Kyle Barnes, based on just the first episode, because so much of it was spent with him staring dead-eyed, but what we did get to see, especially at the end, makes it seem like the role is in good hands.
Philip Glenister, though, made it feel like Reverend Anderson himself literally walked off the pages of the comic and right onto the show. That’s no knock on Fugit’s performance; his character in this episode is very different from what he will be soon enough (which you see at the end when he says, “Come and get me”), whereas the Reverend has long been waging this battle that Kyle is only now ready to face again.
One major change that did stand out was the very early introduction of the mysterious “Merge,” which Joshua’s demon said was coming. Kirkman didn’t shy away from showing backstory, or revealing important plot elements that he held back on for a few more issues in the comic, but it’s probably for the best because the show wants to establish that the stakes go well beyond just fixing Kyle’s marriage. This isn’t just about one small town and one guy with a messed up life; this is a monumental battle for the world.
If I have a complaint, it’s that we saw so much of what Joshua’s demonic possession entailed that the final scene where Kyle exorcises him with his blood lost just a little oomph when Joshua started levitating. It might have been better to show less of Joshua before that, so when we went into that room with them we didn’t know just how real it was.
This was the creepy, uneasy episode I was hoping to see. In fact, this was probably scarier than the comics, which are more tense than scary. The flashbacks to Kyle and his mother were especially horrifying, in the good way (well, not for the character, obviously, though holy crap did the actor playing young Kyle look just like Patrick Fugit).
If every episode is going to be as tense and difficult to watch (and the comic book is unrelenting, so that’s what I expect), this might not be a show designed to binge, but I know I certainly can’t wait for the next one. Unfortunately for us, when they stream the premiere two weeks early (it’s official airing is June 3rd) you have to wait three weeks for the next one.
What did you think of the premiere? Let’s scare up some conversation in the comments below.