‘Outer Range’ Season 2 Remains One Of The Most Unique, Hypnotic, And Downright Bizarre Shows (Which ‘Twin Peaks’ Fans Will Love) On TV

I wonder how Yellowstone viewers would react if they stumbled upon Outer Range, hoping to get a Taylor Sheridan Fix before seeing Josh Brolin yelling at a hole in the ground that’s tied to time travel. That would be an interesting case study, although the two shows do have, on the surface, a few things in common. Obviously, there are dudes in cowboy hats. There’s also a family ranch being circled by (possibly) nefarious outside forces. Yes, there’s drama to be found as well, but Outer Range quickly veers into mystical territory and some of the strangest sci-fi currently on TV. It’s not a Yellowstone clone or a Lost tribute (comparisons have also been made there). You might feel like you’re watching the soul sister of Twin Peaks, but otherwise, this is a highly unique creation and genre grab bag that defies (accurate) explanation.

Typing out a list of things that makes this show bonkers is a discombobulating feat, but let’s scratch the surface. In the first season, Josh Brolin’s patriarch, Royal Abbott, stumbled upon a giant void that opened up within his family’s sprawling Wyoming ranch. He was then revealed to be a portal-hopper who surfaced in the 1960s, and a mysterious woman, Autumn (who kisses like this, as portrayed by Imogen Poots), appeared right when things started running off the track. There’s a murder (the body was hidden but resurfaced) along with visions of buffalo, a singing cowboy, and a necklace that might have the same effect as medication. Hey wait, is Autumn really Amy?

There are moments where I legit had to hit the back button to make sure something actually happened because the show is that absurd. Through a deft sleight of hand, however, season 1 of Outer Range careened down an illogical hill with abandon, but it did it so gracefully. It’s such a delicate balance that I wondered if a second season could maintain that same feat.

Fortunately, my worries were unfounded. Outer Range is still kind-of a mess and sometimes feels like a full-on identity crisis, but the package is skillfully combined. It also considers enormous questions about human existence but doesn’t take itself seriously by claiming to have every answer. After thinking about the why of this show’s accomplishments (and lack thereof), I’ve decided that two especially stellar (and paradoxically grounded) performances are the key to its appeal. Mind you, the performances are strong across the board, but these two lions circling each other demand to be recognized.

Outer Range
Amazon Prime

Josh Brolin

As stated above, there are many reasons why this show could be laughable. That giant hole stands out, of course, and the fact that Brolin’s character harbors so many secrets that it’s a wonder he never publicly melted down before this story began. The show is filled with unreliable narrators, and we find out about the true nature of Brolin’s Royal Abbott in such a painstakingly slow manner that the reveals should be infuriating. Brolin, however, sells every inch of what this giant riddle is peddling. He is the glue.

Much of that is owing to his gruff and stoic air. He is also right at home in the Western genre, both after growing up on a California ranch and starring in both True Grit in No Country For Old Men. That second selection, in particular, provides a comparison point in Brolin’s skill at portraying no-nonsense types who end up in over their heads. Could anyone else have pulled off the “from the gettin’ place” line like Brolin did in that Coen Brothers movie? What a silly set of words, but Brolin infused the moment with layers that revealed volumes about the inner workings of a marriage. Here, we’ve got similarly simple yet expansive moments in the beautifully shot Outer Range.

It’s hard to imagine another actor besides Brolin stapling the entire mess into a singular piece of art in a believable way.

Prime Video (Amazon)

Imogen Poots

Then there’s Autumn. While Royal is the character who holds this impending disaster together, Autumn is the chaos. Whether she is “bad chaotic” or “good chaotic” still remains to be seen. Imogen Poots’ character could have ended up coming across as a femme fatale caricature (fortunately, though, nothing sexy is going on between her and Royal) in less deliberate hands than those of the Vivarium and The Art Of Self Defense actress. Her Autumn is charismatic and unnerving, but she’s also so much more.

She is a literal and figurative poker player. She is both in command and out of control, at once enthralling and frightening, and the second season takes this character further into every angle that has been teased so far. The mystery of her identity never seems to stop yet never expands into a subject that grows old. Imogen Poots adds incredible depth, elevating the character beyond what could have been a stock anti-hero role. Her character seemingly holds every answer in this show without revealing her hand, even when she appears to lose grip of a situation. Long story short (to avoid spoilers), I simply cannot wait to see the audience’s reactions to where Autumn goes.


With all of that said, how does the second season’s continuation of the story measure up? Many more challenges lie along the way, and Royal must mend his fractured relationship with Cecilia (Lili Taylor), who is now learning that her husband has been hiding his secret time-traveling identity for decades. We will also find out what happened to Perry Abbott (Tom Pelphrey) after he dove into the hole and screwed the whole family over.

Expect a heavy focus on what happens with Deputy Sheriff Joy Hawk. She becomes a much larger piece in this puzzle, and I suspect that — when it’s time to start postulating about the third season — her character will figure into plenty of fan theories. Her second-season arc is a perfect example of how this series tackles history and the American identity without attempting to hammer home the significance of every detail. The show doesn’t demand too much mental energy, only that a viewer hop on the ride and be carried along.

Prime Video/Amazon’s ‘Outer Range’ returns to Amazon on Thursday, May 16.