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Outer Range

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Royal Abbott don’t cotton to change.

His ranch is anchored in the past. Stuck, some might say. Cattle graze on grass, not force fed in pens. He and his boys do their work on horseback, not ATVs. Why, the farmhouse is even graced with a corded phone.

But change comes to us all, whether we want it or not. In fact, on a particular patch of land on Royal’s west pasture, change comes hard and fast.

Royal knows something of just how drastic that change can be. He knows that the huge, symmetrical chasm out there isn’t just a hole in the ground: It’s a portal—one that can whip someone backward and forward in time.

How does Royal know this? Because he’s gone down in that hole. Down through it, you might say. Back in 1882.

No wonder he doesn’t cotton to change.

HOLE, HOLE ON THE RANGE

You’d think that a time-traveling hole might be a fun little thing to have around. But as Season Two opens in Prime Video’s Outer Range, that metaphysical divot has coughed up plenty of problems.

For one, a whole herd of bison found their way to the present (at the end of Season One), stampeding through this corner of Wyoming and sending about 350 people to the hospital. And that’s just for starters.

But the hole isn’t just handing out buffalo: It’s taking people, too. Joy, the town’s sheriff, has been whisked into the past. Amy, the beloved granddaughter of Royal and his wife (Cecilia), has disappeared, apparently in the company of Amy’s long-missing mother.

But is Amy really gone? Or might she be August, that mysterious hippie who showed up on the Abbott ranch in Season One and caused a whole mess of problems? Royal sure seems to think so. But August herself isn’t quite so confident.

And we haven’t even gotten to the Tillersons, the family that’s been warring with Royal Abbott for ever so long. Or Royal’s own sons, who kinda-sorta accidentally killed a Tillerson last season. Or Cecilia herself—the glue that holds the Abbott family together, but who might have a hard time believing that her husband is, oh, 150 years old or so.

Yep, the hole has come with plenty of ticklish issues. But ultimately, it might not be the worst of Royal’s problems.

TWILIGHT ZONE … ZONED FOR HORSES

If Yellowstone and Stranger Things had a baby, it might look a little like Outer Range. It pairs supernatural mystery with real-world intrigue … and it comes with plenty of real-world problems, too.

The series—some episodes of which are rated TV-14, a decision almost as mysterious as the hole itself—would naturally carry an R rating if it landed in theaters. Harsh profanities salt the dialogue. And moments of violence and gore mar the screen. But it feels like the story’s makers actually considered those problematic elements before putting them in—not as a play for eyeballs or to hide weakness in the story itself.

Sexual content can impact the storyline, too. We see couples in bed together; and Joy, the female sheriff, has a girlfriend.

For more secular viewers, though, one of Outer Range’s most unexpected elements might be its push into spirituality.

Cecilia Abbott, Royal’s wife, is deeply religious. We hear characters talk about fate and metaphysics. Autumn even namechecks the Greek god Cronos, who used a sickle to tear a hole in creation: “Between heaven and earth … separate the known from the unknown.” How all of this spirituality will shake out as the series goes on is anyone’s guess—but I’d bet that it’ll likely not land squarely on the side of orthodox Christianity.

Outer Range is an interesting, but problematic exploration of separation: the separation we find in families, in friends, in rivals and, perhaps, between us and the divine. That scythe of Cronos becomes a metaphor of that separation. But the show doesn’t separate itself from difficult—and for families, deal-killing—content.

(Editor’s Note: Plugged In is rarely able to watch every episode of a given series for review. As such, there’s always a chance that you might see a problem that we didn’t. If you notice content that you feel should be included in our review, send us an email at [email protected], or contact us via Facebook or Instagram, and be sure to let us know the episode number, title and season so that we can check it out.)

Episode Reviews

May 15, 2024—S2, E1: “One Night in Wabang”

In the wake of last season’s stampede, our characters begin to do their best to pick up the pieces—both physically and emotionally. Royal takes a very injured August to the hospital. Amy is taken away by her long-missing mother, Rebecca; simultaneously, a frantic Cecilia, Amy’s grandmother, searches for her. Luke Tillerson revels in the fact that he just found some time-traveling goop that his father’s been looking for since he was a child. And Joy, the local sheriff, is transported into the middle of battle between the native Shoshone and Cheyenne in the 1880s.

That battle features several people getting knocked off horses and being clubbed. A couple of arrows thud at Joy’s feet, and she eventually fights with a warrior who seems to want to kill and scalp her. (She eventually chokes him into a state of unconsciousness.)

We see a flashback to when Luke tried to suffocate his father. (He’s quite surprised to see his dad alive and walking around just fine.) A man lies bleeding in an overturned vehicle, near death. August is in lots of pain as Royal takes her to the hospital, where we learn that she’s suffered broken ribs and a concussion. (The doctor suspects that Royal might’ve been the cause of August’s injuries—and not without reason. But August denies it, claiming it was the stampede.) Royal mentions the desire he had to commit suicide when he, as a boy, first entered the hole. “When I realized that I had created the hole inside me, it spat me out,” he says. “Like it never wanted me in the first place.”

Guns are pointed at people. We hear that another Tillerson boy has been shot. In what turns out to be a flashback, younger versions of Royal and Cecilia discover a cow that’s given birth to a calf … and expelled some bloody innards in the process. Royal shoots the animal (off-camera).

Royal calls the birth a “bad omen,” one of several references to omens we hear during the episode. We see Cecilia pray for Amy’s safe return, even as she asks God, “Why are you doing this to me?” Royal reminds Cecilia of how she asked him to trust in God’s plan always—a preface to asking Cecilia to trust him now with what seems like an incredible revelation. We hear other people talk about God, including how blasphemy might sentence someone to hell.

A Native American man apparently uses his people’s own beliefs as a way to trick several underwear-clad women to spend time with him in a tent. (They apparently were convinced that disrobing was part of an indigenous spiritual ceremony.)

Rhett, one of Royal’s sons, checks into a hotel room with girlfriend Maria. Once there, she takes off her shirt and makes her way to the shower, inviting Rhett to come with her. Later, the two share a bed together, both apparently naked (we see him shirtless and her from the shoulders up). They kiss a few times.

Characters use the f-word and s-word seven times each. We also hear “a–,” “d–n,” “h—,” “d-ck” and “p-ss.” God’s name is paired with “d–n” twice. We also hear two misuses of Jesus’ name.

Apr. 15, 2022—S1, E2: “The Land”

After being pushed into the hole, Royal wakes up the next morning beside it. He confronts Wayne Tillerson about his effort to take (or reclaim) some land that had historically been a part of the Abbott Ranch. Meanwhile, Wayne’s sons try to find out what happened to their missing brother.

Royal returns with lots of nasty scratches on his back (from crawling through barbed wire in the previous episode) and a gunshot wound in his leg—a bloody injury that Cecelia stitches up. Royal tells her a lie: That he was shot by a Tillerson as they were firing in the darkness.

Royal warns one of his sons about the Tillersons, talking about a ranch hand that was gored by one of the ranch’s bulls. The man was dying, but killing the bull would’ve meant allowing the man to die peacefully and with dignity. Wayne Tillerson refused to kill a valuable bit of ranch property, so the farm worker simply bled out while still attached to the bull’s horn. “You don’t cozy up to the Tillersons,” Royal seethes. “You keep ‘em as far away as possible.”

Royal says a rambling, profane prayer over dinner. “I’m asking You to come down here and explain yourself,” he says in part, “because this world of yours isn’t quite adding up, and I hate you for it, and I really do, and I don’t even think I f—ing believe in you. But I really hate you. Amen.” His sons, meanwhile, wonder whether they’ll be forgiven for what they’ve done. Cecelia stares at a needlepoint that reads, “Oh Lord reveal Yourself to us.” Someone says “God bless” in passing.

The local sheriff kisses another woman on the cheek before leaving for work. The woman could be her daughter, but she later mentions that she’s gay. Wayne mentions that he used to collect erotic art to get his blood pumping, and that soon his walls were “covered in smut that would make your toes curl.” He tells Royal that didn’t do it for him. “I realized what got my heart racing was what I couldn’t see,” he says. “What I didn’t know about. What was hidden from me and kept me looking.” He also makes a crass reference to the male anatomy.

We see Royal shirtless. A man sings and dances in his underwear. There’s a reference to someone being disqualified from a rodeo because of drug use. We hear that someone died. People fire weapons. Autumn, the woman camping on the Abbott land, finds mysterious symbols on the ranch (that she’s been mysteriously drawing herself without knowing why), and she kisses a stone in her necklace. Characters say the f-word six times and the s-word twice. We also hear “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused three times (twice with “d–n”), and Jesus’ name is misused once.

Apr. 15, 2022—S1, E1: “The Void”

When a couple of his cattle go missing, Royal and his sons, Rhett and Perry, search the ranch for a hole in the fence. Instead, Royal finds a hole in the ranch itself—a seemingly bottomless drain to who knows where.

He doesn’t tell anyone about this mysterious gaping maw, maybe in part because he’s got plenty of other problems to deal with. A neighboring ranch is owned by the Tillersons, and they are attempting to make a legal land grab for the prettiest part of the Abbot Ranch. Perry’s wife is still missing, and the family’s just been told that the FBI is stopping its search for her. And a mysterious woman from Boulder, Colorado, is camping on the ranch for a few days. That wouldn’t be a huge problem in itself, but she learns about the hole—and what Royal tossed in it.

Royal’s sons, Perry and Rhett, drink heavily at a bar. Both wind up fighting an obnoxiously drunk Trevor Tillerson (after Perry accidentally vomits in front of him): Rhett fights first and wins his match. But when Rhett goes back inside, Trevor starts talking bad about Perry’s missing wife. Perry punches Trevor in the throat and beats the man to death. The two bring the body back to the family ranch, where Royal promises to take care of it.

We see the bloody corpse at times. A blood-stained belt buckle is left at the scene of the beating. Someone pushes another character into the mysterious hole. The camper, Autumn, pulls feathers from a dead pheasant. Rhett (unsuccessfully) rides a bull at a local rodeo. A bison mysteriously appears by the hole, two arrows sticking out of its hide.

Royal, wife Cecelia and granddaughter Amy go to church. Cecelia and Amy sing hymns while standing in a pew, while Royal lounges in the back of the sanctuary, reading. Cecelia leads the family in a mealtime blessing. Royal sticks his hand in the hole and has a flashback that includes a cross. We hear both Royal and Autumn talk about the Greek god Cronos. Cecelia talks about God with Royal. “Just because we’re hurting doesn’t mean God’s not there.”

Characters drink tequila shots. They say the f-word nine times and the s-word another five. We also hear “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused a half-dozen times, four of those with the word “d–n.”

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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