OUTSIDERS is one of those evidently irresistible combinations of old-world, pre-modern, kin-based saga-drama that have hooked devotees of television series in recent years. It’s like… medieval meets hillbillies meets Doomsday preppers meets fairy kingdom. You know, basically The Hobbit, with moonshine. And a universal air of defensive outsiderness, which feels somewhat appropriate to the times.
In the Season 1 finale, Outsiders left us agape at the unholy elements the fractured Farrell clan managed to call up when they stood together against the incursion of the forces that would have them evicted from their home, Shay Mountain, so a coal company can begin mining. Led by beleaguered deputy sheriff Wade Houghton, (the nearby town of) Blackburg’s police outfit had been mobilized at the behest of the coal company and was coming at the Farrells with full force until the clan apparently magicked up an almighty storm which threw the cops sideways.
Season 2 premiered on WGN America last night, and took us back to the scene of the storm: The Farrells united, fierce and knowing; the policemen pointing their guns and trying to see through the sheeting rain. The opponents run toward each other and the cops’ guns fire while the rather more ruthless Farrells swing axes and brandish knives, mud and guts flying everywhere. This opening scene ends with Wade being shot through the eye with a crossbow by G’win Farrell. Outsiders is back, and it’s a bloodbath.
Is the sheriff dead?! Of course not, he wakes up in hospital to the knowledge that everyone saw him running away from the Farrells, a clan he has vowed to vanquish, and the town thinks it’s laughable. It’s time for a change of tactic if the coal company is going to get its way (and if, as we learn later in the episode, the struggling town is going to benefit from all the coal dollars that lie within the mountain). Haylie Grimes and her smooth-talking friends in government-corporate liaison have to come up with something else – they bring in an emergency manager from the governor’s office to take it from here. Unsurprisingly, the strategy begins with “nobody’s going back up that mountain”, which Wade might not seem happy about, but surely he’s not going to forget G’winn’s crossbow in a hurry.
Meanwhile, now that the would-be evictors have been driven back, the unity of the people on the mountain is still under some threat. The death of Big Foster in the season finale has left an opening for the new Bren’in, the mountain peoples’ leader. As his wife, it should be the crafty, luminous G’win, but there are mutterings that it was she who killed him (you know the truth if you’ve seen Season 1), and at any rate, his body has not yet been found. G’win herself wavers on the question as she recalls that “if the oak [the sacred staff wielded by the Bren’in]be taken in a manner impure, the Bren’in shall not endure.”
And what of the troubled love between Blackburg local checkout operator Sally Ann and mountain man Hasil Farrell — the sweet sister and the violent elf? In this episode we see them meet again briefly when Hasil interrupts her walking home one day, but the trouble he has caused her has Sally Ann telling him she never wants to see him again. Hasil is understandably devastated, and, as we learn later, leaves the gift of a carved dove on her doorstep. More to the point — she’s sitting on that doorstep crying, having JUST TAKEN A PREGNANCY TEST. So there’s sure to be more to the #Sasil (as fans of the couple have dubbed them on Twitter) story in forthcoming episodes.
Then there’s Asa Farrell, the prodigal cousin gone rogue. We know from the Season 1 finale that G’win had him sent to the prison-box, and in this episode it seems he’s escaped. We see him roaming the outskirts of Blackburg (hardly the escape to Tibet he had dreamed of earlier), the sheriff on his tail for the death of a townsperson; Li’l Foster on his tail, suspecting him of the murder of Big Foster. He’s looking increasingly deranged, and ends up in a staring competition with a pack of wolves; just like when we first met him back in Season 1.
As Asa apparently gives himself up to the slavering beasts, up in the mountains G’win is grasping the Bren’in’s oak, a quick chat with deceased former Bren’in Lady Ray emboldening her to accept her coronation. But, as the final moments of this episode demonstrated, elected unopposed she ain’t, because guess who’s still alive? Yep, Big Foster.
I’m particularly intrigued to watch the progress of G’win as Bren’in. She’s taken a tropey path to become queen (sleeping and murdering her way to the top; needed as leader only once all the men had stuffed it up), but this episode showed how much support she has from the women tribespeople on the mountain. A rather touching exchange between G’win and one such woman suggests to this reviewer that Big Foster will have some serious estrogen on his hands if he tries to storm back in to reclaim his oak.
Season 2, Episode 1 (S02E01)
Outsiders airs Tuesdays at 9PM on WGN America
Ann Deslandes is a writer from Sydney, Australia. She has degrees in sociology and gender studies, which makes her very annoying to watch TV with.
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Ann Deslandes | Contributor