This was the Season 2 finale of OUTSIDERS, and WGN is not going to renew the series. So, let me take a long view for this week’s review.
First of all, the acting. The acting in Outsiders is mostly pretty weak, which really makes the excellent performance from my countryman Thomas M. Wright stand out. That Deputy Sherriff Wade Houghton’s particularly and intensity came through so strongly is indicative of that. Also, Gordon, or Scott, or whatever Ledda, and Haylie (and other women in the town, apparently)’s manarchist is really called, is so perfectly cast. His performance is so utterly believable that I can only assume that’s what Adam David Thompson is like IRL. The dude has a campervan and a little black book of bleeding hearts for *sure*.
Second, the storytelling. It has a number of major flaws, but the biggest is definitely the series’ uses of tropes of indigeneity and authenticity. An ‘ancient’ Celtic tribe who transported its traditions to North America and now lives in separatist pre-modernity on an Appalachian mountain may bear some possible vague approximation to certain ‘hillbilly’ communities, but the series’ continuous generic references to the Farrells’ indigenous authenticity (speaking in ‘the old tongue’, tribal decision-making and honour systems, ancient foodways) fails to represent indigenous Irish and Scots people, and, with not one mention of the occupants of Turtle Island before the European settlers arrived, completely erases Native Americans.
Third, the storytelling. Female leadership in Outsiders keeps surfacing, only to get squicked by men’s. The Kinnah are about to revolutionise the patriarchal world of the mountain, when they turn out to be too murderously puritanical for that to work out and Big Foster has to save G’winn. Hmmm.
Anyway, this final episode. Big Foster and his henchmen have stolen the enemy’s dynamite, something that G’winn believes this is a suicide pact for the mountain. Twitter favourite Hasil (aka #AppalachianBae; one half of #Sasil) gets on his trailbike at G’winn’s request and checks out the viability of this plan. He decides that Big Fos is right and that the threat is too big not to do something violent by way of offense, leaving G’winn somewhat alone in her non-violence strategy to save the mountain from the coal company.
G’win calls for Big Foster’s immediate banishment, for going against her wishes and stealing the dynamite and clearly spoiling for a war between the townsfolk and the mountain people. Big Fos uses it to question G’winn’s capacity to Bren’in. The talking stick is passed around while the tribe talks about the enemy’s “war machines” (pre-industrial trope alert!) and the nature of the threat against their hillside paradise. It’s a good scene of community assembly and a clan grappling with their survival and their principles; something many of us may be finding ourselves doing for the first time as national democracies seem to have failed us so frighteningly. After this lengthy process, the clan elders allow Big Fos to go through with his plan, on condition of banishment should he lose.
And well…. he loses. The raid on the government and private security-protected coal company gets Hasil shot (!) and two of Big’s men killed. The dynamite, nonetheless, is lit. The mine is blown up – and as a result, ‘coal pond sludge’ floods the town’s water supply. For the town the question is —- who did it? Gordon slash Scott is gone; Wade has been found guilty of involvement in Li’l Fos’s prison break so who even knows if he can help anymore; though it hasn’t stopped him from bringing the shot-and-bleeding Hasil to Ledda’s couch.
On the mountain, G’winn feels this catastrophe is proof that Big should be banished, but what’s this? Big has seen their child Elon on the mountain, and feels this means not only should he be allowed to stay, but that he should be Bren’in instead. G’winn retaliates… by passing the oak…. to Li’l Fos, father of her growing child. Li’l Fos breaks it, saying “this oak has been our ruin”. All hell breaks loose, G’winn apparently starts to lose her pregnancy, and random girl in white who we have seen before (G’winn and Li’l’s….. future? child?) is the last frame for this last episode of the season and no doubt the series. It’s a bumptious, anticlimactic, downright unfinished ending; and it’s not hard to imagine that this is because the makers knew this was the last frame forever for the story of the Farrells et al. One of the final images the viewer sees is the ‘Fedora Entertainment’ logo, and well, I’m just gonna leave this here.
Season 2, Episode 13 (S02E13)
Outsiders airs Tuesdays at 9PM 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.
Follow Ann on Twitter: @Ann_dLandes
Keep up with all of Ann’s reviews here.
Ann Deslandes | Contributor