Monday, June 20, 2011

Pilot Review: Outcasts

Outcasts (BBC America)
Premiered June 18 at 9pm

I couldn’t be more thrilled that I heard about this show and opted to watch a program on a Saturday night on a network I’ve never tuned into in the past. This is a prime example of an excellent pilot that could have stood well enough on its own (as “Virtuality” did on FOX two summers ago), and which will most certainly take on a wholly different shape as it eases into its plotlines after wrapping up a number of arcs within the hour of the pilot. This future-set drama is instantly interesting and never lets up for even a second, ending on a powerful note and providing more than enough enticement to tune in for episode two next week. It’s not simple to describe what’s happening in this show since there is so much happening, and reference is made to those who died before, those coming back, the children, and whatever creatures may lie beyond the borders of Forthaven. What is explained thus far is absolutely spectacular. I’ve never seen a president quite as simultaneously unassuming and assertive as Richard Tate, wearing a button down without a tie and acting like a war room general rather than an elected official. Liam Cunningham is superb in the role. Fleur is also a great character, so determined and loyal, and I thought that even before she pulled on and shot Mitchell, affirming her belief, contrary to his, that human beings can in fact live together in peace. Jamie Bamber proved to be a truly convincing villain, something I wouldn’t have expected after his do-gooder part on “Battlestar Galactica.” The ship trying to come into the atmosphere after five years was a very strong plotline, and Captain Kellerman’s rapport with Tate was the most moving parts of the pilot thanks to a knockout performance from Patrick Lyster. I’m intrigued to see more of Julius Berger, who will be played by Eric Mabius of "Ugly Betty," seen only for a moment in the final shot of the episode aboard the emergency pod. This show seems so fiercely committed to making each and every scene worthwhile, as evidenced by the extremely intense whiteout that came from out of nowhere and caught everyone by surprise. This show handles its dystopian aspects well and also manages to balance its drama and its science fiction facets, so I couldn’t be more excited about seeing the next episode.

How will it work as a series? It’s hard to tell since a major part of this premiere – Mitchell – won’t prominently feature in the core of the series since he’s no longer alive. Yet there’s more than enough firm footing for this show to explore, as the passengers of the pod arrive and more is unearthed about the mysterious and treacherous path that led to the foundation of Forthaven. For sci-fi junkies especially, it’s going to be stellar.
How long will it last? Well, that’s the really tragic part. While this show is just coming to US viewers now, it already aired back in February in the UK, where it was cancelled after just one eight-episode season. Knowing that that’s all we have to look forward to is going to make me very sad, but I suppose that’s just the way it is. Maybe it will fare better here.

Pilot Grade: A-

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