Outcast 1.04: “A Wrath Unseen” Episode Review

Boy, nothing says depressing quite like a funeral with only three attendants—and of those three, Kyle (Patrick Fugit), is the only one that doesn't have to be there. 

Poor neighbor Norville is being buried following his “suicide”—I put that in quotations because there's definitely something wiggy about it, a suspicion that's only reinforced when Evil Data (Brent Spiner, who finally introduces himself as “Sidney”) appears and claims to be one of Norville's old friends.

Uh huh. I buy that.

Back at Reverend Anderson’s (Philip Glenister) place, things seem to be progressing with Patricia (Melinda McGraw), who admires his collection of unusual knick-knacks. They're trophies of a sort; gifts from those he's helped. 

(Personally, I'd be hesitant to accept anything that had once shared living space with someone who'd been possessed, but I guess I've just seen more horror films than the Reverend.)

That same night, Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) and Mark (David Denman) are enjoying a rare dinner date alone, only to be ruined by the appearance of Donny (Scott Porter), who comes across as friendly and very pal-y with Mark. But Megan's panicked reaction reinforces the sour chord he strikes: this dude is a capital A asshole. 

The temptation to refer to him in that fashion here on out is a compelling one.

Across town, Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) is having a friendly dinner with his pal Ogden (Pete Burris) and their wives. But, the Chief's dog certainly doesn't seem fond of their guests—Ogden even comments, “They say dogs are supposed to be good judges of character,” as if that's not the most self-damning thing he could possibly point out. And, when Giles gives Ogden the watch Mark found in the camper, that just seals the deal.

At this point, who isn't involved in the creepy, demonic, cult-y goings on in Rome, West Virginia?

Kyle's venture out to a bar ends unpleasantly when he encounters Donny himself—and promptly throws down with the bastard. Our boy Barnes may have an unusual knack for releasing folks from the devil's grasp, but he sure can't hold his own in a fight.  

“Always trying to play the guardian angel,” mocks Donny after a punch to the kidneys. Guardian angels may or may not exist, but I'd happily pay a couple of Hell's Angels to knock this guy's teeth down his throat.

The next day, Kyle and Anderson have a colorful conversation in the parish cemetery—

ANDERSON: “You want to fight the devil, start by cleaning your f*cking act up.”
KYLE: “You talk to God with that mouth?”
ANDERSON: “He's heard a lot worse than that.”

—before they head off to the house of a shut-in, Mildred (Grace Zabriskie), with some groceries. While Anderson discusses the nature of change with daughter Sophie—and has a nasty flashback, thanks to some Hummel figurines, and who can blame him?—Kyle has an uncanny encounter with the old lady herself. 

Mildred knows just a little too much about Kyle's failed marriage and what happened with little Joshua, and she reacts as if burned when he touches her as she falls. We've definitely seen that sort of reaction before.

Anderson swears his exorcism of the old woman two years prior was a success—“that woman's been sitting in the front pew of my church singing hymns and praising the Lord. I think I'd know if I was preaching to a demon.”—but Kyle isn't so convinced, and neither are we. 

Normal people don't recoil with a sizzle.

Meanwhile, Chief Giles is off on a “hunting” trip in the stretch of woods by the nefarious camper. What, exactly, he's hunting remains to be seen. I want to think well of him, given how many untrustworthy people abound in this town. But, the way he told Mark to leave all of the collected evidence in his office, and the fact that he handed that watch back to Ogden, gives me pause.

Via flashback, we see that Creeper Donny did indeed assault a teenaged Megan, back when he was a foster kid that her parents took in—and while she's still clearly terrified of the bastard, she also has no intention of being a victim again, judging by the frankly massive handgun she keeps in her closet. (Can't say I blame the girl.)

Mark takes Kyle to another bar, and the following conversation reveals that A) Megan at least told her husband that she was abused as a teen, even if she never told him Donny's name and B) that Kyle has always been a stand-up guy doing the hard thing: when he found out about what was happening, he took to sleeping on the floor of Megan's room. “I couldn't fight back, but I could get in the way. I could take a beating.”

“I thought Megan made that whole thing up, just to defend you. After everything that happened with Allison and Amber,” Mark says, and my heart breaks just a little bit more for poor Kyle. He's been beaten, mistreated, and slandered, and has taken it all with nary a word of protest, puppy eyes just getting steadily sadder and more haunted.

Someone give Kyle Barnes a really nice hug and a good day where nothing vile or violent happens, please.

As Mark and Kyle share this unexpected moment of commiseration, Megan faces off with Donny at the hotel. The whole exchange is reminiscent of Kubrick and The Shining: the center-framed camera angles, the multitude of mirrors. 

“You think this haunts me? That because of you I'm broken? That's what you want to hear?” she demands with unshed tears. In true abuser fashion, Donny tries to spin things as if he's just as much a victim as Megan (“After what happened, they sent me back to the children's home. Do you think anyone wanted to take me in with that on my record?”), as if he wasn't responsible for his own actions, as if she somehow asked for his violent attentions. 

It's stomach curdling and on-point commentary about the nature of rape culture: how the victims are constantly blamed and the rapists can spin things to seem as if they're just as persecuted. Nauseating, frustrating stuff.

Back at Mildred's house, the Reverend is trying to have a rational conversation with the old woman. But things, of course, take a turn for the nasty. When Anderson asks her why she wants to hurt the people who care about her, why she wants to walk around with a hole in her heart, her reply is properly devilish: “Holes can be filled. There's so much room in the human soul for more than love, more than God, things that can shape it in ways you'd never expect.” 

UGH. That Mildred is easily one of the most terrifying, skin-crawling old ladies I've ever seen. No way in hell I'd play Scrabble with her.

Finally convinced that Mildred's previous exorcism didn't take, the Reverend goes to pick up Kyle. Before the two head off (for what ends up being a fruitless, thwarted confrontation), they have my favorite exchange in the whole episode: 

ANDERSON: “You know what my favorite sin is?”
KYLE: “You have a favorite sin?”
ANDERSON: “Everyone always goes for lust or wrath. Those are the sexy ones.”
KYLE: “Well, lust—it's sorta baked right in there, innit?”
ANDERSON: “Pride. Pride's the bad boy. It sneaks up on you 'cause it doesn't feel like a sin. What's wrong with feeling good about yourself? Taking pride in a job well done?”
KYLE: “Start getting used to it, you don't notice when the job wasn't done well.” 

Way to lay down some cold hard truth, Kyle. Methinks we're going to find out that a lot of the Reverend's past exorcisms, pre-Kyle, weren't quite the success stories he thought they were—and I'm already foreseeing a serious crisis of faith for Anderson. 

Demons fight dirty, and it can be easy to make a proud man jealous of someone like Kyle, who has the sort of gift a man of God would give his right arm for. The fact that Kyle doesn't understand or even particularly want his mysterious gift is just another thumb in the eye.

The question that must occur to the Reverend is: “Why would God give this sort of ability to someone like Kyle, who isn't even a faithful or true believer, while I have sacrificed and lost so much and try to do the Lord's will?”

But that's a question for another episode to pose. The question “A Wrath Unseen” answers is: “Would a police officer risk his badge to pummel the ever-loving snot out of his wife's rapist?” That's answered when Mark pulls over Donny the Asshole and engages in some judicious police brutality, regardless of the dashboard camera recording everything.

Not that I want to condone violence, especially by a man with a badge, but it's awfully hard to fault the guy, given all the facts. 

And, my lingering doubts about Chief Giles seem to be put to rest when Ogden goes out to the woods and burns the camper. Rather than help or turn a blind eye, the Chief calls Mark (in the midst of washing Donny's blood off in the kitchen sink) and asks for all of the evidence from the camper to be shipped off for testing. 

“The case is still open,” he says, and I breathe a slight sigh of relief that Mark, Kyle, and the Reverend seem to have a genuine ally in the Chief—for now, anyway. 

They certainly need all the help they can get. Kyle realizes that Mildred's case has even further implications than they thought: if Anderson could sit across from her for two years playing Scrabble and never suspect that she hadn't been properly exorcised, what about Kyle's wife Allison? Is there still something evil and dangerous hiding inside of her, waiting for the perfect moment to leap out and finish what she started with their poor daughter?

In this week's final moments, Megan retreats to the woods behind her house with the box of glassware she picked up at the local thrift store. With protective glasses in place and a hammer in hand, she destroys the lot. That's certainly one way to manage the seething cocktail of fear, anger, and pain that's been bubbling in her heart thanks to her rapist's reappearance.

While this episode was lacking in any dramatic battles for tortured souls, it was by far the most solid since the premiere. We're really digging into the meat of the story now, and the characters are filling out nicely. Supernatural drama always has more heft and a stronger punch when you really care about those involved—at this point, I'd gladly suit up for a fight with the devil if it meant protecting Kyle and his family.  

See also: Outcast 1.03: “All Alone Now” Episode Review

 


Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.

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